Oliver, British Columbia
Oliver is a town near the south end of the Okanagan Valley in the Southern Interior of British Columbia, Canada, with a population of over 4,000 people. It is located between Osoyoos and Okanagan Falls, and is labeled as the Wine Capital of Canada by Tourism British Columbia.
Local industries include grape and fruit production, agri-tourism, wine production, ranching, golfing and recreation, retail and service trades. Some of the largest employers include Osoyoos Indian Band, School District #53, Interior Health and Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative.
The First Nations of the South Okanagan settled near the river, creeks and valley lakes. The first encroachment from the outside world came circa 1811, when fur traders came to the area with the establishment of Fort Okanagan (now in the US) and first penetrated the area for trade.
In the 1880s, free gold-bearing quartz was found at Camp McKinney (east of Oliver) which became a busy gold mine, attracting miners, con men, and outlaws. Fairview (just west of and above Oliver) miners found gold and fueled the growth of a boomtown but it lasted just a few years and no remnants of the town survive today, other than a heritage marker.
- Established in 1918, Oliver was a settlement for unemployed veterans of the First World War. A gravity-fed canal was constructed to provide irrigation to the semi-arid area.
- On January 30, 1919, the SOLP (South Okanagan Lands Project) began work on the Intake Dam at the base of McIntyre Bluff. Over the next eight years the 23 concrete-lined miles of the main canal were dug southward to the boundary. Eighteen and a half feet across the top, five feet deep and delivering 230 cubic feet per second, SOLP designed it to enable farmers to put nearly a foot of water per month on every acre of bottom land in the southern Valley. To get the canal from the east side of the Valley to the benches on the west, the “big siphon”—now concrete, but originally a 1,940-foot (590 m)-long wood-stave pipe of six and a half-foot-diameter—was constructed. It runs directly beneath the centre of Oliver. The offices of the land project and the building that housed the BC Police built circa 1924 stand today in Oliver as preserved heritage sites.
- A post office was established in 1921 and the BC government administered the area until 1945 when a village was incorporated and a council elected. In 1991, the community’s municipal incorporation was upgraded to Town, its current status.
- In 1922 electrical power was brought to Oliver by the West Kootenay Power and Light Co.
- In 1923 the Kettle Valley Railway (CPR) constructed Oliver station and rails to transport fruit north to Penticton.