Guisachan--A tale of Cowboys, a Duke and a Duchess

Guisachan Heritage Park

The entrance to the present restaurant at Guisachan Heritage Park...restaurateur/chef Georg Reider is world-renowned for his fantastic gourmet menu served to walk ins, catered events and reserved parties from breakfast to dinner.
The entrance to the present restaurant at Guisachan Heritage Park...restaurateur/chef Georg Reider is world-renowned for his fantastic gourmet menu served to walk ins, catered events and reserved parties from breakfast to dinner. | Source

Place of the Firs

It is a serpentine tale of pioneering beginnings, Scottish nobility with a buckaroo relative, three generations of mixed farmers and present-day culinary offerings created daily by Chef Georg Reider. Two historic homes stand today in Guisachan Heritage Park in Kelowna.

The land was first pre-empted in 1861 by the Hudson’s Bay packer, trader and farmer, John McDougall. He built a log cabin home that saw ten sons grow up in the large, for the time, two-room dwelling with dove-tailed corners. By 1879, the ranch property, a 480-acre swath, reported the ownership of 180 cattle, 20 hogs and 30 horses.

“Many tales of the wild doings of these McDougalls were told us. A testimony to the truth of some of these was to be seen in the marks of the pistol shots with which the walls and ceilings of the house were riddled,” recorded Lady Aberdeen in the early 1890’s, the Aberdeens were the estate’s second owners.

The Cameron Gardens surround the Restaurant

Source

The McDougalls owned the land first.

The log cabin now serves as a private residence on the park surrounded by serene gardens originally cultivated by Elaine Cameron, wife of Gilbert “Paddy” Cameron, the last private owners of Guisachan House—the city-owned property is a mere 2.4 acres of the original 480.

In 1890, the Aberdeens fell in love with Canada, especially the temperate valley with so much promise, and were convinced by fellow Inverness Scotsman George Grant Mackay to buy the “garden of Eden” site. They planned to build a home and lucrative fruit-growing estate. Mackay would use his acquaintance with the Aberdeens to his advantage across the region. He bought bordering land creating the township of Benvoulin, sold Forbes Vernon’s Coldstream Ranch along with building the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver in 1889. He died suddenly of illness in 1893.

McDougall Cabin

Gunshot holes pock mark the interior of this cabin...the wild bunch of MacDougalls liked to shoot around the house...actually "in" the house.  It is presently a private residence rented to a music teacher by the city of Kelowna.
Gunshot holes pock mark the interior of this cabin...the wild bunch of MacDougalls liked to shoot around the house...actually "in" the house. It is presently a private residence rented to a music teacher by the city of Kelowna. | Source

Was this where the term, "ya old Coot" came from?

Lady Ishbel had a brother often called “Old Coutts” or “Couttsy.” He had his sister’s love as “her goal was ever to make Old Coutts a rich man.” He’d ranched near Towner, North Dakota but hard times had befallen his Horse-shoe Ranch, however, he did sell his nearly 1000 acres for $7001 in 1894 nearly double his initial purchase price. Since 1957, the North Dakota Aberdeen Angus Breeders Association has honoured Coutts with the Marjoribanks Trophy awarded to the prize-winning Angus of the region annually.

Coutts Marjoribanks (pronounced Marchbanks) had attended the exclusive preparatory school of Harrow just west of the family’s get-away Dollis Hills farm estate. He loved the active outdoor life, but was caught up in some sort of unrevealed scandal by his early twenties. At age 24, he was given £6000 as start up capital—a £400 annual salary and sent to America. Mark Zuehlke, author of Scoundrels, Dreamers and Second Sons, claims the capital may have been grudgingly proffered by Lord Aberdeen at the behest of his wife—not by the Marjoribanks’ patriarch, known for starting the Golden Retriever breed.

Construction of Guisachan

Coutts accepted to manage the construction of the new home, along with a “footloose companion” named Eustace Smith. In short order, the Aberdeen’s lawyer, George Jamieson arrived from England to discover the construction of the home “a disaster” and cheques being issued from an unknown source—Eustace Smith left after a year and a half.

Jamieson claims witness to an “indolent life of shooting, drinking at the local tavern (the Bellevue Hotel) and an extravagant home adorned with gold Japanese wallpaper (uncovered after 80 years by a restoration project), seven chimneys and no insulation.”

The final verdict on poor “Old Coutts” is fairly clear.

He attempted to run the Aberdeens’ affairs in the new West, but by 1894 Coutts was released of his duties. His father died in March of that year—and he came into his money. He married a childhood friend named Margaret Nicholls in 1895, lived in Scotland for 15 years only to return with his stepdaughter and wife purchasing the Corona orchard on Lake Kalamalka and building a “charming” home called Invercraig.

The Restaurants Dining Room and Fireplace

Coutts had seven fireplaces installed in the original construction.
Coutts had seven fireplaces installed in the original construction. | Source

On the Canadian Dollar Bill

The Duke and Duchess appear on the "Dominion of Canada's" one dollar bill in 1898.  Note:  The American Bank printed this bill.
The Duke and Duchess appear on the "Dominion of Canada's" one dollar bill in 1898. Note: The American Bank printed this bill. | Source

Where did Coutts end up?

Reports Larry A. Macfarlane in his treatise British Remittance Men as Ranchers: The Case of Coutts Marjoribanks and Edmund Thursby:

“...his stepdaughter, Kathleen Myhre, recalled that Coutts ‘had very little money sense’ and ‘a ‘lot’ of leisure time. He had ‘excellent taste and pleasure in beautiful things. His main interest was fishing and shooting’ She concluded: ‘He was a man of moods and impulses, and I think his upbringing did not fit him very well for life in the world. He was always kind and generous, and my mother was devoted to him.’"

He’s been recorded as a “mudpup extraordinaire,” “a colourful character” and “Remittance man,” but Coutts' later years in Canada, though unprofitable, seem to have been happy ones. He died at his own farm on November 1, 1924 at the age of 64.

A Paper Chase in 1905

Horses were ever present at Guisachan.  Paddy Cameron began the first creation of the Kelowna Riding Club...even donated land.
Horses were ever present at Guisachan. Paddy Cameron began the first creation of the Kelowna Riding Club...even donated land. | Source

Meanwhile...back at the ranch(es)

By 1900, Guisachan (pronounced Gooshagan) Ranch had to be sold. A jam factory had been built in Vernon and development costs were once more skyrocketing for the Lord and Lady at Coldstream Ranch. The factory never made a jar of jam and only saw a spectacular community dance and celebration in 1905. The Coldstream Estate Company Limited was created in partnership with Lavington Ranch owner, James Buchanan, $80,000 in shares were purchased which would pay $85,000 and see the Aberdeens exit as property owners in the Okanagan Valley.

The Aberdeens’ summer retreat where “headaches left, the air was fresh and appetites returned” was sold to an ex-sea captain, John Conlin, who sold it to W. C. Cameron in 1903. The pair must have made acquaintance at Edgeley Farm in Saskatchewan as both managed its 20,000 acres in short order at the turn of the 20th century.

The Aberdeens at Coldstream

Lord and Lady Aberdeen with governess, Ebba Wetterman, and sons and daughter, George, Dudley, Marjorie and Archibald.  They had a daughter that died in the first year of life in 1882...crib death.
Lord and Lady Aberdeen with governess, Ebba Wetterman, and sons and daughter, George, Dudley, Marjorie and Archibald. They had a daughter that died in the first year of life in 1882...crib death. | Source

Paddy and Alistar Cameron

Brothers who made the greatest impact of successful farming at Guisachan.
Brothers who made the greatest impact of successful farming at Guisachan. | Source

From Captain Conlin to the Camerons

From 1903, Guisachan Ranch saw mixed farming. William Cameron worked the ranch until 1910, and his two sons, Gilbert, known as “Paddy” and Alister, split the property until 1964. The ranch saw its most prosperous era as orchards matured and locals could purchase fresh milk and meat products at the Cameron’s store. Sheep were raised by Alister, who moved them up and down the Bald range and Burnt Basin for 30 years. Paddy and his wife Elaine owned the Guisachan House side—Elaine cultivated the surrounding gardens until her passing in 1978.

Paddy loved horses and created the forerunner of the Kelowna Riding Club...donating clubhouse buildings and fields. He was also the president of the Central Okanagan Historical Society.

In 1964, Aberdeen Holdings bought the property and guaranteed Paddy and Elaine a life-lease which ended with Paddy’s demise in 1984. He was 98-years-old. The Okanagan Heritage Society and Okanagan Historical Society took part in the project of realizing the importance of maintaining local history bringing about the creation of Guisachan Heritage Park.

Lord Aberdeen later in life

The Aberdeens with Lord and Lady Gzowski

The Duke and Duchess constantly entertained across Canada.
The Duke and Duchess constantly entertained across Canada.

And the House endures today...unlike its namesake in the Old Country

By 1987, the McDougall House was taken apart piece by piece, moved to and refurbished in its present location. The Guisachan House received a glass-encased veranda with year round heating and cooling. In 1990, Chef Georg Reider leased the restored home, now restaurant, and has been serving his world-class cuisine for wedding guests, 7-day a week walk-in clients and catered corporate dinners for over 20 years.

The square bungalow styled in the fashion of the English 19th-century Indian Colonial design has endured two minor fires since its restoration and is a highlight for any visitor, local or foreign, desiring an exquisite meal and the opportunity to visit one of Kelowna’s oldest heritage properties. Carolyn MacHardy, UBC-O art history professor, is writing a biography of Lady Aberdeen and informed that the original Guisachan, “Place of the firs” in Gaelic, lies in ruins in Inverness, Scotland.

It is a credit to all those who have contributed to maintaining homes created during early pioneering efforts in memory of youthful reminiscences from lands far, far away.

Paddy Cameron loved the horse play

Tommy White on Query and Paddy Cameron on Dusky at Riders Club circa 1950s.
Tommy White on Query and Paddy Cameron on Dusky at Riders Club circa 1950s. | Source

Georg Reider...a Master Chef...drop in seven days a week.

Guisachan House Restaurant  1060 Cameron Avenue  Kelowna, BC  Restaurant Number             (250) 862-9368       Wedding & Catering No obligation consultation with the owner and Master Chef Georg Rieder.             (250) 470-2002       Fax  (250) 76
Guisachan House Restaurant 1060 Cameron Avenue Kelowna, BC Restaurant Number (250) 862-9368 Wedding & Catering No obligation consultation with the owner and Master Chef Georg Rieder. (250) 470-2002 Fax (250) 76 | Source

Guisachan means "place of the firs"

The place of the firs is reported to having ghostly hoofbeats followed by a carriage roaming down the drive owned by R J Bennett at present. Others have witnessed ghostly apparitions and occurrences in the kitchen and rooms of the heritage home.
The place of the firs is reported to having ghostly hoofbeats followed by a carriage roaming down the drive owned by R J Bennett at present. Others have witnessed ghostly apparitions and occurrences in the kitchen and rooms of the heritage home. | Source

The well at Guisachan

Spring is the perfect time for pictures at the heritage park site.
Spring is the perfect time for pictures at the heritage park site. | Source

A walk through the gardens of Elaine Cameron's making.

Source

The Beauty of Guisachan

One of my favourite shots of the old girl.
One of my favourite shots of the old girl. | Source

Office of the Heritage Society in Kelowna

The Central Okanagan Heritage Society has their office and viewing room here on site...use to be the chicken coop of the Cameron clan.
The Central Okanagan Heritage Society has their office and viewing room here on site...use to be the chicken coop of the Cameron clan. | Source

Landscaping Office and past garage.

The one-time garage of the ranch/farm.
The one-time garage of the ranch/farm. | Source

Note the "dovetail".

The 'dovetail' corners of the MacDougall cabin are still tight and a wonderful example of the expertise of the early pioneers' craftmanship and attention to detail.
The 'dovetail' corners of the MacDougall cabin are still tight and a wonderful example of the expertise of the early pioneers' craftmanship and attention to detail. | Source

British Columbia's Heritage is haunting

More by this Author


Comments 9 comments

Civil War Bob profile image

Civil War Bob 4 years ago from Glenside, Pennsylvania

Interesting hub, Randslam...voted up and interesting simply because it was on a completely out of the way topic and well written!


randslam profile image

randslam 4 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia Author

I don't consider my hometown out of the way...just a very well-kept secret. Kelowna was once called "Canada's Little Hawaii," because of the recreational activities that can be participated in...year round.

Our small mountain city has very comfortable weather, few bugs (especially mosquitoes) and beautiful architecture--a fine example of the slow evolution of the Canadian dream that invites the world to share in our vision.

It has also been, historically, a somewhat difficult place to make a living wage and stay...so when I get to write for Niche magazine about the evolution of our community--I go as deep into the past as I can--it's fun.

Thanks for the kudos, Bob...cheers.


johnwindbell profile image

johnwindbell 4 years ago from - the land of beards and buggies

Thanks for the trip, randslam. I've always wished I could time-travel, maybe that's why I'm photographer. With your hub page I came close enough without worrying how I was to get back to the present, or is there one. I can get into old photos for hours.


randslam profile image

randslam 4 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia Author

I think the past is a great way to understand the future...thanks for the stop by, John.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 4 years ago

....oh goodness me ....now this truly is what world class hub writing is all about! I will post this loudly and proudly, madly and gladly to two link sources - the Hubpages group on FB and my FB group called Let's just talk music or cinema - I can tell this hub subject was a labor of love on your part but then again you are such a classy and brilliant writer that everything you post here must be a labor of love - I enjoyed your evocative photographs (a story told in themselves) and the entire hub unfolded like a novel in my mind or even better an adaptation to my cinematic mind - either way my esteemed Canadian friend and colleague this is the best hub I have read/seen in quite some time - hubbravo to you and sending you my warm wishes and good energy from lake erie time ontario canada 1:40pm


randslam profile image

randslam 4 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia Author

Blush, blush...jeez, Epi...you could tell how much I enjoyed researching this story...and then telling it, too. That's all I ask...lol.

Thanks for the kudos...more to come...working on an evolutionary tale of Okanagan architectures...coming soon. Thanks again...I really did blush.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 4 years ago

yes and you are truly what I call a writer's writer. Quite frankly I was in such awe and admiration of your story telling talents and the artful sublime way you put all of this together like 'a story for the ages' ......and I am so proud of you as a fellow Canadian - sending you good thoughts from lake erie time ontario Canada 9:34am with first cup of coffee and an overcast day with threat of rain (and fall - yikes!)


randslam profile image

randslam 4 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia Author

Well, Colin...as a fellow maple leafer...and now at 9:11...I'm enjoying my first sips of coffee on Mountain time...lol...no threat of rain...the sun is dancing...and Venus eclipsed before my eyes twice last night between 430 and 500...it's been a good weekend.

Friend me at FAcebook, Colin...Rand Zacharias.


randslam profile image

randslam 4 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia Author

Actually, I'm in the mountain, but on PST time...so, I'm an hour later than Calgary, but same time as Vancouver...lol...and Los Angeles...you know...the place for us stars, NOT.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    randslam profile image

    Rand Zacharias (randslam)189 Followers
    18 Articles

    Rand Zacharias is a published freelance writer, author, poet, artist, photographer and all round Zack of all that is literary.



    Click to Rate This Article
    working