ABOVE: The History Detective says this photo shows Tom Davies (centre) outside his watch repair shop at 257 Baker Street in Nelson

History detective on the Baker Street watch

A photo purchased online shows an early 20th century watch repair shop. Where and when was it taken and who are the men in front?



Third in the History Detective series

THE CASE: A photo purchased online shows an early 20th century watch repair shop. Where and when was it taken and who are the men in front?

THE INVESTIGATION: This drymount 5 by 7-inch photo depicts three hirsute men standing in front of two stores. One man has a white coat and another smokes a pipe. Signs on the stores say “Watches repaired” and “Agents of the German M&M Co.” and “Baltimore Oysters.”

Written on the back in a feminine hand is: “Uncle Tom Davies’ jewelry and watch repair store in Nelson, BC, Canada, before he took up the 160 acre place in Rosehill, Kamloops, BC. Daddy Jack’s (John O. Davies) brother.”

There’s an asterisk below the man in the middle, which seems to indicate he is Uncle Tom.

The BC directory of 1893 listed Thomas J. Davies as a Nelson rancher. He also shows up on the 1898 provincial voters list, living somewhere on the Kootenay River. His brother John, meanwhile, is listed as a labourer in Trail.

Tom vanishes from the directories in 1899-1900, but reappears in 1901 at 257 Baker Street, although no occupation is given for him. The same listing appears through 1905, after which interior towns weren’t included for a few years.

By 1910, he had evidently left Nelson. There’s no listing for him in Kamloops that year either, although the 1911 census finds a Thomas Davies, 48, cooking at the Yankee girl mine in Ymir. Hard to say if it’s the same guy.

Ted Affleck writes in Kootenay Lake Chronicles that a “plucky little Englishman” with a “scrappy disposition” named Thomas Jones Davis lived on the Kootenay Flats near Creston and acquired the steam launch Mudhen from William A. Baillie-Grohman. He was thus nicknamed Mudhen Davis. But even ignoring the spelling discrepancy, there’s nothing to link him to the Nelson watch repairman. Mudhen Davis apparently returned to England by 1894.

John O. Davies (wonder what the O stood for) presumably moved to the US, given that his daughter specified the photo was taken in Canada and the photo’s seller found it at a trade show for vintage ephemera in Phoenix, Arizona.

Now we turn to exactly where in Nelson the shop was. With a magnifying glass, the fire number is visible above the door: 257 — the same address given for Tom in the directories.

That puts it where Connect Hearing is today, although that building probably only dates to the 1920s or ‘30s. Yet Star editor Bob Hall took one look at the photo and somehow correctly pronounced its location. Lucky guess.

Previous installments in this series

The King of Pop

The Nelson Cafe

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Haitian foster children arrive in Nelson after months-long lobbying effort

Marie-Paule Brisson and Sebastien De Marre have parented girls age 12 and 8 since they were babies

Nelson hospice starts Walk and Talk group in Lakeside Park

The Walk and Talk Grief Group is offered free to anyone grieving the death of a loved one

From baseball stars to forest fires: Southeast Fire Centre water bomber has an interesting past

Tanker 489 is stationed in Castlegar this year, but in the 1960s it belonged to the L.A. Dodgers.

RDCK to implement new emergency alert notification system

System also includes sends alerts for water advisories

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

BREAKING: Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

‘Made in the Cowichan Valley’ coming to a wine bottle near you

Cowichan Valley has the honour of being the first sub-GI outside of the Okanagan

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

Most Read