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Joe Graham Saves Cattleking

 

(Author unknown, from the Katie Lacey manuscripts)


This happened in 1894, the year of extremely high water in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys.  Several bridges had been washed out and Mr. Graham had been hired by Jim Schubert to run a rowboat ferry across the river just above Inkameep, south of where Oliver is now located.

Tom Ellis, with a number of Indians, both squaws and braves, were herding a bunch of cattle across the river above the ferry-way where Mr. Graham was crossing.  The Indians were on horseback, but Mr. Ellis was rowing across in his own rowboat downriver from the cattle.  Suddenly his boat capsized and he was thrown into the swirling waters.  Immediately the Indians set up a great cry.  “Skookum-man drown!” yelled the squaws.

Ellis went down under the current at once; he came up and went under a second time.  The noise of the Indians, the bawling and plunging of the cattle and the roar of the river all added to the confusion.  At last he came up again.  “Save me, Graham,” he yelled, flinging up his arms.  Then he went under for a third time.  The current had carried him down to the ferry-way and Mr. Graham managed to grab hold of one hand, which was all of him that could be seen above the water.  He dared not pull him into the boat for fear of upsetting it, as both he and Ellis were large men.  Dragging Ellis along with him, he managed to work the boat into shallow water and finally pulled Ellis in over the end.

When they reached the bank, the squaws were still yelling, “Skookum-man drown,” but Mr. Ellis was not long in becoming very much alive again.

He offered Mr. Graham ten dollars as a reward, but was promptly refused.  “I couldn’t take the money for doing that,” said Graham, “but sometime maybe I might be in need of a job…?”

“Whenever you need one, you just come to see me,” was the reply.

Mr. Graham had come to the Okanagan in the same year.  He and Mr. Traviss, now of Penticton, came in together from Revelstoke, where they had been logging.  Mr. Traviss got work immediately at Fairview, but Mr. Graham was not so lucky.  Hearing of development at Loomis, he shouldered his pack and blankets and made the trip on foot.  No work was available there so he started back, intending to return to Revelstoke.

At Fairview he was overtaken by a then prominent Keremeos resident who was hauling a small load of lumber toward Penticton.  Mr. Graham asked if he could hire him to haul his pack to Penticton and received a very emphatic “no” for an answer.  A request to hire passage for himself met the same fate.

The cayuse that this man was driving took his full attention, and Joe, being tired, decided that there was no valid reason why his request should not be granted so he climbed aboard the rear end of the load.  The driver berated him in very aristocratic English all the way to Junction Ranch, but could not let go of his lines long enough to try to put him off.

At the Junction Ranch, a stop was made for the night.  The rates charged were $ .50 for a meal and $ .50 for the privilege of sleeping on the floor, using your own blankets for bedding.

Mr. Graham finally got work from Mr. Schubert; when the waters resided and his ferry job was over, he helped in the building of a new bridge.  He has spent the subsequent years developing his ranch home near Fairview and working at various mines in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys.