SUBMITTED BY Salt Spring Island Historical Society
For Black History Month the Salt Spring Island Historical Society is pleased to collaborate with the Salt Spring Island Public Library to display a portrait of pioneer Sylvia Stark with her father Howard Estes.
This 8 x 4-foot sepia-toned piece was commissioned by Stark descendant Judy Sims and painted by Alli Hames. “The Stark family were early pioneers with an incredible history demonstrating bravery and determination the likes of which we rarely see today,” said Hames in her artist’s statement.
Sylvia Estes was born into slavery in about 1839. As a child she taught herself to read, which was illegal at that time. Her father Howard bought his family’s freedom in 1849 and they later travelled from Missouri to California where Sylvia married cattle farmer Louis Stark. In 1858 the families emigrated with a large group of Black Americans to the colony of Vancouver Island. From there Louis and Sylvia staked a claim with the fledgling colony on Salt Spring Island, near Vesuvius Bay and later inland. Their cabin still stands on Stark’s Road. Both Howard Estes and Sylvia Stark are buried at Central Cemetery.
More information on the public viewing of the portrait is available on the library’s website at saltspring.bc.libraries.coop and the library’s Facebook page.
As well, two copies of the 63-page biography Sylvia Stark: A Pioneer will be available at the library circulation desk to read in the library as a reference item during the month of February. Historical society members will receive an email with information.
For more history resources, go to www.saltspringarchives.com and click on the Estes/Stark Collection.