Father Charles Pandosy was an honest, sincere, but unconventional priest, who lived in what is now Kelowna in 1859—and changed its history.
It was 20 years ago that a kindred spirit arrived here from the same area of France, near Marseille, to teach at the college.
Edmond Rivere is an associate professor teaching french at UBCO, who has written a book about Pandosy, after extensive research, that reveals many new details about the man himself.
Called Father Pandosy: Pioneer of Faith in the Northwest, published by Midtown Press of Vancouver, the book first appeared about 10 years ago in French. It’s just now been translated into English, and Rivere will be talking about it at the Okanagan Heritage Museum next week, and autographing copies.
Rivere explains that it was the fact they came from the same culture that intrigued him about the Okanagan pioneer, who was an Oblate priest, a Roman Catholic missionary, who established a mission here. Some of those buildings remain today on Benvoulin Road, at the Pandosy Mission historical site, the first white settlement in the Okanagan.
Rivere says he tracked down some 200 letters written by Pandosy to his superiors in France, to friends and relatives and their replies.
He found them in museums and archives in Canada, the U.S. and France, including the Oblate’s archives, and some of them were difficult to access.
“I traced his life. I wrote it as faithfully as possible, much of it from his letters,” says Rivere.
Some were in French, but others were in Latin or the Provencal dialect, which would have been much more difficult for many to understand.
“He had a pioneer spirit. He left Marseilles at 22 years of age, landed at New York in 1847 and crossed the continent on foot.
“In Oregon he became involved in the Indian wars and he was pursued into Canada by the American army,” he related.
Once he established the Okanagan Mission, he began to construct a series of irrigation canals and planted crops.
He was the first to grow grapes in the valley, because he wanted to be able to make sacramental wine to use for mass.
Rivere says the priest was not happy here. He was often hungry and he went through some tough times.
The talk will be Wed., Dec. 5, 7 to 9 p.m.