Finding Memory: Highlights from the Indigenous Reference files

SPRA 510.12.18.041 Part of the Indigenous Reference Files collection

One of the large projects for our summer student this year was digitizing the Indigenous reference files. This project involved digitizing and describing the reference files related to Indigenous peoples in this region. There are twenty-two Indigenous reference files with twenty centimeters of textual records. This project was prioritized to support the Indigenous History Committee, whose purpose is to examine the ways we can preserve and promote the history of the Indigenous Peoples in the south Peace in order to support reconciliation. This committee was established in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s (TRC) Calls to Action. The Indigenous Reference File Project was chosen because it helps make Indigenous centered information publicly available.  This helps to do our part in fulfilling the TRC Calls to Action.

The digitization portion of this project was finished in mid-July. As we create an itemized finding aid for the files we will start to share some of the items through blog posts, like this one!

This featured item is from the Indigenous News reference file.  It is an article about Henry Louis Norwest, an Indigenous WWI veteran who had more confirmed sniper hits than any other soldier from countries in the British Empire. Norwest was born in Fort Saskatchewan in 1884 and enlisted in January of 1915.  He had 115 confirmed sniper hits, which means they were observed by another soldier.  He earned four medals for this achievement.  Another soldier described Henry Louis Norwest as being charismatic and quick witted.  Norwest died August 18, 1918 as he was about to pull the trigger on an enemy sniper when a bullet hit him just below his steel helmet.  He is buried near Amiens, France, which is north of Paris.

The reference files give us a glimpse into our local history, and especially now that they are digitized, are an incredibly valuable resource! If you want to see more from the Indigenous reference files, keep your eye on the blog for posts like this.

Soldier Spotlight: Gunner Frank Stevenson

Image: Dave Goodwin (left) and Frank Stevenson (right) standing beside a buggy. Used in “Across the Smoky,” p. 10. 1920 (SPRA 116.09.01.01.0078)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 2040193
Rank: Gunner
Branch: Canadian Garrison Artillery

Frank was born in Fredericton, PEI on November 27, 1889. He was living in Charlottetown at the time of his enlistment in December of 1916. Before going overseas, Frank had proposed to Edna Abbott. When he was discharged in 1919, Frank came west and filed on land at a SE 26-72-1-W6 and NE 24-72-1-W6. Eight years later, in 1927, he wrote to Edna to join him – she had written to him saying that if he didn’t have things ready, she was going to move on with her life. They had been engaged for eleven years. Frank and Edna were married on October 13, 1927. They raised their family of five children in DeBolt. Frank died in April of 1974.

Sources: surname file; Across the Smoky p. 36

Soldier Spotlight: Private Stanley Thorsteinson

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 472689
Rank: Private
Branch: 54th Battalion

Stanley was born in Ísafjörður, Iceland on October 10, 1892. He filed on SW 18-74-8-W6 in July of 1915. In November of 1915, he enlisted in the Canadian Army. Stanley was wounded on November 18, 1916 at 6:30 AM, twenty minutes after his battalion went over the top at the Somme. He suffered from shrapnel wounds to his right knee and the right side of his head. Stanley was moved two miles by stretcher, and invalided to Canada in March of 1917. On November 30, 1917, he was discharged, having been found medically unfit as a result of his injuries. In 1920/1921, Stanley filed on a second homestead at NW 8-74-9-W6. By this time, he was married to Dorothy Lettice Wilson. Stanley and Dorothy left the area in 1923. Stanley died on December 7, 1957.

Sources: Buffalo Trails p. 219

Soldier Spotlight: Sergeant Walter Eaton

Photograph: The Lake Saskatoon baseball team in the Twilight League, in 1914, before the First World War. Players included Walter Roberts (second base), M. Stewart (shortstop), Frank Douglass (left field), ? (right field), Ulia Douglass (pitcher and third base), Clem Douglass (catcher), ? Stokes (pitcher and third base), Walter Eaton (first base), and Harold Anderson (pitcher and centre field). The photograph was donated by Mrs. Luella Roberts.

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 101230
Rank: Sergeant
Branch: 66th Battalion; 49th Battalion

Walter was born in Cleveland, Ohio on September 7, 1880. He filed on a homestead at NW 36-71-8-W6 and also worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company in Lake Saskatoon. Walter married Julia around 1906, and the couple had three children. He enlisted in the Canadian army in September of 1915 and was sent overseas. Late in 1916 there were mistaken reports that Walter had been killed in action, but a letter he sent to the Grande Prairie Herald in January 1917 confirmed that he was “very much alive and in good health.” In August of 1917, he was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field. Walter was killed in action in the vicinity of Passchendaele on October 30, 1917.

Sources: Pioneers of the Peace p. 195; Lake Saskatoon Reflections, p. 30, 147, 175, 250, 254; Edson to Grande Prairie Trail p. 101

Walter’s military will (Library & Archives Canada)

Soldier Spotlight: Sidney & Stanley Crane

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Sidney Henry Crane

Regimental Number: 101116
Rank: Private
Branch: 49th Battalion
Date of Birth: December 12, 1889

Stanley Wright Crane

Regimental Number: 427826
Rank: Private
Branch: 46th Battalion
Date of Birth: March 25, 1894

Sidney and Stanley Crane were born in England and came to Canada as young men.  After spending some time in Saskatchewan, Sidney came up to the South Peace and on April 9, 1914 he filed on NE 3-73-6-W6 for himself and on SE 10-73-6-W6 on Stanley’s behalf.  Both men enlisted in the Canadian Army in the summer of 1915.

A grim letter from Jim McDonald printed in the Grande Prairie Herald on February 13, 1917 lists seven local men who were killed in action at Courcelette.  Among them were both of the Cranes.  Sidney was killed in action on October 8, 1916, and Stanley on October 13, 1916.

Soldier Spotlight: John Neys

Photograph: An aviation enthusiast, Jack Neys helped build this plane and flew it in the early 1930s.

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 3208198; VR-6374
Rank: Private
Branch: Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve

Jack was born in South Dakota on June 7, 1896. He was living in Sexsmith when he was drafted in April of 1918; his homestead was located at NW 1-76-2-W6 and he later filed on NW 18-74-5-W6 as well. In 1918, Jack was discharged from the army and joined the Navy, where his brother Henry served as well. On October 5, 1927, Jack married Nellie May Warn. Jack had a keen interest in aviation and in 1931 earned his pilot’s license. He later owned a plane, and made several mercy flights. Jack died in Washington in January of 1973.

Sources: homestead record; Grande Prairie Capitol of the Peace p. 111-112; Wagon Trails Grown Over p. 646, 1148; Buffalo Trails p. 261

Soldier Spotlight: Acting Corporal Mark Jones

Photograph: Golden Age Club Wapiti River Picnic, August 3, 1960.  Mark is second from right. SPRA 699.01.18

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 14451
Rank: Acting Corporal
Branch: Fort Garry Horse

Mark was born in Glen Ewen, Saskatchewan on October 7, 1888. He traveled to enlist in the Canadian army on September 24, 1914. In fall of 1916, Mark injured his left shoulder about 40 miles behind the lines; he was giving a horse some medicine when the horse threw up its head. He was hanging onto the halter and injured his shoulder. Mark required surgery to remove some new formation of bone in front of the shoulder joint, which caused him much discomfort even after surgery and massage therapy. On March 21, 1918, he was discharged in Regina, having been found medically unfit. According to his medical record, he had a 12 inch surgical scar.  Mark filed on the southwest quarter of 13-72-4-W6 in December of 1918.  On January 8, 1921, he married Margaret MacDonnell, a widow who had worked as his housekeeper for a time. Mark died on September 18, 1965.

Sources: Pioneer Round Up p. 395

A page from Mark’s service file, Library & Archives Canada

Soldier Spotlight: Harold Austin Wellwood

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 427665
Rank: Lance Corporal
Branch: 13th Battalion

Harold was born in Dundalk, Ontario on October 19, 1896. He enlisted in the Canadian Army in Moose Jaw in September of 1915. On September 3, 1916, Harold was dangerously wounded at the Somme (Mouquet Farm). He suffered from shrapnel wounds to the left side of his face, and was in hospital until he was invalided to Canada in June of 1917. The injuries caused vision problems in Harold’s left eye, and hearing problems in his left ear. He also had trouble eating and suffered from headaches. A note in his service file dated May 1917 stated that “the board recommend that he be invalided home without delay.” Harold was discharged on October 31, 1917. He came to the Grande Prairie area, where his brother Edward was homesteading, and filed on land at NE 12-73-5-W6. Harold died on September 19, 1949.

Soldier Spotlight: Private Alfred Cox

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 1039075
Rank: Private
Branch: 239th Battalion, Canadian Railway Construction Corps; 6th Canadian Railway Troops

Alfred was born on May 30, 1882 in London, England. He filed on a homestead at 23-76-3-W6. When he enlisted on July 7, 1916, Alfred wrote in his will that he bequeathed all his real estate to “some wounded returned soldier, who wishes to file on a homestead.” Towards the end of the war, he suffered severely from flat feet. Alfred died in Edmonton on August 26, 1963.

Soldier Spotlight: George Hawke Hiffernan

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 101471
Rank: Private
Branch: 8th Battalion

George was born in County Cork, Ireland on July 1, 1887. He came to the Peace country in 1914 to help put up telegraph line. George enlisted in Lake Saskatoon in October of 1915. He was wounded twice during the war; a gunshot wound to his left thigh in September of 1916 at the Somme, and once again to his left leg in May of 1917. George’s leg was fractured when he was shot the second time, and after it had healed, his left leg was about 2.5 inches shorter than the right. In his discharge papers, George stated: “I may say I have never received reparation for my mother, whom I can honestly say needs the money. Otherwise I am quite satisfied with everything. I am my mother’s sole support.” George married an Englishwoman from Bristol, who came to Canada on the first ship carrying civilians to North America after the Armistice. He died on August 10, 1973 in Victoria.