William Henry Thistle first appears as a farmer living on Cadboro Bay Road in the 1884 city directory. The family home was located, according to Murdoch, “about two blocks south of the main gate to the Uplands.” It’s possible to deduce the exact location using the 1890 map “Plan of Parts of Lots 61 and 2 Vic Dist showing Mr Fuller’s Res[er]ve.” (It’s reproduced in Stark.) A. D. Fuller owned the land south of the boundary of Section 2. The land west of Cadboro Bay Road was Victoria Driving Park. The Thistles, therefore, likely occupied the northwest corner of Section 2, just south of Uplands Farm — the land through which Nottingham Road now runs.
Who were the Thistles? William probably came from Ireland. The 1891 census and his obituary in the Colonist say as much. There is a July 1845 record of arrival in New York of a family named Thistle travelling from Liverpool on the Ashburton. The father, James, was a weaver, age 50; the mother Maryann was 49; the four children included William, age 16. A family named Thistles, from Ireland, shows up in the 1850 census for Brooklyn City, NY — father James, 60, mother Mary Ann, 54, and three children with the same names in order. William, age 21, was a carpenter. In the 1891 directory, Thistle gave his occupation as carpenter. According to the 1881 census, his religious persuasion was Presbyterian. From this it might be inferred that the family was from Ulster, likely fleeing sectarian violence and the collapse of the cottage linen industry. If so, they left months before the onset of the terrible potato famine.
At the time of the 1881 census, Alice and William Thistle lived downtown. He was a saloon keeper, age 51, from the USA. She was 20, born in BC of English parents. In July 1879 they had lost a child barely a month old. The child’s death notice in the Colonist gave their address as Johnson Street, above Quadra. William Thistle kept the San Francisco Saloon, according to city directories. Situated at the northeast corner of Government and Yates streets, the saloon was part of the historic Bayley’s Hotel, Victoria’s first hotel, built about 1854. The building was sold out from under him in June 1883 and torn down.
When they moved to Cadboro Bay Road, the family had grown by two more children, Herbert Charles, born 1881, and Walter Andrew, born 1883. Two children born later died in childhood.
No other records come to light about Alice’s family of origin, nor about the circumstances or date of William’s immigration, nor about their farm or the farmhouse.
A few more facts can be gleaned from William’s obituary. He was a brother of the Independent Order of Oddfellows’ Victoria Lodge No. 1. He was latterly an invalid for several years. In 1899 the Thistles moved to North Saanich. There William died on Christmas Day. His funeral was conducted by the Oddfellows.
The family narrative shifts to Washington. The 1910 census for Fidalgo City, Skagit County, shows that Alice had immigrated to the US with her son Herbert in 1900. Now 50, she had been married to Charley Harms for six years. They had a daughter, Florence, age 8. By 1920, she was widowed again and living in Seattle with Herbert, single at 38, and Florence, 19, as well as a daughter-in-law, three grandchildren and nine boarders. In 1930, Alice and Herbert were living in Seattle with Florence, her husband and their three sons. The other son, Walter, was also in Seattle in 1930, with a wife and three children, aged 20, 18 and 12. By 1940, he and his wife inhabited an empty nest. Walter died in 1943.
Archives of British Columbia. Combined Genealogy Indexes. http://search.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca
Census of Canada, 1881, 1891. http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/census/
Census of the United States, 1850, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940. Ancestry.com.
“Died at Christmas.” The Daily Colonist, December 27, 189, p. 2. http://www.britishcolonist.ca/
Directory of British Columbia, 1884-85. http://www.vpl.ca/bccd/index.php.
First Victoria Directory 5th Issue, 1874. http://www.vpl.ca/bccd/index.php.
Henderson’s BC Gazetteer and Directory, 1900-01. http://www.vpl.ca/bccd/index.php
Murdoch, G. A History of the Municipality of Oak Bay, 1968, p 16. www.oakbaybc.org/pdfdocuments/murdoch.pdf
New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Ancestry.com.
Stark, Stuart. Oak Bay’s Heritage Buildings: More than just Bricks and Boards. 2nd edition, 1988, p 9.
“Victoria’s First Hotel.” The Daily Colonist, June 14, 1883, p 3. http://www.britishcolonist.ca/
Williams’ British Columbia Directory Part 1.1891. Victoria District. http://www.vpl.ca/bccd/index.php