|Date of Birth||May 15, 1893|
|Place of Birth||Kenora, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. John George Cook (aunt), Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Fisherman|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||18th Reserve Battalion|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Conscripted|
|Place of Enlistment||Port Arthur, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||c/o Mrs. J. G. Cook, Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||May 21, 1918|
|Age at Enlistment||25|
|Theatre of Service||Great Britain|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||May 8, 1955|
|Age at Death||62|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
|Plot||Catholic Block - exact location not known. His grave marker is with his mother at 21W-18-1|
Private George Thomas was a fisherman living on Lake of the Woods when he was called up for service in May 1918. He spent 14 months in Great Britain and returned home in the fall of 1919.
George was born on 15 May 1893, either at Sabaskosing on Lake of the Woods or in the town of Rat Portage (now Kenora), in northwestern Ontario. His parents, Duncan Thomas and Mary McPherson, were married in Rat Portage in February 1893 and he was their only child. Duncan was from Minnesota and Mary was born and raised on the lake. Mary passed away in July 1897 when George was four years old and she’s buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. After his mother died George lived at Sabaskosing with his maternal grandparents, George and Sophia McPherson, and he attended St. Mary’s Residential School in Kenora. At the time of the 1911 census he was 18 years old and living with his grandparents George and Sophia along with two aunts, an uncle and his grandfather’s stepsister Margaret Adhemar.
Conscription started in Canada in the fall of 1917 and George was called up the following spring. He had his medical in Port Arthur on 21 May 1918 and he was found fit for overseas service. He listed his occupation as fisherman and next of kin as his aunt Bella McPherson (Mrs. John George Cook). George was assigned to the 1st Depot Battalion, Manitoba Regiment. Depot battalions sent drafts of recruits overseas as needed and George went with the 81st Draft, arriving in England on HMT Nellore on 15 August 1918. He served in the UK for the next 14 months with the 18th Reserve Battalion, No. 11 Canadian General Hospital and the Canadian Army Medical Corps, stationed at different times at Seaford, Shorncliffe, Bexhill and Orpington. It was almost a year after the Armistice when he returned to Canada, embarking from Southampton on the RMS Royal George on 22 October 1919 and arriving at Halifax on 1 November. He was discharged in Halifax a week later.
After the war George lived on Lake of the Woods for most of his life, working as a commercial fisherman and guide. He married 20-year-old Mary Pine on 5 September 1922 in Kenora. Mary was the daughter of James Pine and Kitagabewig and she grew up on Lake of the Woods. George and Mary lived at Sabaskosing, French Portage and McPherson Island and they had at least nine children. The children attended French Portage School, which was built in 1930. Mary died in childbirth in 1941 and she’s buried in the small cemetery at French Portage, near where the school used to stand. Their youngest son Orton drowned at French Portage in 1951, when he was 13 years old, and he’s buried beside his mother. Another child who died as an infant is buried on McPherson Island. George’s oldest son Duncan served with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles in the Second World War and spent a year as a German prisoner of war. He served again during the Korean War with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
George died on 8 May 1955 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Kenora and he’s buried in the Roman Catholic Block of Lake of the Woods Cemetery. He’s in an unmarked grave but a veteran grave marker was provided by the Last Post Fund in October 2018. His exact burial location is not known so his marker is placed on his mother’s grave. His son Duncan passed away in 1970 and he’s interred in the veteran’s section of the cemetery. Duncan was survived by his six sisters: Elizabeth, Sophia, Helen, Marie, Jean and Geraldine.
George and his son Duncan are both commemorated on the Aboriginal Veterans Tribute Honour list here.
By Becky Johnson (1st cousin 2x removed to George)