The graves are unmarked in Ross Bay Cemetery. Mother and daughter lie side by side under turf made tough by winds and rain sweeping across from the nearby ocean. An ancient Yew stands guard.
If marker stones had ever recorded the names of Blanche Eliza Davie and her daughter Eliza Blanche when they were buried a few months apart in the 1800s, they disappeared long ago. The daughter died on November 20, 1875. She was 10-months-old. Her mother was 16 when she followed on April 17, 1876.
Neither rates much attention in provincial history. S.W. Jackman in his Portraits of the Premiers of British Columbia devotes little more than a paragraph to what he calls a “love laughs at the locksmith” romance between a lawyer in his early 20s and the 14-year-old girl the lawyer married “after a certain amount of opposition.”
He doesn’t source where the opposition came from. He just notes the couple “set up housekeeping in James Bay (but) the domestic establishment hardly lasted … for some twenty months after the marriage the young bride died … and was buried near her father … (and) Theodore Davie was a widower at twenty four.”
Jackman goes on to write about a grief stricken Davie taking his wife’s death stoically and burying himself in work to overcome “the loss obviously felt deeply.” He says Davie “remained loyal to the memory of ‘dear Blanche’ until he remarried in1884.”
Again he quotes no source, but then neither does he provide a mention, not a word, about the 14-year-old who gave birth to her daughter seven months after her wedding day. In the context of the times marrying a 14-year-old would not have been as shocking as it would be today, but it would be a tough.
And, it must have been a frightening time for Blanche’s mother, Louisa Celia Baker, a widow, whose husband Thomas Joseph Baker died at 42 in May 1873, three years before his daughter. His grave, as barren of signage as his daughter’s and granddaughter’s, lies maybe 50 yards away
One can only imagine the anguish and the fear a low income widow would suffer as she hoped for some support from Theodore of the well-respected, relatively-wealthy Davie family of lawyers and medical doctors with money and societal rank. And what a relief, tinged with shame, she must have felt when Theodore, to his credit, agreed to marry her daughter and she, perhaps, began to dream of better times.
Theodore was already making a name for himself in legal circles and his courtroom successes helped steer him to political victories from MLA to various cabinet posts and eventually into the Premier’s Office from 1892 to 1895. He was following his brother Alexander who had been Premier for two years, 1887 to ‘89.
But it was all to come too late to profit the Baker family, financially or socially. The Davie clan must have seemed, despite the welcome but hurried marriage, an all-powerful force.
Theodore’s older brother John was a medical doctor. He had an office on Langley Street at Fort Street as did Theodore with “residence in James Bay.” It was John who signed baby Blanche’s death certificate. It was a terse document stating name, date of death, sex, age, rank or profession –“Infant” and with “cause of death” left blank. The space left for “signature, description and residence of informant” is signed “Theodore Davie, 20 December, 1875. Father and occupant of house,” but no address.
The young mother’s “cause of death – Bright’s disease” (kidney disease) is also signed by Theodore’s brother Dr. J.C. Davie, but with the added authority of renowned Victoria medical man “Dr. Helmcken.”
There are other curious notes on official documents, enough to give an enterprising writer with time for research and ambition to write the great Canadian novel, all the material he wants for a blockbuster with movie rights to follow.
On the marriage certificate of Blanche and Theodore the first letter – or number – of the age of the groom is scratched out or written over. Instead of a simple “21” it reads “full” as though trying to avoid the charring comparison between the ages of “bridegroom 21, bride 14”.
In the “name of bride’s parents” slot the names Thomas Joseph Baker – Louisa Celia Baker are entered which is accurate, although Thomas was dead and buried.
And, there’s a touch of religious mystery. In answer to “By whom married” there is an indecipherable name followed by clearly written “rector of St. Paul’s, Esquimalt” with the ceremony held at “south Saanich church.”
I’m not a conspiracy theorist, just curious.
I confess to some disenchantment with the old Davie family that built permanent memorials for their “famous” kin in Ross Bay Cemetery, but left two children and possibly a third in unmarked graves.
A third? Cemetery records list a 15-month-old Alex W. Davie as buried with 16-year-old Blanche. He is also listed as Alex N. Davie. Another mystery. As I wrote a few paragraphs back it’s a story readymade for a grand and mysterious historic bestseller.
And, I’m available to help with the script.