|Date of Birth||January 18, 1877|
|Place of Birth||Uxbridge, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Mrs Bertha May Kennedy Skene, wife, Dryden, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Farmer|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Dryden, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||Dryden, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||December 23, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||39|
|Theatre of Service||Great Britain|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||November 13, 1942|
|Age at Death||66|
|Buried At||Dryden Cemetery, Dryden, Ontario|
Alexander Hockley Skene was born on 18 January 1877 in Uxbridge Township, Ontario. His father Alexander Skene was from Turriff, Aberdeenshire in Scotland while his mother Mary Ann Hockley was from Uxbridge where the couple married on 25 September 1873. Farming in the area, Alexander SR and Mary Ann gave birth to nine known children: William McIntosh (1874), Alexander, Lillian Mary (1879-1948), Barbara (1881), Roy Glenmore (1884-1906), George Daniel (1886-1952), Harvey Allen (1889-1972), Mary Victoria (1892-1892), and Oliver Ellsworth (1893-1971). First going to Dryden in northwestern Ontario in 1896, Alexander SR and his family arrived to stay in 1897, with his portable sawmill and shingle mill, and set up shop just north of what is now known as Skene’s Landing, west of the present Riverview Lodge. By the time of the 1901 census, most of the family, including Alexander, had moved to farm in the nearby Wainwright Township, Alexander SR naming what was to become a large, very successful farm Cairnbrogie after a farm he had worked on back in Scotland. He sold his sawmill and shingle mill to the Coates family, his neighbours in Wainwright, who operated it for some years at their farm location before they in turn also sold it. Alexander JR’s later obituary stated that he had worked in Indian Head, Saskatchewan from 1903 to 1906 as head cattleman at an experimental farm.
Although living in Dryden at the time, Alexander married Bertha May Kennedy on 19 November 1907 in Kenora, Ontario. Born on 5 October 1882 in Lakefield, Peterborough County in Ontario, Bertha was the daughter of James Kennedy and Mary Dever. For the first years of the marriage Alexander and Bertha moved around, with son Roy Alexander born in 1909 in Wainwright, daughter Violet May in 1910 in Dryden, and daughter Marjorie Jean in 1912 in Kenora. At the time of the 1911 census the family was living in Kenora where Alexander was working as a railway bridgeman. Returning to Dryden/Wainwright, son Allen James was born in 1913, and daughter Mabel Berthena in 1915.
Alexander enlisted with the 94th Battalion on 23 December 1915 in Dryden. His occupation was given as farmer and his wife Bertha of Dryden as next of kin. With recruitment throughout northwestern Ontario (Port Arthur, Fort William, Kenora, Rainy River, Fort Frances and Dryden), the battalion was mobilized at Port Arthur and arrived in England on 6 July 1916 aboard the Olympic. Upon arrival Alexander was taken on strength with the 32nd Reserve Battalion, briefly transferred to the 30th Battalion, and then back to the 32nd Reserve Battalion that September. However, suffering from acute rheumatism dating back to a bout of rheumatic fever in 1898 in Dryden, it was decided that Alexander be returned to Canada. He arrived in Halifax aboard the Olympic on 31 October 1916 and was discharged from service as being no longer physically fit for war service on 27 November in Quebec, rank of Private.
Alexander’s brother George enlisted with the 94th Battalion in Dryden in early January of 1916, going overseas with Alexander and later transferred to the 13th Battalion. He sustained gunshot wound to both legs at Camiers in August of 1917. Returning to Canada in late March of 1919, he was discharged from service on 2 April in Dryden, rank of Lance Corporal. George died in 1952 and is interred in the Dryden Cemetery. Alexander’s brother Oliver enlisted with the 66th Battalion in early July of 1915 in Edmonton and served in France/Belgium with the 1st Canadian Pioneer Battalion. Returning to Canada in early February of 1919, he was discharged from service on 15 March in Port Arthur, rank of Sapper. Living in Medicine Hat, Alberta in his later years, Oliver was reported as missing in June of 1971, last seen on the river bank at Strathcona Island.
Alexander arrived home just weeks after the birth of daughter Dora Louise earlier that November of 1916. Another child joined the family, daughter Mary. Caught in the influenza pandemic of the times, sadly Bertha died on 2 February 1919 in Dryden. Unable to care for all the children, the family unit disintegrated. At the time of the 1921 census Alexander was living/farming in Wainwright with his widowed father, brother Harvey and family, and son Roy. Marjorie and Dora were living with Alexander’s brother William and family in Kenora, Allen and Mabel were with Alexander’s father’s nephew Robert, wife Ida, and family in Oxdrift, while the whereabouts of Violet and Mary at the time unknown.
At some point after the 1921 census, Alexander moved back to Uxbridge to farm. On 9 June 1925, in York, Ontario, he married widow Sarah Bailey. Born in 1978 in Marsh Hill, Reach Township in Ontario, Sarah was the daughter of William Swanick and Catherine Merrick. In 1912, in Uxbridge, she had married Frederick Bailey. The couple having given birth to son James, Fred died in 1924 and is interred in the Uxbridge Cemetery. At some point Alexander and Sarah moved back to northwestern Ontario, settling in Ignace by 1931.
Alexander died on 13 November 1942 in the Red Cross Hospital in Dryden. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Sarah, daughters Marjorie (William) Croft and Dora Louisa of Hamilton, Mabel (William) Franklin of Dryden, and Mary of Vancouver, and sons Private Allen and according to his obituary son Private Ronald Somerville, both with the Canadian Army overseas. Also surviving were stepson Private James Bailey of the Lake Superior Regiment, sisters Lillian (Charles) Dick of South Haven, Michigan and Barbara (John) Crerar of Oxdrift, and brothers William of Lindsay, Ontario, George of Dryden, Harvey of Agassiz, British Columbia, and Oliver overseas with the Canadian Forestry Corps. Alexander was predeceased by his infant sister Mary Victoria (1892, Uxbridge) and brother Roy (1906, Dryden), mother Mary Ann (1917, Dryden) and father Alexander (1926, Sioux Lookout), both interred in the Dryden Cemetery, and his son Roy in 1941 in a mining accident near Sioux Lookout, Ontario. Further trace of his daughter Violet was not found after the 1911 census. According to daughter Mabel’s obituary of 2012, after the death of their mother Bertha in 1919 she and Allen were raised by Robert and Ida Skene in Oxdrift, having no contact with some of their siblings until after WW2. Alexander is interred with his first wife Bertha in the Dryden Cemetery. His second wife Sarah died in 1966 and is interred in the Ignace Cemetery.
By Judy Stockham
Alexander’s obituary and grave marker photograph provided by Anna Turcott.
Sarah’s grave marker photograph by Lynda Piilo, findagrave.com.
Information about the Skene family settling in the Dryden area by Mel Fisher, as found on his Drydencurmudgeon blog post of 15 March 2016.