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Sunday, August 28, 2011

 Portuguese Pioneers of B. C. (PJ Silvey)
(adapted from, November 2003)

 PART I - Who was Portuguese Joe Silvey? An Introduction
Manuel Azevedo

(Gastown, circa 1870. Water street between Carral and Abbott.

PORTUGUESE CORNER (Water and Abbott streets)
 Bottom right, at the north west corner of Water and Abott streets  ( the building on stilt)s is Gregorio Fernandez's store.  Gregory also owned the building directly cross the street, at the south-west corner, where he kept chickens and supplies.
     Kitty corner from Fernandez's store, at the south-east corner was  Portuguese Joe Silvey's  saloon, later known as the "Hole in the wall", today's Lamplighter pub  at the Dominion hotel. Gassy Jack's saloon was at the othere end of the block, at Carral and Water street, at the far left. vancouver was one block long. (image courtesy Rocky Sampson)

Joe Silvey is the best known of the handful of Portuguese founding pioneers to arrive in British Columbia prior to confederation (1867 – British Columbia joined Canada in 1871). He is about to become better known. Howard White, editor of the Raincoast Chronicles published by Harbour Publishing of Madeira Park, B.C., announced that the 20th Anniversary issue will be Professor Jean Barman’s, The Remarkable Adventures of “Portuguese Joe” Silvey: A True Story of B.C., written for the Silvey family reunion held in Ladysmith, April 3, 1999. (It since has become a best seller-ed)

Who was Joe Silvey and where did he come from? According to family lore, Joe and five other Portuguese crewmembers of a whaling ship jumped ship to join the Cariboo Gold Rush of British Columbia in 1858. Although some descendants believe he jumped ship in 1849 in California or 1852 in Victoria, census records indicate he was in B.C. by 1860. Evidence at the Stanley Park settlers trial in 1923 suggests he was present for the gold rush of 1858.

Some of Joe’s friends such as Gregorio Fernandez of Gastown ( Vancouver's first store owner and coffee roaster), Peter Smith aka Portuguese Pete or Pete the Whaler, (the "half legendary" founder of the short lived whaling industry in B.C) also of Gastown, John Enos (Ignacio) of Nanoose Bay (the first European settler on the Nanoose peninsula - Enos creek is named after him), and Enos’ neighbour, John Suza (Souza),  appear to have participated in the Fraser river gold rush of 1858-1860.

Other Portuguese pioneers such as the enterprising Bittancourt and Norton brothers of Saltspring Island, (after whom Bittancourt Road and Norton Road are named) John Silva of Victoria, later Mayne and Gabriola Island (after whom Silva Bay on Gabriola Island is named), also appear in British Columbia around 1860. Joe Gonsalves from Madeira, after whom Madeira Park is named, came to Gastown later, in 1874, to look after his ailing uncle, Gregorio Fernandez. Perhaps only Joseph Montero of Cape Verde arrived in the early 1850’s prior to the Gold Rush.

Although Portuguese began fishing for cod off Newfoundland’s Grand Banks in the fifteenth century, it was not until the nineteenth century that they reached the pacific coast, with some exceptions. American whaling ships headquartered in New New Bedford, Massachusetts had exhausted the Atlantic ocean by the mid nineteenth century, and began hunting whales in the Pacific ocean.
The sperm whaling industry in the USA was established in part by Aaron Lopez (Duarte Lopez), a New Christian born in 1752 in Lisbon who fled the inquisition to America. He is one of the founding fathers of the Touro synagogue of Newport Rhode island, the oldest extant synagogue in the USA. He had 30 ships in his fleet, which he crewed with men from the Azores. These whalers were the first documented Azorean settlers in the United States. US immigration statistics indicate that 1,605 Portuguese officially immigrated between 1820 and 1860. A small number worked in the Pacific whaling fleet.

When gold was discovered in California in 1849 many whaling ships were deserted by their crews, stricken by gold rush fever.  San Francisco harbour once contained  900 abandoned ships at the height of the gold rush. Joe Silvey, who may have left the Azores in 1846 may have been one of those whalers who jumped ship. Perhaps the river boat pilot J.S. Silvey listed in the 1850 San Francisco City Directory at Clark's Point (at Montgomery and Sacramento streets) was Portuguese Joe Silvey. Silvey’s descendants recall visits to British Columbia by cousins from California and New Bedford, Massachusetts. Also, Joe Gonzalves, Gregorio Fernandez’ nephew from Madeira arrived in Gastown in 1874 via San Francisco where his uncle was listed in 1857 as a fruit dealer. By 1858, the year of B.C.’s Gold Rush, he was no longer listed in the San francisco directory.

British Columbia
According to British Columbia government records of Joe’s second  marriage to (Lucy) Kwat-lee-matt in 1872, Joe was 38 years old and born on Piepika Island, Portugal. His parents were John Silvy and Francisca Hyacinthia. Joe’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth, born in Stanley Park by Joe’s first wife, Khaal-tin-aht (Maryanne), granddaughter of the notable Chief  Ki-ap-i-la-no, told the city archivist, Major Matthews, that her father was from “Pekapika, Azores Islands.”
Joe may also have had an unknown Scottish grandfather. According to some, Joe’s grandfather was a Scottish seaman who helped the Portuguese expel the French Invaders during the Peninsular War of 1808. This, Joe’s descendants said, explained the reddish beards and blue eyes of the Silvey men. Major Matthews certainly gave credence to the story; he gave Joe a Scottish surname, Simmonds, perhaps a variation of Joseph Silvia Seamens, the name Joe gave on a formal document pre-empting land in 1872.

Silvey Bay, Reid island, off the tip of Galiano island where Portuguese Joe and his seconf wife raised 10 children. Joe Silvey and his eldest son Domingos are buried here. (photo courtesy Rocky Sampson)

The Azores
There is no Pekapika island in the Azores, but Pico Island, named after the highest mountain in Portugal at 2,351 meters high (a sometimes grumbling volcano) is one of nine islands of the Azores, located in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, 760 nautical miles from Lisbon and 2,111 from New York. These previously uninhabited islands of volcanic origin are sometimes referred to as the remains of the legendary Atlantis. Today's stock of Azoreans, spilled throughout the world, are descendants  of Portuguese, Spanish, Italians, English, Flemish, French Scots, Germans, Slaves, Jews, Muslims and Christians.
The exact date of their discovery by Portuguese sailors is unknown but is generally attributed to Diogo de Silves in 1427 although the islands do appear in some fourteenth century maps. The Azores have played an important part in Portuguese history, serving as a strategic naval and military center. They served as a stop over for ships coming from India and later for ships from the Philippines during Spanish domination of Portugal between 1580 and 1640. They were often victims of pirate raids such as Sir Francis Drake.

Pico Island
Pico was populated after the initial settlements on the Islands of Santa Maria (where Columbus stopped on his return from the Americas) and São Miguel in 1439. It is believed that the first settler and his dog disembarked on the southern end of the Island in 1460. Lajes became its first town and today the municipality of Lajes encompasses the village of Calheta de Nesquim, located at the tip of the elongated island. Calheta is one of the oldest ports on Pico and was the first base for hunting sperm whales (1876). Today, with a population of approximately 15,000 people, Pico is experiencing an economic boom fueled by Portugal’s entry into the European Community although whale hunting was prohibited in 1986.
During Joe’s time, life on Pico was a constant struggle for survival, if not with the sea, then with the dark volcanic stone. Although Pico’s famous wine," verdelho", the product of herculean work on lava beds, had reached international fame all the way to the table of the Czars of Russia, an odium attack in the middle of the nineteenth century destroyed the vines. A stint on an American whaling ship looking for hard working crew members became a ticket to the promised land.

Portuguese Joe Silvey's Birth

On April 23, 1828 in the village of Calheta de Nesquim, in the municipality of Lajes, on the island of Pico, in the archipelago of the Azores, Portugal, a child was born,  Jose, the  legitimate son of John Jose de Simas and his wife Francisca Jacinta, paternal grandson of “pay incognito” (unknown father) and Maria do Espirito Santo, maternal grandson of Antonio Silveira Quaresma and his wife Maria Jacinta.
 Jose was baptized on April 28, 1828; the grandparents were, Father Jose Homem da Silveira, treasurer of the church, “Our Lady of Piedade” and godmother, Rosa Maria, daughter of Manuel Goncalves de Simas, all of Calheta de Nesquim.
 On the baptismal certificate, the date 1846 appears on the bottom, perhaps the date of Jose’s emigration at the age of 18.
That child was most certainly Portuguese Joe Silvey of British Columbia. The names of the parents match the records of his marriage to Lucy in 1872. Like many other Europeans who married young Aboriginal women, Joe fudged his age when he married 14 year old "Lucy", he was not 37 but 44!
The surname “Seamens” in a 1872-preemption land application by joe  must be a transliteration of “Simas.” And the romantic story of a Scottish grandfather resonates with grandson of “pay incognito.”
Jose came from a large family. His four sisters Maria Jacinta, Francisca Jacinta, Rosa Jacinta and Joaquina Inacia all died in Pico. However the place of death of his four brothers, Manuel, João, Antonio and Domingos (the name of Joe's eldest son and one of the founders' of the fishers union in B.C.) are unknown; perhaps they too left never to return to their native land.

Este registo pertence ao Livro nº4 - Nascimentos, da Freguesia da Calheta de Nesquim - Baptismos - 3-1-1825 a 14-5-1848, propriedade da Biblioteca Pública e Arquivo Regional da Horta, Rua D. Pedro IV nº 25, 9901-825 Horta.

Birth Certficate of Jose, courtesy of the Regional Archives of Horta-Thank you to Fernando Goulart, native of Calheta de Nesquim, Pico who appears in  Portuguese Jose  Omni TV documentary produced by Bill Moniz of Toronto, also a native of Pico).

San Francisco City Directory 1850
Silvey, J. S., pilot Sac and San Joaquin rivers, S. T. Saloon, Clark’s Point 
    For the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers — W. A. Fauntleroy, W. Neal, H. Van Ness, W. Burges, L. Gamage, J. S. Silvey, H. Van Pelt, W. Sandezniss, E. Palmer, P. Howard, W. H. Joliff.  Office under Hutton and Timmerman's, Clark's Point.
    Pilots for the Outer Bar — On board Pilot Boat Rialto — G. Simpson, R. Leitch, L. Coxelta, C. J. Wright, Chas. Richardson.  On board Pilot Boat Relief — E. B. Jenkins, M. McDonald, Jas. Urie, C. J. Campbell, Robt. Sing, J. Ludlow.  W. S. Burnside and James Nelson, Agents, office California b. Mont. and Sansome.
    Harbor Master — James Hagan, office, Commerical whf. Clark's Point.  J. Carngan, secretary, Pilot Commissioner's office, Clark's Point.
    Harbor Pilots — John Delevean, John Ingram, Wm. Rogers, Mr. Hanson.  Office at the Harbor Master's office.
    Custom House — corner of Cal. & Montgomery.  James Collier, Collector.  Open from 9 A. M. till 2 P. M. 

1852/53 City Directory
Silvy A. 123 Montgomery 

Joe's brother Antonio?

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