Grand Manan and the Great War (Part 16)


Ernest Burton Ingalls

            For at least a decade before the declaration of war in 1914, a number of Grand Manan fishermen and their families made regular annual treks to the upper reaches of the Bay of Fundy to Baie Verte, Bayside, and Port Elgin in Westmorland County. They astutely recognized that fish stocks arrived earlier on the North Shore than in the Bay of Fundy. Therefore many island herring producers would leave for a three month period starting in March. Over the years and as late as the 1930s, dealers and producers like Judson Guptill, H. Roy Guptill, Allan Cossaboom, J. Edgar Cook, John Cook, Charles Moran and Charles Ingalls worked in that region and even acquired ownership in fish operations.

According to the Spring, 1911 census, Ernest Burton Ingalls and brothers Harry and Walter resided in Baie Verte with their older brother, William and his young bride, Della (Middleton). In the same household they were joined by William (Billy) Kiscadden and his wife, Mabel (Ingersoll) from Woodwards Cove. Possibly these people were among many who took advantage of this seasonal migration when economic times were slow on Grand Manan at the beginning of the decade. Likely for the Ingalls family it was an opportunity to capitalize on their father’s fish business in Grand Harbour. Irwin Ingalls had pursued commercial fishing, processing and freighting of smoked product since the 1880s. By 1900 he took on a greater role in the community as a fish dealer and merchant. By April, 1900, he purchased the share of Charles Edward King in McLaughlin Bros. business in Baie Verte. (St. C.C. 12 April 1900)

Thus, it comes as no surprise in January 1916 when Ernest enlisted as a volunteer from his residence in Baie Verte. Subsequently he returned to Grand Manan where he undertook his medical exam and was declared fit to enlist in the 1st Depot Battalion. Few details are yet known about his activities overseas without his service record which should be available in digitized form from Library Archives Canada in 2015. Having survived the war, Ernest returned to Grand Harbour where he assisted his father, Irvin, in the family store. Following a successful career as a master mariner in the coasting trade and as a fish dealer, the elder Irvin settled into the merchant business with the help of his son, Austin Leroy Ingalls.

Ernest eventually moved to Saint John in the 1930s after he married Mary Ethel Kierstead, daughter of Arthur and Arabella Kierstead from Colina Kings County. He attracted a job as a dock worker and in the 1950s was employed by Fraser-Brace Engineering, a terminal construction company in Saint John.

Owen David Ingalls

While Owen Ingalls may have been prompted by patriotic fervour sweeping the Island in 1915-6 when many young men volunteered for service in the 115th Battalion, there may been more practical reasons when he signed up on January 14, 1916. At just eighteen with a trim build standing five foot, eight and a half inches tall, this young man was probably influenced in part by other friends and relatives from Grand Harbour like his cousin, Carl Ingalls, who joined up at the same time to participate in the “great game”. Like other families across the county, he may have seen enlistment as an economic opportunity to join a force which offered a sure source of income when the local fishery was suffering a downturn. In Owen’s case, his mother, Evelyn (Blackwood), was left a young widow at age thirty-six with four boys when her husband, Charles Napier Ingalls suddenly died on Mar. 15, 1900. This often meant that the children had to support the family from an early age. Even by 1911, Wesley, Harley, Owen, and their half brother, Edwin Cheney, lived with and supported their mother. The situation was further complicated for their mother with the added burden of caring for Edwin who was a paraplegic from childhood.

Thus, it is not surprising that instead of fishing and farming, military service for Owen insured a continuing allowance for his mother while he was performing his duty. He became one of nineteen in all who left Grand Manan in early 1916 for Saint John and on to Camp Valcartier in Quebec for further training before their official departure to England and the front lines in France. Just before Christmas, 1915, the Courier reported that Owen and fellow battalion member, Walter Cronk, arrived by ferry from Saint John for a few days of leave before boarding a train for Valcartier. (Dec. 16)

 For Owen, the anticipated voyage across the Atlantic with his comrades in the 115th was cut short when he contracted tuberculosis, which was not uncommon in the conditions of the crowded camps. According to Russell Ingalls, his grandson, he spent several weeks in the care of the military hospital at Valcartier. Subsequently, his weakened condition resulted in a medical discharge and journey back to the Island. Misfortune struck again on May 13 when his brother, Harley, suffered an attack of measles and within six days succumbed to its effects and died at age twenty-three. In some way, their mother Evelyn must have been relieved to find that Owen had returned home to support his family. In the 1921 census, he still resided with his mother and brothers but within two years he married Roberta Georgina Cary Wooster, daughter of Howard Turner and Margaret Elizabeth (Cary) Wooster on May 21, 1923.


Ernest James Ingalls

Just as Owen found himself back on Grand Manan by the summer of 1916, devastating news arrived that his cousin, Private Ernest James Ingalls, had died in military action in France in July, 1916. What made this report in the July 20th issue of The Courier so heart wrenching was that it was not immediately true.  Although he had been severely wounded at the Battle of Ypres, Ernest survived to be sent to the Canadian military hospital at Shorncliffe, England. It was while there that his condition deteriorated into pneumonia from which he succumbed on Oct. 11th, 1916. Burial followed in the Shorncliffe Garrison Cemetery.

Ernest, the younger of two children of Coleman C. and Eliza (McDonald) Ingalls, was born in Grand Harbour on Oct. 8, 1896. He became one of the first volunteers to step up for enlistment on September 29th, 1915, at age eighteen. After initially taking his medical exam on the Island, he and seventeen other young men from the other villages across the island sailed for Saint John where they were issued uniforms and began formal training. Within a month Ernest and fellow recruit, Ronald Carson earned a short leave to return home to visit friends and family before setting off for intensive training at Valcartier, Quebec. Assigned to the 14th Battalion, it is difficult to know if he and Owen ever crossed paths before his departure for England. Note: The nominal roll for the 55th Battalion shows that Ernest probably trained up in this unit at enlistment in Amherst and was later transferred to the 14th.

Based on the events of 1916 involving the Canadian Corps in Belgium, it seems likely Ernest received his wounds during action following the Second Battle of Ypres. By the summer the Canadians were in control of the southern portion of the salient and faced counterattacks by German forces to capture this last remaining piece of high ground. In recapturing this lost ground around Mount Sorrel, the Corps suffered nearly 8,000 casualties. Likely it may have been in this major battle that Ernest sustained wounds that forced his evacuation to the military hospital at Shorncliffe near Folkestone, England, and lead to his fatal end.

Note: Leonard Ingalls, great nephew of Ernest James Ingalls, has posted several photos in an earlier edition of the Island Times.


Library and Archives Canada

St. Croix Courier, St. Stephen

Interview with Russell Ingalls, grandson of Owen Ingalls

Interview with Allison Ingalls, great nephew of Ernest Burton Ingalls