Sisters-in-law Lynette and Alison Patenaude say present day activity at their homes at and near 153 Mile House is tied to over a century of history that began when Italian immigrant Louis Crosina and his wife Clara (Noble) took out a pre-emption in June 1903, and built themselves a small log home at 153 Mile House.
The Crosina home eventually grew into a store and a roadhouse, surrounded by a settlement that included big log barns, a blacksmith shop, a new store, and a ranch.
For the next three decades the Crosinas lived and worked there until Clara died in 1936, and Louis moved away to live with their daughter Dolly until his own death in 1943.
The eldest daughter, Alice Lillian Crosina (‘Lil’), purchased the property and remained on the homestead, hiring Bryson Patenaude and his son Joe to take over ranch operations.
Bryson was originally from Quebec and came west with his father Ernest. He met his future wife Rena who was in Horsefly teaching.
They were both teachers, had two boys — Joe and Bernard.
The Patenaudes also ran a hotel in Horsefly.
“The hotel had the first pool table in the Cariboo, brought up by wagon from the coast. The hotel burned down one Christmas day, when the family was visiting at the 153 Mile Ranch,” says Lynette who married Joe’s son Larry.
Rena eventually left the Cariboo for Victoria, taking her sons with her.
She ran rooming houses behind the parliament buildings.
Bernard remained in Victoria and Joe returned to the Cariboo to live and work with his father at the ranch.
Around 1946, Peggy Alaric, who had been cooking for her dad at Harper’s Camp at Horsefly, met Joe and began helping Lil at the 153 Mile store.
Peggy and Joe were married. They had five sons, although two died when they were young children.
After Lil had a heart attack in 1958, she sold the ranch to Joe and Peggy, but stayed on to work at the store until her death in 1963.
In 1967, the Patenaudes formed the 153 Mile Ranch Limited and gave their sons — Rusty, Larry and Roger — shares in the ranch.
The ranch and the boys became the couple’s “pride and joy,” Lynette says.
Throughout the next few decades the ranching operation grew.
The family purchased a portion of the 150 Mile Ranch in 1974, purchased the remaining portion of the Mountain House Ranch in 1986, followed by purchasing part of the YS Ranch Properties.
When Lynette married Larry in 1972, the 153 Mile Store was being used for storage, having been closed after Lil’s death.
One day Peggy decided she wanted to turn the store into a museum.
“The other daughters-in-law and I got in there and helped her clean it all up. She wanted to show it to people and she did that very lovingly for almost 30 years,” Lynette recalls.
Today Lynette owns about 450 acres, the portion of the main ranch she and Larry obtained when they broke away from the main ranch in 1994.
Her property contains the old store, so her daughter Amber gives tours by appointment.
When old timers come in they can look through the old receipt books and might find their family name and see what their family purchased.
“Years ago the books were put on microfiche in Victoria,” Lynette explains, adding some of the records go back as far as 1899.
Lynette and Larry had two daughters — Rena and Amber.
Larry passed away in September 2008, but Lynette says she’s content to remain at 153 Mile.
“It’s beautiful property with rolling hills and hay crops. My grandchildren are here, I have a lovely home and a big yard. Roger helps with fencing, irrigating and haying my fields.”
In November 2011, her daughter Rena Johnson opened a home decor and gift store called the Rusty Bucket on the family property.
Lynette runs the store on Wednesdays, so Rena can do her “town stuff” and the books.
Amber also lives nearby and has a greenhouse, a couple of cows, and loves to give tours of the old store.
After Larry and Lynette went on their own, Rusty and Roger continued to ranch with about 1,000 head of cattle up until 2009 when they divided the remainder of the 153 Mile Ranch Limited.
“We’ve been on our own for two years. Our ranch is Carpenter Mountain Ranch, what was historically known as Mountain House Ranch and it’s at 158 Mile,” Roger’s wife Alison explains.
There’s a summit on the property that was always called Carpenter Mountain, hence the name. The ranch was developed before 153 Mile and was originally a stage coach stop. In fact, the Crosinas lived there before taking out their pre-emption.
Alison came to Williams Lake in 1975 to work at the hospital as a nurse, which she did up until her retirement. She met Roger in Williams Lake through a classmate. They were married in 1977.
“When I finished nursing, the jobs were in the north and they were encouraging us to go elsewhere. I was from the first class of nursing at Cariboo College in Kamloops,” Alison recalls. “I worked at the hospital up until two years ago.”
Ranching poses challenges, Alison says.
As long as she’s known the Patenaude family, they have had other business interests that supplemented ranching, such as logging, gravel trucks, fertilizer sales, and solid waste disposal.
Over the years Roger and Alison have received loads of help with ranching from their local community.
“There’s a lot of work and we get a lot of support from our friends and neighbours for branding and other things. They come over and help us out, and for a day of work you try and make them the best meal you can.”
When she first arrived, most of the neighbours were ranching, but as time’s gone on that’s become less of the case.
“The places around us might have a few horses and cows, but ranching is not their main interest. I think that’s the way it’s going to go. Some of the ranches that are for sale list monthly mortgage payments and looking at those I think you’d be hard pressed to cover you mortgage, let alone your other expenses,” Alison says.
Alison and Roger have two children — Colleen and Bryson. Colleen lives and works as a nurse in Williams Lake and Bryson is a mechanical engineer in Kamloops.
Rusty continues to operate as 153 Mile Ranch Ltd. raising cattle. He and his wife Heather had two daughters; Tania is a massage therapist in Williams Lake. Sarah lives in Creston and dairy farms with her husband. Joe Patenaude resides in Lac La Hache.