Stark Monument

The Stark monument in the Chase River area of Nanaimo is a reminder of the contributions made by black people in Central Vancouver Island.


The Stark family, with its origins in Missouri and California where they had been enslaved and lived under constant threat of violence, arrived in British Columbia in 1850s, eventually settling on Saltspring Island.


Sylvia Estes had taught herself to read and write, although it was forbidden for blacks to do so while looking after the children of the man who owned her. She married Louis Stark in California and the couple along with their two children moved to B.C. where they raised their family on a 200-acre wilderness farm.

In the early days of Saltspring Island, racism was virtually unkown since people depended on their neighbours-black, white and Indigenous-to cope with challenges of pioneer life. In 1875 Louis’ and Sylvia’s son, Willis, took over the Saltspring Island farm and the couple moved to Nanaimo.  She returned to Saltspring in 1895 following the death of Louis who, it was suspected, was murdered by white men who wanted to develop a coal mine on their property.


The Stark children went on to accomplish great things in their lives. Emma became a schoolteacher and taught on Vancouver Island. John went north as a mineralogist and prospector, while Marie became the family historian.


Between 1763 and 1865, it is estimated that about 30,000 blacks came to Canada to seek refuge from slavery and racial discrimination. About 800 of them, like Sylvia Stark and her family, came to Vancouver Island.