Grand Manan and the Great War- (Part 7)

Part 7- Onward Christian Soldiers

 

            Before launching into this new installment, it is worth drawing attention to my entry in the previous article about Orlando Joy. Further research has revealed that Orlando served in the military police and as a stretcher bearer in the First World War battlefields of France. His obituary in the St. Croix Courier for Dec. 7, 1933, shows that he earned several service badges under fire but suffered “several minor shocks” which left him “unable to do heavy manual labour”. He died in Seal Cove on Nov. 27th leaving his wife, Victoria, and three daughters.

 

Rev. Henry Wilton Ievers

            When Rev. Henry Wilton Ievers arrived on Grand Manan in 1913 with his young family to assume responsibility for the Anglican Church of the Ascension in North Head, he never dreamt that he would get involved in the conflict to erupt in Europe a year later. Ievers was quite accustomed to island life since he spent a year or more as a missionary in the Magdalen Islands in 1908. By Dec. 1910, he was posted as a clerk missionary at St. John the Evangelist Church in Portneuf near Quebec City. Here he met and married Emma Pearl Bishop, the daughter of a papermaker from Harrisville, New York.

            The next two years saw his appointment to churches in the parishes of Harcourt and Welford, Kent County, N.B. By the time they reached Grand Manan, the Ievers had started a family with the arrival of a daughter, Ruth, in 1911, and Parkin in 1913, born in Portneuf. The new rector was arriving at a time when the Anglican community was very vibrant in North Head centred around the Church of the Ascension consecrated in 1885 and with the addition of the relatively new spacious Covert Hall in 1904. Combined with the Church of St. Paul in Grand Harbour, his duties covered the entire island ecclesiastical congregation. When their third child, Sydney, was born in May, 1914, the family was residing in the Harbour.

            Like many other young men on Grand Manan, Rev. Ievers got caught up in the patriotic fervour of the time and within a year took the ferry to Saint John where he enlisted in the 26th Battalion. It appears that Ievers did not enlist as a padre or chaplain as one might have expected but as a stretcher bearer on the battlefield in France. It was sometime in early May, 1916, after the vicious encounter at St. Eloi Craters, that Ievers was reported as wounded but news incorrectly reached his wife who was living then in St. Stephen that he had succumbed to his wounds. In stunned disbelief, over the following week she got encouraging feedback from overseas letters that this was not the case. Inquiries through military channels in Ottawa revealed that he suffered a shoulder wound and would soon return to active duty. (St. Croix Courier, May 25 and June 1, 1916)

            It is highly probable that like many others of his battalion, he may have also been exposed to the first gas attacks by the Germans. While we do not know whether he was finally discharged for medical reasons or fought through the rest of the war in France, it is apparent his wounds plagued him the rest of his days. By the summer of 1920, he and his family were living in Saint John. Sadly, his eight year old daughter, Ruth, contracted diphtheria in July and was dead within a few days. Henry Ievers is recorded as living on Sea Street, West Saint John, and a clerk in the Canadian Customs office; but obviously no longer a practicing priest. Perhaps the devastation of what he saw on the battlefield had shaken his faith or his debilitating wounds caused him to give up an active position in the church. Within seven short years of his child’s demise, Henry died on June 4, 1927, in the Lancaster Military Hospital from complications due to vascular heart disease. Since it was determined by military authorities that he died from injuries received from active service, he was accorded a burial in Fern Hill Cemetery covered by the Minister of National Defence. His widow and sons subsequently moved from Saint John to settle in Martinon, N.B.

Rev. James Clement Wilson

            The circumstances surrounding James Clement Wilson’s enlistment were shaped to a great extent by his family experience growing up on White Head. At the age of seven, Clem, as he was called met with the first of a series of tragic events when his father, Isaac, died unexpectedly in 1886 leaving his wife, Jane (Morse), to fend for the family. By the time of his father’s death, Clem had lost six siblings out of a total of ten children. It was perhaps in this period of the 1880s, when the small island was the centre of revival meetings by the Free Baptist Church lead by Rev. Joshua Barnes that he sought solace in the church. Influenced by a local convert, Rev. Irvine D. Harvey, Wilson was drawn to a life in the ministry sometime after his conversion in 1898.

            Ordained by the Free Baptist General Conference of New Brunswick in 1904 at Tracy Station, Clem went on to college preparatory work at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, Maine. Over the next year he earned a B.A. degree from the University of New Brunswick, and, a B.D. from Newton Theological Institution in Massachusetts in 1909. During this time, coming from humble beginnings, he found it necessary to augment his studies with pastoral duties in Beaver Harbour, Deer Island, and at his island home of White Head.

            By the time war was declared, Rev. Wilson had already served in a variety of locations across New Brunswick and New England. His appointments included Blissville-Patterson in Sunbury County; Victoria Corner, Carleton County; and, Gibson, York County; the latter location near Fredericton being where he met and married Myrtle A. Keith on August 9, 1905, daughter of Alonzo and Margaret Keith of Steeves Settlement, N.B.  Following two years of service at the Randall Memorial Free Baptist Church in Somerville, Mass., and, another two years at Chelmsford St. Free Baptist Church in Lowell, Mass., the Wilsons were called to the First Baptist Church in New Glasgow, N.S. Here they had their first and only child, Everett Keith, in 1913. In less than a year, the family was drawn to a parish in Doaktown and into the events of the coming conflict.

            According to his attestation papers Clement Wilson was already a member of the 73rd Northumberland Regiment when he applied on December 15, 1915. One of the earliest units to be put on active service, the 73rd initially took on local protective duties but then was recruited for the 132nd Battalion which had been authorized for overseas service on Dec. 22, 1915, as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. By May, 1916, Clem had reported to Saint John and embarked with the battalion on Oct. 26, 1916 as a Captain in the Canadian Chaplains Service(CCS).

            Upon their arrival in England the 132nd was broken up for purposes of reinforcing units depleted by massive casualties in the trench warfare. After arriving in France in March, 1917, they barely had time to become accustomed to this new type of fighting when they were thrown into the capture of Vimy Ridge. This devastating battle must have taxed the limitations and faith of padres and chaplains tending to the spiritual needs of the soldiers. Rev. Wilson was a member of a select group in the First World War whose total contingent numbered 524 members of the CCS during the entire conflict.

Without a detailed service record we do not know much about Clem’s overseas activities in the battlefield. Available records do not disclose when he was discharged and returned home but border customs documents show that he moved to Lynn, Massachusetts as early as July, 1919, to take up a new church. Myrtle and Everett joined him later in November and over the next decade Clem ministered to a new congregation. However, sometime after the spring of 1930 he was absent from the state census because his wife and son are the only persons listed as now living in Norwood, Mass. For reasons unknown Clem returned to Grand Manan before 1940 and assumed a position in the post office at North Head. From March, 1944 to January, 1950, he officially became Postmaster until his retirement.

One wonders if the exposure to the savagery of the war had a profound and lasting effect on Clem which taxed his faith and family. He died on November 1, 1966 and is buried near his parents in the White Head Cemetery.

 

 

Sources:

Library and Archives Canada

New Brunswick Provincial Archives Vital Statistics

Ancestry.com

St. Croix Courier, St. Stephen

St. Andrews Beacon

MacPhie, Rev. J.P. Pictonians At Home and Abroad: Sketches of Professional Men and Women of Pictou County. Pinkham Press, Boston, 1914.

Ingersoll, L.K., “The Rich and the Lean Years, 1906-39”, Grand Manan Historian , No. XV, 1971.

http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/005/f2/005-1142.29.014-e.pdf

http://www.warmuseum.ca

http://www.ancestry.ca

http://www.1914.org

 

I can be reached directly through the Island Times or readers can visit my recently launched web site to commemorate Grand Manan and the Great War at; www.grandmananfundyhistory.com , or, at roger.nason@gmail.com.