Carla-Jean Stokes

Carla-Jean Stokes

Curator embraces ranch history

Carla-Jean Stokes joins the team at O'Keefe Ranch in Spallumcheen

From cowboy comic books to the war memoriabilia of fallen soldiers, there’s a whole new opportunity for people to come discover the O’Keefe Ranch, once again.

The historic site is home not only to the history of early B.C. ranching, but through fun events and activities, it is preserving the culture and facilities of the ranch for future generations.

Now open for the season, the ranch has a full roster of events, including flat track racing today and much more throughout the spring and summer.

Outside of the events, there’s always plenty to do and see from the farm critters, general store and exhibits sharing stories from the past.

Young and old are sure to enjoy the treasures inside the Greenhow Museum, where the Cowboy in Pop Culture is featured.

A special exhibit this year is the O’Keefe Ranch and the First World War.

The latter is put together by the ranch’s new curator Carla-Jean Stokes.

Since taking the reins of history in January, Stokes has been familiarizing herself with the many artifacts and stories of the ranch.

“I think a lot of people don’t know we have a huge collection, over 7,000 items,” said Stokes, 28, who grew up in Lumby and attended the University of Victoria as well as a few universities in Ontario.

With a master of history and a master of photographic preservation and collection management, Stokes is proving to be a great fit at the ranch.

With a background in military photography, Stokes was drawn to create an exhibit that would share the story of the O’Keefe Ranch’s involvement during the First World War.

And the timing is perfect as 2014-2018 is the centenary of the first World War.

“O’Keefe (Cornelius) had three sons and one grandson that fought in the war,” said Stokes, whose exhibit features letters, weapons and uniforms.

“One son and the grandson were both killed during the war.”

The war involvement also extends to the Schubert family.

“Three of the Schubert grandsons fought in the war and two of them actually lied about their age,” said Stokes, noting Dudley, who was married and enlisted at 16 and had his first child in 1916.

While many were fighting a deadly battle overseas, others were fighting their own battle. Letters are shared from the youngest son, Cornelius junior, of his fight against a killer influenza outbreak at the same time his older brothers were at war.

Working at the ranch, Stokes has also gleaned a lot of information from the ranch’s curator emeritus, Ken Mather.

“Ken is fantastic, we get along great,” said Stokes. “He’s been here for 32 years.”

The pair are also busy working on big plans for next year, as the ranch officially celebrates its 150th anniversary.