|Date of Birth||June 14, 1899|
|Place of Birth||Kenora, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Ethel OBannan, aunt, Richmond, California|
|Trade / Calling||teamster|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians)|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Golden, British Columbia|
|Date of Enlistment||May 11, 1918|
|Age at Enlistment||18|
|Theatre of Service||Great Britain|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||August 17, 1924|
|Age at Death||25|
|Buried At||Peaceful Pines Cemetery, Rochester, Alberta|
|Plot||02 Block 08 Grave 04|
According to his attestation papers, Robert George Laurenson was born on 14 June 1899 in Kenora, Ontario although at the time it was known as Rat Portage. His mother was Catherine Laurenson, daughter of Robert and Eliza (Perrault) Laurenson. Robert and his two older siblings William and Barbara lived with their mother and grandparents for their younger years. His grandfather Robert Laurenson was from Nesting and Lunnasting in the county of Shetland in Scotland, having signed a contract with the Hudson’s Bay Company on 9 February 1864. He served in a number of districts in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario, latterly as post master of Rat Portage from 1874-1877. He had married a Cree woman, Eliza Perrault. For the 1891 Canada census, Robert and Eliza with children Eliza, Catherine, and Agnes were living in Rat Portage East, Robert working as an ‘Indian trader’. The 1901 Canada census found Robert, Eliza, daughter Catherine, and grandchildren William, Barbara, and Robert living ‘outside of Rat Portage’, Robert working as a trapper.
Robert’s mother Catherine married David Bowhey Valentine on 17 January 1903 in Rat Portage, Catherine’s birth place given as Northwest Angle (Lake of the Woods) and David’s as St Thomas. David’s occupation was given as farmer but he had worked for a number of years as a Northwest Mounted Police constable. On 2 September 1903, David Alvin Valentine was born. At some point after this marriage and before enlisting, Robert’s brother William assumed the surname of Valentine. Catherine Laurenson Valentine died on 6 November 1909 in Kenora of tuberculosis, a disease that was rampant at the time. On 11 June 1910, David married Mary Ann Begg, daughter of Juliet (Sturgeon) and John Begg of Kenora. At least three children were born from this marriage, Mabel Mary, Thomas, and Bessie.
Robert enlisted on 11 May 1918 at Sarcee Camp in Alberta, place of residence given as Golden, British Columbia and next of kin as his aunt, Ethel OBannon of Richmond, California. After training at Sarcee, Private Robert Laurenson embarked from Canada aboard the Kiaora with the 107th Draft of Lord Strathcona’s Horse (RC) CEF, debarking in England 25 August 1918. On reporting from Canada at Shorncliffe, he was taken on strength with the Canadian Reserve Calvary Regiment. On 17 October 1918, he left Shorncliffe to join the Canadian Machine Gun Corps Depot at another training camp at Seaford. From mid November until mid February Robert was on command with the Canadian Machine Gun Depot at Maresfield Park, a military camp also used for the calvary. At some point while serving, he met Wilbert Hobson, formerly from Missouri but at the time of the war, of Rochester, Alberta. Private Robert Laurenson received his official discharge in Calgary, Alberta on 25 June 1919, having returned to Canada aboard the Aquitania earlier that month.
After the war, Robert, more commonly know as Bob, went to Rochester with Wilbert, working the first winter on the railroad. As Wilbert had made his home with the Charles and Martha Ward family, so did Bob. The family moved out to their homestead in the fall of 1921 and Bob filed on a half of section of land.
On 28 August 1923 Bob married Linda Ward, second daughter in the Ward family. The young couple continued to farm, and gave birth to a daughter Ethel Faye on 28 May 1924. But by July Bob was seriously ill and subsequently hospitalized in Edmonton. Just 11 days shy of their first anniversary, Robert died on 17 August 1924, tuberculosis had struck once again. Linda was only 19 years old and she and the baby ended up staying with her parents in Rochester. Linda later married Arthur Betts. She died in 1995 in Rochester. Bob and Linda’s daughter Ethel Faye (Laurenson) Chabun passed away in 2002, also in Rochester.
Robert’s grandparents died in the Kenora area, Eliza on 4 February 1904 and Robert on 4 April 1906. Robert’s brother William served with the 52nd Battalion and was invalided back to Canada, he too suffering from tuberculosis. He died in the Mountain Military Sanitarium in Hamilton, Ontario on 27 August 1917, leaving behind a wife and possibly a small child.
Robert’s sister Barbara married Arnold Skarra in Thunder Bay, Ontario on 23 August 1923. She died on 30 May 1961 in Port Arthur but is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. Barbara and Arnold had three children. At the time of her death she was survived by her husband, the three children, brother Alvin, and several grandchildren. David Valentine, Robert’s stepfather, also signed up to serve, but due to poor health, he never went overseas. He went on to become Chief of Police in Transcona, Manitoba and died on 17 August 1921 in Transcona.
Robert is interred in the Peaceful Pines Cemetery, Rochester, Alberta.
by Judy Stockham
Photographs of Bob and Linda courtesy of Rochester Library/Rolling Hills and Whispering Pines: a History of the Nestow, Tawatinaw, Rochester and Perryvale Districts as Remembered and Recorded by their People, 1986 and used with permission of the family.
Cemetery and gravemarker photographs by Aaron C Shaw