Fuzzy historical background about Stark’s barn might not stand the test of time as well as the structure. Neither Nanaimo’s Heritage Registry nor Nanaimo Community Archives have records proving pioneer Louis Stark ever built the barn or owned the property it stands on.

Timeless tales: If this old barn could talk …

NANAIMO – Stark’s Barn might stand as an example of local myth than historical fact.

If an old barn in Chase River could talk, it might be able to clear up a few things, such as who designed it, who built it and maybe even who actually owned it over the past 140 years.

Stark’s Barn, according to the City of Nanaimo Heritage Register, was built in 1880. It stands in the back yard of a home at 1526 Extension Rd., just over the fence from Chase River Elementary School’s play field.

The barn takes its name from Louis Stark, a black man originally from Louisville, Ky., who came to the Island by way of California in the 1870s looking for a place where he and his family could live in freedom.

Stark bought property on Salt Spring Island and a large section of land he farmed in Chase River. A large interpretive sign and a stone monument bearing a plaque with the Stark family are installed on the school grounds.

But, the construction date is a guess.

“It’s basically a guess-timate on the date based on the records we had on the Stark family,” said Chris Sholberg, city culture and heritage planner.

Nor are there any known records pointing to who designed and built the barn or even any that say with certainty Stark even owned that property, according to Christine Meutzner, Nanaimo Community Archives manager.

“We have evidence he had property way up by Extension, but we have no evidence he had that property right where the barn is,” Meutzner said. “There’s a Starks [railway] crossing near there, so I think it’s possible that people, by extension, just ended up calling it Stark’s barn. We’ve never been able to say definitively that was Stark’s barn.”

Shalema Gantt, president of the Nanaimo African Heritage Society, said Stark owned several properties in the area, including property up near the E&N Railway line. His wife, Sylvia, lived part time on Salt Spring Island and part time in Chase River.

According to the city heritage register, their daughter, Emily, became the first teacher at North Cedar School, a significant achievement for a black woman in 19th century British Columbia.

Stark had coal reserves on his property and was allegedly murdered in 1895 – possibly pushed off a cliff, according to a story passed on to Gantt – while walking home from playing cards with friends late one night.

“Apparently the Dunsmuirs were blamed for the murder because at the time [Robert] Dunsmuir wanted to buy the land from him for coal digging, so there was a big mystery,” Gantt said.

Nadine Simms, Stark’s great great granddaughter, might have been able to shed light on the barn, Gantt said, but she died in September. Simms was 95.

“It’s not to say that it isn’t the Stark’s Barn,” Meutzner said. “I just can’t prove it.”

Just Posted

Man arrested in shooting at Nanaimo hotel pleads guilty to second-degree murder

Brandon Tyler Woody to be sentenced in late March in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo

New museum exhibit presents Nanaimo mysteries

Nanaimo Mysteries exhibit unveils city’s fiction and even stranger facts

Nanaimo police will issue $109 tickets to drivers with too much snow on their vehicles

Snow must be cleared from vehicles, with rear licence plates visible at all times

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: No good reason to be advertising guns for sale

What is this push in the advertising in your newspaper for guns, asks letter writer

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Riding boundary leaves out voters

My concern is the border line of the Nanaimo-North Cowichan electoral district, says letter writer

VIDEO: Canada’s flag turns 54 today

The maple leaf design by George Stanley made its first appearance Feb. 15, 1965

Beefs & Bouquets, Feb. 14

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail bulletinboard@nanaimobulletin.com

Dallas Stars pay tribute to Nanaimo woman who died of cancer

NHL team wore Arlene Forbes’s initials on hockey helmets last week

Judge rules Abbotsford home must be sold after son tries to evict mom

Mom to get back down payment and initial expenses

Trump officially declares national emergency to build border wall

President plans to siphon billions from federal military construction and counterdrug efforts

Snow turns to slush, rain as it warms up across B.C.’s south coast

Some areas are already covered by more than half a metre of snow following three separate storms

Father to be charged with first-degree murder in Amber Alert case

11-year-old Riya Rajkumar was found dead in her father’s home in Brampton, Ontario

Police track armed kidnapping across Thompson-Okanagan

RCMP allege it was a targeted crime believed to be linked to the drug trade

St. Paul’s Hospital replacement slated to open in Vancouver in 2026

Announced many times, but this time there’s money, Adrian Dix says

Most Read