1858 engraving of Victoria

Colonial History Vancouver Island

Maureen Duffus - Author and Historian


Victoria Families

The Bland Family of Esquimalt

Contributed by Sherri Robinson, great great granddaughter of James William and Elizabeth Bland

Ada Bland
Ada Bland was a beautiful young girl born in 1861 in the historic Halfway House built and owned by her parents, James William and Elizabeth Bland.
Maynard Photo, family collection

Ada Bland

Ada Bland, the oldest daughter and sixth child of James William Bland and Elizabeth Everson, was born October 10, 1861, in the Halfway House on Esquimalt Road, now Old Esquimalt Road in Esquimalt, BC.

The Halfway House was owned and built by her parents. The popular public house, which opened in 1860, was half way between Fort Victoria and the British Navy station at what became HMC Dockyard, providing comfortable rooms, clean stables and wholesome food for sailors and settlers.

It also offered good beer brewed on the premises from one of the three wells on the property. James Bland registered the Halfway House as one of the first breweries on Vancouver Island in 1861. He and Elizabeth had been publicans in Callao, Peru, where the first four sons (one stillborn) were born. The fifth child, Alfred, was born at Constance Cove in the home of Edward Stamp, pioneer sawmill owner of Vancouver Island, where the Bland family stayed until the Halfway House was completed.

The few stories that are told about Ada's early childhood remark on her compassion and caring for others. In her early teens she was courted by Auguste Borde, the handsome son of Jean Borde and Antoinette Vernay from Bordeaux, France. They had immigrated to California where Auguste and his brother Hippolyte were born. Ada was 17 when she and Auguste were married, as recorded in church records:

On the 30th day of October, 1878, after given dispensations and two publications with the Bishop of Vancouver Episcopal Church, I, the Rt. Bishop Joseph Herbert Leroy of St Andrew's Roman Catholic Church in Victoria, B.C., joined in matrimony Auguste Borde, 24 years and 6 months old, legitimate son of Jean Borde and wife Antoinette Vernay of San Francisco and Ada Bland, 17 years, legitimate daughter of James Bland and wife Elizabeth Everson of Esquimalt, B.C. and after Ada promised to abide by the rules of the Catholic Church and promised any children born of this marriage be all Baptized in the Roman Catholic Faith and to promise and care for in Roman Catholic manner, I declare them as man and wife together. Witnessed by Richard Hall Jr., Hippolyte Borde and Elizabeth Bland [younger sister of the bride] Priest's signature J Leroy.

The first of Ada and Auguste's three sons, Auguste Henry, was born December 1880 in their Chatham Street House in Victoria, BC, where Auguste was employed as a blacksmith. Auguste Jr. lived just 14 months and died February 14, 1882. The second son, Louis Auguste, was born three months later, on May 25, and died in November, 1959, in Portland Oregon. The third son, Leon Hyppolite, was born June 22, 1884 and lived until January, 1968.

Ada died on November 16, 1884, when Leon was only six months old and she was only 23. She had gone to help nurse members of the native community who had fallen ill with diphtheria, compassionate as ever and without regard to her own health. She is buried in Ross Bay Cemetery. Sadly her burial site is far away from most of her family but she is not alone. At the gravesite with her are her first born child, a great-granddaughter Kathleen Morbey, one half of her brother Hippolyte's ashes, and her youngest son Leon's leg that was amputated below the knee after a shooting accident when he was nine years old.

Elizabeth Bland

Ada Bland's only sister, Elizabeth (Bessie), was also born at the Halfway House on April 23, 1866. She married Phillip Robert Smith, a bookbinder and later founder of the Victoria Printing and Publishing Company, on March 21, 1885. Her brother Joseph and his first wife Elizabeth Rebecca Smith Bland, Philip's sister, were witnesses.

Bessie and Philip had six children, Leslie, Alfred, Ada, Ella, Grace, Phyllis and a baby who died in infancy. Leslie became an actor and took his grandmother Elizabeth Bland's maiden name as his stage name, Leslie Everson. His stage career began when he was in the army in World War I and joined the Dumbells, a famous Canadian concert party that entertained the troops overseas. (For information about this popular group see www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca).

After his war service he made a number of pictures with 20th Century Fox and independently, then became a lighting director for more than 30 years. Notable films he worked on include The Sound of Music and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. He married Loretta Spring, daughter of well-known Vancouver Island pioneers Captain William Spring and his wife Susan Ciamia Skiapeset.

Sylvestria Theodora Layzell Smith Hastings
Sylvestria Theodora Layzell Smith Hastings
Photo from family collection

Bessie's mother-in-law was the famous Sylvestria Theodora Layzell Smith, later Mrs. Oregon Columbus Hastings. She is thought to be the first woman to vote in British Columbia, if not the whole of Canada. As a property owner and 'head' of the family, she was eligible to vote in the 1875 municipal elections and recorded her vote for Victoria for mayoralty candidate James Drummond.

Bessie died on July 12, 1944, in Arcadia California. Her husband died in 1925. Her brother Joseph died in 1938.

Also see Esquimalt's Historic Halfway House.

Esquimalt centennial logo

Bland descendant and Esquimalt Archives volunteer Sherri Robinson has written a book, Esquimalt Centennial, 1912 to 2012.
See Esquimalt's Centennial Book page.

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