Friday, 25 November 2016

Ernest Leroy Cassel - Part Three

Ever since I've written blog posts about Randy's Great Uncle Ernie here and here, I've been searching for a picture of him and really didn't think it would be that hard.  I wrongly assumed that the government that recruited these young men to fight for their country would have had pictures taken and labelled with their names, to be able to identify them at least.  I was forgetting that photography was fairly new and likely costly in 1916 when Ernie enlisted on his 18th birthday, February 9th,  in Virden.  In my search, I have found some new details to add to his story but the gold star is the picture at the top of this post with Ernest Leroy Cassel in the middle!

The picture was sent to me from his niece Carol whose mother Illa was a younger sister of Ernie's.  The back of the picture shows it was a postcard that has been trimmed but I can only assume this was Ernie's handwritten message back home to his family. 

This link to an online book  at Peel's Prairie Provinces Library has given many more details about his group of 1025 men who formed the 226th Overseas Battalion nicknamed "The Men of the North" and "The Grizzly Bears".  They assembled in Camp Hughes in the early summer of 1916 and the panoramic picture below can be found in the Dauphin Legion, thanks to Don White for sending a photo of it.

This battalion was made up of  men with mostly agricultural backgrounds from all over rural Manitoba and   The book at Peel's says they 
...have the reputation of being physically superior to any battalion in Camp Hughes while their efficiency in physical training, bayonet fighting and musketry is considered equal to that of any other Battalion at camp... The prowess of the Battalion in this respect is evidenced by the fact that at the recent camp athletic meet they carried off the premier honors...
Apart from pay-day, "Visitor's Day" is the most eagerly looked for by every man in the Battalion , as that day invariably brings large numbers of welcome friends from all parts of the surrounding country.  In this the Battalion has become the envy of the camp and it is doubtful if any other battalion ever attained such popularity in Camp Hughes.  

That makes me wonder if his family (William and Agnes, Gertie, Russell, Pearl and Illa and Irene) was able travel the over 80 miles to visit him.  Ernie would have been part of the "C" Company along with other recruits from Virden, Neepawa and Glenboro and would have likely been in Platoon 9, 10, 11 or 12 but the quality of the pictures in this book make it next to impossible to pick him out.  I was advised by one helpful researcher to keep a look out for an original copy of the book, as they go on sale from time to time. 

The Nominal Roll of all the 226th shows three other recruits that Ernie may have grown up with - James Russell Grant (who lost an arm but made it home) and Robert Thomson from Elkhorn and Allan Gerald Nelson from Manson (who enlisted the same day and place as Ernie). 

On December 15, 1916, the 226th boarded the S.S. Olympic in Halifax and arrived in Liverpool on December 26th.  The Battalion was split up to fill in the ranks of other units and  he ended up in the 43rd Battalion.  Ernest Leroy Cassel paid the ultimate price of war at Passchendaele, and was laid to rest at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium

I am so glad to have a face to go with Ernie's story but am heartbroken when I think he was the same age as my own youngest son is now when this picture was taken and would only live a few months longer. We will remember him and all that his family sacrificed for us. 

Gertie Cassell Turner

Florence Gertrude Cassell was the first born daughter of William and Agnes in Frontenac County, Ontario near Kingston.  The Cassel family all lived fairly close together as is shown on her birth certificate online.  There are nine entries to a page and along with her, two of her cousins Eveline Keil and Clara Myrtle Butts were born in the same area within days of each other. In 1902 however, six year old "Gertie" as she was known, her parents and younger brother Ernie along with her grandfather John made the trip west to find  a homestead.

Her niece Ena tells me that Gertie taught herself to play piano by ear and that her brother Russell (Ena's dad) played the violin the same way. Sharing their musical talents would have been evening family entertainment before the days of TV.

At the age of 17, Gertie married 24 year old Gordon Mills Turner who had been born in Ontario in 1889 and moved to live and farm around the Miniota/West Two Creeks area.  Two years after their marriage on December 3, 1913, they moved to a farm at the top of the Miniota Hill.  The family grew over the years and they lived in Flin Flon for a time as well as in Elkhorn.  Gordon died in 1950. 

Back l-r - Ruby, Winnie, Ernie, Viney.  Gertie and Gordon in front
Children of Gertie and Gordon Turner
  • Ruby Lauretta (1915-1985) married Alan McClure - 2 daughters & 1 son
  • Ernest C. (1916-1944) married Tena Kirby - 1 daughter 1 son - Died in Holland in WW2
  • Lavina Agnes "Viney" (1919-2016) married Harry Reeves - 4 daughters & 1 son
  • Winnifred Jean "Winnie" (1921- 1996) married Wilfred Francis - 2 sons & 3 daughters

Cassell Siblings and their father on the right - late 30's

l-r Agnes and Merle Cassell, Gertie Turner, Pearl Gerow. - 1940's

Gertie lived next door to her father William after her husband's death and the picture above of her with her brother Russell and father may have been on his 80th birthday in 1951. She lived in Winnipeg for a time as well and the studio picture would have likely been taken a decade or so later.  Gertie died in Elkhorn on July 29, 1975.  

Gertie with her great nephews - the Boulton boys about 1960

Pearl Cassell Gerow

Thelma "Pearl" Cassell was born on June 13, 1906 on the family farm to parents William and Agnes. She grew up on the farm with Randy's Grandpa Russell who was three years older than her.  Pearl must have decided to make her way back east to her parents' families after she completed school because her marriage license from 1928 gives her residence as Napanee, ON.

At age 22 on August 8, 1928, she married Wilber "Grant" Gerow in Toronto at 22 Delisle Avenue according to their marriage registration found online at Ancestry. Grant was 39 years old and described as a machine operator who had been born in the nearby township of Fredericksburgh.  The newlyweds planned to make their home in Cleveland, according to the document.  Grant's father was Wilbur Freeman Gerow who was a cheesemaker and declares himself to be of French origin on the 1901 census.  His mother was Mary Maria Fraser and he had 4 older siblings - Frank, Allen, Olive and Donald. Grant left home to work in the U.S. in 1910 at the age of 20.

Grant and Pearl lived in Cleveland for 58 years but their nieces remember their annual driving trips back to Manitoba and area in the summers and driving around the streets of Elkhorn and waving to their friends from their Uncle Grant's fancy cars.

Merle Cassell with one of the Gerow cars
Isobel Cassell and Gerow's Cadillac 
Draft cards online from WW1 show Grant was working for the Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester New York in 1917 and for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland in 1942.  The 1930 and 1940 US Census list his occupation as a Pressman, operator of the printing presses for newspapers and other publishing companies. For many years they lived at 7309 Hough Avenue, just blocks from the Lake Erie shoreline.  Grant and Pearl did not have any children but they had his brother Donald Gerow's family nearby. Pictures below show Pearl and Grant and with Pearl's sister Gertie on the right in the 50's and 60's.

A few years after Grant's death in May of 1981, Pearl moved east to Elmira, New York where she died one day after her 90th birthday on June 14, 1996. She was the last remaining Cassell siblings.
Russell and Pearl in front of the  Cassell house in Elkhorn at 107 Kildare Street

Pearl and Russell Cassell - siblings and friends- pose for the camera, side by side over 80 years apart.

Illa Cassell Cooledge

Illa Mary Cassell was born on her parents William and Agnes's farm 14-13-28 north of Elkhorn on January 13, 1915.  Her elder sister Gertie was already married and gone at 19 years old, brother Ernie was 17 and about to enlist in WW1, Randy's Grandpa Russell was 12 years old and sister Pearl was 9.  Another girl Hazel "Irene" was born into the family a year after Illa, but died just short of her 6th birthday in 1922.  The picture below shows Irene on the left and Illa on the right and is perhaps the only photo of little Irene.   There are so many tragic stories in this generation of the family and another will be told in this post.

Illa with her mother Agnes in 1927
Illa attended school at nearby Jeffrey and West Two Creeks.  On September 29 in 1933, 18 year old Illa married Harold Cooledge.  Online information about Harold says he was born in Oshawa in 1901 and came west with his parents.  He was musical, played the banjo and entertained at local dances in the 20's and 30's.  He was manager at the Co-Op store in Kirkella when he met and then married Illa. Their first daughter Audrey Joan was born on April 27, 1935 and the family photos below would have been taken of the family of 3 in about 1937 and of 4 in front of their car in the fall of 1939.  Their second daughter Carol Anne kindly shared her pictures and clippings with me to help tell the incredibly sad ending to Illa's biography.

The Kirkella fire claimed another life on Wednesday last, January 31st, when Illa Mary beloved wife of Harold T. Cooledge, passed to eternal rest, in the Elkhorn nursing home.  Everything possible was done to save the life of the unfortunate young woman, but the injuries sustained in the fire were too great to remedy and a loving mother was called to join her five year old daughter who perished in the fire on Jan. 26th. The funeral took place from Elkhorn United Church on Sunday afternoon, February 4th the service being conducted by Rev. C. M. Bater of Fleming,  in the presence of sorrowing relatives and far more than 300 sympathizers from far and near.  Internment took place at Elkhorn Cemetery, the pall bearers being Wilfred Francis, Joe Ruddick, Ken Corbett, Archie Young, G.E. Bartley, Earl Frazer.  The many floral tributes silently spoke the sorrow and sympathy so widely expressed throughout the community.  Illa Mary Cooledge (Nee Cassell) was born on sec 14-12-28, north of the old Burnbank post office on January 13, 1914, she received her early education at Jaffray and Two Creeks schools and was a popular and well beloved girl at home and among the many friends with whom she grew up.  On Sept 29th, 1933 she married Harold Cooledge who survives her together with her infant daughter Carole Anne.  Other principal mourners are her aged father Mr. Wm. Cassell and one brother Russell of Elkhorn, also two sisters: Mrs. Gordon Turner, Flin Flon and Mrs. Grant Gerow, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.  To these the heartfelt sympathy of a host of friends goes out at this time of their great bereavement.   

A few years after, Harold remarried and lived in Hargrave as a storekeeper there for a time.  He later used his carpentry talents to make a living and lived in Fleming, SK.  Harold died in 1978 in Moosomin, Saskatchewan.  Sincere thanks to their daughter Carol for generously sharing her things with me to be able to tell this story.    

Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Sniders of Portland Township, Ontario

This blog post will give my current best guesses for the ancestors of Agnes Rebecca Snider who left her home in Ontario to move to Manitoba as written about here.  She married William George Cassel in 1893 and they had a family of 6 as detailed here. The first picture below was taken of her about 1895 and the second would be in 1927 with her granddaughter Merle on her knee.

 Agnes was the daughter of John B. Snider (1828-1921) and Rebecca Agnes Martin (1836-1917).  Both were born in Ontario and their families seem to have been there for a few generations although on the 1891 census, John claims his father (John Boyce Snider) was born in the U.S.  His ethnic origin is listed as German on the 1871 and 1881 census. 
Rebecca was the daughter of Elisha Martin(1799-1876) and Thankful (great name!) Babcock (1799-1864).  John and Rebecca and their two eldest sons were farming with Elisha and Thankful on the 1861 Census in a one story log house in Portland Township near Bellrock.  They continued to farm in the area and increase their family for the next 30 years and then lived with children who were farmers for their remaining years.  Agnes seems to be the only child I've found who moved far from home. The family of John B. and Rebecca Snider: 

  • Victoria (1853-?) - married Thomas Babcock 
  • Chester (1861-1948) - married Maggie
  • Gladwin (1862-1943) - married Carrie Grant
  • Emma Arthusa (1865-1951) - married James Meeks ** 
  • James Edgar aka Edward (1871-1948) - married Mary Thompson.  Their son J. E. Snider died in WW1.
  • Agnes Rebecca (1875-1930) married W.G. Cassel and moved to homestead in Manitoba in 1902 
  • Jacob B. Allen (1879-?) married Annette McCabe
**A granddaughter of Emma - Gwen Meeks Smith - had contacted the Cassells in 1984 as she was creating a family tree.  She was very involved in researching United Empire Loyalists and one connection seems to be through Rebecca Martin Snider's grandfather Amos Martin aka Amos Tanner.  I am still searching for the "small booklet" Gwen said in her letter that she wrote about the Snider family history. 
Thanks to her granddaughter Carol for this picture of Agnes 

There has to be a story to the "B" initial that John always used and it certainly made my job easier in finding him in the records.  There were many families in the area with the name but also some spelled "Snyder" and "Schneider".  This website shows a family crest and coat of arms and lists several Sniders who were Loyalists who may have been ancestors to our John B. Any further information about this family is most welcome in the comments below or by email ssimms"at"

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Norman Stanley Cassel - WW1 soldier and casualty

Photo from ancestry contributor dianadandrade
Norman Stanley Cassel was born September 4, 1895 to James "Jim" Cassel and the former Almeda Babcock.  He was the grandson of John Cassel which made him a nephew to William. His first cousin, Ernest Leroy Cassel lead a surprisingly parallel life to Norman and I wonder whether they were aware of each other.

The day after Norman was born near Sharbot Lake, Ontario, his two and a half year old sister Martha Adeline died of what is described as an inflammation of the lungs.  That could have been pneumonia or even an asthma like condition but of course no medicines existed to help cure either.  There were two older siblings and seven more were born to Jim and Almeda after Norman. On the 1901 census, the Cassel family are listed as farming in the Oso Township.

On December 19, 1915, Norman enlisted at Westport, ON and was given #835152.  His enlistment form declared he had been part of the 47th Regiment for 2 years previously so his prior experience would have made him a valuable recruit.  As a Private, Norman was sent to the 102nd Battalion of the Canadian Infantry.  All 76 pages of his file are available from the Library and Archives Canada website here.  It includes the details of his treatment for a sprained shoulder, a contusion, and tonsillitis over the next 2 years. In the summer of 1918, Norman was fined one day's pay for "losing government property by neglect".  Assigned pay of $15 a month was being sent back to his mother Almeda in Westbrook during his absence.

In one of the last battles of WW1 near Bourlon Wood in France, 23 year old Norman paid the ultimate price of war. The Canadian troops led by General Sir Arthur Currie were charged with capturing a hill as one of the final assaults on September 27, 1918.  The casualty report says:
While in a sunken road West of Bourlon Wood, he was hit in the head by a shell splinter and instantly killed.
 N. S. Cassel is buried 4 1/2 miles south of Cambrai at the Anneux British Cemetery with 1, 012 other soldiers from Canada, New Zealand and the UK. A video at this link shows the lonely cemetery. The inscription on his gravestone, chosen by his family, says
Our Loved Soldier
Sacrifice is Felt
Very Greatly
The Daily British Whig newspaper published in Kingston printed the following death notice in their November 22, 1918 edition.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Coburn and Fisher Family Connections

Thanks to Aunt Allie, these two pictures (from around 1880) of the further generation back of the Coburns help tell the story of their lives before the widow and her family came to Canada as detailed in this blog post 

Isabella Fisher on the left married James Coburn on December 19, 1879 at Welltrees Square in Maybole, Scotland.  The photo of James on the right may have been taken in front of his own home, the detail of the stone cottage behind him and his pocket watch is amazing to see.

Isabella was the daughter of Charles Fisher (1820-1895) and Mary Hodgeon (1813-1871).  Charles' professional was described as a Nailer, a blacksmith who made nails as was his father William (1790-1861) before him. On the marriage register below (which she signed with her "X"), Isabella is described as a 20 year old outdoor worker. Online trees on Ancestry say she had at least 9 siblings, some of which I think came to Canada as well. At least one brother visited her at her home in Crandall, Manitoba. The photo below was labelled - Uncle Willy Fisher 1917 and the story goes he died shortly after returning to Scotland from his visit to Canada.  His sister Isabella, in her thick Scottish brogue, was to have said "At least his bones will nae lie on these rocks".  Going home to be buried with their families must have been an impossible dream for many immigrants.

James Coburn was born on August 15, 1857 at Weaver's Vennel, a street now called Ladywell Road, in Maybole.  His parents were William Coburn (1826-1902) and Elizabeth Murray (1827-1902). An amazing online recollection of James' sister's son William Peden here tells that the grandfather William Coburn was big rugged red haired man who had come to Scotland from Ireland. His occupation was a drainer, digging ditches and laying tile and pipes to help create land for farming. 

This same website gives a poignant description of the death of Wee Tom, the son of Isabella "Bella" Coburn (sister to our James) and her husband David Peden in 1902.  Bella (1862-1959), David (1860-1950) and their 9 surviving children left Maybole in 1909 and David found work on the railway at Portage La Prairie.  He had been a shoemaker in Maybole as were the Coburn brothers.  I was so glad to find this website and especially during Remembrance Week with learning about the 5 Peden boys who enlisted in WW1 and of the two of them who were killed.

picture from ancestry contributor hughpeden
Back to our James Coburn in the photo at the top of this post, he was a Journeyman Blacksmith according to their marriage register. James died on the 11th of August in 1894 at the young age of 36, likely shortly after the picture at the top was taken.  Isabella and James' eldest son William (Bill) was 12 years old and the second son James was only 10. The boys would have been compelled to then leave school, and work alongside many of their neighbours in the shoe factories for their family to stay out of the poorhouse.  

This school class photo includes Bill, the tallest one in the back row.  Research on the photographer  Jas Armour finds he was in business in Glasgow from 1880-1894.  Glasgow is about 45 miles northeast of Maybole and I wonder if Bill attended a boys only school there but I would be surprised if the family could afford that. The smaller photo to the right is a group of young men likely taken just before Bill left for Canada in 1904. Bill is in the back row, second from the left. 

It must have been an agonizing decision to leave their homeland and families and I am sure they regretted it at times.  They continued to put one foot in front of the other however and hopefully passed on a bit of that determination and courage to their descendants.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

The Education of Agnes

Randy's maternal grandmother Agnes Coburn arrived in Canada from Maybole, Scotland at the age of 4 in 1907.  She grew up on a farm that her Uncle Bill rented just south and west of Crandall. Her family was recently written about in this post.  Agnes went to school in Crandall and she was found in the following pictures taken from the local history book written in 1971 called The Chronicles of Crandall

The bell on the tower in the first picture is part of the monument below to the school and pioneers in what is left of Crandall today.  The town was named for the Crandell family who homesteaded nearby but someone took liberty with the spelling of their name!

The grade 11 class of 1920 below seems to be decidedly female and each seems to be holding a gift, perhaps from the principal in the middle of the photo.  His name may be Willard Ervin Rife as found on the Manitoba Historical Society website here

She then attended the Portage La Prairie Normal School for 4 months from Nov 1920-Feb 1921.  I have not been able to find much about this school online but it seems it was held in Central School. (Picture from Manitoba Historical Society website)  She had an Aunt Bella (nee Coburn) and Uncle David Peden living in Portage so that's likely why she attended there. 
The following class picture includes 4 staff members, 3 males and 29 female teachers. The four month course prepared the candidates to finish the term as the green certificate below explains.  

The green certificate signed on March 21, 1921 above says:
This certifies that Agnes Coburn attended the Portage La Prairie Session of the Local Normal School commencing November 1920 and ending February 1921.  
1.That she received a satisfactory report on Conduct and Practical Teaching from the Principal.
2.  That she passed the Professional Examinations held at the close of the Session.
3.  That she having completed with all the required conditions is hereby licensed to teach until the thirtieth day of June 1921.  

Teacher certification records from Russell found records for me that confirm she taught at Jeffrey School (pictured below) near Willen in April of 1922 when the school inspector - W.R.B. said she was "Doing fair work".  Comments that September say "Methods somewhat original".  

On the 1921 Canadian Census, 18 year old Agnes Coburn was a lodger at the farm home of Thomas and Lavinia Caldwell at 22-13-28 in the RM of Archie with her occupation listed as teacher. Her future husband 18 year old Russell Cassel (pictured above with a horse) was listed a few miles away at 23-14-28 as an employee of farmer Alex Clayton Stewart and his wife Mabel Ann and family.

Agnes might have had to complete further studies or perhaps pass a school inspector's evaluation to receive the above Professional Third-Class Teacher's Certificate.  Department records show that in August 1923 she began teaching at Hesselwood School #913 just southeast of Oak Lake Beach.   Her file's comment at the end of that year dated May 9, 1924 says "Doing excellent work here.  Progress excellent."

It is hereby certified that Agnes Coburn has presented satisfactory evidence to the Advisory Board for the Province of Manitoba
1.  That she possesses a Grade XI Entrance to Normal Standing ("Diploma" crossed out)
2.  That she received the Professional Training required by the Regulations of the Board for a Third Class Certificate.
3.  That she is a person of good moral standard 
She is accordingly awarded this Professional Third Class Certificate which shall be valid as a license to teach until June 30, 1924 in any Public School District in Manitoba NOT receiving grants under the regulations governing Secondary Schools. 
(Crossed out - This Certificate is renewable for two years on the recommendation of the Inspector, providing the Reading Course Regulations have been complied with) 
Signed Andrew Moore registrar - Department of Education August 27, 1924.

This gorgeous photo of Agnes was in a cardboard frame that indicates it was taken at Weeks Studio in Brandon.  Education was obviously important to Agnes and to her family as well.  It was likely something that would have never been available to her in Scotland but one of the many benefits of making Canada her new home.  June 1924 seems to be the end of her formal teaching career but her next one as a wife, mother and grandmother was waiting for her.