Search This Blog

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

4 Fascinating Facts About the BX Area (Vernon, BC)

#1 The Land

According to local real estate websites, “The BX area is divided into North and South for real estate marketing purposes, but the area effectively skirts along the eastern boundary of the City of Vernon.  The North BX is a large rural neighbourhood to the north and east of the City of Vernon… with its northern boundary being the Swan Lake intersection. The quieter, country atmosphere makes this a favourite neighbourhood while the City and Silver Star Mountain are merely minutes away”. The South BX border is Highway 6 and together they contain much of the Agricultural Land Reserve in the Greater Vernon Area.

My daughter and I at BX Falls

The BX is also known as Electoral Area C in the Regional District of the North Okanagan and there is a BX-Swan Lake Community Association that includes residents of both the BX and Swan Lake areas. Other things bearing this name in the area are BX Creek, BX Falls, BX Road, BX Elementary, the BX-Swan Lake Fire Department and the BX Ranch Park. The BX Press Cidery is a local business that operates in the area and they too have a great write up of some local history here . 

#2 Francis Barnard

So why is it called the “BX”? The history behind the name begins with Frances Jones Barnard (aka Frank Barnard Sr.), born in Quebec City in 1829 who came from a Loyalist background. In 1858 Barnard headed for the Fraser River gold fields of B.C., travelling via New York and the Panama Railway in Central America.  In Yale, B.C., he mined for gold, split cordwood and even became a constable. Many of his shipmates died on the trip from New York to Panama and he almost died again when a ship’s boiler exploded killing five crew members and throwing Barnard clear from the dining saloon.

Francis Jones Barnard

Barnard had a large impact on the town of Vernon and the Okanagan in general. He, along with other prominent historical men, began an enterprise to build the Shuswap and Okanagan Railway – a spur line branching off the great Transcontinental Railway at Sicamous and travelling to Okanagan Landing. The   S & O Railway effectively opened up the entire Okanagan Valley to the rest of the world. Barnard Avenue was named in his honour and is today Vernon’s main street ( 30th Avenue) travelling through the heart of downtown Vernon.

#3 The Barnard Express – “The BX” 

In 1861, Barnard acquired a carrier service which he would eventually turn into the Barnard Express  - the BX.  Later it would be named the B.C. Express and would deliver her Majesty’s mail from Victoria all the way to Barkerville in the Caribou Interior (near Prince George).  He also established a stage coach passenger service and, by 1864,  “…Barnard’s stagecoaches travelled some 110,000 miles, carried all the mail to the interior, transported 1,500 passengers to and from Soda Creek at the one-way fare of $130, and conveyed $4,619,000 worth of gold from the Cariboo to Yale. He employed 38 men, owned 400 horses “.  A restored BX stage coach can be seen at the O’Keefe Ranch.

(Barnard’s Express At Yale. Provincial Archives)

His “BX” stagecoach line at one point delivered mail as far as Wrangel, Alaska and was at one time said to be the longest stage coach line in North America. Frances Barnard effectively kept out the American express lines such as Wells, Fargo and Company from taking hold in Canadian territory and his BX Ranch and Express are a major part of the history of our province.  For this and more, he is considered one of the Fathers of British Columbia.

#4 The BX Ranch 

It was in 1860, though, that Barnard began ranching about 5 miles east of present day Vernon. In 1868 he sent his foreman, Steve Tingley to California and New Mexico to purchase 400 of the finest horses for breeding purposes for his coach line and drive them home to the BX Ranch near Vernon.  By the 1880’s, his son, Frank, had expanded the ranch to about 2,000 head of horses and about 7,000 acres of land. The Greater Vernon Museum records:  “These horses became the breeding stock from which Barnard drew the horses needed on the stagecoaches and freight wagons. The run from Cache Creek to Priest's Valley (Vernon) and Okanagan Mission operated until the completion of the Okanagan branch of the CPR in 1892.”

BX Ranch at Vernon, BC 1898 ( BC Archives #D-02455)
The original ranch house and barn burned down in 1911 but part of the property can still be seen around the the BX Ranch Park. Francis Barnard has indeed left behind a rich heritage for the BX area which residents today enjoy and continue to carry on.

"Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness..." Isaiah 43:19

Sources & Further Reading:
Greater Vernon Musuem:;rad
Margaret Ormsby:;rad
The BX Press website:
Vernon Real Estate website:


  1. I was raised in the BX, and was never aware of the history of this area's name. Thanks for this story.

  2. I was raised in the BX, and was never aware of the history of this area's name. Thanks for this story.

  3. The last remaining piece of the original BX Ranch is currently owned by the Regional District of the North Okanagan. (RDNO)
    It is proposed by the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee, (RDNO Area B, C City of Vernon and District of Coldstream) to sell the remainder of this historic property back to private hands.
    see more info on Facebook 'BX Ranch Land Task force'
    Paul Jeffry Williamson

  4. Thank you for donating the land for dogs

  5. So cool. Having worked in Barkerville for years, I suspected what the "BX" stood for but I didn't know Francis Barnard had such an impact on the province or had a place in Vernon. Looking forward to visiting!

  6. BX was also influenced by the Andersons. Although they had a huge impact on the Vernon area, all the way to Vancouver and down into the states, I never see them mentioned. Good information though on the origins of the BX.