The History of Knox Mountain ParkBy Sharron J. Simpson
Two men figured prominently in the history of Knox Mountain Park. The first was Arthur Booth Knox, a convicted felon. The second was Dr. Benjamin deFurlong Boyce, the first medical doctor in the area who was widely known for his benevolent civic-mindedness.
Knox, a Scot, arrived in the Okanagan Valley late in 1874, via the Cariboo gold fields. He purchased 4,000 acres of land on the valley bottom that was adjacent to the soon-to-be-surveyed townsite of Kelowna. Through a Crown grant, he also acquired the land from Manhattan Beach along the lakeshore to Okanagan Centre and Winfield, including the mountain which still bears his name.
Arthur Knox was known either as "a hardworking, industrious man" or a vengeful self-serving arsonist who went to great lengths to ensure his own financial well-being. In 1890, the whole valley was caught up in "The Hay Burning Case". Tom Ellis, the prominent rancher whose empire extended from the Okanagan Mission to the U.S. border, accused Knox of setting fire to his three prize haystacks. Apparently there were too many cattle in the valley for the available hay, and torching the 200 tons of Ellis's supply was seen as Knox's solution to reducing the number of cattle, by driving his competition out of the area.
Many witnesses were called to the Vernon County Court, a number of whom were known to be unreliable and some of whom later admitted to being bribed - by both the defendant and his accusor. In spite of his protestations of innocence, Arthur Booth Knox was found guilty and ordered to serve three years at hard labour.
In a curious follow up, Tom Ellis went to court in 1892, in an attempt to force the arsonist to reimburse him for his losses - $4000 for the first class timothy hay, $500 for the resulting underfed cattle, and repayment of the reward Ellis had paid to the witnesses who appeared against Knox.
The Court was not amused, saying the previous trial had no bearing on the current trial unless substantial evidence was produced that tied Knox to the burning haystacks. That evidence was not forthcoming and the jury found against Ellis who had to pay the court costs of his unfortunate action. However by this time, Knox had pretty well served out his full term at hard labour and upon release from jail, returned to Kelowna.
Perhaps in an effort to redeem himself, Arthur Booth Knox donated land to the Presbyterian Church on the corner of Bernard Ave. and Richter St. (now First United), in 1896. Five years later he was elected president of the prestigious Agricultural and Trades Association along with several prominent citizens, whose primary task was to promote local products to the outside world.
As Kelowna grew and the land development companies became active, Knox sold his ranch to the Okanagan Fruit and Land Co. for $75,000. This land was subsequently subdivided into both residential and orchard properties and his upper ranch land, including what was to become Knox Mountain, was sold in 1906.
Arthur Booth Knox never married and died in Kelowna in 1925, leaving no will and a very considerable estate, which was eventually distributed to relatives in Scotland.
Dr. Benjamin deFurlong Boyce arrived in Kelowna in 1894, from the mines in Fairview and for years was the only doctor between Vernon and the U.S. border. He was also a rancher in what is now downtown Kelowna and in Benvolin, and operated a small sawmill on the lakeshore (now-Kinsman Park) where his family enjoyed the beach as their summer camping grounds.
Boyce was the doctor to many; the prisoners-of-war interred in Vernon, the army personnel, the communities throughout the valley, and the unemployed single men who populated the National Defence camp during the Depression at the Wilson's Landing on the westside of Okanagan Lake. He was also both doctor and advocate for the native peoples in the area.
Dr. Boyce's wife, Mary Eliza (Sanborn) worked along side him for many years as their home often doubled as surgery and hospital until the Kelowna General Hospital was established. They had no family and he retired in 1939, through stayed involved with many community groups for years thereafter. His generous land donations dot the city as the present Kelowna Senior Secondary site was given to the Kelowna Lawn Tennis Club and the lakeside Boyce Gyro Park was given to the Gyro Club as a picnic and bathing beach for the benefit of the community. He also donated land to various churches around town.
In 1912, he bought the 190.82 acres of land on Knox Mountain and in 1939, sold it to the City of Kelowna for $1.00. Dr. Boyce died in 1945. A rather dilapidated cairn at the top of the mountain acknowledges his generous gift.
In 1967, with monies from a trust established by Stanley M. Simpson upon his death, a road was paved road to the top of Knox Mountain which, along with what was called the Stanley M. Simpson Nature Pavilion, was officially opened by Lieutenant-Governor George Pearkes in the summer of that year. Most of the amenities on the mountain have been and continue to be paid for by the Simpson Trust. Another cairn on the knoll, also somewhat dilapidated, acknowledges the contribution of S.M. Simpson. However, the original owner of the property, of perhaps somewhat sullied character, is noted only by a small plaque, although the mountain and the park continue to bear his name.
NB: The trust fund of Stanley M. Simpson paid for most of the cost of the construction of the Park Warden's Residence, washrooms and refurbishing the pavillion.