the history of QUILCHENA ranch

From Vineyards to Cattle Ranching

the quilchena hotel

Built in 1908 by rancher Joseph Guichon, Quilchena is one of the Nicola Valley’s premier tourist destinations. The place where the willows grow, as named by local First Nations, Quilchena is a small country village located just north of Merritt, BC.
stay at the historic quilchena hotel

J. Guichon

the founders of quilchena ranch

The Guichon brothers left the grazing region of the Savoie in France and arrived in California in 1857. They immediately trekked north to Canada in pursuit of the Cariboo gold rush in British Columbia. When the rewards of prospecting became marginal, they pursued other interests which eventually led them to the ranching region of the Nicola Valley. Joseph, the youngest of the brothers, acquired ranch property in Quilchena and it was here that he decided to build the Quilchena Hotel. Exemplifying European elegance in a western setting, the hotel officially opened on July 3, 1908. These were prosperous times, a railway line was rumored, Nicola Lake was a popular tourist destination, and the hotel was an overnight stopover for stagecoaches. Unfortunately business reduced due to WWI, the automobile and prohibition, forcing the hotel to close in 1917. In 1958 the hotel re-opened and has been receiving guests ever since.

The history of the Guichon Brothers

Laurent, Pierre and Charles Guichon all left the wine producing region of Savoie, France with the hope for gold and were joined by their brother of sixteen, Joseph at the active gold fields of the Cariboo. Quickly realizing that gold was not to be their reward, the older brothers established a supply and pack train outfit and catered to the growing influx of fortune seekers. Joseph (photo at bottom left), however, hired on with Cateline, the largest pack train operator and first beef supply company in British Columbia. Charles returned to France to marry, and never did return, although he remained involved as a financial backer. As the population grew, the brothers anticipated demand for food and cleverly invested their profits in the purchase of cattle. Just ten years later, the brothers relocated and began ranching at Mamit Lake, where Pierre died and Laurent and Joseph brought their brides; two sisters Perrone and Josephine Rey, from the French community near Victoria. In the late 1870s the Guichon families moved to previously purchased property at Chapperon Lake, where they expanded their innovative ideas into agriculture. By enclosing their vegetable garden in a frame and covering it at night, they were able to enjoy produce well into October. The brothers were well liked and respected in the community and often played a diplomatic role in the settling of disputes and land sales negotiations. In 1882, the brothers parted ways. Joseph left Chapperon to settle at the mouth of the Nicola River, and shortly thereafter Laurent sold Chapperon to move to the Ladner area near Vancouver. The holding acquired by Joseph was called the Home Ranch, and became known for its quality, imported live-stock. By 1890 the Guichon Cattle company was the largest stock operation in the area with 2000 head of cattle. Joseph introduced the first Hereford to the region which he purchased from Quebec. In 1904 he added to his holdings the land which features the current Hotel and General Store, completed respectively in 1908 and 1912. In 1911, the land known as the Triangle was purchased from the BC Cattle Company, adding another 10 000 acres of hay and grazing land, and seventeen hundred head of cattle.