Emma Abigail Palmer’s Family Butcher shop is well under construction at R.J. Haney Heritage Village. Its wainscoting is up, the floor is laid, a cooler for meat is in place, and the wallpaper is on order. Marie-Claire Lord will stain the floor this week.

A trip to the Industrial Park to look at granite-looking marble is next on my list of things to do.

Meanwhile, full size cut outs of the people in Rex Lingford’s photograph of the original Palmer’s Butcher Shop are being worked on. Alex Chappell is the butcher behind the counter and a square-jawed Bill Palmer stands with his arms across his chest, casually looking at Lingford’s camera.

Archives Volunteer Leona Orchard rescanned the glass plate negative at a super high resolution so that the people in the image could be printed full size and mounted on signboards. They will add another layer to the diorama.

Justin Maas was hired to edit the photo. Justin is a professional artist and a computer wizard. He designs all the posters at the Village. I asked Justin to create a set of legs for the butcher who stands behind a counter in the original image. Justin is also editing out the parts of the scale that are in front of the butcher’s face. He needed to add a new left hand to the butcher. It had been behind large sausage in 1914. Justin asked me to look at his progress

“How close do you want the images cropped?” Was Justin‘s question.

“Oh, not close,” was my reply. “Cuyler Page will be cutting them out with a jigsaw once the images are printed and mounted on signboard.” Cuyler had done our Telephone Exchange ladies last year.

I looked at the butcher. Justin’s addition looked natural, as if the Butcher just placed his hand on the counter. I noticed a ring on his left hand. The new hand was that of a married man.

MMM, I wondered. Was this butcher married? I wouldn’t want a relative showing up later and noticing something that shouldn’t have been there. Besides, when did men start wearing wedding bands?

A search of the 1911 census showed Alex Chappell living in a rooming house on Front Street. Unmarried.

I looked for his death certificate, hoping to find more information. It wasn’t online, so a trip to the library was in order.

Alex Chappell died in Vancouver on December 26, 1919, nearly a hundred years ago. The attending physician had treated him for a day. He had been in the city for that long. Cause of death was goitre, the British spelling. The informant was William Savage, living at 602 West Hastings in Vancouver.

I knew Will Savage’s name from Salmon Arm. He had homesteaded a quarter section in 1894. Were Chappell and Savage friends? I wondered.

Pre-1990 death certificates can be pure gold for researchers like me. They have “particulars” about a person’s life that is no longer recorded. Who the parents were, their marital status and spouse’s name, what religion and occupation, and how long they had lived in the province and city at the time of their death. These death certificates help researchers connect the dots.

Unfortunately, Will Savage knew nothing of Alex Chappell’s background. No wife was mentioned. I figured they were not good friends.

I headed back to the 1911 census. Chappell was English, Anglican, and worked as a butcher. He was born January 1871 and was 40 years old.

There were 3 Alexander Chappells listed in the 1901 census. Only one seemed right. In 1901 this particular Chappell was a lodger and single in Vancouver. His age matched. He was 30. His birthday was March 16 1871. He was English and immigrated to Canada in 1887. Another crumb! But he was listed as a farmer.

I searched the Land Grants of Western Canada database, hoping Chappell was a homesteader. No luck.

I went back and looked long and hard at Justin’s doctored image, looking for clues. Alexander’s face wasn’t symmetrical. Could the goitre have been bothering him five years before his death?

I sent a quick email with a cropped photo of Chappell to retired GP Don Paterson for an explanation. Don spelled Goiter the American way.

“To die a day after in hospital strikes me as odd for a goiter. If the patient had a secreting tumor of the thyroid he could have been thyrotoxic and died of a heart rhythm problem.

In the 1914 picture Chappell has no wasting of the eyebrows, skin looks shiny, hair is okay, no bulge to the eye, so I would not have thought him as hypothyroid.

He has a lump that doesn’t look like a goiter. There are lots of possibilities. I think in 1919 in Vancouver, they were unlikely to have an E.C.G.”

Don has a sense of humour.

“They probably noted abnormal pulse and stuck Chappell in bed. I don’t know if the ancient archives would still hold his records. It might be interesting to see if they had any notes.”

Well, thanks Don, but I wasn’t going to fill out a Freedom of Information form and pay a fee for an answer to this question.

Doctor Don continued, “This was at the tail end of the Spanish Flu. Was his death a complication? Also he was a butcher. Did he have a meat infection? He died the day after Christmas….was it related to that? Lots of questions.”

Finally, Don decided.

“My guess is that he had a slow growing tumor in his neck…could be thyroid, lymph node, such as a lymphoma, or metastatic from the lung. It had to be serious to take him at 48. As a butcher, Chappell could have had bovine TB for example. If he was a smoker, cancer of the throat. There are lots of possibilities. He could have been an acute emergency or friends could have brought him to the hospital in a moribund state to die.” Don signed off.


What an interesting word.

Related to the Latin mori, “to die.” The root in words like mortal, mortician, and mortuary.

At the point of death.

One foot in the grave.

Well that was true.

But I still did not know if our butcher was married.

I decided to retrace my steps. When did men start wearing wedding rings?

The BBC had a printed article online. British like Alexander Chappell.

According to Rachel Church, Curator of Metalwork at the Victoria and Albert Museum, wearing wedding rings for men became main stream in the mid-20th Century.

“That’s when men started to be expected to wear wedding rings, and nowadays when you hear men don’t want to wear them you think that it’s a bit odd,” Church was quoted in 2011 when Prince William announced he was not going to be wearing a wedding ring.

So I asked Justin to remove the digital ring. Alexander Chappell did not need one. I will worry about his goitre another day.

Post Script:
  This exhibit has been made possible by the City of Salmon Arm Grants-in-Aid program administered by the Shuswap Community Foundation. Thank you adjudicators! We appreciate your support.