So what does “The BX Press” mean? Put simply, our farm is nestled into the beautiful “BX” area of the North Okanagan, BC, Canada. We press apples and craft the delicious juice into high quality sparkling cider. Hence, “The BX Press”.
But there is more.
If you are from around here, you are likely familiar with the letters “BX”. BX Creek. BX-Swan Lake Firehall. BX Elementary School. BX Road. BX-Ranch Dog Park. The ~6000 acre area of Vernon that is called “The BX”. A rich history stands behind these simple initials.
A rich history, and stories that we are excited to share with you. Stories about Barnard’s Express & Stage Line – one of the oldest, largest, and longest running stagecoach companies in North America.
This history belongs to our community. Digging into these old stories , we have been impressed with the significance of the BX Stage line and it’s contribution to the early development of Vernon and the Interior of British Columbia.
Centrally located in Vernon’s “BX” area, our farm is very much a part of the beautiful land that the BX Ranch once bred their magnificent horses on. The following is taken from “The Great Road North to the Cariboo” – published in 1938, “The BC Express Company – Lifeline to the Cariboo” – published in 1998, and “Staging and Stage Holdups in the Cariboo”.
“In 1861, a solitary man walked from Yale to Soda Creek with a sack of mail, newspaper and parcels on his back. From Soda Creek he paddled an Indian canoe to Quesnel. Several times a year, in spring, summer, and early fall, as long as the weather allowed, he made this difficult, seven hundred and sixty miles return trip, keeping the gold fields of the Cariboo in contact with the outside world. The charge for this service, two dollars per letter, one dollar per newspaper, a price readily paid by lonely miners. This intrepid man was Francis Jones Barnard.”
Francis Jones Barnard
Born in 1829 in Quebec City, F.J. Barnard was only 12 years old when his father died. Through hard work, he was able to provide for his mother and siblings, and at 25 married Ellen Stillman. Two years later he moved to Toronto with his wife and son, however was not able to earn a satisfactory living. He left his wife and son in 1858 and travelled on a trading ship from New York to Victoria. Several of his fellow passengers died in the appalling conditions of third class steerage but he survived, leaving Victoria for Yale with only a five dollar gold piece in his pocket.
“He earned money by splitting firewood and delivering it to homes and businesses in Yale. He saved enough to stake a gold claim which he soon sold at a small profit. in 1859, he was elected constable, a dangerous job in those days when claim jumping (considered to be the ultimate crime) and disposing of the claim owner (almost as serious) were very common. His last duty as a policeman was escorting two prisoners to New Westminister by canoe. When they attempted to escape, Barnard, a powerful man, was able to subdue the convicts and get them safely to the penitentiary. However, he decided to find a less dangerous job, and was hired on as purser on the newly built steamship Fort Yale, on which his wife and son arrived in 1860. On its very next trip, at Union Bar two miles above Hope, the ship’s boiler exploded, not an uncommon event in those days. Five of the crew were killed but Barnard, who was eating his dinner in the dining saloon, was thrown clear. He took this as a sign that he should again look for less hazardous employment.
He worked for a short time on the trail being built from Yale to Boston Bar, then he started packing mail to the Cariboo. In 1862, he was awarded the government postal contract. He bought a small mule, loaded the mail and express on its back, and led it up the trail to the Cariboo – the beginning of Barnard’s Express.” From here the stage line operated as Barnard’s Express, or “The BX”, and grew to service routes covering nearly the entire interior of British Columbia. By 1864, Barnard’s “wagons and stages covered 110,600 miles, he employed thirty-eight men, and used one hundred sixty horses.” The company continued to grow and in 1871, Barnard has a bill passed in legislature for the company to be called “The BC Express Company”.
This became “the first established land transportation system west of the Rockies, and eventually, with routes covering over a thousand miles, second in size only to the legendary Wells Fargo. The stage coach trip from Yale to Soda Creek, which took from forty-eight to fifty-two hours was made twice a week, and never a trip was missed in all the years that this route was in operation.
“Come what may, rock slide in the Fraser Canyons or snow storms in the Cariboo, the Express still went through. Her Majesty’s mail had to be delivered. The BX Company held the mail contract for 33 years…That the Express was efficiently operated and trustworthy is best proved by the fact that the miners used it almost to a man for transferring their treasure to the coast. In the Golden Years it was carrying out on an average of $100,000 in treasure a week.”
The BC Express owned and operated a famous 6000 acre horse ranch, called “The BX Ranch” at Priest Valley, which later became known as Vernon. “This was the age when the horse was still regarded as king and the “BX” made every effort, regardless of expense, to obtain the finest horses for its Cariboo service…In 1868 about 400 head of breeding stock was purchased in California and Mexico and driven north to the Vernon ranch. This ranch for many years provided the Company with a large part of their best stock.”
The BX’s Demise
Over the first twenty years of the 20th century, the stagecoaches were replaced with automobiles, rail transport, and steamers. In 1920, “due to the completion of the PGE Railway and the advent of truck transport, the BX, after more than fifty years of service, closed its doors for the last time. No company has been more closely associated with the history of this province than the BC Express Company”.
Our Farm & The BX
We are proud that our farm is part of the same land that once belonged to this significant and fascinating company.
We love to share this exciting history with you – displayed in our tasting room, depicted on our bottles, and trodden into the land that now grows our apples.