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Patriarch and Matriarch of 400+ Descendants: Charles and Nancy Alexander

Black and white professional studio portrait woman standing, man seated. Nancy's hair parted in the centre, pulled back into a bun. Her right hand rests on Charles shoulder. Charles, seated to her right, with his right foot slightly forward wearing a dark suit and vest, his watch chain is visible from his vest pocket. Charles hair is white; he has a moustache and full beard.

Studio portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Alexander taken for their 60th wedding anniversary

More than 400 descendants of Charles and Nancy have been documented.  Both Charles and Nancy were born in St. Louis Missouri as free blacks; they  married in Springfield, Illinois on December 25, 1849. Charles was a carpenter who built and ran a grist mill in St. Louis. In the spring of 1857 they decided to leave Missouri and travel west to the gold fields of California by way of the Oregon Trail. Charles worked in the gold fields but was not very successful. On July 1, 1858, Charles and Nancy boarded the ship “Oregon” to Fort Victoria.

Charles headed for the Fraser River gold mines, was successful, and the family then established a home and farm in South Saanich. Charles helped to build the first school in South Saanich and was a trustee; and in 1862, Charles initiated and assisted in the building of the first Shady Creek Church and was one of its first preachers.

Black and white photo, an adult man wearing a beret and a suit, standing on the wooden platform at a train station. Train cars are visible behind and beside him. He is holding a rifle in his left hand, leash in right hand with his dog standing beside him.

Thomas Alexander, 4th child, 2nd son, born in 1859

black and white photo, young adult female standing next to a chair posing for the camera with a slight smile; wearing a long formal dress, with a white under-blouse, ruffled at the neck and cuffs, long hair in a ponytail

Lucretia Alexander 5th child, 3rd daughter, born in 1861

The Alexanders were an integral part of the community. Saanich Agricultural Fair Reports in the Daily Colonist (6-Oct-1875) lists Charles Alexander winning 1st prize for best two year old heifer, 2nd prize for draught horses, 16 hands and over, and a prize for long carrots.

In 1894, the Alexanders moved ‘into town’. They again established themselves as pillars of the community; Nancy was one of the first ladies to join Lake Hill Women’s Institute. Nancy died March 23, 1912 at age 78 and Charles on January 31, 1913 at age 89.

In July 1995 the Alexander family gathered for a reunion in Victoria. “Victoria’s Alexanders: Pioneering Black family back for reunion. Over 200 descendants of one of Victoria’s oldest and most successful pioneer families are coming from all across Canada and the United States.”  Today more than 100 descendants  of the Alexander family still live in the area today.

Senior man in umpires uniform, baseball field in the background

James Douglas “Doug” Hudlin (December 12, 1922 – January 5, 2014) a great grandson, is known as the “Gentleman Umpire”.

One of these descendants is a great grandson, James Douglas “Doug” Hudlin.  Doug was a founding member of the BC Black History Awareness Society, but his passion was baseball. Doug umpired Little League and Senior championship games in Canada and the United States from 1966 to 1988.  He was inducted into the Victoria Sports Hall of Fame in 1998, Umpires Association Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.

Another direct descendant and a life-time member of the BC Black History Awareness Society is Karen Hoshal.  In this video Karen tells Charles and Nancy’s story and shows us Nancy’s custom made 60th wedding anniversary dress.  The interview takes place at the church that is a replica of the church that was built by Charles and other members of the Black community.

“I’m a direct descendant of Charles and Nancy Alexander” (captions available in both French and English). View this video with an English transcript.

In February 2011 “The Story of Charles and Nancy Alexander, as told by descendent Doug Hudlin” was recorded in February 2011 by Dale Hitchcox, a member of the BC Black History Awareness Society;
Karen Hoshal, great granddaughter: Interview at Shady Creek Church on June 7, 2019. (Video);
Richard Watts  “Victoria’s Alexanders: Pioneering Black family back for reunion” Times Colonist July 15, 1995 C8.