Hans Richter was born in 1878, the fifth and youngest son of Francis Xavier “Frank” Richter, pioneer cattleman of the Similkameen Valley, and his Similkameen Native wife, Lucy.
All of the Richter sons were born at the “R” Ranch, which Frank sold to R.L. Cawston in 1884, moving his family to the Lower Ranch in what came to be known as Richter Pass. Hans was sent to school at the Okanagan Mission (later Kelowna) and boarded with the family of early settler Frederick Brent, returning home in the summer months to help with the ranch work.
In 1892, Hans began attending the newly constructed school in the Similkameen Valley, even though it entailed a nine-mile ride in each direction. It was, perhaps, on these long daily rides that Hans developed his love of horses. As he grew older, he enjoyed working with horses and, when the first rodeos were held in the southern interior of British Columbia, he was an avid participant, winning many trophies, buckles and medals.
Rodeo was in its infancy. There were few rodeo grounds, so people would park their wagons or vehicles in a circle to form a makeshift arena. Bucking horses would be snubbed to a post, blindfolded and then saddled. The rider would mount, the blindfold would be removed and the horse was untied.
Then the fun would begin. In those days, bucking horses would be ridden until they stopped bucking, so rides often lasted for many minutes. They were not the eight-second rides of today. When the horse had been ridden to a standstill, the pick-up man would ride alongside and help the rider dismount. A good pick-up man was essential and Hans was acclaimed as one of the best pick-up men and ropers on the rodeo circuit.
It was only natural that Hans should begin to raise his own bucking string from the wild horses he captured in the areas adjoining Richter Pass. He eventually owned a string of 40 or more bucking horses that he would supply to rodeos in Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton, Grande Forks and Christina Lake. Hans often trailed his bucking horses over the Dewdney Trail to rodeos in Chilliwack and Sumas and into Washington State. He even did the announcing at the rodeos, using a megaphone as he rode through the arena.
Hans was particularly proud that he once put on a rodeo in Victoria, Vancouver Island. He drove his horses over the trail to Hope and loaded them on boxcars bound for Vancouver. From there, they were put on barges and towed to Vancouver Island where they entertained the people of Victoria and its surrounding area.
Hans married Sarah Marsel, the daughter of Similkameen stagecoach driver Peter Marsel. Sarah was some 30 years younger than Hans who was in his fifties when they were wed. Coincidentally, a few years earlier, Sarah’s mother, Julia, had married Hans’s older brother, Charlie Richter, after the death of Peter Marsel.
Hans and Sarah had four sons and six daughters. Hans continued to supply the rodeo circuit with bucking stock well into the 1940s, working the Princeton and Kelowna rodeos until he was 66 years old.
He died at the age of 84 in 1961 and was followed by Sarah the next year.
Ken Mather is curator at O’Keefe Ranch in Spallumcheen.