BC Black History Awareness Society (BCBHAS)

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots” - Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr.

Places of Interest Guide

Victoria and Vancouver Island

  • Commemorating the arrival of the Black Pioneers
  • City of Victoria: Fort Victoria
  • City of Victoria: Fort Victoria Brick Project
  • Dandridge House
  • Ross Bay Cemetery
  • Saanichton: Shady Creek United Church and the Shady Creek Cemetery
  • Saanichton: Saanich Pioneers Museum
  • Sooke: Leechtown
  • Nanaimo: Emily Stark's house 
  • Nanaimo: Louis Stark's Barn 

Salt Spring Island

Vancouver and Lower Mainland

  • Deas Island Regional Park
  • Emery Barnes Park
  • Hogans Alley
  • Pullman Porter Street

Central and North Mainland

  • Barkerville
  • Clore Mountain and Clore River
  • Giscome Canyon, Giscome Portage, and Giscome Rapids
  • Huble Homestead Historic Site
  • McDame Creek

Victoria and Vancouver Island

Commemorating the arrival of the Black Pioneers in 1858:  On September 22, 1997 the arrival of the Black Pioneers was designated as a National Historic Event.  The ceremony to  unveil the plaque took place on February 20, 2000 at the Shady Creek Church United Church, 7180 East Saanich Road.

City of Victoria:  Fort Victoria    

In the 1850’s Victoria was known as Fort Victoria, established by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1843.   

City of Victoria:  Fort Victoria Commemorative Project  

To commemorate early Victoria pioneers and settlers, a double row of bricks was laid from 1000 to 1150 Government Street and in Bastion Square, known as the Fort Victoria Brick Project.  Each brick is engraved with the name of a pioneer.     

The Black Pioneers that have engraved bricks are: 

Nathan & Sarah Pointer. Brick No. 22 in Bastion Square.  Nathan Pointer owned a men's clothing and accessories store on Government Street. 

Louis & Sylvia Stark. Brick No. 23 in Bastion Square. The Stark’s initially settled in South Saanich in 1859. They moved to Salt Spring Island in 1860 where he worked as a dairyman and farmer and she worked the farm, tending the animals and orchards and also worked as a midwife.  Sylvia lived to be 106!  More about Sylvia Stark.

Howard & Hannah Estes. Brick No. 24 in Bastion Square. Howard and Hannnah Estes are Sylvia Stark’s parents.  They were farmers who settled in the South Saanich area.  Hannah Estes is buried at Pioneer Square (the Old Burying Ground), which is located at the south end of Quadra Street between Meares Street and Rockland Ave. in Victoria.

Ringo's Restaurant.  Brick No. 25 in Bastion Square. Samuel Ringo owned a restaurant, situated on Yates Street that was noted as the best in Victoria.

Wellington Delaney Moses. Brick No. 44 in Bastion Square. Moses owned and operated several business in Victoria and Barkerville including barbershops, salons and bath houses in Victoria and Barkerville.  Lady Franklin, wife of the Arctic explorer, Sir John Franklin, stayed at the Wellington’s home with her niece Sophia Cracroft in 1861.

Sir James Douglas and Lady Amelia Douglas.  Brick No. 654, 655 in Bastion Square. Sir James Douglas was the governor of Vancouver Island in 1858 and it is Douglas who sent an emissary to San Francisco to meet with Blacks in San Francisco and invite them to immigrate to Vancouver Island.  More about Sir James Douglas.

James and Mary Louisa (nee Lowe) Barnswell. Brick No. 1106 located between 1130 and 1140 Government Street. Barnswell was a carpenter who built some of Victoria’s most elegant homes, and was a prominent member of the Victoria community during the 1870’s.  It is also said that he had also been a private carpenter for Sir James Douglas and as having built a church that stands on the corner of Pandora and Quadra in Victoria.

Charles and Nancy Alexander. Brick No. 2232 located at 1016 Government Street. On July 1, 1858, Charles, Nancy and their two children boarded the ship Oregon to Victoria in response to Sir James Douglas’ call for colonists. Victoria was then a city mostly comprised of tents. They made their home on a site later occupied by the Hudson’s Bay Company at the corner of Douglas and Fisgard Streets.   In the fall of 1861, the Alexanders moved to South Saanich. The family resided there for 33 years and farmed.   More about the Alexanders.

Mifflin Wistar Gibbs. Brick No. 2526 located at 1000 to 1002 Government Street.  Gibbs is considered the leader of the emigration of the 600 Blacks to Vancouver Island.  His business interests and achievements are varied and numerous.   On August 4, 2009 the Government of Canada recognized the historical significance of Mifflin Wistar Gibbs.   "Our government is proud to honor a man who worked tirelessly for the local Black Community as a politician, businessman, and defender of human rights". said Minister Prentice. "With today's commemoration, we take another step in bringing the national historic significance of Mifflin Wistar Gibbs to all Canadians”.  More about Mifflin Gibbs. 

Dandridge House, 1243 Rudlin Street, Victoria B.C.  This house was originally occupied by Black Pioneers Charlotte and John Dandridge from 1861 to 1871.  From 1864-1871 Sydnia Francis and Peter Lester of Lester and Gibbs actually owned the property and paid the taxes.  A plaque was unveiled at this location on February 9, 2014 through the efforts to the B.C. Black History Awareness Society and the current owners.   

Ross Bay Cemetery

1516 Fairfield Rd. Victoria.

The Ross Bay Cemetery is “a superb example of a Victorian-era burial ground” where a number of Black Pioneers are buried.  The Old Cemeteries Society in partnership with our Society offers a “Black History” tour of the gravesites of Black Pioneers every year in February; and there are numerous other tours of interest throughout the year on most Sunday’s.   Contact the Old Cemeteries Society for more information.

Their website also provides information of other cemeteries in the Victoria area including the Chinese Cemetery, the Jewish Cemetery and a number of church cemeteries.

Shady Creek United Church and the Shady Creek Cemetery (pdf).

Charles Alexander initiated and assisted in the building of the first Shady Creek Church and was one of its first preachers.

On February 20, 2000 a ceremony took place in Saanichton, B.C. with Parks Canada to unveil the plaque to honour the arrival of the Black Pioneers to British Columbia in 1858.

One of the largest family plots at Shady Creek is that of the Alexander family, one of the well-known early black families in Victoria. Charles and Nancy Alexander and many of their descendants are buried here.  In 2014 our Society partnered with the Church and the Alexander Family descendants to restore the grave markers for Charles and Nancy.  The restored markers were unveiled at a ceremony held on August 16, 2014.

Saanich Pioneer Museum

Several Black Pioneers settled and farmed in the Saanich Districts. The museum is an archives and museum housing collections from pioneer families, both textual and in artifact form with ongoing and changing displays about local history. The museum also has a simulated pioneer kitchen.  They are located north of Victoria at 7910 Polo Park Crescent, Saanichton. (off the 7900 block of East Saanich Road, 2 blocks north of the Prairie Inn just behind Thrifty Foods Grocery.)

Leechtown    

Leechtown is located on southern Vancouver Island near Sooke. Samuel Booth was a prospector and it is noted in several sources as having found a sizeable gold nugget on the Leech River near Victoria that precipitated the 1864 gold rush.  He is also mentioned as having formed the Industry Company with three other black men, John Tyril, George Munro and George Dyer, to pan for gold on the Leech River near Sooke.   Leechtown is now a ghost town. Information about Leechtown can be found here.

NANAIMO

Emily Stark's house 331 Wesley Street. Emily lived at 331 Wesley Street, Nanaimo.  A plague is placed there in recognition of her being the first Black teacher on Vancouver Island.  The plaque reads:

"In memory of Emily Arabella (Emma) Stark
1856 - 1890
Emily was the daughter of Louis and Sylvia Stark.

She was appointed the first teacher in the new North Cedar School in 1874,

thereby becoming the first black teacher on Vancouver Island.  

Louis Stark’s Barn: 1526 Extension Road. This small barn is an excellent example of an early agricultural building and serves as a reminder of the area’s farming heritage. The building can be viewed from both Extension Road and the nearby Chase River Elementary School.

 

SALT SPRING ISLAND - Map of Early Black Settlers

The Salt Spring Island Archives provides significant information about the Black Pioneers that settled there beginning in circa 1858. Their map shows the location of 26 homesteads, including well-known pioneers Jim Anderson, Abraham Copeland, John Craven Jones, and the Starks. 

VANCOUVER AND LOWER MAINLAND

Deas Island Regional Park

John Sullivan Deas began canning salmon in 1871 for a man named Edward Stamp. In 1873 he built his own cannery on what was named Deas Island, initially he was the leading canner on the Fraser River but in the next several years more canneries opened on the Fraser.  Deas Cannery closed in 1878 but today thousands of motorists pass by its former location. Highway 99 on the lower mainland crosses Deas Island in the south arm of the Fraser River. The road side sign reads Deas Slough (or Deas Crossing) near George Massey Tunnel.  More about John Deas.

Emery Barnes Park

1100 Seymour Street, Vancouver. Emery was born in New Orleans on December 15, 1929. At 12 years of age he moved to the state of Oregon where he later received a Bachelor of Science Degree at the University of Oregon. He immigrated to Canada in 1957.  He played pro-football briefly in 1956 for the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League before joining the BC Lions in 1957. He studied at the University of British Columbia, where he received a Bachelor of Social Work. Emery Barnes was elected to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia in 1972. In 1995 Emery Barnes was appointed Member to the Order of British Columbia and in 2003 the City of Vancouver named this park in his memory. More about Emery Barnes.   

Hogan's Alley 

Was the local, unofficial name for Park Lane, an alley that ran through the southwestern corner of Strathcona in Vancouver during the first six decades of the twentieth century. It ran between Union and Prior Streets from approximately Main Street to Jackson Avenue. While Hogan's Alley and the surrounding area was an ethnically diverse neighbourhood during this era, home to many Italian, Chinese and Japanese Canadians, a number of black families, black businesses, and the city's only black church, the African Methodist Episcopal Fountain Church were located there. As such, Hogan's Alley was the first and last neighbourhood in Vancouver with a substantial concentrated black population.  The video is comprised of ten stories that celebrate some of the remarkable people and places that made this community vibrant and unique.   

Pullman Porter Street, Vancouver

In 2014 the Vancouver Civic Asset Naming Committee named a street “Pullman Porter Street” in recognition of the role sleeping car porters played in both Black labour history and the history of the railway. The street is in close proximity to the two train stations on Main Street: Union Station and the Canadian National which now serves as the bus, VIA and Amtrak station. The Pullman Porters’ Club, a popular Main Street gathering place for the predominantly Black porters, was located nearby, backing on to Hogan’s Alley. Many residents of Hogan’s Alley worked as railway porters, their residences chosen in part because of the area’s proximity to the railway station and multi-ethnic Strathcona. Porters also played an important role in Black labour history. The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters signed its first collective agreement with CP Rail on May 18, 1945, the first time a trade union organized by and for Black men signed an agreement with a Canadian company.

MAINLAND – CENTRAL AND NORTH

Barkerville

 Blacks who resided in Barkerville during the gold rush include Isaac Dickson, a barber and another man named Steele who owned a restaurant there.

More notable persons include: Wellington Delaney Moses also opened a barbershop and general store in Barkerville in 1862 and is noted as having the first bathtub in the city of Barkerville in his salon.   Moses was an avid “recorder” and his accounts and diaries are in the Public Archives in Victoria where he recorded his business affairs and activities in Barkerville from 1860 – 1870’s. 

Rebecca Gibbs established a laundry in Barkerville circa 1868 and published poems in the Cariboo Sentinel.  Her most memorable poem is “The Old Red Shirt” that is engraved on her grave marker in the Ross Bay Cemetery.

 In the British Columbia Directory of 1877 - 1889 William Alan Jones is listed as a miner but in recognition of the skills he had acquired as a dentist at Oberlin College, he was granted a licence on June 26, 1886 under the British Columbia Dental Act, although he may have been practicing dentistry as early as 1865. He had the distinction of being the first person to register under the act.  More about Jones.

Clore Mountain/Clore River

In 1910, prospector Arthur Clore began a long career in the northern interior.  Clore Mountain and Clore River are named after him. Beginning in Prince Rupert 1910; he first worked as a logger and later as a miner in 1932.  He was also a placer miner and later prospected for gold as well as copper.

 

Giscome Canyon, Giscome Portage, and Giscome Rapids

John Robert Giscome and Henry McDame were prospectors and mining partners; both have places named after them.

Giscome was born in Jamaica in 1832, was part of the migration in 1858.  He prospected and mined in the mid and northern parts of B.C.  It is believed that he did well as a miner, he died at the age of 75 in 1907 and is buried in the Ross Bay Cemetery. Giscome Portage is a designated heritage trail by BC Parks.   More on Giscome   

McDame Creek

Henry McDame, a prospector in 1870, discovered the creek, initially called ‘Nigger Creek’ – later named after McDame.  Another gold discovery was made by McDame 90 miles from Deas Lake in 1874, and with a group of predominately Black miners he formed the Charity Company.   McDame is also credited with bringing life to an area known as Centreville, a town which housed numerous miners in the 1870’s.  McDame Creek, is reported, as producing one of the largest all-gold nuggets ever recovered in B.C.

 The Huble Homestead Historic Site  is located 40km north of Prince George; their website includes content about Giscome and McDame.

Additional Links

Canada’s Historic Places:  The Canadian Register of Historic Places (CRHP) is Canada's definitive source of information on more than 13,000 historic places.