Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthNovember 12, 1877
Place of BirthWaterloo, Lancashire
Marital StatusSingle
Service Details
Battalion2nd/5th Battalion
ForceBritish Expeditionary Force
BranchKing's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathDecember 29, 1945
Age at Death68
Buried AtSt. John's Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario

Edwards, Frank

Frank Edwards and his twin sister, Nora , were born on 12 November 1877 in Waterloo, Lancashire, England. His parents Ellis Edwards (a trader who had business in Africa with his headquarters in Liverpool) and Ellen Allen had married in 1864. Other siblings included Allan (1867-1897), Helen (1868-1950), Sybil (born 1880) and Gladys (born 1883). In 1881 the family was living in Waterloo Park Home, Great Crosby, West Derby, England and they had three servants (a nurse, a waitress and a cook). Frank was educated at Malvern College.

Not wanting to join his father’s business, Frank set out for Canada to seek his fortune. He first worked in Montreal as a surveyor. He spent some time in Toronto working as a draftsman and then headed to northern Ontario with the railway contractors. At Dinorwic he went into business as a general merchant and fur buyer. In 1908 he opened the first store in Hudson, Ontario and became active in commercial fishing at Lac Seul, being the proprietor of the Lac Seul Fish Company. The 1911 Canadian census shows him living in Hudson with the occupation of ‘clerk at sawmill’. In 1912 he was appointed Justice of the Peace for the District of Kenora and then his area of jurisdiction was extended to cover the District of Patricia as well.

When war broke out in 1914 Frank tried to enlist with the Canadian forces but was refused so he returned to England and enlisted with the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. By 25 April 1915 he was a 2nd Lieutenant with the unit. He became a Lieutenant on 01 June 1916 and at times served as Temporary Captain. On 07 February 1917 Frank arrived in France at Le Havre where his unit (2nd/5th Battalion, KORLR) joined the 170th Infantry Brigade of the 57th Division. Shortly after being promoted to Acting Captain on 16 June 1917 his unit became involved in the Third Battle of Ypres which lasted until October. On 09 October 1917 the 2nd/5th Btn. took part in the Battle of Poelcappelle and, later in the month, the attack on Shaap-Balie. Captain Edwards received a shrapnel wound and was returned to England. He was Mentioned in Despatches on 18 December 1917.  During his recovery he met nurse Winnifred Alice Soper and they were married on 30 August 1918 in London.

Frank and Winnifred returned to Canada in 1919 and settled in Sioux Lookout, Ontario where Frank got involved in the fur trading business again. In addition he acted as tax collector and assessor and was the first insurance agent in the town. In 1920 Frank was appointed Indian agent for the district, a position he held until 1942. The Indian Agent, who was employed by the Federal Government, acted as the chief administrator for Indian Affairs in his district. He was responsible for implementing federal Indian policy and as such had a great deal of power over the lives of the First Nations people – everything from controlling the First Nations’ movement to expenditures by the band. He also acted as a liaison between the bands and the government, raising issues of concern and often speaking on behalf of the First Nations communities in his district.

The 1921 Canadian Census shows Frank and Winnifred lodging in a hotel on 2nd. St. South in Kenora. They took up residence in a house adjoining the Indian Agent office on 1st Ave. South. Daughter Nora was born in 1924.

Frank had a great interest in Indian folklore and legends and his interest led to collecting. In his collection were ceremonial pipes, jingle dresses, fire bags, head dresses, stone tools, beaded jackets, leggings, bandoliers, beaded belts, moccasins, wool bags, necklaces, games, cradle boards, birch bark baskets, Hudson’s Bay Company axes and copper pots, fossils, flintlock guns, a powder horn, fish spears, fawn skin bags, gauntlets and a wide variety of books. He was a meticulous man who kept accurate reports and records. Apparently there was a small black notebook containing a catalogue of his collection. The whereabouts of this notebook is not known. In 1941 Frank allowed portions of his collection to be loaned to the Kenora Public Library where it was displayed in wood and glass exhibit cases. His collection was stored in Mr. Appleton’s boathouse, which was behind Johnson’s Pharmacy on Main Street and he often loaned items for ceremonies and costume parties. Unfortunately those of his journals that were left in Kenora with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development were burned in a fire in January of 1968.

Frank retired on 20 May 1942.  During his residence in Kenora, he was associated with many organizations: Boy Scouts  (President for District), Rotary Club (member for 21 years & President), Legion (President), Kenora Angler’s Club, YMCA, and Masonic Golden Chapter Kenora.

After Frank retired the family moved to Toronto. He found work there as an Inventory Director at the General Engineering Company munitions plant. After a short illness Frank passed away in Toronto General Hospital on 29 December 1945. He is buried in St. John’s Cemetery, Toronto. Winnifred continued to reside in Toronto until her passing in 1990.

After Frank’s death his collection of native artifacts was donated to the Town of Kenora. Almost twenty years later, when Lake of the Woods Museum was established, the Frank Edwards collection formed its foundation of artifacts and received the catalogue number of 964.1.

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