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category: History
published: Apr 2019
publisher: Heritage House Publishing

Cornelius O'Keefe

The Life, Loves, and Legacy of an Okanagan Rancher

by Sherri Field, foreword by Ken Mather

tagged: post-confederation (1867-), cultural heritage, historical

An entertaining biography of cattle baron and land magnate Cornelius O’Keefe, founder of the Historic O’Keefe Ranch.

From humble beginnings to a life of prosperity in the heart of the Okanagan Valley, Cornelius O’Keefe is best known today through the historic ranch in Vernon, BC, that still bears his name. Established in 1867, the O’Keefe Ranch was at one time the largest cattle ranch in the region, with thousands of head of cattle grazing in the vast open ranges. By the early 1900s, the ranch had grown to over 12,000 acres, and Cornelius O’Keefe had built quite a legacy for himself. Known as a tireless worker who dabbled in a number of professions in addition to cattle ranching—from mining to operating a general store to being a postmaster—O’Keefe also had a full personal life. He married three times and had seventeen children. His family continued to live on the ranch until the 1960s, when it was opened to the public as a heritage site and tourist attraction. This concise biography brings the dynamic figure of O’Keefe to life and illuminates a fascinating period in BC history.

About the Authors

Sherri Field’s interest in the life of Cornelius O’Keefe began when she was a student at Okanagan University College and continued for the five years that she worked as heritage interpreter at the Historic O’Keefe Ranch. Her fascination with O’Keefe led to years of research into his long and prolific life, and eventually to this book. When she is not writing, Field teaches high school English.

Ken Mather has been involved in researching, writing, and interpreting western Canadian heritage for four decades, working in curatorial, management, and research roles at Fort Edmonton Park, Barkerville, and the O’Keefe Ranch since the early 1970s. He is also the author of four previous books on pioneering, ranching, and cowboy history: Ranch Tales, Frontier Cowboys and the Great Divide, Bronc Busters and Hay Sloops, and Buckeroos and Mud Pups.

Editorial Review

"Field’s carefully researched book is a valuable contribution to the sparse literature on the Okanagan’s cattle-ranching era."

— Ormsby Review

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