THE GREAT
POCKET-WATCH MYSTERY
1918 - 2012

- Sarah Hartt-Snowbell -

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Here's what happened ... Over fifty years ago, an attractive engraved Elgin pocket watch was dropped off for service at “Snowbell Watch and Jewelry” on St. Clair Avenue West in Toronto ...

... but it was never picked up!  My husband, Leo, and I had eventually found it amongst the tools, watch-parts and remains of stock that had been packed away in storage after the shop had closed its doors in the mid-eighties.

Our goal ... to pass this treasured heirloom to the oldest living descendant of W. Marshall, the City Dairy driver to whom it was presented in 1918

Successful Sleuthing:  With Leo (the wind-beneath-my-wings) at my side - supporting me and cheering me on, I embarked on a widespread search - starting with a telephone call to Mike Filey, a Toronto historian and author.  His kind advice set me on the right path.

I delved into old telephone listings and street directories, visited Toronto City Archives and Provincial Archives.  I subscribed to various geneology websites, searched census files and border-crossing records, scanned the headstones and numbered plots at Park Lawn Cemetery, and subscribed to Toronto Star “pages-of-the-past” website.

Although I quickly learned that it’s a lot easier to find ancestors than it is to find descendants, I was able to assemble countless dates and clues that led to a successful conclusion. 

The most significant sources included:

  • Telephone directories and street directories of 1918 and onward, which listed Walter Marshall as a driver for City Dairy.  The eventual disappearance of his listing in the directories indicated to me that he had likely passed away.

  • Toronto Star Pages-of-the-Past website.  An extensive search led me to the 1956 death notice of Walter Marshall.  His brief obit identified the full name of his late wife, the funeral home and cemetery … but listed only the first names of his children and grandchildren.  More determined than ever, I persisted in my search, and after viewing several hundred pages, I discovered the death notice of Walter’s daughter-in-law.  Her obituary revealed the full names of the people for whom we’d been searching – Walter's descendants!

This newfound information led to countless unsuccessful telephone calls.  Ultimately, on New Year’s Eve 2012, I hit right!  The "winning" call was to Walter’s granddaughter, Lynn.  She was overjoyed to hear the story of her Granddad’s treasured pocket-watch – and of all the steps we had taken to “track her down”.

And so we rejoiced – On the weekend following our telephone call, Lynn's family drove down from their home in the north to join us for lunch. What a joy it was to host Walter’s granddaughter, great-granddaughter and great-great-granddaughter at our home!  

Later in the afternoon, we were joined by a reporter from CITY-TV who shared our excitement, and indicated that our story would be featured on the news.  The absolute highlight of our get-together was the presentation of the pocket-watch to the oldest living heir of its original owner.


We all gleefully agreed that it was appropriate to propose a toast – by raising a glass (of milk) in fond memory of the late dairyman, Walter Marshall!
 

Walter the Dairyman - Photo and permission provided by Lynn Weller, granddaughter of Walter Marshall.



  Click here for my oil painting - step by step 

 

Blessed is the L-rd, King of the Universe,
who gave us life, sustained us, and brought us
to this momentous occasion