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Thursday, August 25, 2011

JOHN SILVA of Mayne and Gabriola Island

(Adapted from, June 2003, by M. Azevedo)

Silva Bay, Gabriola island

John Silva was born in Cape Verde (or the  Azores) around 1837 (although the 1901 census indicates 1845). He died on Gabriola Island B.C. in 1929. The death certificate records his age as 92 years old, having been in Canada for 70 years.

In 1863 Silva was operating a fruit and vegetable store in Victoria. There he met a daughter of an Indian Chief from Cowichan whom he christened “Louise.” He married her in 1873. She was just 15. That year Silva purchased 237 acres on Mayne Island and moved there in the spring of 1874. “Louise” was apprehensive about marriage but Silva, “was kind and gentle and he took her to his log cabin … it was a dirt floor … he made the fire and Louise baked the bread.”

Louise learned to make the dishes her husband liked. They built a house, cleared the land and planted the first apple orchard in the Gulf Islands. They had ten children but tragedy struck while still on Mayne Island. Two of their children drowned when their canoe overturned in Active Pass, “they got drowned … grandpa dove down six or seven times, … mum was on the shore on a little ledge with my uncle holding her … and my grandfather said to her, I feel so badly, I should be down there myself … but my grandmother … a very practical, wonderful women said … now you listen here, you have two children over there on the ledge, they need you … so he decided not to drown himself.”

The Silva’s sold out in 1883. They tried fishing at Lulu Island on the mouth of the Fraser River before settling down on Gabriola Island the following year. They purchased 133 acres of abandoned homestead land on what is now known as Silva Bay. It was paid in four years.

In addition to farming, Silva built the “Corliss Queen” to fish. He also raised sheep and planted orchards.

In 1914, three of the Silva boys left to serve in the First World War. One was killed, another badly wounded.

In 1920 the Silva’s donated land and helped build a Catholic church. They also donated land to build a public school.

A grand daughter recalls, “ he just spoke broken English, my grandfather spoke Portuguese and very broken English … he was speaking Portuguese to my aunty, that was my mother’s brother’s wife, she would translate … my grandpa … he was a good man.”

Gabriola Island Memorial Cairn
A Special War Memorial Video *
(Requires RealPlayer 4.0)
Gabriola Island, British Columbia

                        Roll Of Honour

World War I 

Edward Silva
Frank Silva
Louis Silva

World War II

Henry Silva

John Silva 
by Fernando Candido

We learn some details about this Portuguese from Cape Verde  from the historian Manuel Azevedo in the book of Jean Barman “ The Remarkable Adventures of Portuguese Joe Silvey”. He said that Silva of Gabriola Island, planted what may have been the province’s first apple orchard on Mayne Island.”

Had been born about the same time than as Portuguese Joe. According to Silva’s descendants, the two men jumped ship together. Silva worked for a time on coastal steamers, and by 1863 was operating a fruit and vegetable store in Victoria. He wanted more, and in 1873 he took up land on Mayne Island. Shortly thereafter he married Louisa, the 15- year-old daughter of Cowichan chief. The story that has been passed down in the family has John Silva giving his future in-laws “two horses hitched and ready for working-two horses and about three sacks of spuds.” This arrangement, like other cross-cultural unions, was difficult at first, as described by Louisa’s granddaughter Margaret.” She was really frightened of marriage, you know, how it would be, so she was given part of the boat and she was crying away.

And my grandfather was kind and gentle and he took her to his log cabin on Mayne Island and mother said it was a dirt floor-a log cabin- And mother said that Grandpa said, “well the first thing you have to do, Louisa, is to make a batch of bread because we do not have any bread,” so he got the fire going [and when] she was making the bread she was crying into the dough.”

John Silva fished and Louisa bore the children, 10 of them. Like his friend Portuguese Joe, John Silva soon decided that there was no turning back. On June 27, 1876, he took his oath as British subject, which entitled him to own outright the land on which they lived.

A few years later, in the early 1880’s, the Silva family moved to from Mayne to Gabriola Island because of persistent native raiding parties on their sheep. According to the granddaughter Margaret, ”The Haida Indians kept coming through the passageway and they’d hoot and they’d holler and away they would come and they were a pretty fearful bunch and my grandfather kept sheep and he had goats and he had geese and stuff and these Indians would come through and they’d take half of his stuff to feed their families- I guess they did not like to live on fish all the time!-and anyway my grandmother decided,” I am not living here,” so she said to my grandfather, “I want to get out of here,” and so she talked him into moving to Gabriola Island.”

In the Western Canadians 1600-1900

John Silva is mentioned a couple of times but it his hard to know who are his children because some of the children of another Portuguese Joseph Silva (Silvey) are also mentioned. Silva, John, born circa 1846 in Portugal or Azores Islands, (BC41-FN187) Silva, John, farmer living in 1901 on Gabriola Island (BC2-280) Silva, Louisa, (Native Indian), born circa 1856 in British Columbia (BC41-FN198) Silva, Louisa, homemaker/wife, living in1881 in Cowichan and Salt Spring Islands (BC41-FN198) (I am not sure which ones are his children).

1 comment:

JLA said...

Hi. The children of John and Louisa (Maralee Hoiowaat) were Martha and John (both deceased in active pass), Mary, Louisa, Edward, Frank, Louis, William, John and Joseph.