Victoria (Tuesday, January 12, 1897) – It was raining with a 25 km wind blowing across Victoria’s park-like Ross Bay Cemetery to give the six degrees Celsius an edge. An average West Coast winter day. Mourners around the open grave in “Block F, Plot 35” would be cold and glad when final prayers were uttered and they could go home to a hot rum or a modest sherry.
The following day the Victoria Daily Colonist made note of the event: “The infant son of Mr. and Mrs. Horace Davie of Somenos was interred yesterday at Ross Bay Cemetery. Rev Canon Beaulands officiating at Christ Church Cathedral and at graveside.”
It cleared up one mystery for me – and created several more. My July 23 blog told the story of a child bride and her 10 month old baby lying side by side in an unmarked grave in Ross Bay Cemetery. It ended with a note that buried in the same grave as Blanche Eliza Davie, the 16-year old mother, was an infant boy little more than a year old named in cemetery records as Alex W Davie.
I wondered if he was a son of Theodore Davies who had re-married in 1884 eight years after the deaths of Blanche Eliza and 10 month old daughter, Eliza Blanche – and if he was why would he be designated to share a grave with his father’s first wife who had lived and died before he was born? It didn’t make sense so on one of the brightest days of summer I was back in BC Government Archives to pick up the paper trails which are sometimes enlightening but not always accurate.
Alex’s death certificate seems simple enough: Name, Alexander Waldron Davie; died, January 11, 1897; sex, male; age 1year and 10 weeks; rank or profession, infant; where, Victoria BC; cause of death, laryngitis; name of physician; Dr.J.C.Davie (one of the Davie family brothers). Then a strange note in the box asking for the “Signature, description and residence of informant”: The response: “Chas. Hayward, undertakers, Victoria, BC.” It can be argued that the intent of the question was surely to indentify the person who reported the death – which is usually one step before the undertaker is called.
With the date of death and the age of Alex I reach back a year and 10-weeks for his birth certificate. Place of birth Somenos: Date June 11th, 1897 – which observant readers will note is about six months after his registered death in January of that year. There’s a possible clue to the error where it is noted as being filed at Somenos on “this 15th day of June, 1898” with information provided by “Alice M. Davie” of Ingleview, Somenos, maiden name Alice Mary Porter, mother of young Alex and presumed wife of Samuel Horace Davie. If June 11, 1897 should read 1896 that would mean the birth was not officially registered for two years – which was not without precedent in early days of settlement.
Horace was one of five sons of medical Doctor John Chapman Davie who settled in the Duncan area in 1862. He died in 1869. His oldest son Alexander went into law and politics and was Premier from July 1887 to August 1889. His youngest, Theodore, was Premier from July 1892 to March 1895. Second son John followed his father into medicine while William and Horace stayed with farming.
Two notes on the birth certificate of infant Alex command interest. The doctor in attendance was John the younger (who also attended the death of 16-year-old Blanche Eliza and the birth and death of her daughter 10 month old Eliza Blanche). He was assisted by “Miss Jr Jones – accoucher and nurse” which would indicate difficult birth.
The certificate notes: “Father was absent shortly after the birth of child” – which could mean heavy celebrations, serious domestic problems, or that Horace was out working on a government forest clearing or trail building contract.
There are records of him being contracted to remove all dead and fallen timber from the Cowichan Trail between “Goldstream and the Somenos Indian Ranch on the Cowichan River.” The trail was to be restored to “the full original width of 12 feet throughout” and made safe and easily passable for cattle and horsemen for the entire distance as specified.” Horace was being paid $100 on completion.
None of the above answers the original question as to why infant Alexander Waldron Davie was buried in the same grave as his Uncle Theodore’s teenage folly or how the 15-month old child’s last place of residence was the undertaker’s mortuary.
But as I wrote two weeks ago – this is a readymade outline for a budding author aspiring to write the great Canadian novel. It’s got it all … sex, intrigue, politics, questionable professional conduct, falsified or accidentally prepared official documents, power, prejudice, a little gallantry here and there and a lot of sadness.
If I had the talent I’d give it a go myself.