Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMarch 6, 1892
Place of BirthWhitevale, Pickering, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMr TF Wilson, father, Osaquan, Ontario, via Ignace
Trade / CallingMechanical Engineer (student)
Service Details
Regimental NumberNA
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion13th Brigade
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Field Artillery
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Date of EnlistmentMarch 24, 1915
Age at Enlistment23
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Decorations and MedalsMilitary Cross
Death Details
Date of DeathMay 19, 1954
Age at Death62
Buried AtUxbridge Cemetery, Uxbridge Township, Ontario

Wilson, John Samuel (1892-1954)

Their third born child, John Samuel Wilson was born on 6 March 1892, 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 Victor Stilwell (1888), Flora Margaret (1890), 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. John signed his  officer’s papers in Toronto on 24 March 1915, occupation given as mechanical engineer (student). As belonging to the Active Militia, John listed Canadian Officers Training Camp, H Camp and previous service was given as Canadian Officers Training Camp and Officers Training Corps  of the Royal Canadian Engineers.

Corporal John Samuel Wilson embarked from Halifax aboard the Metagama on 9 August 1915 with the 26th Battery of the 7th Brigade.  Upon arrival in France in mid January of 1916 he was confirmed in the rank of Sergeant and by November was promoted to Battery Sergeant Major. In June of 1916 John’s brother Victor who had gone overseas with the 52nd Battalion our of Port Arthur, Ontario, was granted his request to join his brother in service and was taken on strength with the 7th Brigade in the field on the 27th.

In February of 1917 John returned to Shorncliffe in England. Upon completion of a course he was posted to the 1st Brigade in July as Temporary Lieutenant where he first served as an assistant instructor and then as instructor in his own right in January of 1918. In May of 1918 he was posted to the 13th Brigade in France, taken on strength in the field on the 22nd. On 17 November 1918 he was granted a fourteen day leave to the UK, rejoining  from leave on the 12th.

On 1 February 1919 Lieutenant John Samuel Wilson was awarded the Military Cross.In early February John returned to England and embarked for Canada aboard the Royal George in mid March.

After the war John returned to Kenora as on 28 April 1920 he married Grace Mildred White, daughter of Richard and Ida (née Ripley) White. Both were listed as residents of Kenora, occupation of John given as engineer.  John and Grace were to make nearby Dryden, Ontario their home where John worked for the Dryden Paper Mills, first as master mechanic, then as chief engineer, and finally as General Manager and Vice President. John and Grace had three daughters, Marilyn, Janet, and Jacqueline.

Following his retirement in 1945, John and Grace moved to Uxbridge, Ontario, a neighbouring community of John’s birth place. John died on 19 May 1954 in Uxbridge, followed by Grace on 28 December 1967. John and Grace are interred in the Uxbridge Cemetery.

With the shutdown of Osaquan John’s parents returned to Kenora where Annie died in 1946. At some point after  her death Thomas moved to Uxbridge to live with John and Grace. Predeceased by Victor in 1948 in Calgary, and John earlier that year, he died in 1954. Thomas and Annie are interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora. At the time of his death he 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, 19 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.

by Judy Stockham

Grave marker photograph from  Uxbridge Cemetery/Uxbridge Public Library website.

« Back To Soldier Biographies