Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthDecember 26, 1876
Place of BirthOrangeville, Ontario
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinOlivia K Webster, wife, 2122 15th Street West, Calgary, Alberta
Trade / CallingRailroad Contractor and Accountant
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number1039210
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion3rd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Railway Troops
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentCalgary, Alberta
Address at Enlistment2122 15th Street West, Calgary, Alberta
Date of EnlistmentJuly 15, 1916
Age at Enlistment39
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathApril 18, 1958
Age at Death81
Buried AtUnion Cemetery, Calgary, Alberta
PlotSection N, Block 6, Plot 11

Webster, William Alfred

William Alfred Webster was born on 26 December 1875 in Orangeville, Ontario. His parents Joseph John Webster, a painter, and Elizabeth Zillah Gibbins were both from Barrow Upon Soar, Leicestershire, England, their marriage registered during the third quarter of 1866. The couple gave birth to daughter Ellen Elizabeth followed by son George before immigrating to Canada in 1969, with Joseph, Zillah, and George arriving in Quebec in July aboard the Nestorian and Ellen at a later date. Settling in Orangeville where Joseph worked as a painter, children added to the family were Joseph (abt 1871), Ethel Jane (abt 1874), William, and Zillah (1881). By the time of the 1891 census the family had moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Moving to Kenora, Ontario, on 7 November 1908, in Kenora, William married Olivia Kate Gordon. At the time of the marriage William was working as a clerk, occupation later given the next year as manager. Born on 20 December 1886 in the Kensington area of London, England, Olivia was the daughter of John Gordon, a dairyman, and Laura Kate Griffin. Her parents’ marriage was registered during the third quarter of 1882 in Brighton, Sussex. By the time of the 1901 England census, Olivia was a boarder at a ladies school in Axminster, Devonshire. William and Olivia gave birth to daughter Laura Margaret in September of 1909. Moving to Edmonton, Alberta, son Gordon William was born in 1913.

William first enlisted with the 51st Battalion on 7 January 1915 in Edmonton. His date of birth was given as 25 December 1875, occupation as accountant, and his wife Olivia in Edmonton as next of kin. He was discharged from service by purchase on 23 June 1915 in Calgary. With the family moving to Calgary, William enlisted with the 239th Battalion on 15 July 1916. His date of birth was given as 26 December 1876, his occupation as railway contractor and accountant, and his wife Olivia in Calgary as next of kin. The 239th Battalion was based in Camp Valcartier and had begun recruiting in the spring of 1916, seeking experienced railway men. After arriving in England on 28 December 1916 aboard the Olympic, the battalion was absorbed into the Canadian Railway Construction Corps and became the 3rd Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops in February of 1917. Upon leaving Canada, William was appointed Acting Sergeant. Arriving in France in late March 1917, by late June William was back in England. Diagnosed with valvular disease of the heart and a thickening of the left pleura, he was granted an extended leave to Canada. Arriving in Halifax on 21 July on the Olympic, his leave was to be until early October. However William was discharged from service as medically unfit on 12 February 1918 in Calgary, rank of Sergeant.

In 1915 William had applied for a land grant near Grande Prairie in Alberta, a later record of 1922 indicating that he had cleared 30 acres but had not erected a home. Living in Calgary at the time, sadly Olivia died on 25 December 1918, a victim of the influenza pandemic. At some point the couple had given birth to daughter Elizabeth Patricia (Betsy). At the time of the 1921 census, it is not known where the two girls were, but William and son Gordon were living outside of Penticton in British Columbia where William was working a fruit farm. Returning to Calgary, according to his obituary by 1922 he began working for the Imperial Oil Refinery, retiring in 1944. A 1949 Calgary Voters list showed William living with his son Gordon and family. Known as the “cowboy mayor”, William’s brother George served as mayor of Calgary from 1923 to 1926.

William died on 18 April 1958 in Calgary. At the time of his death he was survived by his daughter Laura (Christopher) Oliver, son Gordon (Eva), both in Calgary, and daughter Betty (WJ) Williams of Nipigon, Ontario as well as four grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife Olivia, father Joseph (1897, Winnipeg), mother Zillah (1929, Winnipeg), siblings Joseph (bef 1930), George (1933, Calgary), Ellen (Fred) Davis (1951, Neepawa, Manitoba), Ethel (Alexander) Logan (1951, Winnipeg), and Zillah (Charles) Andrews (1957, Winnipeg). William’s parents and siblings Ethel and Zillah are interred in St John’s Cemetery in Winnipeg. Along with Olivia, his brother George, and George’s sons George and Douglas, William is interred in the Union Cemetery in Calgary.

By Judy Stockham

Grave marker photographs by Sandra (SLW),

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