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October 1, 2008 > History: The Manuel Oliveira Family

History: The Manuel Oliveira Family

Antone Oliveira was born in 1847 on the Azores island of Pico where he grew up helping his fisherman father, Joaquin. His mother, Anna, made fishing nets while the men were at sea. When Antone was 17 he became engaged to Maria Lewis Soares and decided he could make a better life in America. He worked his way over on a whaling ship, landing in Boston. He reached Centerville in 1865, found work, and sent for Maria. When they were married, he was 18; she was 17.

In Centerville, Antone worked two jobs and built a small house followed by a larger one made of lumber acquired from a ship docked in nearby Newark. As a farmer, he became very successful growing sugar beets, apricots and cherries. Antone was involved in community activities and in 1888 is listed as a charter member of the Centerville Chapter, U.P.E.C., a Portuguese fraternal organization. Maria bore 17 children, 12 of whom lived to maturity.

One of those children was Manuel Oliveira, born in 1874 on John Santos Road (now Mowry). As a boy he attended Centerville Grammar School with his brothers and sisters and worked in his father's orchards. He learned his lessons well.

In 1897 Manuel married Rita Furtado and set about establishing himself in the community. He began farming, and for a time served as Constable, but gave it up to devote full time to farming and to his growing family. The family included 10 children: Matilda Enos, Carrie Nunes, Irma Kelly, Rita Mae Kameroski, Emily Silva, Marie Roch, Otilla Fragus, Agnes Castro and Clarmond and Vincent Oliveira. Probably because of his large family and interest in their education, he became a member of the Centerville School Board in 1909 - a position he would hold for the rest of his life.

Like his father, he was active in community organizations, and his farming operations prospered. He had apricot and cherry orchards near Holy Spirit Church as well as behind Washington High School. His orchard that included the apricot dryer was next to Centerville Grammar School. At one time, he owned one of the first cars in the area - a Star.

The family lived in a spacious house on Main Street behind the location of the current Center Theatre. Behind the house was the tank house, a space for animals - two plow horses, a cow, a few pigs and chickens - as well as a vegetable garden. Grandsons Mel Nunes of Newark and Jack Silva of Concord recall that every Saturday night the entire family gathered at their grandparents' home. The men played cards and the women entertained themselves playing piano, singing and dancing.

Beloveria Court near the Center Theatre was so named because at one time the Bell family and the Oliveiras were neighbors. In 1973 someone claimed to be the only resident on the court and asked that it be changed to his name. The City Council approved the change, but hastily reversed its decision when confronted by unhappy residents who demanded the original name because of its historical significance. Beloveria Court continues to flourish.

Manuel's children attended Centerville Grammar School and Washington High. All but two of them stayed in Centerville, raising their families there. At one time five Oliveira families lived on Main Street. His only remaining child is Otilla who still lives in Fremont at age 98.

Manuel Oliveira died of a heart attack in 1949 at age 75. He had served on the Centerville School Board for 40 years. In honor of their longest serving member, the Centerville Board of Education named the Manuel Oliveira School for him. Located on Alder Avenue and built on land once owned by family members Liz Nunes and Emily and Jack Silva, the school was dedicated October 17, 1962. The program was sponsored by the Betsy Ross Parlor #238, Native Daughters of the Golden West. Because of his love for orange groves, an orange tree was planted at the school in his memory. The plaque on the building reads:

This Building Dedicated to
Manuel Oliveira
For
Loyalty and Service
Trustee 1909-1949

Manuel Oliveira instilled civic pride as well as the value of community service and education in all his children. Currently there are two scholarships for local high school graduates in memory of two of his daughters-The Matilda Oliveira Enos and the Carrie Oliveira Nunes Scholarships. A granddaughter, Joan Fragus, recently retired from her teaching position in the Fremont Unified School District. A great granddaughter, Trish Nunes, currently teaches in the district, and a great great granddaughter, Emily Blackburn, is on the staff of Oliveira School. The tradition continues.

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