Soldier Spotlight: Leading Seaman Alexander Swanson

Image: HMCS Bayfield was a minesweeper which patrolled the east coast from Boston to Halifax, dragging the ocean waters for mines planted by German U-boats. 1942 (SPRA 264.02)

Regimental Number: B 2869
Rank: Leading Seaman
Branch: Royal Navy

Alexander was born in Sangomore, Scotland on February 13, 1877. He began working as a fisherman at the age of 14, and joined the Royal Navy reserve in 1893 at the age of 16. On January 15, 1909, Alexander married Mrs. Swanson in Burghead, Scotland. During World War I, Alexander served on a minesweeper. He was on patrol duty in the Atlantic for some time; though he saw only very little of Canada during this time, it was enough to “file away for future reference.” After a few more years in the difficult life of a a fisherman, Alexander, his wife, and their children decided to move to Canada. They arrived in the South Peace in 1926, and filed on LT 2-77-5-W6 in 1930. He later abandoned this homestead, but purchased two other quarters that he farmed until 1950 – his 73rd birthday. His son took over the farm then, though Alexander and his wife continued to help on the farm until into their 80s. Alexander died in 1966.

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

Lewis Love Letters

Image: Portrait of the Dick Lewis family: Freddie, Dick, Ursula, Cathy. 1953 (SPRA 195.01.19)

“As I’ve told you before, you’ve always sort of been my dream girl.  From the first night I met you I found there was something about you that was irresistible.  If I were to call you up in about six months time, do you suppose you’d go for a walk with me through Stanley Park?”

These were Richard “Dick” Lewis’s words to Ursula Walker when he wrote to her from Holland on May 10, 1945, shortly after the Allied victory in Europe.

Dick and Ursula had met in the summer of 1941 at a dance in Vancouver, where Dick was stationed with the Royal Canadian Air Force.  When Ursula went to work in Penticton the following summer, the two began a lively correspondence.  It did not take Dick long to realize that he had met the girl of his dreams, and in his letters he made no secret of the fact that he was smitten.

In a letter dated June 23, 1942, Dick proposed to Ursula for the first time.

“You know, I do think an awful lot of you, and even though I have known you a comparatively short time, feel I do know you well.  After this war is over, I would like to talk you into a life-time job.  Is there any chance?  Believe me, you are the only one I have ever talked thus to.”

Ursula, only seventeen at the time (Dick was twenty-six), was less certain, and turned down the proposal.  They continued to correspond, however, as Dick went overseas to serve with the RCAF.

Three years later, after the war ended, Dick returned to Canada.  After not having seen each other for so long, neither was entirely sure how they felt about the other.  As Dick wrote to Ursula on August 7, 1945:

“You say you don’t know exactly how you feel towards me.  I suppose to be quite fair, it is difficult to know.  I’m not exactly sure myself but I think I know and I do want the chance to find out for both of us.”

On October 22, 1945, Dick arrived on Quadra Island, British Columbia, where Ursula was spending two months of rest. As a nursing student, she had been stationed on the tuberculosis ward and had contracted an infection.  They spent two weeks together, taking the opportunity to get acquainted once again after the years apart.

Evidently, Dick found that Ursula was still his “dream girl” and the woman with whom he wanted to share his life, for he proposed the very day of his arrival. Ursula needed more time to be sure of her own heart, but before Dick left on November 5, she said yes.

November 6, 1945

My dearest sweetheart,

I know it is late but I just can’t go to bed without telling the most wonderful girl in the world how much I love her… Thank you so much, Ursula darling, for saying “yes” before I left you; it means more to me than anything else in the world.  I am missing you awfully, darling, but there is such a feeling of comfort to know that you are there and that you love me…

Twenty-eight of the letters Ursula and Dick exchanged during their five month engagement are housed at the archives.  These letters, as well those written during the war years, have been digitized and transcribed.

This article was originally featured in the March 2018 issue of Telling Our Stories.

Ursula Walker by Okanagan Lake, 1942. Dick carried this photograph with him during his time overseas, 1942-1945 (SPRA 195.01.05)

Dick Lewis, 1942 (SPRA 195.01.07)

Richard Lloyd French Lewis married Doreen Ursula Walker April 4, 1946. (SPRA 195.01.08)

Soldier Spotlight: Ray Carleton

Image: Bird’s eye view of Hythe, Alberta seen from the south-west in 1929. The Donald Hotel is on the far right. 1929 (SPRA 610.01.20)

Ray was born in Keremeos BC, the son of Ben and Ellen Carleton, and one of 8 siblings. The family moved to Saskatchewan in 1922 where they farmed. The drought hit in the late 20’s, so they moved to the Goodfare AB area and continued farming in 1929. They left the area in 1935 and returned to Keremeos where Ray settled. In 1940 he joined the Canadian Armoured Corps and was posted overseas. According to Ray, he had some “harrowing experiences” while being a Prisoner of War. Fortunately he was able to escape, and he was awarded the “Oak leaf and Cluster” for being the most escaped POW. After the war, Ray married Gertie Stevens from Hythe, the daughter of Charlie Stevens. On December 4, 1946 he received a citation for distinguished service. Ray’s brother Lloyd also served overseas in WW II.

Source: Pioneer Round-Up pp. 70-71

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

Soldier Spotlight: Private Albert Allard

Image: Medical case notes from Albert’s military service file (Library & Archives Canada)

Regimental Number: 26402
Rank: Private
Branch: 21st Reserve Depot Battalion; 14th Battalion

Albert Allard was born on April 25, 1894 in St. Roch L’Achigan, Quebec. He came to Donnelly, Alberta in 1914 and filed on a homestead at NE 1-78-21-5. On April 23, 1915, Albert was on a ration party at Ypres when a shell burst close to him, knocking him down. He was not rendered unconscious, but his shoulder was injured. He was invalided to England to be treated for various injuries/illnesses, including shell-shock. On May 4, 1915, his Medical Case Sheet read: “much improved, but not really well.” Three months later, he was 16 pounds lighter than his usual weight, and his shoulder was still somewhat stiff. But worst of all, he was in a very nervous condition, “his whole being quivering all the time.” He was sent back to Canada in August, 1915 because of nervous shock. After the war, he sold his land to Dr. Gauthier and returned to Montreal. It is unknown whether he was ever able to recover.

Sources: By the Peavine in the Smoky of the Peace p. 99, 166

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

Behind the Name: Alexander Forbes

Image: Dr. & Mrs. Forbes in front of their first home, which was both the Presbyterian manse and the first hospital. Nurse Baird can be seen at the window. 1912 (2001.01.213)

This is part three of a six-part blog series featuring some of the individuals for whom Grande Prairie schools are named.

Alexander Forbes was born in St. Nicholas, Aberdeen, Scotland on February 17, 1860 and was the oldest of 8 children. He attended the University of Aberdeen, at which time he decided to become a foreign missionary. He originally hoped to serve in Africa, but went to Western Canada instead. He also studied at King’s College, Aberdeen, and the Free Church College. While studying at King’s College, Alexander taught singing at the Sea Bank House for fallen women, where Agnes Sorrel worked. In 1891, Agnes and Alexander became engaged.

In 1894, Alexander immigrated to Canada, landing in Nova Scotia. Although his listed destination was Winnipeg, he was soon sent to Edmonton. Agnes followed in 1895, arriving in Montreal and journeying to Edmonton, where they were married by Dr. D. G. McQueen.

Reverend and Mrs. Forbes did missionary work in Fort Saskatchewan for fifteen years. They came to the Peace country in 1909 to survey the feasibility of sending a missionary to the area and in 1910, in the absence of any other volunteers, decided to come themselves, serving as missionaries to the Peace River district and Grande Prairie in particular.

The Forbes travelled by caboose over the Long Trail to reach Grande Prairie, a winter journey that took them 73 days. In their travelling party were members of the Argonaut Company, which was the development company responsible for laying out the Grande Prairie townsite.

The Forbes first lived in shack provided by the Cliffords on their homestead at Flying Shot Lake. This building and the Forbes’ caboose also served as a pioneer hospital.

Grande Prairie’s first Presbyterian Church service was held at Mr. Smith’s shack in June 1910 with a congregation of seven. Services were also conducted at Bear Lake, Beaverlodge, and occasionally Spirit River. The first church building was erected in 1911 on the eastern banks of Bear Creek. There were Presbyterian churches later built at Spring Creek, Glen Leslie, and Bezanson. Services were also held at Clairmont, Sexsmith, Kleskun Lake, and occasionally Sturgeon Lake.

In the fall of 1910, Alexander filed on a homestead bordered by today’s 100 Avenue, 100 Street, 108 Avenue, and 96 Street. The first building on the homestead was the pioneer hospital, built in 1911. The Forbes later built an adjoining home, Montrose House. This building is still on its original site on what is now 96 Street.

In October of 1911, Alexander was elected trustee of the Grande Prairie School Board. Montrose School was later located on their land and named for Agnes’ home in Scotland. A new, larger hospital facility was constructed in 1914 to replace the Pioneer Hospital at the Forbes’ house. The Kathryn Prittie Hospital was located on the Forbes homestead near the railroad tracks.

Agnes died in her sleep in August 1917 and is buried in the Grande Prairie Cemetery. Alexander carried on the work of the church after her death.  He remarried in 1921 to Miss Christine Smith, a nurse.

In 1925, the issue of church union between the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Congregational denominations was raised in the Grande Prairie congregation, as it was across the country. A meeting was called to decide whether or not the congregation would remain Presbyterian or become United. The vote for union passed, creating St. Paul’s United Church. Reverend Forbes accepted a call to the Presbyterian church in Teeswater and Belmore, Ontario, where he served for the next seven years. His final church was in Sutton and Mount Pleasant. He retired in 1936 and lived in Toronto. After death of Christine in 1944, he moved to Paris, Ontario, where he died in 1945.

You may view the Alexander and Agnes Forbes Finding Aid here.

Rev. Alexander Forbes, ca. 1910 (1994.58.02a)

Soldier Spotlight: Sergeant Thomas Burrows

Image: Thomas Burrows, 1939 (SPRA 2005.094.03)

Regiment: R. C. A. M. C. 4th Casualty Clearing Station
Regiment No.: M25812
Rank: Sergeant

Thomas Burrows, born in 1911, arrived in Canada from Glasgow, Scotland in 1927 with his father, Robert Burrows, step-mother, Mary (Pollock) Burrows, and his siblings. The family started farming in the Glen Leslie district, near Bezanson AB. Before the Second World War, Thomas worked on the farm, and for local farmers in Bezanson. He also homesteaded for 3 years in the Fitzsimmons district.

On September 9, 1939 Thomas joined the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps. He was then stationed overseas on January 25, 1940. Due to medical reasons, he was sent home to Edmonton. Diagnosed with lip cancer, he received treatment in England. Thomas returned to Edmonton on February 26, 1941 and then worked at Prince of Wales Armories. After that, he was in Suffield AB at an Experimental Station for 4 ½ years. Thomas was discharged in Calgary on October 1, 1945. Six more of his siblings also served in the war.

Thomas married Vera Rees of Edmonton. Moving back north, the couple farmed in the Crystal Creek district. (Between Bezanson and Grande Prairie.) Then they returned to Edmonton where Thomas worked for the government. He retired in 1975, and they moved to Ladysmith BC, where he passed away 2 years later at age 66. Thomas and Vera had 10 children.

Source: Smoky River to Grande Prairie pp. 422 and 448
AGS Website – Obituary Index
SPRA Family Reference Files – written by Helen Burrows Horrigan, including photo
Source: Smoky River to Grande Prairie pg. 422

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

Soldier Spotlight: Private Benjamin Gray

Image: Log house of B. T. and J. S. Gray. Crooked Creek, Alberta, August 16, 1933. Photographed by W. D. Albright. (SPRA 362.02.13.45)

Regimental Number: 160810
Rank: Private
Branch: 82nd Battalion

Benjamin was born in Wingham, Ontario on November 7, 1888. He was a furniture dealer when he enlisted in the Canadian army in 1915. At that time he was residing in Bassano, Alberta with his wife Matilda. He joined the Nova Scotia Machine Gun section and went overseas with the 82nd Battalion from Calgary and later was transferred to the 25th Nova Scotians. Benjamin was injured on April 9, 1917 at Vimy Ridge. He was shot on his right side shattering a part of his arm and breaking two ribs. He was transported to a hospital where he was treated; the wounds healed but the bones in his arm did not and he eventually was sent back to Canada. There they continued to work on his arm. He had an operation but the bones would not mend and in 1918 they amputated his arm. Benjamin settled in the Clarkson Valley and DeBolt district a few miles east of Crooked Creek and was known for the wonderfully constructed buildings on his farm. His homestead was located at S1/2 19-75-9-W6. Benjamin farmed and for a short time had a store on the farm. He opened the store on June 15, 1934. Benjamin died at the age of 58 on September 4, 1938.

Sources: Tales, Trails & Gumbo p. 449

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

Pressing Concerns: Flower Specimens in Archival Records

Image: The garden at the Clough home at Sturgeon Lake. Mr. Sutcliffe, the gardener, was also a forest ranger. (SPRA 175.028.04)

Archival records contain traces of the past, in more ways than one. The practice of pressing flowers as a form of scientific study or art has existed for centuries. In Archives, these organic materials can offer both a pleasant surprise and preservation challenge.

By the time they arrive in the Archives, most pressed flowers are extremely delicate and at risk of deterioration. Rarely, they may pose additional risks to accompanying documents by staining paper, retaining moisture, or even harbouring pests. Therefore, in some cases, we remove these specimens to be stored separately from the original document. Each collection is assessed by our Archivist and handled on an case-by-case basis to ensure its preservation.

When Olwen Sanger-Davies documented her journey from England to the South Peace in 1933, she collected plant specimens and placed them alongside her notes, photographs, and paintings. Climbing Sulphur Mountain in Banff, Olwen wrote: “up & up we wound getting marvelous peeps of the valleys & finding various new flowers, green orchids & a small pink lady slipper orchid, & also nice bits of the Rocky Mountains.” She included three pressed flowers, demonstrating the species she encountered.

In the case of Olwen’s scrapbooks, all pressed flowers were removed for preservation. First, a digitization specialist carefully scanned each page of the scrapbooks, maintaining the flowers in their original position. Then our Archivist gently removed each specimen, marking their location with pencil to document the removal. The flowers are now stored in acid free envelopes, labelled with their original location. Archival-quality scans ensure future users can view the scrapbooks in their original form, while separation ensures their mutual preservation.

Despite the challenges they pose, pressed flowers are a valuable addition to archival records. They can mark a moment of engagement between records, their creators, and users. They can contribute to a historical record of vegetation in a specific location. They can be admired for their beauty and studied for their botanical knowledge. Pressed flowers are treasures for future generations to discover.

This article was originally featured in the June 2019 issue of Telling Our Stories.

Soldier Spotlight: Alfred Cecil Carder

Image: Farmstead at Beaverlodge Experimental Station showing house, gardens, barn and windmill, 1928 (SPRA 107.60)

Rank: Private
Force: Canadian Army

Born in Calgary on April 20, 1910, Al Carder was the fourth of 5 children of John and Harriet Carder. He grew up in the farm area of Cloverdale, BC, and as a young boy was fascinated with plants. In 1935 he had earned his BA and BSc from the University of British Columbia, and found employment at the Experimental Station in Beaverlodge, AB. When the war broke out, he joined the Canadian Army in 1941, and became a private with the Light Anti-Aircraft Division. Mostly he was shooting down enemy planes. Discharged in 1946, Al returned to work in field husbandry at Beaverlodge, later working in forage crop and weed control. Taking a leave from the Experimental Station, he earned his MSc from McGill University in 1948. In 1950 he met his future wife, Mary Elizabeth Wedd Tidman. They were married in 1954 in her hometown of Petersfield, England, and returned to Beaverlodge. The Carders had 3 children who were born there: Judith, Mary-Clare, and Andrew. Also in 1954, Al earned his PhD from University of Wisconsin, and concentrated his studies in the new science of agro-climatology, and his research was on plant responses to climate effects. He received the Canada’s Centennial Medal from the Canadian Department of Agriculture. Al and Mary moved to Cordova Bay (near Victoria BC) in 1970. In his retirement, Al was active in hiking, building a cottage, and doing more research. He wrote and published books about giant trees, and was bestowed the Ancient Forest Alliance’s Forest Sustainability Award. Mary passed away in 2008, and Al died on December 21, 2014, in Victoria at the age of 104.

Source: Family and Personal Life Reference files – GP Archives
Beaverlodge to the Rockies pp. 91-92

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

Soldier Spotlight: Lieutenant Delmar Pratt

Image: Group men in front of Selkirk Trading Company includes: Ike Nelson (young man at the door with white shirt and tie), Alex Wishart driving the team, Delmar Pratt sitting beside Mr. Wishart. (Could be Tom Paul in back of the wagon) 1915 (SPRA 024.01.09.57)

Regimental Number: 467208
Rank: Lieutenant
Branch: 63rd Battalion; 5th Reserve Battalion; 15th Reserve Battalion

Delmar was born on August 2, 1889 in Carleton County, Ontario. In 1913 he came to the South Peace and filed on NE 12-71-6-W6 (after the war, he also filed on SE 20-71-4-W6). In addition to homesteading, he worked in the Grande Prairie post office. Delmar enlisted in the RNWMP in August 1914. In September of 1915, he enlisted in the Canadian army. Delmar was wounded in action three times. In September of 1916, he received a gunshot wound to the head and a shell wound to his nose. At Vimy Ridge on April 10, 1917, he received gunshot wounds to his right arm and left wrist; there were four or more pieces of metal in his arm. On September 27, 1918 he received shrapnel wounds to the head. Delmar was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous bravery in March of 1919. In December of 1920, Delmar married Mabel Lucille McCordick in his hometown in Ontario. The couple returned to Grande Prairie after the wedding. Delmar died of a heart attack on February 26, 1959.

Sources: Pioneers of the Peace p. 291-292; check database for clippings

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.