History of the Thompson-Okanagan Branch of the United Empire Loyalists Association of Canada

It seems almost impossible to conjure up a history of a branch that is only six years old and yet, in those six years we have become a very viable working branch within our community.

As many of you may or may not know, Chilliwack UEL Branch was our Branch sponsor when we applied for our Charter. They stood behind us, guided our way, supported us and were there to help us at every turn, they were our mentors.

The inception of our Branch was largely attributed to the visit in 1994 of several Eastern branch representatives to Kamloops and the welcome they received convened by Mabel Fowler, UE of Kamloops as well as Vona Smith’s continuing contact with Loyalists in the region and the encouragement of the late Andrew Webb, UE, Bill Horne, UE and the efforts of the Educational Sub-Committee, Lois Dickinson, UE, the late Campbell Stuart, UE, Vona Smith, UE and Dennis Webb, UE.

At last, the day we had been waiting for. The Thompson-Okanagan Branch of the United Empire Loyalists Association of Canada receives its Charter 23rd April 1995.

It was a great day for British Columbia Loyalist descendants when the new Thompson-Okanagan Branch of the United Empire Loyalists was chartered on 23 April1995. Over 70 people from the entire Thompson-Okanagan area attended the Charter Celebration Ceremony in the William Halina Centre in Vernon. Dennis Webb, U.E. Vernon, President of the new branch, presided.

Special guests were Mayor Wayne McGrath of Vernon and member of Parliament, Darrell Stinson, along with a fifteen delegation from other BC. Dr. Peter Moogk U.E. and Verna Smith U.E. represented Vancouver,

The splendid stage with Her Majesty’s portrait, the Canadian and BC flags in the background and miniature Canadian flags and BC dogwoods in the foreground provided an effective setting for the ceremony conducted by Lois Dickinson, U.E., Education chair for the U.E.L. association. Shirley Dargatz, U.E., and Vera Webb, U.E. carried the Union flag.

Dr. Peter Moogk, U.E., Dominion Councillor and Campbell Stuart, U.E. President of Victoria Branch and BC’s oldest branch, established in 1927, unveiled the Charter which had been draped with a needlepoint hanging of the U.E.L. Armorial Bearings worked by Marie Ablett, Kelowna, from patterns charted by Phyllis Sutton, U.E. of Vancouver. A framed needlepoint loaned by Mr. And Mrs. Gordon Bloom, Vernon, also formed part of the decorations. Smaller copies of the Charter were presented to the petitioners by Dr. Moogk, assisted by Master James Bowman, U.E., Tsawwassen grandson of Dorren Todhunter U.E. James, in buckskin and tricorn, with canvas in hand, was “Master of the rolls” for the occasion. The petitioners also received, as a gift from the other three Branches, name buttons with the U.E.L. Armorial Bearings. Presentation was made by Vera Webb, U.E. and Vona Smith, U.E.

A further highlight of the program was a candle lighting ceremony from the Maple Leaf shaped candelabra with eight candles representing Provinces or Regions of Canada.

Shirley Dargatz, U.E. read the accompanying Cross Canada Commentary on U.E.L. history. The central candle was lighted by Mavis Cameron, U.E. (Christian Zavitz) who also represented Sir Charles Tupper. Other candle lighters were Gordon Bloom, U.E., John Graham, U.E., Coral Eady, U.E., Mabel Fowler, U.E., Lawrence Fowler, U.E., Evelyn Wright, U.E., Doris Moore, U.E., and Jenna and Brynne Valouch the young granddaughters of Eileen Foster.

The first U.E. Certificates were awarded to Eileen Foster (Ancestor: Aaron Bradt) Ontario, Raymond Webb (brother of Dennis Webb) and to Dennis Webb who was surprised to receive his second U.E. (In the name of one of his mother’s ancestors), William White, NB, Bill Horne, U.E. Chilliwack Genealogist and Vera Webb, U.E. welcomed the new U.E.’s and Susannah Bowman, U.E. and Christina Bowman U.E., in costumes typical of Loyalist children, gave the traditional pink rose to Eileen Foster, U.E. Letters of transfer from the Chilliwack Branch to Thompson-Okanagan for the new U.E.’s and Donald Munro (Hugh Munro: application forwarded) were distributed by Lois Dickinson.

Other presentations included books, a Loyalist sports cap to Dennis Webb, genealogical material to Branch Genealogist Chris Wright and the U.E.L. flag from the Victoria Branch. Mary Van Horne, U.E. Chilliwack and Campbell Stuart U.E., made the latter presentations while Dr, Peter Moogk forwarded the Vancouver Branch chegue and acknowledged the previous gifts of seed money from Victoria and Chilliwack Branches. Eileen Foster, with the appreciation of the Thompson-Okanagan, presented Dennis Webb with a presidential gavel.

Messages of congratulations from Lindsay Ontario, London Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, St. Lawrence Ontario, Grand River (Waterloo) Ontario, Fredericton NB. Winnipeg Man., Regina Sask., and Calgary Branches were read by Dennis Webb.

The afternoon concluded with a social time convened by Marie Ablett and Eileen Foster.

Signers of the petition represented all areas of the Thompson-Okanagan region and several Loyalist settlements in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes and are listed as follows: Marie Ablett, Gordon Bloom, Mavis Cameron, Georgie Brown, Shirley Buchanan, Coral Eady, Jack Fitzpatrick, Lawrence Fowler, Eileen Foster, Mabel Fowler, John Graham, Doris Moore, Joanne Hayhurst, Teresa Lodge, David Snyder, Dennis Webb and Eve Wright.

Several Branches represented from the coast, enjoyed the wonderful week-end hospitality of Mavis Cameron UE who entertained them at her home on picturesque Okanagan Lake.

The Thompson-Okanagan Branch takes in an area of about one hundred and fifty miles in diameter, from Osoyoos on the Canadian/American Border in the South to Princeton, Penticton, Summerland, Peachland, Kelowna, Vernon, Armstrong, Salmon Arm, and Kamloops on the Trans Canada Highway North.

Our first meeting of each year is alternately held in Penticton and Kamloops and usually held in April. This also happens to be our Anniversary meeting where we celebrate our Branches birthday. We also have meetings in June and September and our last meeting of the year is held in late October or early November. This last meeting is also our Annual General Meeting. We do not meet between December and March due to the winter conditions on the highways through the mountains. A summer social is also held.

Our first Branch newsletter The Loyalist Drum came out in September 1995.

As our membership is so widely spread, it is sometimes difficult for all of us to get together at the same time however, we do keep in contact with each other by phone or e-mail or fax and everyone is eager to participate in whatever function that is going on.

Our Branch has been invited to speak at several schools in the area, we have display booths at the local Mall here in Vernon, we enter a float in the Vernon Winter Carnival held in February, we attend and lay a wreath at the War Memorial on November 11th and we try to keep a high profile within each community we represent.

This April (2001) our Branch will be six years old and what an interesting six years it has been. During those years, we have lost some very dear friends within the membership and at April Anniversary meeting we remember them with the Loyalist Rose for each passing member. It is our way of saying Thank You for the time we had together.

We rejoice in our Loyalist family here in the Okanagan and look forward to many years ahead. Our history may be short but it certainly has been filled with great leadership and co-operation from all our members.

Mrs. Eileen Foster, UE

Thompson-Okanagan Branch