|Date of Birth||January 19, 1890|
|Place of Birth||Burgoyne, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||mother, Minnie Minerva McIntee of Fort William, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Railway Conductor|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||No. 2 Section, Skilled Railway Employees|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Railway Troops|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Port Arthur, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||131 South Vicars St., Fort William, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||March 13, 1917|
|Age at Enlistment||27|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||December 27, 1996|
|Age at Death||106|
|Buried At||Sunset Memorial Gardens, Thunder Bay, Ontario|
Birth date and location: Merrit Melton McIntee was arguably one of the oldest living Canadians in recorded history, reaching 106 years of age – just 3 weeks away from his 107th birthday. Merrit was not born in Kenora and did not enlist in Kenora; however, he and his wife lived here for nineteen years, when he was a Conductor with the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Merrit was born January 19,1890 in Burgoyne, Bruce County, Ontario. He was the first child of James Washington Merrit, a Blacksmith, and Minnie Minerva McIntee (maiden surname Cole). Further research indicates Merrit’s maternal and paternal ancestors were originally from Ireland, the Netherlands, and, Devonshire in England. Although some family members began arriving in the mid 1600’s in what was to later become the United States, all had moved to southern parts of Ontario by the late 1700’s. Merrit’s first McIntee ancestors in Canada were United Empire Loyalist.
Early life: The family of three is recorded in the 1891 Census in the Subdistrict of Arran, District of Bruce, Ontario. Their faith is Methodist. James, aged 34, continues to be employed as a Blacksmith. Minnie is 23 and Merrit is just over a year old.
In the 1901 Census, the family has grown and was now living in the subdistrict of Oliver, District of Algoma, Ontario. Merrit’s siblings are Myrtle May (born1892); Cecil M. (born 1894); William Thomas “Clifford” (born 1897) and Rita J. (born 1899). James still works as a Blacksmith.
Before the 1911 Census, the family moved to Fort William, Ontario (later known as Thunder Bay), at 131 South Vicars Street. James is now employed as a Blacksmith in a foundry. William is now called Clifford. Vivian, a son, was born in 1901; and Arvella, a daughter, was born in 1906.This is the same year Merrit began working with the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) as a Brakeman. He was insured with Confederation Life Insurance Company; and, before enlistment, made arrangements for his insurance payments to be kept up. Another brother, Harry, was born 1912. Sadly, his sister, Rita, died in 1914, and his brother, Clifford (William), a year later in 1915.
War experience: By the time Merrit enlisted, he had been employed by the CNR as a Conductor. He was the only member of his family to serve in the Great War. Merrit enlisted in Port Arthur (later known as Thunder Bay) on March 13,1917 and was Taken on Strength with No. 2 Section, Skilled Railway Employees. His Regimental Number was 2125276. Merrit, who was single, stood, 5 feet 6 inches tall, had a fair complexion, blue eyes, and light brown hair. He named his mother as next of kin and assigned his pay to her.
Merrit embarked on the SS Grampian, arriving in England April 29,1917. On May 12 No. 2 Section, Skilled Railway Employees became known as No. 13 Light Railway Operating Company, Royal Engineers. Merrit arrived in France on July 7th and was Taken on Strength in the field as a Sapper, with No. 13 Light Railway Operating Company. Sometime, during that month, Merrit was gassed, however, there is little mention of it in his records.
Merrit served, without further incident until October 20, 1917, when he received treatment in Rouen for burns to his face, hands, and the back of his neck, after an explosion occurred in his sleeping quarters. [Please also see Note, above]
“This man was asleep, resting before going on duty, in a dugout, when an
explosion occurred caused by a can of petrol being put in the stove, by another
man, (No. 309594, Spr, Brine W.), in mistake for a can of water.”
Merrit was transferred to hospital in Cardiff, October 23 and was later transferred to the Military Convalescent centre in Epsom on November 9. When discharged from Epsom on November 26, the report stated the burns were superficial and had healed well. The report also indicated Merrit did some light duties around the hospital, while there. The accidental burning was recorded at length in his file.
On January 17th, 1918, Merrit returned to his unit in France and was back in the field January 20th. There is little else in his record about where he was located; however, on September 9, 1918, he was granted Special Leave and he went to Paris. He had another short leave in France, returning to duty on January 4,1919.
While preparing for demobilization, Merrit had medical examinations carried out at Knotty Ash Camp in Liverpool in March. No permanent disability was noted. Merrit was honourably discharged, April 12, 1919.
Life after the war: The 1921 Census has the family living at the same address. James is still working as a Blacksmith and five of the six remaining children continue to live with him and Minnie. Merrit, age 31, returned to work as a Brakeman with the Railway; Cecil, age 26, is a Teamster; Vivian, age 19, is a Truck Driver; Arvella is now 14 years of age; and, Harry is 9.
On February 20, 1924, in Fort William, Merrit married Anna Lowe, aged 28. Anna’s parents were Michael and Marie (Lemoway/Lamoway) Lowe. Anna and Merrit had two daughters, Veda (married Gordon Creamer) and Norma (married Fred Fedyk). .
Until retirement, Merrit worked as a Conductor on the Winnipeg/Lakehead CPR route. He and his family moved to Kenora in 1927 and lived there until 1946 when he and Anna moved to Winnipeg. While in Kenora, he wrote a book of rules and guidelines for Conductors to follow. This is recorded in a CPR Railway booklet in Kenora. On January 19, 1955, Merrit retired. Throughout his adult life, Merrit enjoyed disking, walking, bowling, fishing, dancing, working on his car, and watching hockey and baseball. In fact, he danced and bowled until he was 99 years of age. Shortly before his death, he was recognized as the second oldest CPR pensioner in Canada.
Merrit’s brother, Vivian, also moved to Kenora. He and his wife, Jean, had two daughters. Vivian died in 1962 and Jean, in 1994. They are buried in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora
Date of death and burial location: Anna died September 3,1973, in Thunder Bay, Ontario (formerly the two cities of Fort William and Port Arthur). Merrit passed away December 27, 1996, also in Thunder Bay and was buried in Sunset Memorial Gardens. The Chronicle-Journal carried an article about him following his death.
Merrit was survived by sister, Arvella, aged 90, five grandsons, one great granddaughter and three great grandsons.
Prepared by Susan [Hillman] Brazeau for the Kenora Great War Project
Note: The report indicated W. Brine would face a Military Trial. On further research, there is no-one with the name W. Brine with this Regimental Number, and no such number in the Personnel Files Records and Court Martial Records of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces. Although there is a file for a William Brine, and whose number is close to that given in the report, there is nothing that would suggest a trial, reprimand or cause for an early discharge.