Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMarch 24, 1892
Place of BirthNew Westminster, British Columbia
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinAnnie Button, mother, Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingRailroad Brakeman
Service Details
Regimental Number35
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion8th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Date of EnlistmentSeptember 23, 1914
Age at Enlistment22
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathNovember 23, 1948
Age at Death56
Buried AtPine Hills Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario
PlotSoldiers Plot, Section N, Grave 178

Button, Alexander Mason

Alexander Mason Button was born on 24 March 1892 in New Westminster, British Columbia. His father Frederick Button was from the Morris Township in Huron County while his mother Annie Watson Whyte was from the Township of Alice, Renfrew. The couple married 18 June 1899 in Alice, Fred’s occupation given as miner from Sudbury. Their first child Emma May was born the next year. By the 1891 census the family was living  in New Westminster, British Columbia where Fred was working as a carpenter. Two more children were born to the family, Mason in 1892 and Maud Annie in 1894. The family moved back to Sudbury in 1895 and then to Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) in 1896 as Fred found work in the mines in the area. Daughter Emma May died in 1898 in Rat Portage. For the 1901 census the family was found in the listing of Mikado Mine as their home subdistrict.   A fourth child, Ernest Frederick Button was born in Kenora in 1906. By 1911, the family was living on School Street in Kenora with Fred working as a carpenter for the Canadian Pacific Railway and Mason as a brakeman. Maud had moved to Winnipeg where she was working as a stenographer.

Along with a number of other local lads Mason Button was among the first to leave Kenora to answer the call of duty. Heading east to Valcartier Camp by train, Mason completed his physical examination on  27 August 1914 and signed his attestation papers later in September. With  brown hair and blue eyes, Mason listed two years previous experience with the 98th Regiment, Kenora Light Infantry.

With the 8th Battalion Private Mason Button embarked from Quebec aboard the Franconia  in early October 1914. Training on Salisbury Plains for several months, by February of 1915 the men were in France. The Battalion saw some of the heaviest fighting in World War I, distinguishing itself at battles such as Ypres, the Somme, Vimy, Passchendaele, Amiens, Arras and Cambrai. It was in April of 1915 at Ypres that Mason sustained the first of his injuries, a gunshot wound to his hand.  Initially admitted to the No 5 General Hospital in Rouen in late April, he was transferred to the York Military Hospital in early June. After being granted a sick furlough, Mason rejoined the 8th in late June. The following February he was granted a 7 day leave to England.

On  19 June 1916 Private Mason Button was severely wounded in action. According to his service record, his ‘1. right leg was blown off below the knee 2. compound fracture to left leg below the knee’, shrapnel wounds to both legs. First admitted to a casualty clearing station, he was transferred to the No 3 Canadian General Hospital in Boulogne a few days later and by the 28th of June was admitted as a patient to the Italian Hospital in Queen’s Square, London. In October he was transferred to the London General Hospital and then on to the Granville Canadian Special (orthopaedic) Hospital in Ramsgate. Before heading back to Canada in  April of 1917, Private Mason Button had become a  double amputee, losing both legs.

Along with other wounded Kenora men Mason was welcomed back as his train pulled into the station that April.  He returned to the Central Military Convalescent  Hospital in Toronto to be fitted for artificial limbs and once back in Kenora resumed working for the CPR as a crew clerk and car checker. On 10 January 1922 Mason married Lillian Ann Gagnon, youngest daughter of William and Emma (Smiles) Gagnon of the Township of Waters in the District of Sudbury. After the marriage in Waters the couple moved to Toronto where they gave birth to a son Ernest Frederick in 1924. Mason worked for a number of years as an elevator operator at Queen’s Park, retiring in 1936.

Predeceased by his mother Annie in 1939 in Kenora, and his father Fred in 1942 in Toronto, Alexander Mason Button died on 23 November 1948 in Christie Street Hospital in Toronto. Survived by his wife Lillian and son Ernest, Mason was interred in a  Veteran’s Plot  of the Pine Hills Cemetery in Toronto.

After Mason’s death Lillian and Ernest, a WW2 veteran, moved to Warkworth, Ontario where Ernie worked for the Military Ordnance depot. Then through the VLA, he bought a farm in Northumberland County, near the town of Castleton. They operated the farm for a number of years and following its sale moved back to Warkworth where Ernie was employed at the Warkworth Penitentiary. Lillian passed away 3 March 1982 and Ernest in 2002.

Mason’s sister Maud married John Lorne Williams in Kenora in April of 1919 although both had been living in Winnipeg. Born in Gladstone, Manitoba, John, a barrister, served during the war with the 1st Division Ammunition Park.

Private Mason Button is commemorated on the Canadian Pacific Railway WW1 Roll of Honour, List 3.

by Judy Stockham
photos of Mason, Lillian and Ernie: courtesy of Lillian’s family
grave marker photo: Ken M on

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