The smallest church in Kelowna is also a pioneer cemetery few know about - InfoNews

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The smallest church in Kelowna is also a pioneer cemetery few know about

Thirteen of Kelowna's first European pioneers are buried near this tiny church in Kelowna.
September 22, 2017 - 8:00 PM

KELOWNA – The remains of 13 of the Okanagan's first European settlers are tucked away in the middle of the city, next to the smallest church in Kelowna.

An easement runs through a private farm off Gordon Drive to one of Kelowna's least known Heritage Sites. Behind a wire fence that's left unlocked, in the distance, is a small church surrounded by a short, picket fence. The flat, 400 square metre plot is bounded by an orchard, a working vegetable garden and a large alfalfa field. The grass is freshly cut but there is no one around.

One and a half centuries ago this was part of the first major European settlement in the valley. It might have been lost to history if it wasn't for the current mayor of Lake Country.

James Baker was teaching archaelogy in the 1980s when one of his students told him that a city founder was buried on his family's property. 

That summer, Baker and his students found 13 bodies under a vegetable garden on Val Rampone's land. Eleven face the northeast and two – believed to have been priests – point east to west.

Father John Charles Pandosy's final resting place is now marked with a plaque on a large granite boulder pointed east towards the Mission. Pandosy died in February 1891.

Image Credit: Google Maps

The history of the site goes back to the early 1860s when it was the region’s first and only cemetery until the Catholic Cemetery on Casorso Road was established in 1906.

“Its been long enough that people are starting to forget what it's about," Baker says.

Within walking distance of the Mission, the original church was built in 1894, three years after Pandosy died, but demolished in 1912. The wooden crosses marking the graves were eventually lost to time but the Rampone family made several improvements and donated the land, which is now a B.C. Heritage Site.

Val Rampone built the replica chapel sometime in the late 1980s, according to Baker.

The land is now owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nelson and managed by the Okanagan Historical Society. 

A photograph of Father Charles Pandosy inside the small church near Kelowna's first cemetery.
A photograph of Father Charles Pandosy inside the small church near Kelowna's first cemetery.

The stone and plaque commemorating European settlers buried at this B.C. Heritage Site in Kelowna.
The stone and plaque commemorating European settlers buried at this B.C. Heritage Site in Kelowna.

The granite stone and plaque commemorating the pioneers buried at this B.C. Heritage Site off Gordon Drive in Kelowna.
The granite stone and plaque commemorating the pioneers buried at this B.C. Heritage Site off Gordon Drive in Kelowna.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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