Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMay 6/7, 1889
Place of BirthKenora, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinJohn Joseph O'Neill (father), General Delivery, Sutherland P.O., Saskatchewan
Trade / CallingMachinist
ReligionRoman Catholic
Service Details
Regimental Number257424
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion12th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Garrison Regiment
Enlisted / ConscriptedConscripted
Place of EnlistmentRegina, Saskatchewan
Address at EnlistmentSutherland P.O., Saskatchewan
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 17, 1918
Age at Enlistment28
Theatre of ServiceCanada
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathAugust 11, 1971
Age at Death82
Buried AtHoly Cross Cemetery, Edmonton, Alberta

O’Neill, Sylvester Joseph

Sergeant Sylvester Joseph O’Neill was born on either 6 or 7 May 1889 in Rat Portage, Ontario. He was baptized on 12 May at the Notre Dame du Portage Roman Catholic Church in Rat Portage. The baptism register records his birth as 6 May but other records have it as 7 May. His parents, John Joseph O’Neill and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Mitten, were both born in Ireland and they came to Canada in the mid-1880s. They had at least five children, likely all born in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora): Annie Teresa (1887), Sylvester Joseph, John (1890), Mary Catherine/Kathleen (1894) and Marguerite (Rita) (1898). Sadly, Annie died in 1888 and Mary in 1896. They are buried in the Catholic section of Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora.

Sylvester’s father worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1907 the CPR’s branch line reached Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and the company established the village of Sutherland a few miles east of Saskatoon. Sylvester and his family were living in Sutherland by 1911. Five years later, when the 1916 census was taken, Sylvester was lodging with a family in Moose Jaw and working as a machinist. Conscription started in Canada the following year and he was called up for service on 17 January 1918 in Regina. He was found fit for service in Canada only and assigned to the 1st Depot Battalion, Saskatchewan Regiment. He gave his address as Sutherland and next of kin as his father, also in Sutherland.

Active service started for Sylvester on 5 July 1918 and on 28 August he was transferred to the 12th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment, which was based in Regina. Sometime during 1918 he also got married. His wife, Bertha Carroll, was a stenographer who lived in Saskatoon. She was born in 1894 in the district of Sudbury, Ontario, the daughter of James Carroll and Mary Ann Frawley. After their marriage Bertha lived in Regina. Sylvester was promoted to Sergeant in January 1919 and discharged from the army on 5 April 1919 in Regina.

Sylvester and his wife settled in Drumheller, Alberta, where he worked as a machinist for the Canadian National Railway. They had six children: Marguerite Enid (1919), Elizabeth Ann (1921), Mary Teresa (1922), Sylvester James (1924, died as an infant), John Gerald (1925) and Sheila Monica. By 1929 the family had moved to Edmonton where Sylvester continued to work as a machinist. His son John served with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. Sylvester’s mother died in 1941 and his father in 1951. They are both buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Saskatoon, along with their daughter Marguerite (Rita) (Mrs. Carl O’Brien) (1898-1994).

Sylvester worked for several years as a janitor before retiring around age 70. He passed away in Edmonton on 11 August 1971, at age 82. In her later years his wife Bertha lived in the Shepherd’s Care Centre in Edmonton. She died in 1996, at age 102. Sylvester and Bertha are buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, along with their daughter Marguerite Enid (Mrs. Frank Methuen) (1919-2008) and other family members. Elizabeth (Betty) (Mrs. Robert Waddell) passed away in 2011, Mary Teresa (Mrs. Gordon MacKinnon) in 2002 and John Gerald in 2017.

By Becky Johnson

Grave marker photos provided by Alison Glass.

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