Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthAugust 23, 1884
Place of BirthWhitemouth, Manitoba
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMargery Hilliard, daughter, Langruth, Manitoba
Trade / CallingClerk
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number198007
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Date of EnlistmentDecember 26, 1914
Age at Enlistment30
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathApril 3, 1917
Age at Death32
Buried AtAubigny Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France
PlotI. K. 3.

Hilliard, Charles Edwin

According to his attestation papers, Charles Edwin Louis Hilliard was born on 23 August 1884 in Whitemouth, Manitoba. His father was Louis Hilliard, a Norwegian that had immigrated to Canada in 1870 (date found in 1901 Canada census), and his mother was Ann McGinnis, origins given as Irish. The couple was found in the 1881 Canada census in what at the time was called the Province of Keewatin in District No 112 of The Territories, also known as the Eastern Extension of the Manitoba Extension of Manitoba. Louis’ occupation was given as hotel keeper. At that time Whitemouth was an important construction point on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Recognizing that Rat Portage, later renamed Kenora, was destined to be another such point  on the railway, the young family moved to the area. In 1883 he built  the Hilliard House Hotel  in Rat Portage, and as the town continued to prosper, he built a second one in 1885*. This second one, the Hilliard Opera House Hotel  was primarily an opera house, with an auditorium with a seating capacity of 800, lobby, dining room, and small number of guest rooms. It was well known for the day and attracted many performers and shows as well as patrons.  In 1898, fire destroyed the building, and Louis rebuilt an even more elaborate Hilliard Opera House Hotel. The new Hilliard Opera House had a seating capacity of 950 as well as an Assembly Hall with seating for 400 for lesser attractions, lectures, and dances. Once again fire touched the family as in 1902 the original Hilliard House Hotel that had been remodeled and enlarged in 1889, burned to the ground. The family, consisting of Louis, Annie, and children Charles, Harold, and Laura, moved to the Hilliard Opera House Hotel as Louis made plans to rebuild. However, he sold his interests to Jacob Hose and Joseph Johnson, with the town of Kenora eventually owning the property/hotel known as the Tourist Hotel. In 1909, fire destroyed the Hilliard Opera House Hotel and this time Louis only rebuilt a small hotel. It too caught fire in 1914, and Louis died a short time later on 22 March 1914, immediate cause of death given as exhaustion although he had been ill with arteriosclerosis. Charles was the first born Hilliard child, followed by Laura in 1887, and Harold in 1889. Another child, Archibald William Hilliard had been born in late 1885 but died in September of 1886.  The Hilliard children grew up in the hotels, attended the local high school, and both Charles and Harold were well known in the sports circles of the day. Charles played hockey for the Thistles (seated bottom right), a team that won  the Stanley Cup in 1907 although Charles was not a team member at the time while Harold played for the St Alban’s Anglican Church team. On 27 November 1906, Charles married Lucille (aka Luella) Merle, daughter of Joseph and Louise (née O’Keefe) Merle of Fort Frances, Ontario, occupation of Charles given as hotel keeper. Their daughter Margery was born on 27 July 1907 in Winnipeg, Manitoba (in photo with grandfather Louis, and in 1914).

Charles Hilliard enlisted in Kenora on 26 December 1914. Originally with the 52nd Battalion, it was reported in the 16 June 1915 edition of the Kenora  Miner and News that he was to leave shortly for training camp in Port Arthur. Once there, he was transferred to the 94th in Port Arthur, Ontario on 4 November. Shortly afterward, on the 10th of November, he was promoted to Corporal, and then to Sergeant on December 4th. The 94th Battalion left Port Arthur on 6 June 1916 for Valcartier, Quebec, and then sailed from Halifax aboard the Olympic on 28 June, disembarking in Liverpool 6 July. On 18 July while at Shorncliffe, Charles was transferred to the 32nd Reserve Battalion, reverting to rank of Private on 6 September.  On the 4th of October he was transferred back to the 52nd Battalion. He landed in France on 15 October 1916 and arrived at his unit for duty on 20 October. On 9 February 1917 he was promoted to Corporal. Just a short time later, on 3 April 1917, Corporal Charles Hilliard  died. From the CEF burial register for Charles: ‘Died of Wounds.’ (Gun shot wound, left leg and left eye.) At No. 30 Casualty Clearing Station. Charles is interred Aubigny Communal Cemetery Extension in Arras, Pas de Calais, France.  He is commemorated on page 256 of the First World War Book of Remembrance, on the Kenora Cenotaph, on the Kenora Legion War Memorial, on the Kenora’s St Alban’s Anglican Cathedral plaque, and on the Kenora and Keewatin High Schools Plaque.

After the death of her husband, Annie Hilliard lived with her daughter Laura who had married Henry Treleaven on 16 April 1912. The 1916 Canada census found the family farming near Neepawa, Manitoba. Household members were Laura, Henry and children Margaret and Errol, mother Annie, and Charles’ daughter  Margery.  Margery married Francis Jessett on 8 March 1947, apparently living with her grandmother up until that time. Francis served in the RCAF and later worked as Superintendent of Runways at the Toronto International Airport. The couple did not have any children. Annie Hilliard died on 25 April 1953 in the Melvin’s Nursing Home in Winnipeg and is interred alongside her husband in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. She left behind six grandchildren. Margery’s husband Francis died on 5 March 1979 in Winnipeg and Margery on 31 March 1999 at the Golden West Centennial Lodge, also in Winnipeg. They are interred in the Glen Eden Memorial Gardens in Winnipeg. Charles’ sister Laura died on 10 July 1947 and her husband on 21 June 1953. Both are interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery. They had four children: Margaret, Errol who followed in his uncles’ footsteps, serving during WW2 and reported as missing in action, Gwendolyn, and Hilliard who later became a doctor, practicing in Kingston, Ontario. Lucille (Merle) Hilliard married Frank Cyril Peace in Vancouver  on 25 September 1923, marriage dissolved on 9 November 1936 in Vancouver. Lucille died in Victoria, British Columbia on 10 September 1968. Charles’ brother Harold enlisted in Kenora on 7 June 1915 and also made the ultimate sacrifice. With the 52nd Battalion, he was reported as killed in action on 8 August 1918. He left behind his wife Laura and two small children, Muriel and Harold. With both losing their fathers at a very young age, Margery and Harold maintained a very close relationship over the course of their lives. Margery was the last person to be with Harold before his death.

by Judy Stockham

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Photographs of the Hilliards courtesy of Martin Hilliard and the Lake of the Woods Museum Archives

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