Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJuly 14, 1877
Place of BirthPoltimore, Quebec
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinArchie McMillan, father, Kindersley, Saskatchewan
Trade / CallingLogging Superintendent
Service Details
Regimental Number151124
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion1st Canadian Mounted Rifles
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Date of EnlistmentSeptember 21, 1915
Age at Enlistment37
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Decorations and MedalsMilitary Medal
Death Details
Date of Death19420422
Age at Death63
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

McMillan, James

James McMillan was born on 14 July 1877 in Poltimore, Quebec. Poltimore was/is a village situated in a valley between the Gatineau and Lievre Rivers north of Gatineau. James’ father Archibald McMillan had been born in  Lochiel, Glengarry County, but had moved with his family to the Poltimore area to start a logging camp. Wood was abundant and the rivers provided a transportation route. James’ mother Margaret McLennan had been born in Poltimore. The couple married on 14 September 1876 in nearby Ottawa. James was their first born child, followed by Joseph (1879), Alice (1881), Ruglass (1883), and Mary Ethel (1889-1891). At some point, likely around the turn of the century, the family moved west to farm in the Fork River area in the RM of Mossey River in Manitoba.

By 1901 James had left the family farm and moved to the Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) area in northwestern Ontario. At the time of the census he was working as a lumberman at the Beaudro Fishery at the south end of the Lake of the Woods. He worked for a number of years with the Rat Portage Lumber Company as camp and drive foreman and then started working for the Keewatin Lumber Company as Logging Superintendent on 1 August 1913. Like his birth place, Rat Portage, situated in the Canadian Shield on Lake of the Woods, had an abundant supply of wood and the waterways to go with it to make it an ideal location for mills.

Although his obituary states that he enlisted with the Canadian Mounted Rifles in Brandon, James signed his attestation papers on 21 September 1915 in Kenora and began his military career with the 79th Battalion. Upon attestation his year of birth was given as 1878, occupation as logging superintendent, and his father Archie in Kindersley, Saskatchewan as next of kin. The 79th battalion was based in Brandon, Manitoba, and recruiting had begun during the summer of 1915. Before going overseas, James trained at Camp Sewell located near Brandon. While there he spent 13 days in December in the station hospital with chicken pox followed by another 35 days from mid March to mid April with erysipelmas, a serious skin infection.

With the 79th Battalion, James embarked from Halifax aboard the  Lapland on 24 April 1916. Passing through Kenora by train on their way east, a crowd gathered in the wee small hours of the morning of 22 April to wish them well. Once overseas, James was transferred to the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles, taken on strength in the field 7 June 1916. Also raised in Brandon, the battalion had left Montreal for overseas on 12 June 1915 and arrived in France 22 September 1915. The 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles were involved in many major battles: Mount Sorrel, Somme in 1916, Fleurs-Courcelette, Ancre Heights, Arras 1917, 1918, Vimy 1917, Hill 70, Ypres 1917, Passchendaele, Amiens, Scarpe 1918, Hindenburg Line, Canal du Nord, Cambrai 1918.

In late May of 1917 James was commanded to the 1st Army Rest Camp for just over two weeks. In late August he was granted ten days leave to the UK and shortly after his return he was awarded a Good Conduct Badge. In early March of 1918 James was granted a fourteen day leave to Paris.  Although the circumstances are not known, Private James McMillan was awarded the Military Medal on 11 September 1918. Returning to England in February of 1919, James embarked for Canada aboard the Baltic on the 12th of  March. He was discharged from service on demobilization on the 25th in Regina, intended residence given as Kindersley.

By the time of the 1921 census, James was married with he and his wife Angeline living in Kenora. Born on 15 December 1885 just north of Quebec City in Sainte Tite Des Caps, Angeline was the daughter of Casimir Duclos and Adeline Racine. James  continued to be involved in the  logging industry in the area, eventually becoming general logging superintendent of the Ontario-Minnesota Pulp and Paper Company. After a short illness, his wife Angeline died on 26 June 1934. James later married Lucinda May Brown on 15 June 1936 in Winnipeg. He was a member of the Pequonga Lodge, Native Sons of Canada, and the Canadian Legion.

While attending a work related conference in Port Arthur, Ontario, James died of a heart attack on 22 April 1942. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife and daughter Patricia. He is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora.

James McMillan has a very unique commemoration of his life. Across the road from McLeod Park in Kenora sits in dry dock a tugboat that has been restored and is open for both tourists and locals to visit to learn a bit of the history of logging and the use of tugboats in the area. The name of the tugboat is the James McMillan.

by Judy Stockham

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