The year was 1912, and Edgewater was a hub of development.
Though the community didn’t have much in the way of settlers yet, teams from the Kelowna Irrigation Co. were working 10 hour days ploughing roads, cutting down trees, putting in the Flume aqueduct and fending off hordes of mosquitoes.
“Edgewater was the place to be,” says resident Barry Moore. “Everything was under construction that year.”
Built for the Columbia Valley Orchards company, the town was planned out well in advance of most arrivals on a giant contour map (pictured below) that worked with the area’s rolling hills and valleys.
“It all makes sense, they didn’t just put a square grid on the landscape. They actually worked at it pretty carefully,” says Moore. “That’s why it’s so pretty around here. It’s just natural landscaping, I think.”
Though CV Orchards went bust during World War One, the town remained. Now, in its 100th year, Moore is hoping to bring former residents and the descendants of the town’s early settlers back to the community for a centennial celebration over the May long weekend.
While the weekend’s events are still in the planning stages, they will include a jazz and blues concert featuring local choirs and at least one performer who was a favourite at the Edgewater Community Hall in the past.
But the event isn’t just about socializing, Moore says. It’s also a chance to preserve Edgewater’s early history.
“We’re hoping people, the old settlers and their families, will come back to Edgewater and bring their photo albums with them, so we and the historical society can set up and scan photographs before the albums are lost,” he explains. “Anything that they think is a treasure that ought to be in the Edgewater history and the museum, they can bring.”
In addition to scanning photographs, he and the Windermere Valley Historical Society will also photograph items and record stories.
Preserving Edgewater’s early days is something of a family tradition.
Moore’s father Harry set up a sawmill in Edgewater in 1942, and a few years later bought up the town’s remaining lots and a third of its water system.
With the purchase Harry also acquired many of the original planning documents for Edgewater, including the contour map the townsite was drawn on and early studies of the area showing favourable conditions for settlement.
A few years later his mother, Berta, began her own documentation.
“She recorded the early settlers and their histories — people that worked for my dad at the sawmill — on a reel-to-reel machine,” Moore says.
“They have really characteristic accents. People used to have quite a brogue. There were people from Germany and Denmark and all over Canada. It was quite a mixture, a very cosmopolitan town for the size of it, and really colourful stories.”
Over the years, Berta switched to cassette tape, and had begun transcribing the stories on computer before she passed away.
Moore says he hopes to play her work over the homecoming weekend, as part of an historical display that will include photographs and other archival pieces. He also wants to turn both her work and the products of the weekend into a more permanent display — one that won’t have to be accessed from Edgewater.
“My plan is to get all the histories recorded and have something like a web page where people can go and cruise through it and find the stories of their own families or their neighbours, people they’ve heard about,” he says.
Those interested in making the trek back to the community can contact Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information as planning continues.
“We just want to attract our old townspeople back again, and if they bring their history with them we can scan and record it so it won’t get lost,” he adds. “It’s at that point where there’s not too many of us left.”