A brief fashion horror story in the Summerside and Western Guardian section of the The Charlottetown Guardian newspaper from this date in 1921.
Alice Marie Bramfitt was born on this day in 1886 in China, where her English parents were working as Christian missionaries. The family had returned to England by the 1891 census.
Marie served in England as a nurse in the First World War, met and married a Canadian soldier, and travelled with him back to his home province of Prince Edward Island in September, 1919. They settled with his parents in Harmony, a community a couple of miles from Tyne Valley.
Marie never celebrated her birthday with her new PEI relatives as she died on January 7, 1920. The official cause of death was suicide, but her husband, Thomas Corbett Ellis, was later tried for her murder. He was found not guilty.
I learned about this story last summer when I noticed the name of Dr. John Stewart in an article about the Ellis trial on the front page of the June 21, 1920 issue of The Charlottetown Guardian. I collect articles mentioning Dr. Stewart as part of my interest in the history of the Tyne Valley hospital that was named in his memory, so it was he who led me to this sad tale.
It was probably the family connection that drew me in further as I worked out that Thomas Corbett Ellis would have been my maternal great-grandmother Eva Hardy’s second cousin. Eva probably knew him, and certainly would have known about Marie’s death, but my mother hadn’t heard this story before, and she was raised by Eva and often talks about Eva’s talent for storytelling and sharp comments about others. This would have been both a compelling story to tell and pass judgement on, but because my mother, who was born in 1922, would have been so young when this story was ripe, other current events might have knocked this gruesome story off Eva’s setlist as the 1920s passed. Or it could have been just too terrible and shameful a tale to retell.
As soon as I read about Marie last June, I was compelled to go to the Presbyterian cemetery in Tyne Valley to visit her grave and pay my respects. I walked up and down the rows of headstones, saying hello to lots of my long-gone ancestors as I went, but her grave seems to be unmarked (a fact I confirmed with a friend who is working on a history of Tyne Valley and also knew Marie’s tale). I was disappointed, but not surprised, as I’m sure the Ellis family wanted both the memory of Marie and this story to disappear, just as they themselves did to other parts of PEI and the United States not long after Marie’s death.
There’s a lot more to this tragedy, but today I’m only thinking of Marie, married late in life for the era and probably looking forward to a great adventure in Canada. What she found instead seems to have been a sad existence living with Thomas’s parents and sisters in the back woods of PEI, cut off from all she knew. My heart aches for her.
I have lit a candle tonight for Marie.
As I remember it, Minard’s Liniment was used to relieve aching muscles and sore joints. It also apparently did something for the Spanish Flu. Even though it is, amazingly, still being produced, I think I’ll pass on it for COVID-19.
We have subscribed to both of PEI’s daily newspapers for as long as I can remember. This morning we only received The Guardian and a letter explaining that the Journal Pioneer has been “combined” with The Guardian. Most of our neighbours only receive the Journal as it has always been the paper for the western end of PEI and The Guardian for eastern areas, so they will be very surprised and possibly upset by this change in routine.
I also found out this morning that I am now a member and not a subscriber, which I suppose is to give me the sense that I was part of this business decision and approve it, rather than being a customer who paid for a service that I’m not going to receive.
In the Saltwire Network CEO’s letter, they say their advertising revenue dropped by nearly two-thirds almost overnight, so they have been forced to temporarily lay off 40% of their workforce, including journalists. Instead of publishing nearly three dozen papers today across Atlantic Canada, they published four.
Other than being quite a thin paper, today’s edition doesn’t really seem much different from recent ones. Both of PEI’s dailies were already carrying heavy amounts of content from the other Saltwire Network papers and the Postmedia Network and were starting to look like each other, save for different local advertising and obituaries (one of the big reasons we kept The Guardian). When you read one, you had almost read the other as much of the local content in each was shared.
We were already seriously considering dropping our subscription to The Guardian this spring because the price for each was closing in on $400 a year. My mother does not use digital technology so receiving the newspaper is a big thing for her, but the content duplication was becoming very obvious and we couldn’t justify spending nearly $800 a year anymore. I think that decision has probably now been made for us, despite the assurance that this is a temporary measure.
When the Journal Pioneer stopped being an afternoon paper many years ago and moved to morning delivery, and since both papers have been owned by the same companies for many decades, I was always amazed they didn’t amalgamate the two publications years ago. This time of crisis could be the time this decision is finally made. I’m sad that other than the concern I feel for those who will lose their jobs, I just don’t care.