Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJanuary 23, 1898
Place of BirthPortage la Prairie, Manitoba
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs Emily McCowan, mother, Portage la Prairie, Manitoba
Trade / CallingClerk
Service Details
Regimental Number148225
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion5th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Date of EnlistmentJuly 19, 1915
Age at Enlistment17
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathSeptember 30, 1953
Age at Death55
Buried AtHeppner Masonic Cemetery, Heppner, Oregon, USA
PlotBlock 14 Grave 33

McCowan, Archibald Porteous

Archibald Porteous (Archie) McCowan was born on 23 January 1898 in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. His father James Archibald McCowan, born in 1850, was from Scarborough, Ontario. He had married his first wife Isabelle Bowes, a Scottish immigrant, in 1875 in Pickering although the couple were to make Scarborough/Toronto their home. Together James and Isabelle had four children, Jane Isabella (Jennie) (1875), Arthur Robert (1879), Ida Rebecca (1881) and William James (1883). Sadly Isabelle died a few days after William’s birth from complications with the delivery. Unable to care for the children, James found homes for them with family and friends in the area. At some point James, an engine driver/engineer, moved to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. On 5 December 1894, in Portage la Prairie, James married Emily Eliza Jane Cleaver. Born in 1875 in Perth, Ontario, by the time of the 1891 census Emily was living in Portage la Prairie with her parents and some of her siblings. Children born to James and Emily in Portage la Prairie were Albert James (1895), and Archie. By the time of the 1901 census the family had relocated to Keewatin in northwestern Ontario, a few kilometres west of Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora). While in Keewatin the couple gave birth to son Glenn Allen (1901). Moving back to Portage la Prairie, two more children joined the family, Hazel Jean (1906) and Norman Lloyd.

With occupation given as clerk, date of birth as 23 January 1897, and his mother Emily as next of kin, Archie signed his attestation papers in Portage la Prairie on 19 July 1915. He gave previous military service as with the 100th Winnipeg Grenadiers and one year with the 18th Mounted Rifles. As a Private with a Reinforcing Draft of the 78th Battalion, Archie embarked from Montreal aboard the Corsican on 25 September 1915.

Once in England Archie was transferred to the 32nd Reserve Battalion and then on to A Company of the 5th (Western Cavalry) Battalion in March of 1916, arriving at the unit on the 19th. Less than two months later, on 5 May at Ypres, Archie was severely wounded by a shell explosion, sustaining multiple wounds to his head, back, lung, right arm and left leg where pieces of shrapnel entered his body. First admitted to the No 3 Canadian Field Ambulance and then on to the No 17 Canadian Casualty Clearing Centre, by 13 May Archie had been admitted to the No 13 General Hospital in Boulogne. Listed as dangerously ill, some of Archie’s wounds had become septic and the spine wounds were causing paraplegia. By the end of the month he was invalided to England aboard the Hospital Ship Newhaven to the 3rd North General Hospital in Sheffield where he would stay for the next 9 1/2 months as he slowly began to recover. Some of the wounds had to be reopened and drained and with nerve damage to his leg learning to walk again was difficult, moving from a wheelchair to crutches. On 24 March 1917 Archie was transferred to the Granville Canadian Special Hospital at Ramsgate where it was decided that he would be invalided to Canada aboard the Hospital Ship Letitia, embarking from Liverpool on 13 May. Archie was to spend time in Winnipeg first as a patient and then as an outpatient at the Manitoba Military Convalescent Hospital. He was discharged from service as no longer fit for war service on 30 November 1917.

In September of 1919 Archie made application for a Manitoba Soldier land grant, free homestead entries available for eligible returning soldiers.  The next record found for Archie was a 1923 border crossing indicating that he had been living in Chicago, Illinois and working as a clerk. At some point he married Florence Bertha Baker who had been born in 1901 in Minnesota. However by 1927 the marriage had ended in divorce, proceedings taking place in Cass County, North Dakota. Florence later married Percy Melms in 1937 and died on 22 June 1988 in Hampshire, Illinois. The 1935 and 1940 US censuses found Archie in Newman, Spokane, Washington, by 1946 he was in Pendleton, Oregon, and by 1949 in Heppner, Morrow, Oregon where he found work with the Heppner Lumber Company.

Archie died on 30 September 1953 in the Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Heppner. Two days earlier he had been involved in an automobile accident, the car he had been a passenger in hit broadside while turning into the lumber yard on their way to work. His Veteran Death card listed his ex-wife Florence Melms of Chicago as next of kin. Predeceased by his father James in 1933 in Portage la Prairie, at the time of his death Archie was survived by his mother Emily, his siblings Jean Armstrong, Glenn, and Norman, all of Winnipeg, and Albert in Keewatin. A service was held for Archie with graveside rites under the direction of the American Legion. Archie is interred in the Heppner Masonic Cemetery in Heppner.

With the onset of conscription in the latter part of the war, Archie’s brother Albert was called up in January of 1918. Living in Keewatin at the time, he was sent to Petawawa, Ontario to train with the 76th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery. However it was found that he suffered from tachycardia and was reclassified as medical category C3. Albert was discharged from service as medically unfit/lower category on 7 December 1918. Archie’s brothers Glenn and Norman both served during WW2, Glenn with the 12th Manitoba Dragoons and Norman with the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry. Stationed in England and Belgium, Norman married in Belgium, returning to Canada with his war bride Lucienne.

Archie’s brother Albert died in 1954, brother Glenn in 1956, mother Emily in 1978 (age 102), sister Jean Armstrong Ellis in 1994, and brother Norman in 2006, all in Winnipeg.

By Judy Stockham

Newspaper article: Heppner Gazette Times, 1 October 1953, courtesy of Delcie Pierce Kelly, Random Acts Of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK)
Grave marker photo: courtesy of Scott Augst,

McCowan-Archibald-Porteous-2 McCowan-Archibald-Porteous-3 McCowan-Archibald-Porteous-4

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