Sunday, 21 June 2015

Sunday June 21, 2015 World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project

The World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project involves a wide range of cultural partners in the city who are sharing their resources and expertise to tell the story of the Lakehead and its people in the Great War. The project website is an ever expanding source of information - one of the latest additions is an obituaries index of local casualties during or as a result of the war, which were published in the Fort William Daily Times Journal and the Port Arthur News Chronicle.

Together with the service record, from the Libraries & Archives Canada (LAC) website and the burial record, from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website, it is possible to find out more about those who fought and died in the war. Here are some of those stories:

‘Corporal W.J. Huston of Fort William Dies of Wounds Received in Trenches’ appeared in the Fort William Daily Times Journal on February 3, 1915. According to his service record William John Huston was born on November 25, 1876 at Owen Sound, Ontario. He was a Presbyterian, lived at Fort William and worked as a contractor and builder.  He had some previous military experience in the 96th Lake Superior Regiment before he volunteered at Ottawa on August 27, 1914. At the time of his enlistment he was 37 years old, 5 feet 7 inches high, with a dark complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair. The scar on his right thigh and mole on his forehead were noted for identification purposes.

William Huston became Lance Corporal 795 in the 2nd Company of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment). The CWGC website records that he died on January 25, 1915, age 38. He was the son of Alexander and Jane Huston and the husband of Edna Ray Huston of 631 North John Street, Fort William, Ontario. He is remembered with honor at the Dickebusch Old Military Cemetery, Belgium.

William’s obituary, which was published in the Port Arthur News Chronicle on February 3, 1915 notes that he was ‘the first man to fall on the field of battle among all those who have gone from the two cities as members of regular Canadian contingents.’ He was an ex-alderman, prominent Mason, curler and crack shot of the district, who left a widow and three children.

‘Corporal Matheson is First Among Port Arthur Recruits’ was published in the Port Arthur News Chronicle on April 10, 1915. According to his Attestation Paper, John Matheson was born in Scotland on June 18, 1879 and lived with his wife, Isabella, at 103 Ontario Street, Port Arthur. He was a labourer with eight years previous military service in the Highland Light Infantry. On enlistment at Valcartier, Quebec, on August 27, 1914, he was 39 years old, 5 feet 7 inches tall, with dark complexion, brown eyes and black hair. He was a Presbyterian with scars on his shin and chest.

John Matheson became Private 8919 in the 1st Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry. He died on March 18, 1915 and is remembered with honor at the Le Touret Memorial, Pas De Calais, France. John’s obituary notes that ‘Mr Matheson left Port Arthur with the first expeditionary force. He came to the city from Winnipeg. He was a son of the Rev. Dougall Matheson, late of Tarbotness, Rosshire, Scotland, and came to Canada eight years ago.’

The obituaries index is updated monthly to coincide with the centennial of these events and commemorate the sacrifice of those individuals and their families. If you know of someone who should be included here, please contact us at

John Pateman

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