Just over 100 years ago, there was a large slaughterhouse on the eastern slopes of Giant’s Head Mountain in Summerland.
The site was first used as a popular community skating rink but later the rink’s large concrete pad was converted into a meat processing plant.
Property owner James Ritchie selected the site for the skating rink. The rink was built in 1909.
Ritchie was Summerland’s reeve, councillor, postmaster and president of the Garnet Valley Land Company. He also donated lands for Okanagan College on Giant’s Head Mountain including the lands for the rink
The reason Ritchie chose this site for a rink on the mountain was because it was “pretty high up and will catch the early frost.”
This site was convenient for the town and especially for the college students. This new Giant’s Head Skating Rink was the site of many hockey games and skating carnivals.
Nova Scotia butcher, Laurie C. Woodworth, arrived in Summerland in 1910 and operated a small meat market in Summerland’s Lowertown.
L.C. Woodworth and his brother, Vancouver lawyer C.M. Woodworth, purchased numerous properties in Summerland including several properties close to the skating rink.
In 1912 L.C. Woodworth leased the Giant’s Head Skating Rink from Ritchie and for one year, continued to operate the skating rink. In 1913, Woodworth purchased the rink and built a slaughterhouse on top of the concrete pad of the skating rink.
Woodworth used the Canadian Pacific Railway lake system to transport his animals.
At Summerland’s CPR wharf, there were train cars. The train cars would be loaded with the horses and then moved onto lake barges.
In the early days, prior to the use of tugs, these barges were brought to Vernon by C.P.R. steamer.
At Vernon, the train cars would join the train system to Calgary. His main contact person in Alberta was veterinary surgeon Dr. James B. Shearer.
The horses were exchanged for cattle, hogs and sheep and transported back to Summerland. The cattle were driven up the barbwire lined Woodworth Gulch on Milne Road up to the slaughterhouse. With the use of a slide, the processed meat was moved onto Giant’s Head Road.
Woodworth was able to acquire the horses from the Penticton Indian Reserve and from ranches in Princeton, Keremeos and Similkameen.
The amount of livestock was significant. In just one month, March 1913, Woodworth transported ten carloads of cattle and sheep to the slaughterhouse.
In May 1913, Summerland veterinarian Dr. Robert C. Lipsett joined Woodworth and travelled to Alberta to confirm livestock contracts.
Most of the livestock went to the Woodworth facility but some cattle and hogs went to Lipsett’s Lakeside Stock Company on the north shore of Trout Creek (later renamed the Lakeside Dairy Farm.)
Processed meat was sold to Naramata and Penticton and other lake points.
In April 1914, Woodworth was awarded a large contract to provide meat to the railway construction crew of the Kettle Valley Railway.
The animals were butchered on site, at the railhead for the crews at Osprey Lake, Princeton and later Tulameen.
On Jan. 8 1915, the large meat contract with the Kettle Valley Railway was unexpectedly terminated and Woodworth was forced to sell his business.
A month later, there was an estate sale and everything was for sale including Woodworth’s car, horses and wagons. The managers of the L.C. Woodworth Estate were Judge Kelley and William Ritchie (brother of James.)
In order to recoup some of their losses, William Ritchie accompanied carloads of horses to Edmonton to sell. In September 1915, Woodworth leased his former property from the estate and he was back in business.
He continued shipping horses to Alberta and resumed his meat processing business; selling to local markets.
On Sept. 12 1916, Laurie Woodworth was killed in what was called a hunting accident on Shingle Creek Road. He was 38 years old.
Today, remnants of Woodworth’s slaughterhouse still exist. Shortly after turning onto Milne Road from Giant’s Head Road, there is a small wooden barrier. This is Woodworth’s Gulch.
The gulch is now quite overgrown with vegetation; some barbwire is still there. The concrete pad of the slaughterhouse can be found up hill at the end of the gulch.
David Gregory is a Summerland historian.
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