Early Portuguese Immigrants in British Columbia - Joe Fernandez

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Joe Fernandez was from the island of Madeira in Portugal. His real name was Gregorio. He lived in Stanley Park. He was living there in 1867 according to the testimony of an Indian named Thomas Fisher.

Historian Manuel Azevedo said he remained a bachelor the rest of his life. He also had a general store in Gastown near Jack Gassy. “ Among the other Gastown businesses was a general store that served both millworkers and Natives, who could land their canoes on the long float jutting out from the store and trade furs for other goods” He was a former Cariboo miner and he may have been one of the guys who jumped ship with the mor famous Joe Silvey. But before we jump to this conclusion we need to remember that the Azores were far away from Madeira and the American whalers used to stop in the Azores to recruit sailors not Madeira but anything may be possible.

One of the persons who knew him well was the eldest daughter of Joe Silvey , Elizabeth. Both families lived near eachother in gastown and Joe Silvey owned a bar not very far. “Elizabeth referred affectionately to Fernandez, who also went by the nickname “Portuguese Joe,” as her uncle, although he was not a blood relative. Another of Joe Silvey’s children recalled that Fernandez “ had gold earrings; I saw them myself; it was an old custom with sailor men.”

According to Jean Barman it’s with the encouragement of Fernandez that Silvey opened a saloon nearby . From the Vancouver Voters List we learn the precise location of the store which was described as “ being in at the west end of the beach, on the north east corner of Abbott and Water Streets.” The store probably operated around 1870.

Frank Miranda connected itself, in his early years in Canada, apparently with two well-known Portuguese families, which lived in Gas-Town before his arrival. One was Joe the Portuguese or Joseph Silvey (probably Silva), and the other Joseph Gonzalves and his uncle Gregorio Fernandez. In that pioneer epoch, besides those and other Europeans there were many indigenous people and some of Chinese background.

His uncle Gregorio Fernandez brought his nephew Joe to become his heir, for he was ill, and a year later he died.” There was a drunken brawl, or fight, and Fernandez got mixed up in it and somehow, and got a cut on the leg, and gangrene set in; he died. I was a little girl, but I can just remember it. I think he was put in jail at (new) Wesminster, and died there.” Elizabeth Silvey

“Portuguese Joe had shot another Portuguese and then hidden on Siwash Rock for a time until his hideout was discovered.” (Vancouver Voters Lists of 1886) This may be the brawl that she was talking about. He may have been in jail for that crime. It will be interesting to know who that Portuguese was and if he died of his injuries. There was a few Portuguese living in the Vancouver area at that time.

Later on his store was sold to Benjamin Henry Wilson a gentleman from Nova Scotia.