Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of Birth1893-1895
Place of BirthRush Bay, Lake of the Woods, Kenora, Ontario
CountryCanada
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinHenry Ross, father, Keewatin PO, Keewatin, Ontario
Trade / CallingBushman
ReligionPresbyterian
Service Details
Regimental Number4070781
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion6th Battalion, CGR
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Garrison Regiment
Enlisted / ConscriptedConscripted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Address at EnlistmentKeewatin PO, Keewatin, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentJune 17, 1918
Theatre of ServiceCanada
Prisoner of WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathSeptember 9, 1971
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
Plot27E-8-4

Ross, William John

According to his attestation papers, William John Ross was born on 10 May 1893 in Keewatin, Ontario, a small community about five kilometres west of Kenora in northwestern Ontario. However the 1901 Canada census gave the date as 8 January 1895 and his later obituary as 3 January 1889 in Rush Bay west of Keewatin on Lake of the Woods. A birth record was not found and as he was not listed on the 1891 census with his parents and siblings, it is unlikely that he was born in 1889. His father William Henry (Billy) Ross had passed through the area with the Wolseley expedition to confront Louis Riel and the Métis in 1870 during the Red River Rebellion. Liking the area so much, he returned and married a native woman, later listed as Mary on censuses. William’s father also had the distinction of being the first black man to settle here. The family lived in the Rush Bay area of Lake of the Woods where they farmed, trapped, and fished. Known children born to Billy and Mary were Elizabeth (abt 1884), Mariah (abt 1889), Margaret (abt 1893), and William.

With the onset of conscription in the latter part of the war, William had his medical examination in November of 1917 in Winnipeg. However as a defaulter he was apprehended on 17 June 1918. HIs occupation was given as bushman and his father Henry, care of the Keewatin Post Office, as next of kin. First serving as a Private with the 1st Depot Battalion, Manitoba Regiment, he was soon transferred to the 10th Battalion Canadian Garrison Regiment and then on to the 6th Battalion Canadian Garrison Regiment in Amherst, Nova Scotia in July for a few months before later transferring back to Winnipeg. In October of 1918 William was hospitalized with Spanish influenza and then again in January of 1919 with the mumps. He was discharged from service on 31 January 1919 in Winnipeg in consequence of being in a category lower than B, rank of Private.

Following discharge William returned to the Kenora area. On 3 July 1922, in Kenora, he married Isabella (Bella) Redsky, daughter of the Chief of Shoal Lake Reserve. At the time of the marriage William was living on Ptarmigan Bay on Lake of the Woods while Bella was living on nearby Shoal Lake. According to his later obituary, over the years William worked as a guide, trapper, and fisherman. The couple gave birth to ten children, daughters Norah, Hanna, Margaret, Diane, Ida, and Helen, and sons John, Thomas, William, Charles, and Raymond.

William died suddenly on 9 September 1971. At the time of his death he was survived by his daughters Margaret (Edward) Belak of Calgary, Norah (Roy) Barnard of Redditt, Ontario, Ida (Gus) Anderson of Kenora, Hannah (Charles) Reinhart of Calgary, Diane (William) Falconer of Thunder Bay, and sons Thomas of Kenora, William of Calgary, and Charles of Winnipeg. He was also survived by 56 grandchildren and several great grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife Bella on 25 July 1970, sons John (1950) and Ray (1961), and daughter Helen. William and Bella are interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora, their graves unmarked.

By Judy Stockham