Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMarch 8, 1886
Place of BirthBellvik, Dorotea, Västerbotten
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs Ole Bergstrom, mother, Strandquist, Minnesota, USA
Trade / CallingImplement Dealer
Service Details
Regimental Number913417
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionDistrict 51, Company 117
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Forestry Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentMargo, Saskatchewan
Date of EnlistmentApril 6, 1916
Age at Enlistment30
Theatre of ServiceGreat Britain
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMarch 5, 1961
Age at Death75
Buried AtForest Lawn Memorial Park, Burnaby, British Columbia

Bergstrom, John Alfred

Johan (John) Alfred Bergström was born on 8 March 1886 in Bellvik in the parish of Dorotea in Västerbotten in northern Sweden. His parents Olof Johan (Ole) Bergström and Sigrid Mathilda Östlund were both from Dorotea, marrying on 5 July 1885. John was their first born child, with his younger siblings born in Sweden being Olof Artur (Arthur) (1888), Hilma Mathilda (1891), Ingvid Amandus (1893), and Sara Katarina (1895). Ole and the two older children, John and Arthur, immigrated to Canada first, leaving the parish on 26 June 1896 and arriving in Canada aboard the Mongolian on 8 August. Although the passenger list indicated that they were on their way to Winnipeg, they settled in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora), Ontario where Ole found work as a miner. Sigrid and the remaining children left Dorotea on 7 July 1903, arriving in Canada on the Mayflower on 10 August, on their way to Rat Portage.

With the abundance of farm land, Northern Minnesota attracted a lot of recent Swedish immigrants. Although it appears that Ole maintained a residence in Rat Portage/Kenora, the family was also to farm in the area of Strandquist in northern Minnesota. The 1905 US census found Sigrid and children Arthur, Ingvid, Sara, and newcomer to the family, baby Anna, living in Strandquist. For the 1910 census Ole was back with the family, with household members listed as Ole, Sigrid, and children Arthur, Sara, Anna, and another new addition to the family, Lillie. Hilma was living with a nearby family, working as a domestic. It appears that John stayed in Canada, settling in the area of Margo in Saskatchewan along with a number of recent Swedish immigrants. That July Ole crossed back into Canada at Emerson, on his way to Kenora. Sadly, ill for some time, he died on 6 December 1910 and is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora. A death notice in the Kenora Miner and News indicated that his wife had found him dead in bed in their house on Hennepin Lane, with Arthur given as next of kin on his death record.

John signed his attestation papers on 26 April 1916 with the 197th (Vikings of Canada) Battalion in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His residence was given as Margo, Saskatchewan, occupation as implement dealer, and his mother Sigrid in Strandquist as next of kin. The battalion was being raised among the Scandinavians of western Canada with men of Scandinavian birth or descent answering the call of their adopted country. As a Private with the battalion, John embarked from Halifax aboard the Scandinavian on 26 January 1917.

Once in England John was transferred to the 11th Reserve Battalion and then on to the Canadian Forestry Corps at Sunningdale on 10 March. In May of 1917 John was transferred to District 3 (Egham), CFC, and then in September to District 4 (Southampton). That November he was again transferred, to District 51 (Inverness), Company 117. The Canadian Forestry Corps provided lumber for the Allied war effort by cutting and preparing timber in the UK and Europe during the war. Forestry units also cleared terrain for the construction of installations such as airfields and runway, prepared railway ties, as well as lumber for the creation of barracks, road surfaces, ammunition crates, trench construction, and so on. These units were sometimes called on to perform as infantry.

In April of 1918 John was granted permission to wear one Good Conduct Badge, and with the end of the war he returned to England in March of 1919 and was granted a fourteen day leave. He embarked from Liverpool aboard the Belgic on 16 April and was discharged from service on the 26th in Winnipeg, character and conduct described as very good.

John returned to Margo, obtaining at least one Western Land grant in the area where he farmed. By the time of a 1953 Voters list John was living in Margo and listed as a gentleman. It appears that he never married. Around 1957 John moved to Vancouver. He died on 5 March 1961 in the Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver. John is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in North Burnaby, Department of Veteran Affairs in charge of the arrangements. Family unknown, his Veteran Death card contains only his date and place of death. John was predeceased by his brother Ingvid in 1921 and brother Arthur in 1922, both in Strandquist. His mother Sigrid and sister Lillie had moved to Kinistino, Saskatchewan in 1923 where Sigrid died in 1951. His sister Anna married Bernard Starkey and died in 1937, interred in the Star City Cemetery in Saskatchewan. Sister Lillie married John Nordin and died in 1942 in Snowden, Saskatchewan, sister Sara married William Wikstrom and died in 1987 near Strandquist, and sister Hilma married John Haug and died in 1955. She is interred in the Grafton Lutheran Cemetery in Grafton, North Dakota.

John’s brother Arthur enlisted in 1915 at Camp Niagara with the 37th Battalion, serving overseas with the 13th Battalion. Suffering a dangerous wound to the face at Vimy Ridge in September of 1916, he underwent multiple surgeries before being discharged in January of 1919. His death in 1922 was deemed due to his war service.

By Judy Stockham

gravemarker photo: courtesy of Karen Hanna,

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