|Date of Birth||January 11, 1882|
|Place of Birth||Deckerville, Michigan|
|Next of Kin||Jane Craswell (aka Caswell, step-mother), Deckerville, Michigan|
|Trade / Calling||Fireman, Brakeman|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||13th Light Railway Operating Company|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Railway Troops|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||General Delivery, Kenora,Ontario.|
|Date of Enlistment||March 14, 1917|
|Age at Enlistment||35|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||May 11, 1945|
|Age at Death||63|
|Buried At||Willow Cemetery, Toledo, Ohio|
Background to James Baker: Prior to the First World War, James Baker was living in Kenora, Ontario and working as Fireman/Brakeman with the Canadian Pacific Railway. He was mentioned in the Kenora Miner and News in 1917 when he went overseas with his unit, the No. 2 Section, Skilled Railway Employees (SRE). Except for one final change of address given in his service record, no more is known of James Baker. That is because, James Baker was probably not James Baker. Instead, he appears to have been John Alexander Caswell.
Considerable research has led to this conclusion. The Attestation Papers of James Baker state he was born in Deckerville, Michigan, United States of America, January 11, 1882 and that his step-mother was Jane Caswell. In his service record, Peter and Jane Caswell of Deckerville are listed as his step-parents.
Birth records and census records in the United States and Canada beginning 1880 do not list any James Baker that fits his description and there is no record of him living with Peter and Jane Caswell at any time. Contact with a primary family researcher and additional documented research confirms the lack of records or family knowledge of a James or a James Baker living with or being related to the Caswells. However, a change of address in his full service record, dated August 18, 1926, provides an important clue to the mystery of James. That change of address indicates that he was now living at 2132 Wakeman St., Toledo, Ohio, U.S.A. There is no further record of a James Baker who meets all this same criteria.
Meet John Alexander Caswell. On January 11, 1880, in Deckerville, Michigan, John was born to Peter and Jane Caswell. They are of the Baptist faith. He is listed in records with his family up to the 1900 census but does not show in any census or other records in either the United States or Canada after that, until 1921. In April of that year, John marries ‘Belle Taylor’ in Toledo, Ohio. Then, in the 1925 and 1926 Directories of Toledo, J.A. Caswell and his wife Belle are living at 2132 Wakeman Street-the very same address James Baker gave the Canadian Military. John is employed as a switchman. Despite James Baker providing the Canadian Military with this address, there is no-one by that name living there. One final clue that James is really John is John’s death certificate. It is stated that he was a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces in World War 1. There is no record in the Library and Archives of Canada of a First World War serviceman called John Alexander Caswell.
War Experience under the name James Baker: James took his medical in Winnipeg but he enlisted March 14, 1917 in Montreal. He lists his faith as Baptist (the same faith as his step-parents, the Caswells). James embarked on the HMS Grampian on April 16, 1917, arriving in Liverpool on April 29. He left for France from Southampton on June 9th, landing in Lehavre on the 10th. Although his original Unit was #2 Section SRE, James was discharged with the rank of Sapper with the 13th Light Railway Operating Company. James was awarded with the War Service Class A. He was discharged due to demobilization on April 11, 1919 and his immediate destination was Deckerville. Throughout the war, James had his pay deposited into his personal account with the Royal Bank of Canada in Kenora; but, upon his discharge, he had it sent to a General Post Office mailing address in Kenora.
Death and Burial: John Alexander Caswell is buried in Willow Cemetery, Lucas County, Toledo, Ohio. The following is an email received from ‘blendt on ancestry.com’, a primary Caswell Family researcher.
The James Baker name may have indeed been a nom d’guerre. I have a death record for Peter and Jane (Vansickle) Caswell’s son John Alexander Caswell (1880-1945) which I believe is very revealing. John Alexander Caswell was born on January 11, 1880, and died by electrocution in Toledo, Ohio on 11 May, 1945. He was employed at that time by the Electric Auto Lite Company and his death appears to have been an industrial accident. The important fact for you is that his death certificate states that he was a veteran of the Canadian armed forces in World War I.
Prepared by Susan [Hillman] Brazeau -In support of the Kenora Great War Project – honouring all who served, remembering those who died.
blendt on ancestry.com (Caswell family researcher)
LAC Attestation Papers and Full Service Record
Kenora Miner and News 1917
Toledo Ohio Directories: 1925, 1926
Marriage Record of John Caswell
Death Record: John Alexander Caswell
US Census records 1881 to 1931
Canada Census 1881 to 1921