Cecelia Sylvester

Cecelia Davies Sylvester

Birth: January 22, 1848 in Sydney, New South Whales, Australia

Death: November 6, 1935 (age 87) in Victoria, B.C.

Cecelia Davies Sylvester was the younger of JP Davies and Miriam Harris Davies’ two daughters. The better part of her childhood was in San Francisco where she attended the fashionable Mme Pettibeau’s school for girls. In 1862 the family moved to Victoria where at age of 15 she completed her education at Mme Pettibeau’s Seminary for Young Ladies now located Victoria.

JP and Miriam Davies were prominent among the pioneers and their daughters attended the balls and dances popular with the social elite. Cecelia inherited her mother’s black hair and was considered a gentle woman. On January 27, 1869 in a quiet wedding ceremony held at her parent’s home Cecelia married her long time admirer Frank Sylvester. The couple moved to a house on Fisgard Street they called “Firleigh.” This was Cecelia’s castle and where she hosted parties for the prominent members of Victoria’s society. She played piano well, danced and enjoyed singing with her husband, Frank.

In addition to entertaining, Cecelia was very active in Jewish life. As a young woman, she worked hard to collect money to build the synagogue. On March 22, 1865, a letter of thanks was written on behalf of Congregation Emanu-el and sent to Cecelia Davies. It is part of the archives in the Special Collection at the University of Victoria.

From the archives in the Special Collection at the University of Victoria

Cecelia was also a member of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, and active in charitable organizations. She worked in the first hospital established in BC, known as ‘The Little French Hospital.’ Later, Cecelia served on the board of the Royal Jubilee Hospital.

The Sylvester’s had 8 children; Elizabeth, Louise, William, Clarence, May, Jesse, Rachel and Ruby. It was reported that Cecelia ran a tight ship as matriarch of the family. From time to time, her unmarried children, especially the girls lived with Cecelia in the family’s Fort Street home. Cecelia Sylvester was well respected as a matron of Victoria both while her husband, Frank, was alive and for the 27 years after his death. She died on November 6, 1935, and is buried next to her husband. Their gravestone has the image of ivy, the symbol of everlasting love, scratched lightly on the stone.

Gravesite Details: Row F – Plot 40

Frank Sylvester
Born 1837
Died 1908
Aged 71
At Rest
Born 1848
Died 1935

Miriam “Maria” Harris Davies (1819–1901)
Judah Philip (J.P.) Davies (1820–1879)

Francis “Frank” Joseph Sylvester (1837–1908)

Elizabeth Eula Sylvester Menkus (1869–1937)
Louise Miriam Sylvester (1871–1955)
William Benjamin Sylvester (1874–1931)
Clarence Bertram Sylvester (1876–1933)
Mabel Violet Sylvester Ellis (1878–1941)
Jesse Percival Sylvester (1880–1945)
Rachel Valentine Sylvester Campbell (1884–1975)
Rebecca Florence Sylvester Macrae (1889–1980)

Elizabeth Davies Schultz (1844-1866)
Joshua Davies (1846–1903)
Henry (Harry) Davies (1850–1916)
David Lewis Davies (1852–1924)
Philip Judah Davies (1854–1943)

Jewish Museum of the American West:
Francis Joseph & Cecelia Sylvester: Early Jewish Settlers & “Community Givers” of Victoria, BC

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