|Date of Birth||October 10, 1871|
|Place of Birth||Peoria, Illinois|
|Next of Kin||Miss Gracie West, niece, Peoria, Illinois, USA|
|Trade / Calling||Engineer|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||No 5 District, Jura Group|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Forestry Corps|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Keewatin, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||January 27, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||44|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||1948|
|Buried At||Northway Cemetery, Sioux Lookout, Ontario|
Although a birth record was not found, by most accounts Lawrence Largent was born on 10 October 1871 in Peoria, Illinois, USA. His father Jonathan Largent was from Virginia while his mother Mary Watson was from England. According to findagrave.com entries, children born to the family in Illinois were Margaret Jane (1853-1914), Isaac (1855-1862), Harvey (1857-1894), William (1859-1932), Louis (1863-1953), Mary Elizabeth (1865-1954), Henry (abt 1868-1940), John Albert (abt 1869-1927), Lawrence, and Elmina (1873-1907). By the time of the 1880 US census the family had relocated to Ozark, Barton County, Missouri to farm, later moving to nearby Jasper County. The 1900 US census found Lawrence working as a farm labourer for the John Schooler family in Preston, Jasper County but by the time of the 1910 census he had moved to Baudette, Beltrami, Minnesota on the south end of Lake of the Woods at the US/Canada border. At the time he was working as an engineer for the Electric Light Company.
With occupation given as engineer and date and place of birth as 10 October 1873 in Peoria, Lawrence signed his attestation paper on 27 January 1916 in Kenora, Ontario (on the north end of Lake of the Woods). He gave his niece Gracie West of Peoria, daughter of his sister Margaret Jane, as next of kin. At the time he was working for the Keewatin Lumber Company at their camp at Long Portage. The Port Arthur News Chronicle reported that Lawrence had walked sixty-five miles from the company’s camp to Kenora over the worst winter trails and enduring great hardships to enlist with the 94th Battalion.
The 94th Battalion recruited in Port Arthur, Fort William, Kenora, Rainy River, Fort Frances and Dryden, Ontario and was mobilized at Port Arthur. In late May of 1916 a large crowd gathered at the Kenora train station to see the boys off as they headed to Port Arthur for further training. As a Private with the battalion Lawrence arrived in England aboard the Olympic on 6 July. He was first transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion and that August Lawrence spent 17 days in the Isolation Hospital in Folkstone with a case of the mumps. He was then transferred to the 28th Battalion, embarking for France on 3 September. By early February of 1917 Lawrence had been admitted to the No 4 General Hospital Dannes Camiers with severe interconnective tissue problems with his right foot. He was transferred to the Military Hospital in Chatham in England on the 17th and then on to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital Hillingdon House in Uxbridge in late March and discharged on 6 April. After a transfer to the 15th Reserve Battalion, that May Lawrence was transferred to the Canadian Forestry Corps at the Base Depot in Sunningdale, posted to the No 40 Company (No 5 District, Jura Group) and arriving in France on the 25th. On 1 June he was appointed engineer with pay at the rate of $2.25 per diem.
‘The Canadian Forestry Corps provided lumber for the Allied war effort by cutting and preparing timber in the United Kingdom and on the continent of Europe. 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, etc. These units were sometimes called on in the First World War to perform as infantry.’ (canadiansoldiers.com)
In late November of 1917 Lawrence was admitted to the Jura Champagnole Hospital with influenza, discharged on 8 December. He was awarded a Good Conduct Badge on 27 January 1918 and in late February he was granted a fourteen day leave, returning on 12 March. That June Lawrence was transferred to the No 39 Company in the same district and continued to draw pay as an engineer. He was granted a second leave of fourteen days to the UK on 17 December. With the end of the war, in late January of 1919 Lawrence returned to England and embarked for Canada aboard the Cretic on 13 March, his corrected birth date revealed that February at Sunningdale during a medical examination. He was discharged from service on the 27th in Port Arthur, the city also given as his proposed residence.
Little is known about Lawrence after the war. It appears that he stayed in northwestern Ontario, his service record indicating that he was living in Port Arthur in late 1921. He was later found living in Sioux Lookout, a town about 235 kilometres northeast of Kenora, where he was listed as a gentleman at the time of a 1940’s Voters list. Although his name appeared on a 1949 Sioux Lookout Voters list, Lawrence is interred in the Northway Cemetery in Sioux Lookout with his gravemarker inscribed with the year of death as 1948. Unfortunately the cemetery does not have an interment record for him. Lawrence was predeceased by his father in 1907 and his mother in 1920, both interred in the Hackney Cemetery in Jasper, Missouri. He was survived by his brother Louis in Montana and sister Mary Elizabeth Walter in Carthage, Missouri, predeceased by the rest of his siblings.
By Judy Stockham
Gravemarker photo: courtesy of Karen Costello, Sioux Lookout
Port Arthur newspaper article: courtesy of the Thunder Bay Public Library