Early Portuguese Immigrants in British Columbia - John Silva

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John Silva

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