Jeanie and Thomas Drought came to Canada from Ireland in 1880 with their seven children. However, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that the first Drought set foot in Westbank.
The family first settled in Morris, Manitoba where they bought land and began farming. The Droughts had a challenging start with some good years and some bad years, but after some time their land grew prosperous, the farm was growing, and they were able to sustain themselves.
When the children had grown, the oldest two brothers, Henry and John, were looking to buy more land. They began their search in Manitoba, however, there was no available land that suited all of the brother’s needs. Around this time, the brothers heard of a place out West called the Okanagan Valley.
After making a trip out West to see if it was a suitable area, Henry and John decided that it would be in their best interest to move to Peachland. They knew a few other families who had decided to make the move and it was a truly beautiful area.
Soon after Henry and John embarked on their journey to the West, their youngest brother, Albert, followed with his wife Edith and their newly born son Tom. Jeanie Drought joined Albert and Edith along with John’s wife and child.
Edith and Albert had met in Winnipeg, Edith’s family having come from Scotland. All her life, Edith had lived in the city, so when she met Albert she was exposed for the first time to the farm life, and now she was moving across the country to a rather rural area!
At first, the Droughts all lived in a log cabin that Henry and John had built before the rest of the family arrived. In the winters Albert, Edith, and Tom lived in a cabin up the hill but still came down to the main cabin for dinner each night. One form of entertainment for the family was to walk up the hill and watch the working men chopping and burning trees, so that when the season changed they would be able to plant apple trees in their place. Sadly, when the spring came Jeanie, the boys’ mother, died of pneumonia.
In 1905, Albert and Edith decided they wanted a house of their own. Albert built them a small house. Life was hard for the first few years. The family went from having the resource of a farm, with access to butter and milk, to virtually nothing to eat. Even though the family had purchased two cows, they had both died from grazing on some poisonous weeds. Still, the Droughts managed to exist on the bare minimum.
In the following years, Albert and Edith moved between Kelowna, Westbank and Peachland. In 1912, Albert bought some land in Trepanier on the lake. On the property, Albert built a nice cottage for the family. The family was quite successful in growing and selling produce. The first year they dug up potatoes from the ground they were surprised at how wonderfully they turned out. Edith worked hard at accounting as she owned a typewriter.
After a few confrontations with the neighbours – mostly over the use of water – the Droughts decided to move up the hill to Westbank. After purchasing land, Albert built a house and the family moved up to Westbank in 1921.
The land they owned also had an orchard on it, thus the Droughts began to grow and harvest fruit. Unfortunately, the first few winters in the area were reportedly so cold that the lake froze over! This did not bode well for the fruit trees. One winter, the bottoms of the trees were chewed almost completely through by mice! The only way to save the trees was through an amazing feat of grafting.
Not only did Albert make homes for his own family, but he also built houses for several of the other families in the neighbourhood! In fact, the Droughts were very active community members. Before Westbank had their first hall, the Droughts held community dances in their living room!
Many of the Drought’s children and grandchildren went on in the orcharding industry and continued in their parents’ community-oriented footsteps.