Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJuly 24, 1893
Place of BirthMoose Jaw, Saskatchewan
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMarion Birbeck, wife, 260 South 13th East Street, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
Trade / CallingLife Insurance Company Cashier
Service Details
Regimental Number346016
Battalion319th Engineers
ForceUS Expeditionary Forces
Branch8th Division Engineers Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at Enlistment260 South 13th East Street, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
Date of EnlistmentMarch 18, 1918
Age at Enlistment24
Theatre of ServiceFrance
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJanuary 24, 1962
Age at Death68
Buried AtMountain View Cemetery, Oakland, California, USA
PlotCLM 84, 6, 3

Birbeck, Francis Vivian

Francis Vivian (Frank) Birbeck was born on 24 July 1893 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. According to William Shurtleff’s Shurtleff and Lawton Families: Genealogy and History and other sources, Frank’s father Thomas Edson Birbeck was born in 1865 in Leeds, Yorkshire in England. At a young age he ran away from home and went to sea, later returning and attending Oxford to obtain a degree in engineering courtesy of an uncle. Immigrating to Canada, he met his future wife Frances Vivian Welsh. Born in 1869 in Walton Brech, Lancashire in England, as a child she had moved to Rio de Janeiro with her family, her father a banker. After her father’s death the family returned to England and then travelled on to Canada. Thomas and Frances married on 5 July 1888 in Moose Jaw. Children born to the couple in Moose Jaw were Lional James (1889), Robert Edward (1890), Beatrice Joyce (1891) and Frank. Sadly Robert died in 1891 in Moose Jaw. From there the family moved to Regina in Saskatchewan where daughter Dorothy was born in 1895 and then on to Port Stanley, Ontario where son Thomas Edson was born in 1898. In the various places Thomas Sr worked as a Canadian Pacific Railway agent. Moving to northwestern Ontario in time for the birth of son Ivan in 1899 in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora), the 1901 census placed the family in nearby Ash Rapids, Thomas’ occupation given as contractor. From there it appears that the family moved to Grand Forks, British Columbia where daughter Edith Elizabeth was likely born in 1902. Asked by the Mexican government to assist in the building of the El Pacifico Railroad, the family moved to Mexico City, returning to Canada aboard the Norheim on 27 October 1904. According to Shurtleff, the family lived in Virginia for awhile, then settled in Alameda City, California where Thomas Sr was working for a railroad company by the time of the 1910 US census. At some point Thomas Sr left the family.

On 5 June 1917, in Salt Lake City in Utah, Frank signed his US WW1 Draft registration card. At the time he was working as a cashier for the Western State Life Insurance Company. A few days later, on 16 June, Frank married Marion Irene Jennings. Born on 5 June 1895 in Salt Lake City, Marion was the daughter of Isaac Jennings and Irene Ella Manning.

Frank was inducted with the Engineer Corps on 18 March 1918, his wife Marion in Salt Lake City given as next of kin. Training at Camp Fremont in California with the A Company, 319th Engineers of the 8th Division with rank of Private, then Private 1st Class (11 June 1918) and finally as Sergeant (15 July 1918), he embarked from Hoboken, New Jersey on the Briton on 28 September 1918. Upon arrival in France, due to an outbreak of influenza the unit was not sent to the front, staying at Pontanezen Barracks in Brest to help build the camp. Throughout the war Frank was the company clerk. With the end of the war he arrived back at Hoboken aboard the Harrisburg on 19 March 1919 and was discharged from service on 15 April 1919 at Fort DA Russell in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Frank’s brother Thomas enlisted with the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto in November of 1917. He was discharged in late March of 1918 having been selected for appointment for a temporary commission. According to the 1930 US census, his brother Ivan also served during the war. Further details of their service are unknown.

At the time of the 1920 census Frank, Marion, and son Frank were living in Salt Lake City with Frank Sr working as an insurance company cashier. At some point after giving birth to daughter Barbara Jane, the family moved Pajaro, Monterey County in California, later giving birth to daughter Marion Irene in 1921. While in Pajaro Frank Sr worked as an accountant for a vegetable packing company (1930 census) and then later had his own vegetable farm (1940 census). Divorcing after the census, Frank married Anita Lucille (née Travis) Tallman in January of 1943 in Reno, Nevada. Born on 8 November 1912 in San Mateo, California, Anita was the daughter of Charles Travis and Mabel Kelly. She had previously been married to Paul Lester Tallman and had two children by the marriage, Rita and Paula.

Frank was known as one of the pioneers in the lettuce growing industry, developing the wide gauge method of farming using a truck. He was one of the original members of the Western Growers Association, the The Grower-Shipper Vegetable Association, and the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association and founded the Major Distributing Company of Salinas. Frank was a member of the American Legion and the All Saints’ Episcopal Church. Living in Watsonville, Santa Cruz, he signed his WW2 Draft registration card in April of 1942.

Frank died on 4 January 1962 in Watsonville. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Anita of La Selva Beach, son Frank of Watsonville, daughters Marion O’Hara of Florida and Barbara Smith of Los Altos, ten grandchildren, and his siblings Dorothy, Ivan, and Edith (Thomas) Allen, all of California. He was predeceased by his father Thomas, mother Frances (1951, Contra Costa, California) and siblings Robert in infancy, Beatrice Joyce (Harry) Lawton (1948, Seattle, Washington), Thomas (1950, Fresno, California), and Lional (1956, Spokane, Washington). His was also predeceased by his first wife Marion in 1952 in San Mateo, California. Frank’s wife Anita died on 20 March 1965 in Watsonville. His sister Dorothy died in 1975 in Contra Costa, brother Ivan in 1975 in San Leandro, and sister Edith in 1998 in Santa Maria, all in California. Along with other family members, Frank is interred in the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California.

By Judy Stockham

Grave marker photograph by Kurt,

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