|Date of Birth||October 24, 1894|
|Place of Birth||Bowmanville, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||RA Burriss, father, 325 Van Norman Street, Port Arthur, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||mechanical engineer|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||12th CE Battalion|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Port Arthur, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||325 Van Norman Street, Port Arthur, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||14/03/1916|
|Age at Enlistment||21|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||29/12/1950|
|Age at Death||56|
|Buried At||Brookside Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba|
Robert Benton Burriss was born on 24 October 1894 in Bowmanville, Durham, Ontario as supported by his Ontario birth record (Archives of Ontario, MS929, Reel #127). His father Rufus Allan Burriss was from Lewis County in Kentucky while his mother Hester Ann Watts was from near Flemingsburg in Kentucky. The couple married in January of 1884 in Fort Erie, Ontario. Rufus was a Disciples of Christ minister and the family moved around a fair bit due to his various placements. Daughter Claudia Beatrice was born in 1885 in Louisville, Kentucky, daughter Nell Kleber in 1887 in Memphis, Indiana, daughter Mae Nugent in 1889 in Carrollton, Kentucky, and daughter Virginia Watts in 1892 in Buffalo, New York. By the time of Robert’s birth in 1894 the family had moved to Bowmanville where another son, Edward Alfred, was born in 1897.
Robert’s father Rufus became known as not only a Disciples of Christ minister but also as an office holder, promoter of colonization, and politician. In the 1890’s he conceived a colonization scheme in northwestern Ontario and he was hired on commission as dominion immigration agent for ‘New Ontario’ in 1898, moving his family from Bowmanville to Port Arthur. His job was to promote agricultural settlement in cooperation with the Ontario government and its crown land agents. Each settler was to receive 160 acres of free grant land. During his time spent advertising, lecturing, delivering pamphlets, circulars, and notebooks, writing the press, giving souvenir postcards, all with missionary zeal, it is estimated that he attracted 3 000 settlers to northwestern Ontario up until December of 1911 when he was dismissed from the job. The township of Burriss near Fort Frances is named after him. While in Port Arthur he served on council from 1913-1915, turning to real estate to support the family. By 1920 Rufus and Hester were managing a home for the aged in East Aurora, Erie, New York.
With occupation given as mechanical engineer and his father Rufus in Port Arthur as next of kin, Robert signed his attestation papers on 14 March 1916 in Port Arthur. Although incorrect, he gave his date and place of birth as 21 October 1894 in Port Arthur. As a Sapper with the 14th Field Company, Canadian Engineers, he embarked from Halifax on 16 May 1916 aboard the SS Baltic.
Once in England Robert was taken on strength with the 4th Divisional Engineers and posted to the 12th Field Company. By mid August of 1916 he had landed in France. In February of 1917 Robert spent a week in the No 11 and 13 Canadian Field Ambulances suffering from bronchitis. Robert was awarded the Military Medal in 1917. On June 18th of the same year he was reported as wounded, gas poisoning, returning to the unit five days later. He was granted a leave on 22 September 1917, returning on the 3rd of October. In December he attended the School of Mines. Robert was awarded a Good Conduct Badge on 14 March 1918 and struck off strength to the 12th Battalion, Canadian Engineers, promoted to 2nd Corporal in late May. In October he was granted a fourteen day leave to the UK, rejoining the unit on the 12th of November. In February of 1919 Robert was appointed Acting Sergeant with pay. He embarked from Southampton on the 6th of June on the first leg of the journey back home.
Once back in Canada Robert found work as a prospector and made many important mineral finds. He was one of the first prospectors in the Central Manitoba mining field as well as Herb Lake and Bird River where he found tin, lithium, and copper. He also made a gold discovery close to Sioux Narrows in northwestern Ontario that created a great deal of activity. At some point Robert married Florence Adelaide Muriel Kyle.
Robert had been living in Sioux Narrows just prior to his death in Deer Lodge Hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba on 29 December 1950. He is interred in the Military Section of Brookside Cemetery in Winnipeg. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Florence and sisters Claudia Ritchie of Winnipeg, Virginia Warder of Vancouver, and Mae of Gilbert, Ontario as well as his brother Edward of Ashville, New York. He was predeceased by his father Rufus in 1930 in Ashville and his mother Hester in 1935 in Winnipeg, both interred in the Greenwood Cemetery in Fort Erie, Ontario. Robert’s wife Florence died in 1981 in Winnipeg and is also interred in Brookside.
Robert’s brother Edward served during the war, signing his attestation papers in April of 1916 in Port Arthur and going overseas that August. He served with the Canadian Army Medical Corps as a well as a Driver with the Canadian Army Service Corps. He returned to Canada in September of 1919.
by Judy Stockham
Canada Military Honours and Awards Citation card: Library and Archives Canada
grave marker photo: Bocephus on findagrave.com
Robert’s obituary: Kenora Miner and News, 5 January 1951
Florence’s obituary: Winnipeg Free Press, 12 May 1981