JM Robinson Comes For Gold, Stays For Peaches

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CraigBaird

It is well known that JM Robinson is the founder of Peachland. As with many locations around North America, the beginning of Peachland’s existence is thanks to gold. The hope for gold was what brought J.M. Robinson and his associates from Brandon, Manitoba. Unfortunately, the mining venture ended in complete failure, but that failure led to the founding of Peachland.
While heading to the Lambley Ranch near Trepanier Creek for a meal, Robinson decided to have some peaches. After eating the peaches, he was struck with the idea of not prospecting for gold, but to grow peaches. This may seem like an odd decision since most people don’t equate fruits with the wealth of gold, but Robinson was on to something.
At the time, peaches were grown only in the Niagara peninsula. This meant that for those who wanted peaches, they had to have them shipped in from Ontario or from California. Thinking of the fact that peaches could grow in the area, he also thought that there would be the possibility to grow plums, cherries and grapes.
Struck with this inspiration, Robinson formed a company and bought the land where he would grow fruit. The land was subdivided into five- and ten-acre plots and he got down to work selling those lots to buyers. The beautiful weather of the Peachland area helped him sell the lots quickly. One salesman said about the sales tactics of Robinson:
“It was a cinch selling to those farmers. You called on a prospect and if there was a young blizzard blowing, all the better. You told them that the people in Peachland at that very moment were likely swinging in their hammocks, trying to make up their minds whether to have peaches or apricots for their next meal. Then you opened your map and accidentally dropped a few snaps of Okanagan Valley scenes on the floor”
Once Robinson had helped to establish the fruit industry in the area, he began looking for another larger district that he could develop in a similar way. He envisioned the entire area as one giant orchard. To that end, he went about creating the Summerland Development Company, which was incorporated on June 18, 1903. One of the first directors of that company was Sir Thomas Shaughnessy, who was the president of the Canadian National Railway at the time. George Henderson, H.J. Cambie and T. Kilpatrick, along with Robinson, were the rest of the directors.
We will end the tale of the peaches and their impact on the area with the birth of Summerland itself. While riding a horse in 1902, Robinson discovered a wild peach tree growing 700 feet above the lake. Realizing that he should persist with developing wild land into orchards, he decided that the climate should dictate the name Summerland. On Nov. 1, 1902, a post office was opened under the name with F.S. Moule serving as the first postmaster.
Suggestions for columns or questions? E-mail Craig at crwbaird@gmail.com. Listen to his podcast by searching for “Canadian History Ehx” on your podcast platform. Find his show on YouTube by searching for “Canadian History Ehx”.
Information for this column comes from The Story of Summerland (1945)

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