Remembering Sacramento entrepreneur Charles F. Silva

As the years pass by in the city of Sacramento, the histories of certain notable residents from various communities and neighborhoods begin to fade. And among such people of days gone by is Charles F. Silva.
Charles F. Silva is shown with his first wife, Theresa (Kennedy) Silva, on their wedding day, Aug. 15, 1899. / Photo courtesy of PHCS
Charles F. Silva is shown with his first wife, Theresa (Kennedy) Silva, on their wedding day, Aug. 15, 1899. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

Although many people today are not familiar with Charles and his connection to part of the Land Park community, Charles F. Silva is undoubtedly a name that should be well preserved.

Born in the Azores

Born on Dec. 14, 1867 in Faial in the Azores Islands of Portugal, Charles arrived in Boston at the age of 11 in 1878 and then proceeded to the Sutterville area in today’s South Land Park area of Sacramento.

With only $2.50 in his pocket, Charles used $1 of his money to reach the town of Vernon in Sutter County, where he became employed as a milker on a dairy ranch for 50 cents per day.

Teen cheese entrepreneur

Using earnings from this job, Charles, when he was 13, paid a cheese maker $50 to teach him how to make cheese, after which he went into business for himself.

Charles eventually rented a ranch in Yolo County, bought cows and established a dairy and cheese plant.

Charles’ next venture was his purchase of the 160-acre Ramsey Ranch, which was located six miles above Vernon on the Feather River. He also rented the Hoover Ranch and the Clark and Cave ranches near the Sacramento River.

While conducting business along the Sacramento River, Charles entered the boating business, as he bought a gasoline-powered boat and a barge.

Meanwhile, Charles purchased the Point Ranch, where he cut wood, which he transported down the river to Sacramento.

In 1900, Charles returned to the capital city, as he purchased and resided at the Meadows place on Front Street, between O and P streets. It was there that he also established a wood, hay and grain business.

Shipping businesses

In addition to this business, Charles purchased the steamers “Neponset” and “Neptune,” the trading boats “Jersey” and “Inder” and the barges, “Columbia,” “Sutter” and “Vernon.”

In becoming engaged in the transportation business, Charles formed a partnership with a Capt. Jones. This partnership continued for many years and their route included towns on the Sacramento River, between Sacramento and Butte City.

Rancher

During this time, Charles was also involved in the cattle and sheep business.

Eventually, Charles sold his interests in the boats to devote his full attention to his livestock business.

Charles experienced much success in this endeavor, as he enlarged his interests on an annual basis and also established retail businesses – four local meat markets and a large wholesale business in Sacramento.

Additionally, Charles bred Hereford stock and was renowned throughout the state as a breeder of these fine cattle.

So large was Charles’ livestock business operation that he became known as the largest individual cattle dealer in California, shipping thousands of head of cattle from Mexico, in addition to his large shipments from throughout the state.

Charles’ wealth was great, as he purchased various Northern California ranches and later sold the ranches for twice the amount that he had paid for them.

Land dealer

Along with his real estate transactions, Charles was actively associated with various reclamation projects and served as the organizer and director of the Sutter Basin Co. and the Natomas Land Co.

 

Following his time with his previous cattle business endeavors, Charles invested in many Sacramento properties, including business blocks, warehouses and residences, and purchased a 21,000-acre cattle ranch in Modoc County.

Charles additionally accumulated other properties such as 243 acres dedicated to fruit growing in Yuba County and 670 acres on the Feather River in Butte County, with one half of this acreage being devoted to fruit.

Another major part of Charles’ life was his interest in horses and for many years he was involved in breeding standard-bred animals. 

This horseracing track in Woodland was owned by Charles F. Silva from 1916 to 1921. To the right forefront of the photograph is Silva and his record-breaking horse, Teddy Bear. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

This horseracing track in Woodland was owned by Charles F. Silva from 1916 to 1921. To the right forefront of the photograph is Silva and his record-breaking horse, Teddy Bear. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

Breeder of race horses

 Charles, who eventually had the finest standard-bred stock in the state, raised the well-known pacer, Teddy Bear, who broke a 6-year-old record at the California State Fair on Aug. 29, 1911. The horse set the mile mark of two minutes and five seconds.

With his continued interest in horses, Charles purchased a racetrack in Woodland in 1916.

It can be speculated that Charles, who continued to own the track until 1921, purchased the track in order to run Teddy Bear on his own schedule during fair weather days throughout the year.

In the early 1920s, Charles traded a 21,000-acre parcel of land in Alturas (Modoc County) for the old Weinstock-Lubin and Co. department store building at 4th and K streets. The building had been vacated and the company had reopened in its new location at 12th and K streets.

Meat marketer

Charles also owned other business operations in Sacramento, including the Fulton Meat Market at 4th and M (now Capitol Mall) streets, California Market on J Street, between 7th and 8th streets, and meat markets on 10th and M (now Capitol Mall) streets, 16th and M (now Capitol Avenue) streets and in Folsom and Knights Landing.

He also owned a slaughterhouse on Y Street (present day Broadway), between 5th and 6th streets.

Charles established a rich connection to the Land Park community with his founding of Charles Station, which later became known as South Land Park Hills.

Charles F. Silva is shown at the age of about 55, around the time he acquired the old Weinstock-Lubin and Co. department store building at 4th and K streets. / Photo courtesy

Charles F. Silva is shown at the age of about 55, around the time he acquired the old Weinstock-Lubin and Co. department store building at 4th and K streets. / Photo courtesy

Charles’ property was located off the present day Del Rio Road in the area of today’s Kennedy Lane and Pleasant Drive.

On this property, Charles owned and operated a second slaughterhouse, which had a thick concrete floor that later posed difficulties in building the foundations of some of the area’s high quality homes.

Family manDuring his life, Charles was married twice, with the first of his marriages occurring when he married Theresa Kennedy in Sacramento on Aug. 15, 1899. Together the couple had nine children.

Following Theresa’s death, Charles married Lois Blackwell and this marriage added two more children to his family.

The most prominent of Charles’ children was former Land Park area resident Ray Silva. Ray, who passed away in 1996, was a referee for the Harlem Globetrotters and the founder and operator of Kiddie Land, Land Park’s small-scale children’s amusement park, which is today known as Funderland.

Undoubtedly, Charles, who passed away on July 14, 1944, was a man who achieved many great things in his life.

And considering his many accomplishments and the fact that he once had practically pennies in his pocket and no assets to his name, Charles Silva should be remembered for many years as a self-motivated man whose drive to excel led to a life of success.

lance@valcomnews.com