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

Just Posted

Campbell scores in OT as Leafs outlast Nitehawks 7-6

Nelson gave up three leads against rival Beaver Valley

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

Applications sought for annual Nelson heritage award

Deadline for submissions is Oct. 30.

Playmor Junction daycare expansion faces opposition

Neighbours upset with rezoning application, citing traffic, noise and concerns about future uses

Trafalgar Thunder take gold in Oliver

The Thunder knocked out the top seed in the semis en route to gold

Singer k.d. lang receives Alberta’s highest honour

Celebrated singer-songwriter k.d. lang received the Alberta Order of Excellence in Edmonton

‘Mom, I’m in trouble:’ Canadian faces 10 years for alleged graffiti

Brittney Schneider, another tourist caught spraying message on walls of Tha Pae Gate in Thailand

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

Enbridge aims for mid-November to finish B.C. pipeline repair after blast

A natural gas pipeline that ruptured and burned near Prince George caused an explosion and fireball

How to get government cheques if Canada Post staff go on strike

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said members could go on rotating strikes as early as Monday

Anti-SOGI school trustee files defamation lawsuit against BCTF president

Barry Neufeld says Glen Hansman’s words caused him “indignity,” “personal harassment,” and “anxiety”

Ocean ‘blob’ returns to B.C.’s North Coast

A 2,000 kilometre patch of warm ocean water could signal a warm winter in Prince Rupert

Pot sales down by nearly 70% on Day 2 of legalization in B.C.

Several products on BC Cannabis Store are still sold out

Most Read