Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMarch 17, 1888
Place of BirthPickering, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMr T F Wilson, father, Osaquan, Ontario
Trade / CallingBank Clerk
Service Details
Regimental Number439668
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion7th Brigade, CFA
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Artillery
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentPort Arthur, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentAugust 28, 1915
Age at Enlistment27
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathApril 16, 1948
Age at Death60
Buried AtBurnsland Cemetery, Calgary, Alberta

Wilson, Victor Stilwell

Their first born child, Victor Stilwell (also spelled Stillwell, Stewell) Wilson was born on 17 March 1888, birth registered in the Township of Pickering. His father Thomas Fawcett Wilson had been born in Green River, Pickering  while his mother Annie Elizabeth Spence was from nearby Cedar Grove. The couple married on 2 June 1886 in Stouffville, County of York, with Thomas’s occupation given as yeoman (farmer). Other children born to the family were Flora Margaret (1890), John Samuel (1892), Eva May (1893), and Leila Mary (1897). By the 1891 census Thomas was working as a saw miller.

In 1897 the Wilson family moved to Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) where Thomas found work in the local sawmills, first as a carpenter and later as a foreman. In 1912 they moved on to Vermillion Bay just east of Kenora and then to the Indian Lake Lumber Company lumber camp village of Osaquan that had been founded in 1909, about 5 miles west of  Ignace, Ontario. The economy of Osaquan centred around the sawmill operation and at  one time, after the war,  had about 45 families living in the community. There was a general store, post office, bunk house, cook house that fed 150 men every day, blacksmith shop,  stables, ice house, log homes (no electricity) for the families down by the lake, and eventually a school. A vegetable garden and small pig farm were established and a commercial fishery licence was obtained. Wild game, fish, and wild berries were staples of the diet. A rough road led into the camp as well as a spur line from the Canadian Pacific Railway. During its peak, three to four lumber camps were actively cutting timber for the mill. Today the village is classified as a ghost town after a devastating fire in 1930 that saw the loss of the mill as well as a very damaged tree crop. Although hopes remained high that the mill would be rebuilt, by 1936 it was evident it was not to be and the remaining families eventually left.

Operations of the mill  were greatly influenced by the onset of  the First World War. By 1916 the company reported that 43 of their 46 employees had enlisted, something the company took great pride in. Although he was probably not living in Osaquan at the time and thus not included in the numbers, Victor enlisted in Port Arthur, Ontario on 28 August 1915, occupation given as bank clerk and next of kin as his father back in Osaquan. After a few months of training Victor embarked from Saint John, New Brunswick with the 52 Battalion on 23 November 1915 aboard the California. Once in England the 52nd Battalion trained for 6 weeks at Witley, followed by two more weeks of training at Bramshott, embarking for France in late February 1916.

According to his service record, Victor requested a transfer to the 26th Battery Canadian Field Artillery so he could serve with his brother John and was taken on strength in the field with the 7th Brigade CFA on 27 June 1916. In early November he was admitted to the 11th Field Ambulance with a shrapnel wound to his hand. He was transferred to the No 3 Canadian General Hospital in Boulogne and rejoined the unit in the field on the 20th. In March of 1917 Victor was struck off strength from the 7th Brigade on proceeding to the 5th. In May he was once again injured, suffering a shrapnel wound to his shoulder. He was first admitted to the No 2 Australian General Hospital in Wimereux and and by June was in the Canadian Convalescent Hospital Woodcote Park. During his service childhood asthma played havoc and made breathing difficult for Victor. Victor remained in England and served as a clerk for the Commanding Royal Artillery. First appointed Acting Corporal in August of 1918, he was later appointed Acting Sergeant in early 1919. Victor returned to Canada aboard the Celtic, arriving in Halifax on 15 May 1919. He was discharged from service on demobilization on the 17th in Toronto.

On 6 September 1919, in Winnipeg, Victor married Frances Mary Hill, daughter of Frank and Margaret (née Vandusen) Hill. Frances had been born in Whitewater, Manitoba. Their son Victor was born in 1926, the same year the family moved to Tampa, Florida where Victor had found work as an accountant. At some point the family moved back to Canada, residing in Calgary, Alberta. Son Victor died in 1945, followed by father Victor on 16 April 1948, and Frances in 1982, all in Calgary. A gravemarker bearing the names of the two Victors mark the family plot in Burnsland Cemetery, Calgary.

With the shutdown of Osaquan Victor’s parents returned to Kenora where Annie died in 1946. At some point after  her death Thomas moved to Uxbridge to live with son John and his wife Grace. Predeceased by Victor, and John earlier that year, Thomas died in 1954. Thomas and Annie are interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora. At the time of his death Thomas was survived by their three daughters Mrs Flora (Edwin) Schofield of Toronto, Mrs Eva Christman of Monarch, Alberta, and Mrs Leila Quirk of Toronto as well as daughter-in-law Grace of Uxbridge, 19 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.

by Judy Stockham

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