Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthAbout 1892
Place of BirthOak Island, Lake of the Woods or Kenora, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinJohn Major (father), Warroad, Minnesota
Trade / CallingTrapper, labourer and lumberman
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number820828
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKeewatin, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentJune 17, 1916
Age at EnlistmentAbout 24
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJune 1, 1937
Age at DeathAbout 45

Major, John

Private John Major enlisted in June 1916 and served in France with the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion. He suffered from health problems for much of his time overseas and he was invalided to Canada in July 1919.

John was Ojibway and a member of the Northwest Angle First Nations band in northwestern Ontario. According to his attestation paper and service file, he was born around 1892 either in Kenora or at Oak Island on Lake of the Woods. Lake of the Woods straddles the Canada-U.S. border and Oak Island is on the American side, in Minnesota. John’s attestation paper records his father as John Major of Warroad, Minnesota. His service file, however, names his father on various pages as John Major of Warroad and Peter Major of Kenora/Fort Frances. His mother is shown as Kay-Pay-Kah-Pah-Week. John listed his home town as both Kenora and Fort Frances and his occupation as trapper, labourer and lumberman.

John was apparently living in Kenora in the summer of 1916 and he enlisted on 17 June in the neighbouring town of Keewatin. He had his medical that same day in Kenora and was found fit for overseas service. He joined the 141st (Bull Moose) Battalion, which was being recruited in the Rainy River district of northwestern Ontario. In August 1916 the Kenora volunteers were sent to Port Arthur for training. In March 1917 John contracted the measles and he spent ten days in the barracks hospital. He was discharged on 5 April and about two weeks later the battalion left for Halifax on the first leg of their journey overseas. They embarked for the UK on 28 April on the SS Olympic, arriving in Liverpool about a week later. Most of the recruits were absorbed into the 18th Reserve Battalion to be used as reinforcements for other units.

On 21 June John was transferred to the 52nd Battalion and sent to France. The 52nd had been recruited in northwestern Ontario, including the town of Kenora. When John joined them in the field in mid-July they were south of Lens in France. At the end of July John became ill with bronchitis and he was sent to No. 11 Stationary Hospital in Rouen. From there he was evacuated to England on the hospital ship Grantully Castle. He recovered at the military hospital in Lewisham then at a convalescent depot and he was discharged to duty on 9 January 1918. He was kept in the UK and assigned to the Manitoba Regiment Depot.

On 1 May John was admitted to No. 11 Canadian General Hospital, suffering from influenza. He was back on duty in mid-June but in August he was in the hospital for eczema and in January 1919 for contagious impetigo. Starting in February he was in several hospitals over the next five months. He was diagnosed with chronic eczema on his face and neck which became worse on exposure to cold or wet weather. On 28 May he was moved to No. 5 General Hospital in Liverpool to await his return to Canada. He sailed on 30 June on the SS Araguaya, arriving via Portland, Maine. He spent four weeks getting treatment at the Manitoba Military Hospital in Winnipeg and he was discharged on demobilization on 16 August in Winnipeg.

Little is known of John’s life after the war. His service file mentions that he lived in Fort Frances and Emo and that he passed away on 1 June 1937. The place of his death and burial are not recorded. He’s commemorated on the Anishinaabe Veteran Heroes plaque at Ne-Chee Friendship Centre in Kenora and on the Aboriginal Veterans Tribute Honour list here.

By Becky Johnson


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