Copy of application for Canadian Old Age Pension was a great source of information about grandfather E.E.L. “Ted“ Dewdney

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by Sam McBride

A document that has been very valuable to me as family historian is my maternal grandfather Ted Dewdney`s application for Old Age Pension in 1951, with payments to begin in 1952.

This was well before the age of photocopying, so he just filled out the application with signatures twice, and kept one copy as reference in case there were problems in receiving pension payments. Also perhaps as a model for his wife Helen subsequently applying for her OAP.

first page of Ted Dewdney pension application
insert in OAP application including details of Ted Dewdney`s transfers by his employer Bank of Montreal
final page of Dewdney OAP application

As a history-minded fellow, he may also have thought his descendants might be interested to see where he lived and worked over the years. He moved several times as a boy, as his father Walter received appointments as provincial agent and gold commissioner in the Fraser Valley and Okanagan regions of B.C. He began a 43-year career with the Bank of Montreal in Victoria a month before his 17th birthday in 1897, and retired as BMO branch manager in Nelson in the West Kootenay region of southeastern B.C. in 1940.

Pics here are of him as a young bank clerk, and more than half a century later holding me as a baby, a few months before his death in Nelson in July 1952.

I doubt that application forms of other Canadians in that era would have been kept by the government after the person died, but perhaps they were, and could be a valuable source of information on ancestors for other family historians.

If nothing else, the design and content of the OAP application form reflect the deep concern the government had that someone might claim the pension who did not meet the residence criteria. Also interesting to see the line in French in very small print at the end of the document — a far cry from the fully bilingual government forms of the current era.

Ted Dewdney holding baby grandson Sam McBride in late 1951, about the time he applied for Old Age Pension

Here are some other photos of Ted and his relatives over the years.

Ted with his family in about 1925 in Rossland. From left: son Peter, wife Helen Peters, daughter Dee Dee, and daughter Eve.
Ted (right) with older sister Rose and older brother Walter, September 1891, Vernon, BC
Ted with daughter Dee Dee in front of 820 Stanley Street house in Nelson, BC, 1942.
Ted in his office at the bank in Nelson, in about 1938.

Ted with a bank colleague, in about 1898.

Looking forward to a new Kaslo Library!

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By Sam McBride

I am a big fan of libraries, and also a big fan of the small, but vigorous and amazingly scenic, community of Kaslo, on the west coast of Kootenay Lake in southeastern British Columbia.  That is why I am a strong supporter of the campaign to build a new Kaslo Library in downtown Kaslo to better serve the needs of the community for years to come.

In my ongoing research into my family tree, as well as my continuing interest in general stories of West Kootenay history, I often visit the existing Kaslo Library, which has a Local History section second to none in the region.   But it is obvious that they are cramped for space in aging quarters, which restrict the library’s ability to put on programs and special events in response to community needs.

Downtown Kaslo site currently reserved for a new Kaslo Library. Hard to beat the magnificent setting, and handy location across from the Kaslo Hotel, and between Front Street Park and the Post Office. The kiosk has a selection of books, as well as information on the library proposal.

The project has secured a terrific site for the new library.  It is right where the action is on Front Street, in land next to the Post Office, and across from the Kaslo Hotel and Front Street Park.  Details of the new Kaslo Library are at https://kaslo.bc.libraries.coop/new-library-project.

I am looking forward to participating in the big fund-raising Auction coming up in the last week of April.  I will be offering 10 hours of my service as a genealogist and family historian, as one of the items up for bidding in the auction.  I offer expertise from 30 years of experience of family history writing and research, as well as full subscription access to the records of Ancestry.com, Newspaper.com, ancestryDNA,  and other sources.  As a fourth-generation resident of the West Kootenay region, I regularly make postings in Facebook groups devoted to nostalgia and history.  For information on the auction — http://charityauction.bid/kdplFundraiser.

Here are other photos I took recently of the site for the new library, which now has a kiosk with books as well as illustrations and details of the new library.

View of the site looking back to the historic Langham Hotel

I started this www.thebravestcanadian.com blog in 2011 to help in communications associated with my book “The Bravest Canadian: Fritz Peters, VC, DSO, DSC and bar, RN — the Making of a Hero of Two World Wars” that was published in 2012 by Granville Island Press. After the marketing campaign for the book concluded, I have continued to do postings in the blog on family history and local history, which in my case tend to intersect over time.

The Finglands of California related to Dewdneys of West Kootenay are likely also related to the pioneer miner the Fingland Cabin in Silverton is named after

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By Sam McBride

I have long been curious about a possible family connection between my uncle John Archibald “Jack” Fingland (1907-1997) and the historic Fingland Cabin in Silverton, which is just south of New Denver, and about 20km from the mining ghost town of Sandon where Jack was born. 

The information I have from family files is that Jack’s father John James Fingland (who was also known as Jack, as well as JJ, born in Hawick, Roxburgh, Scotland  in 1878 and died in Trail, BC in 1945) came from Scotland with wife Ethel Andrew (1880-1962) and young daughter Dorothy (born in Spain where her father was working in July 1902) to Sandon in 1906, where he established an assaying business.  The family was in Sandon for a short while before moving to Kaslo, and then to Trail in 1917 where JJ Fingland worked for the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company (abbreviated as CM&S, later known as Cominco and now Teck), rising in the company to be superintendent of refineries. 

In the early 1920s, the father John Fingland built a house for his family at 102 Ritchie Avenue in Tadanac, which was later the home for many years of Eve’s brother Peter Dewdney and his wife Maxine and family.

obituary in the Trail Times newspaper of February 5, 1945

In the 1920s son Jack studied mining engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, where he was captain of the Bears hockey team.  After returning to the Kootenays for mining work Jack met my mother’s older sister Evelyn Mary Lawrence “Eve“  Dewdney (1913-2002).  They married in Nelson in 1933, and settled in Kimberley where Jack worked for CM&S.

Eve was born in Vernon in 1913, and moved with her family to Greenwood, New Denver, Rossland, Trail and then Nelson as her father E.E.L. “Ted” Dewdney (nephew of the trail-builder Edgar Dewdney) was transferred by his employer, the Bank of Montreal.  Her mother was Mary Helen Peters (born in Charlottetown, PEI in 1887 and died in Trail, BC in 1976) who was a daughter of Frederick Peters (1852-1919) and Bertha Hamilton Susan Gray (1862-1946).  The family lived in quarters above the BMO bank in New Denver when Ted was branch manager there between 1916 and 1920.  In May, 1917 son Frederic Hamilton Bruce “Peter“ Dewdney was born in New Denver.  Then in Rossland in June 1924 the third and last child, my mother Rose Pamela “Dee Dee“ Dewdney was born. 

John James Fingland, assayer in Sandon and Kaslo and later Cominco executive in Trail. Family photo.

After retiring from CM&S JJ Fingland moved to Victoria, where he died at age 67 in 1945.  In the early 1950s my uncle Jack, aunt Eve and their children Suzanne, Jim and Diane moved to California where Jack established a construction contracting business. 

In the 1980s Suzanne and husband Buzz Feldman bought a summer cottage at Woodbury.  Among their guests over the years was her father Jack, who remembered growing up in nearby Kaslo, where photos were taken of he and sister Dorothy tobogganing.  He did not know of any family connection to the pioneer Fingland Cabin in Silverton, but enjoyed at least one visit to it and was quite interested in the story described in signs at the cabin and in tourist literature.

JJ Fingland and wife Ethel, about 1925. Family photo

From my own visits to the Fingland Cabin as well as online searches, the cabin got its name from longtime resident Alfred “Fred” Raymond Fingland, who was born in Ontario in 1865 and died in Vancouver in 1952.  Fred Fingland’s father William Fingland (1832-1906) was born in Ontario, son of George Fingland, who was born in the small community of Dumfries in southwest Scotland in about 1800. 

Jack and Eve Fingland on California coast, about 1980. Family photo
Eve and Jack Fingland beside their longtime home in Moraga, California

JJ Fingland’s father Samuel Fingland and grandfather Walter Fingland are also listed as being born in Dumfries, Scotland, which suggests there was likely a family connection between the two Fingland families years ago. Hopefully, a genealogist with expertise in Scottish ancestry will someday investigate this question. 

Fingland Cabin at Silverton is a tourist attraction.
Fingland cabin at Silverton
A.R,. Fingland obituary in Vancouver Province, October 24, 1952

Publicizing a Touring Performance at Nelson, BC in 1902 by Hanging a Banner on a Streetcar Failed to Attract Enough Customers

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Most of the photos in my grandmother Winnie Foote McBride’s collection lack specific identification, but this one of a scene at Ward and Vernon intersection dates itself with a banner on a streetcar promoting a July 11, 1902 performance at the Nelson opera house by visiting entertainers Marietta Ladell and Teresa Flanigan.

Intersection of Ward and Vernon streets in Nelson, BC. Date is identified by banner on streetcar publicizing a show at the Nelson Opera House on July 11, 1902 featuring performers Mariette Ladell and Teresa Flanigan. Winnie Foote Collection

It looks like construction work is happening on the heritage building that today houses Touchstones.I did a search on the BC Historical Newspapers web site, and saw a write-up in the Nelson Daily News of July 12, 1902, which is posted here.

Article in July 12, 1902 Nelson Daily News

The Daily News writer suggests that the performers made a big mistake in not advertising their event in the paper, resulting in the event being cancelled due to lack of attendance. In another search, I found an ad promoting the pair in a concert with others in the Winnipeg Tribune of May 8, 1902, posted here.

Perhaps they missed the deadline for ads in the Nelson paper, or just could not afford it, and thought they could attract enough people by putting a banner on a streetcar that many would see and spread word to others. Online searching shows that Ladell was an elocutionist and impersonator, while Flanigan was a soprano singer. Based on news articles, Ladell was on the road with different partners for many years, performing in small towns in Canada and the U.S.

From Perth to Nelson to Medicine Hat: the Story of Gladys Edith Foote (1893-1966)

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By Sam McBride

One of the memorable older relatives of my youth was great-aunt Gladys Moir, always known by friends and family as “Glad”. 

She was born in Perth, Ontario, an agriculture-based community about 100 km south of Ottawa, on September 7, 1893 as the third child (all daughters) of John James “Jim” Foote (1861-1921) and Wilhelmine Edith James (1865-1941), who was known to all by her middle name Edith.  Jim was born in Morristown, New York on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, son of Private John Foote who served in a New York regiment on the union side in the U.S. Civil War, and Elizabeth Graham.  Edith was born in Perth to Thomas G. James and Sarah Best, who were both descendants of Lanark County pioneers who arrived from Ireland shortly after the War of 1812. 

Glad in Nelson, BC in about 1903

Jim Foote ventured north into Canada in about 1885 to Perth where he met Edith.  They married against the wishes of her parents who thought she could have had a better match.

When Glad was six in the summer of 1900 she moved with the family to the West Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia, which was in the waning years of a mining boom.  Her father Jim had arrived a year earlier to start a job as blacksmith with the Silver King Mine.  The family went to live in a townsite right next to the mine buildings, about five kilometres from Nelson, which had incorporated as a city in 1897. 

Glad was the middle child of a family of five daughters.  The eldest was my paternal grandmother Winnifred “Winnie” Mae Foote (1889-1960), and next was Lillian “Lil” Maud Foote (1891-1962).  After Glad came Isobel Bessie Foote (1897-1988).  The youngest sister, Marion Louise Foote (1902-1923) was the only sister to be born in Nelson.  There were never any sons in the family.  Marion died from tuberculosis in 1923, two years after her father died of the same disease.  Winnie married Roland Leigh McBride (1881-1959) in 1914, Lil married Wilfrid Laurier Allan (1891-1938) in 1915, Glad married Colin Argyle Moir (1894-1971) in 1920 and Isabel married Arthur Edward “Eddie” Murphy (1893-1950) in 1921.

At the Silver King townsite, Glad and her sisters attended a makeshift school.  In 1902 Jim got a job as carpenter with the City of Nelson construction department, and the family moved to a rented house near the intersection of Hall Mines Road and Cottonwood Creek in the Uphill part of Nelson. 

The girls were pleased to be in a vibrant community with numerous children their age to play with and experience school together.  They attended elementary schools and then Nelson High School.  Lil went on to do teacher training, while Glad took secretarial courses in Nelson.  The three other girls worked in Nelson shops in their teen years, and later Winnie was a clerk at the post office.

The Foote sisters in about 1907: top, from left: Win, Glad and Lil. Bottom: Marion and Isobel.

I remember hearing that Aunt Glad was an excellent ice skater in her youth, but until recently I had no idea that in her late teens she played ladies ice hockey in Nelson against other ladies teams in the city, as well as in competition with teams from Rossland and other communities in the isolated, mountainous, mining region where ladies ice hockey competition was ahead of its time in the early 1900s.  The mining boom towns of Sandon and Rossland had an advantage over Nelson teams in that era because their natural ice would stay well-frozen through almost all of the winter, while Nelson’s ice would be subject to bouts of melting due to warm winter trends which were otherwise welcomed by 1930s.  Residents were so happy to have the capability for artificial ice despite the weather outside that they established the Nelson Midsummer Curling Bonspiel which was a popular annual tradition for the rest of the 20th century.

Glad as a young girl, about 1906, with her image cut in shape of a heart, in sister Win’s 1908 scrapbook.

Glad (see arrow) with Nelson hockey teammates in white, and Rossland opponents in dark sweaters. Abt. January 1911, likely taken by sister Win.
January 1911 article in Nelson Daily News. The other “Miss Foote” mentioned was Glad’s older sister Winnie, my grandmother. Quite a distinction for them to be coached by Hockey Hall of Famer Lester Patrick, who had sisters on the team.

The 1956 Mountaineer special high school yearbook focused on Nelson’s history noted that Gladys Foote was a member of the Nelson High School’s first Mock Parliament in 1912, serving as a member of the Opposition.   This is notable, as it was eight years before women achieved the right to vote in Canada. 

The online B.C. civic directory of 1920 shows that Gladys Moir worked as a stenographer for the Brackmen-Ker Milling Company in Nelson.  It is likely that she met her future husband Colin Moir there, as he was in the flour milling business. Born in Glendinning, Manitoba, Colin had served with the 76th Battery of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the trenches in the First World War.   In the early 1920s the couple moved from Nelson to Winnipeg before settling in Medicine Hat in southern Alberta, where they lived for the rest of their lives.  For many years, Colin was manager of the Lake of the Woods Milling Company in Medicine Hat that produced Five Roses flour.  Medicine Hat was a relatively prosperous Alberta community, as it sat on a field of natural gas that was used for heating local homes and industrial operations as well as sales to other communities and businesses.

Daily News ad about the company Glad worked for as a steno.

Glad and Colin’s great regret in life was not being able to have children.   As a youngster, our family made car visits to visit them in Medicine Hat, which was about an eight-hour drive, not counting the time for the Kootenay Lake Ferry in the years before the Salmo-Creston Highway opened for traffic in 1962.  In some years, my older brother Ken would stay on a couple of weeks longer with the Moirs, and then be picked up later for return to Nelson.  When I was older I did that too for a couple of summer. My dad Leigh explained to me that Glad and Colin were lonely because they did not have children of their own, and really liked having us kids around.  They introduced me to other kids my age, and entered me in a Soap Box Derby driving a gravity-based car built for me by a neighbour, which I really enjoyed.

Glad and Colin were always enjoyable to spend time with.  I saw in Glad’s obituary in the Medicine Hat newspaper in 1966 that she had died at age 72 from a lengthy illness, which is sad in reflection because I do not recall her not being well.   After her husband Colin died in 1971 at age 76, there was a dispute about the administration of the estate that led to the executor being tried in court, and eventually found not guilty, in a trial covered extensively in the local Medicine Hat newspaper.  I saw that through a newspaper clipping service and thought how unfortunate it was that they did not have children to administer the estate according to their wishes, rather than counting on personnel outside the family. 

Keen West Kootenay hikers, about 1912, from left: unidentified, Glad Foote, Lil Foote, and, possibly, Bessie Lillie.

Both Glad and Colin were part of the Foote family story, and of the story of Canada.  The old saying for folks who passed away was “rest in peace” but I prefer to say they served their country well and did their family proud.

Glad and Colin Moir, about 1920
Glad, about 1920

Glad with her aunt Maud
Colin and Glad
Glad in 1920s
Glad snowshoeing
Glad with sister Win, dated 1937
Glad and Colin skating
Four sisters, about 1948. From left: Glad, Lil, Win and Isobel
Glad and Colin with great-nephew Ken McBride, about 1951

Framed Photos of Bering Sea Claims Commission Members in December 1896 in Victoria, British Columbia

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By Sam McBride

A while ago I inherited an interesting, but cumbersome, family history artifact. It features studio portraits of five men, under glass, in a heavy wood frame.  There is no information on the artifact, except for the signatures below photos of four of the men, one of whom noted the date Dec. 17, 1896.  

As family historian, I knew the man on the left was my great-grandfather, the Hon. Frederick Peters (1852-1919), who was a lawyer and premier of Prince Edward Island from 1891 until 1897, when he resigned and moved his family from Charlottetown to Victoria, BC where he set up a law partnership with another man in the photo group, Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper (second from the right) from Nova Scotia, whose service earlier in the Bering Sea seal-harvesting international dispute while he was federal minister of marine and fisheries earned him a knighthood.  Both Peters and Tupper (1855-1927) were elected as vice presidents at the initial meeting of the Canadian Bar Association in September 1896. 

Bering Sea Claims Commission 1896

With some searching I learned that the 5 men in the frame were members of the Bering Sea Claims Commission which had hearings and other meetings in Victoria during the winter of 1896-1897.  Others in the display are Victoria lawyer Ernest Victor Bodwell (far right) and U.S. representatives Charles Beecher Warren (second from left) and Robert Lansing (middle).  Lansing (1864-1928) would serve as U.S. Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson in WW1.  Warren (1870-1936) would serve as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and later Ambassador to Japan. 

Bodwell (1856-1918) represented the government of British Columbia in the Claims Commission.  He had been a founding member and president of the Victoria Board of Trade, and as an immigration lawyer.  Fred Peters was the only one of the group not to sign his photo in this display, probably because it was his copy and he saw no need to sign it.  He did the Bering Sea work on the side, supplementing the modest salary of $1,400 a year he received as PEI premier.

Hon. Frederick Peters

To get good scans of the photos I took them out of the frame, and was pleased to find them in excellent shape. After checking online, I found the same photo group and frame is in the archives of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.  The sealing dispute was important historically because it examined issues that would become part of international fishing disputes.  The British/Canadian side came out victorious in the sealing dispute, which left a sour taste with the Americans.  They got the last laugh in 1903, when they won the Alaska Panhandle in the Alaska Boundary Dispute. 

Peters and Tupper were excited by the prospects of an economic boom on the West Coast, particularly with the oncoming Klondike Gold Rush.  They were also impressed by the mild Victoria winter weather compared to their home provinces in the Maritimes.

Charles Warren
Robert Lansing
Sir Charles Hibbert Tuppeer
Ernest Bodwell

Tupper and Peters stayed at the Mount Baker Hotel while their adjacent homes designed by architect J.G. Tiarks were built in Oak Bay, known as Annandale and Garrison House.   Their families, including my maternal grandmother Mary Helen Peters (1887-1976, known to all as “Helen”), joined them in the summer of 1898.  The men parted ways in about 1902, with Peters continuing in Victoria and Tupper in Vancouver.  The move west never panned out financially for Peters as he hoped.  The family moved to Esquimalt in about 1909, and then in 1911 to Prince Rupert, where Fred once again hoped to get in early on a boomtown, and again found disappointment.  Helen, who was the eldest child, remained in Victoria, where she married E.E.L. “Ted” Dewdney in 1912, and they moved to Vernon where he had been transferred by his employer, the Bank of Montreal.   Fred Peters worked as city solicitor for Prince Rupert and later also as city clerk, helping the city through difficult financial times.  Grief-stricken after the death of sons Jack and Gerald Peters in WW1, Fred died in 1919 and was buried at Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria, next to daughter Violet Avis Peters, who died at age six in 1905 when her nightdress caught fire due to her being too close to one of the fireplaces at Garrision House.  A third son, Capt. Frederic Thornton Peters, would die in WW2 in 1942 after winning the Victoria Cross in the Allied invasion of North Africa.  Another son, Noel Quintan Peters (1894-1964) had a moderate, but noticeable, mental disability that led to him being bullied and rejected for military service in the First World War, which resulted in more extensive bullying for not serving in the war.  In 1917, Noel was finally accepted into the Canadian Forestry Corps.  Helen Dewdney was the only one of six Peters children to have children. 

Violet Avis Peters (1899-1905)

Fred’s widow, Bertha Hamilton Gray (1862-1946) was the youngest daughter of the PEI Father of Confederation Colonel John Hamilton Gray and Susan Bartley Pennefather.  In 1915 she travelled to England to be close to her sons who were there for war service.  She was devastated by the deaths of sons Jack and Gerald, particularly Gerald who was her favourite child.  Desperate to contact Gerald in the afterlife, she became keen on spiritualism and seances with mediums, which her son Fritz and daughter Helen strongly disapproved.  After returning to Canada in December 1916 she said she could not bear to return to Prince Rupert with so many memories of Jack and Gerald, so she moved in with Helen’s family in New Denver in the West Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia, where Ted Dewdney was posted as branch manager.  She would continue living with the Dewdney family in Rossland after Ted was transferred there by the bank in 1920, then in nearby Trail 1927-29, and then in Nelson in 1929 where Ted retired in 1940.  Bertha stayed with them and their children in Nelson until her death in 1946 at age 84.  Through each of these moves, Bertha took the framed group of photos of the Bering Sea Claims Commission.  Daughter Helen looked after it for some time, and then for many years it was in her son Peter Dewdney’s basement in Trail, B.C.  Knowing my interest in the family history, it was passed on to me a couple of years ago, and I have enjoyed investigating its origins and content. 

Hallowe’en “tricks” helped in 1952 campaign for new school construction in Nelson, British Columbia

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by Sam McBride

On Saturday, November 1, 1952 a group of more than a dozen high school students in Nelson, British Columbia, Canada spent the morning washing windows of stores on the main drag known as Baker Street, as they promised in notes they left under the store doors after they wrote the words “Vote Yes on the School Bylaw” in soap on the windows on Hallowe’en night. 

The backstory is that school district #7 that primarily contains Nelson had been stymied in its efforts to get funding for construction of new schools and facilities needed in the Baby Boom era.  At the time, the provincial government required local voters to approve a bylaw for the local share of the cost of new school construction.  Previous attempts at such a bylaw had been rejected by voters in low-turnout elections.  In the fall of 1952 the district trustees reached out to local businesses, students and others in the community in an all-out effort to gain support for a $2 million school construction program. 

 
On the morning after Hallowe’en 1952 a team Nelson High School students washes the outside windows of Wait’s News after soaping the windows on Hallowe’en night with messages encouraging residents to vote yes on the school construction program.  This photo from the 1956 Mountaineer historical yearbook shows Dorothy Foster, Mary Ann Swanson, Maureen Patterson and Doug Ife among the student wash crew.

Another “trick” of students on Hallowe’en night 1952 was to deliver 2,000 flyers to businesses and houses with the rhyming phrase “We have left your property unmolested, Please vote for the bylaw as suggested”.

As reported in the Nelson Daily News, on Nov. 5, 1952 the bylaw passed by a wide margin, enabling, among other things, construction of a new high school which opened for classes in March 1956, named in honour of longtime principal L.V. Rogers.

Remembering enthusiastic B.C. family historian, Judge R. Blake Allan

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By Sam McBride

Tomorrow, May 18, 2020, will be the 11th anniversary of death of my first cousin (once removed) Robert Blake Allan (1916-2009) in his 93rd year.  He was named after his uncle Robert Blake Allan who was killed in action in 1915 in World War One.   He was known through his life to one and all by his middle name “Blake”.

thumbnail_blake article called to the bar

Blake graduated from University of Alberta law in 1942

He excelled as a law student at the University of Alberta, then as a soldier in England in World War Two, then as a lawyer in partnership with my dad (his first cousin) Leigh Morgan McBride in Nelson, B.C. for 20 years in the firm of McBride and Allan, and then as a provincial court judge in Nelson and later in Victoria, before concluding  his career as Deputy Judge of the Tax Court of Canada.   But I think his greatest passion was for genealogy.

I have known quite a few “keeners” in my own experience in genealogy since the early 1990s, but nobody as energized and enthusiastic as Blake.

I had long had a casual interest in my family history, as it includes some famous historical names like Cunard and Dewdney, but I don’t think I would have ever become a genealogy buff without the example and inspiration of Blake.

rba named judge

1970 announcement in Nelson Daily News of appointment as provincial judge

Blake was born in Nelson, BC Oct. 7, 1916, son of Wilfrid Laurier Allan and Lillian Maud Foote.  A year later the family moved to Staveley, Alberta where the Allan family ran a general store.  The family grew there to include brother James Henry Grant Allan (1919-2010), sister Margot Francis Allan (1922-1932) and Alexander Arthur Allan (1925-2010).

The family returned to Nelson in 1931 when Wilfrid was appointed secretary-treasurer of the Wood Vallance Hardware Company, succeeding Alex Leith, who died just a few days before his scheduled retirement.  Blake went to the new Trafalgar Junior Secondary School and then Nelson High School.  From there he went to the University of Alberta in Edmonton, along with several friends from Nelson, including Graeme Steed, Leigh McBride and Peter Dewdney.    After three years of war service overseas (primarily in England) he worked as a lawyer in Vancouver for a couple of years before returning to his native Nelson to join his cousin Leigh in the law partnership known as McBride and Allan, with offices at 415 Baker Street on the second floor above where Ted Allen’s Jewellery is today.  After his judicial appointment, Blake served as a judge based in Nelson for several years before transferring to Victoria, BC, where he lived the rest of his life.

He caught the genealogy bug in the late 1970s.  After moving to Victoria he joined the Victoria Genealogical Society, and was a member for about 30 years, including a decade or so as VGS Secretary.

I remember in about 1991 my dad Leigh passed on to me letters he received from Blake about the family tree.  As a history buff, Leigh was interested, but somewhat confused by Blake’s information and inquiries.   Others in the extended family made a joke about Blake’s obsession with family history, but I found it fascinating.  It got me going in family tree work and local history, which continues to be my overriding pastime in retirement years in the West Kootenay region of southeastern B.C.

Earlier in Blake’s life he tried coin collecting and stamp collecting as hobbies, but found them unfulfilling and overly competitive. Later, when he dipped his toe into genealogy while residing in Victoria, he found he really got a kick out of it, as there was always something new to learn, and another generation to pursue. He particularly liked the spirit of mutual support and collaboration with other family historians – much different from his previous hobbies.  His wife Ruth Alm was totally supportive of his genealogy obsession, saying once in amazement “he’s found relatives all over creation!”  Ruth was born in Kaslo, just a couple of sternwheeler stops on Kootenay Lake from Nelson where Blake was born.

What I found particularly remarkable about Blake was that he was as interested and helpful with sides of my ancestry that had no connection to him, as he was with the Foote line of our mutual ancestry. I was also impressed with his determination to learn computer word processing and the internet in his seventies in the early 1990s when they were much less user-friendly than they are today. Most folks in my dad’s generation did not even try, as it was so daunting.

As a former lawyer and judge, Blake knew his way around government offices.  He did not hesitate to complain if he received poor service from archives, libraries and various government authorities.  I recall him making a big stink when he viewed microfilm which was unreadable, even though the originals were quite clear.

from left, Blake Allan, cousin Ken G. McBride and Blake`s brother Alex Allan

The pic at right shows Blake, left, in 1942 in uniform in Nelson beside his cousin (and my uncle) Kenneth G. McBride (1920-1944), and his younger brother Alex Allan at right. Blake would serve in the Canadian Army in England for four years until returning home in 1946 to work as a lawyer until his judicial appointment in 1968.

The pic below is of Blake in about 1995 in Scotland, where he did extensive research on his Allan ancestors in the Orkneys who came to Canada with the Hudson’s Bay Company.

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I was impressed with Blake’s determination to discover his roots, to the point that he rented cars in Britain well into his eighties, and drove in and out of the large cities, as well as on the scary one-lane roads in the outback.  He also drove fearlessly around Italy, which was his special love even though no family connections were there.

Perhaps the highlight of his research efforts was when he phoned a library in Ogdensburg in upstate New York asking about his great-grandfather Private John Foote who served in the Civil War, and the clerk who answered his call proved to be a second cousin with the same great-grandfather, and lots of documents about him seeking compensation for his war injuries year by year until his death in 1904.

Blake outlived just about everyone else in his extended family, and was as sharp as ever when I stayed with him at his Amblewood house en route to the funeral of our mutual friend Bruce Pelmore at the Royal Colwood Golf Club.  I am quite convinced that Blake’s enthusiasm for genealogy had a large part in extending his life, and still at the top of his game.

I remember Blake as wonderful source of information on our mutual family history, as well as sides of my ancestry not related to him.  I took a different approach to research and came up with other types of sources than his more traditional approach, but it worked well for both of us.

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Ted Dewdney’s memorable farewell event as he was transferred by his employer BMO from Rossland, British Columbia to Armstrong in the Okanagan in 1907

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by Sam McBride

My maternal grandfather Edgar Edwin Lawrence “Ted” Dewdney (1880-1952) died when I was a toddler so I have no memory of him.  He did not write diaries or memoirs for posterity, so all the information I had on him was either from his widow (my grandmother Helen Peters) or my mother Dee Dee.

dewdny 001With that in mind, it was wonderful for me to find extensive coverage about him in the Rossland Miner newspaper in 1907, as he was the centre of attention at the Rossland Club and from other friends in the community who got to know him in the seven years since he arrived in Rossland as a 19-year-old Bank of Montreal clerk in 1900.

Also, the newspaper stories went a long way in explaining several artifacts that were still in our family home more than a century later.  The gifts obviously meant a lot to him, as he kept them intact as he was transferred by his employer, the Bank of Montreal, to new communities eight more times before arriving in Nelson, B.C. in 1929, serving as manager of the local BMO branch until retirement in 1940.

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Rossland Miner Aug. 2, 1907 report of Ted’s transfer

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second part of Aug. 3, 1907 Rossland Miner report

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family heirlooms, including the stylized umbrella and address presented Ted at the Rossland Club event, as well as two of his tennis trophies and a plaque presented to Ted and wife Helen in 1920 as they were leaving New Denver for the BMO manager job in Rossland

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The signed scroll from the farewell night, described as an “address” in the news report

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inscription on the brass handle of the umbrella with best wishes from fellow militia members of the Rocky Mountain Rangers

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Rossland unit of the Rocky Mountain Rangers in family files.  It appears that Ted is 10th from right, top row.  They are proudly showing off their Maxim Gun.  Family photo.

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Rossland studio photo of Ted Dewdney, by photographer Gowman.  Family photo

 

 

 

 

Major L.M. McBride’s two-month journey from Nazi POW camp Oflag 7B to his hometown of Nelson, B.C. in early 1945

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By Sam McBride

My father Leigh Morgan McBride (1917-1995) enlisted for Canadian military service in 1941 immediately after graduating in law from the University of Alberta but before his bar examination, the last step before qualifying as a lawyer.  With his maturity, education and achievements, he was taken on for officer training, including time at Gordon Head near Victoria, B.C. and Currie Barracks in Calgary, Alberta.

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Leigh M. McBride and his brother Kenneth G. McBride, both proud to be officers of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada.  Family photo.

As a lieutenant, he led his Seaforth Highlanders of Canada unit ashore in the Allied landings at Pachino in the southwest tip of Sicily.  It was the largest amphibious invasion in history, and destined to be exceeding size a year later with the D-day invasion of the French coast.   The invasion could have been a bloodbath like Dieppe the previous summer, but at that point Italians were turning away from Mussolini, and as a result surrendered in large numbers to the Allies.  The situation changed dramatically when Germany sent some of its best troops to stop the Allied advance.  Leigh was in the thick of the fighting against the Germans until being hit in the shoulder by a bullet.  He later said he was fortunate that the bullet did not hit any bones in his shoulder, but the wound must have been substantial, as he was sent to an Allied hospital in North Africa via Malta for treatment.   He returned to his regiment in  November, and was in at the forefront of the Allied advance to Ortona, which would be one of the bloodiest battles of the war, commonly known as “little Stalingrad” after the gigantic victory of the Russians over their German attackers by the Volga River.   I remember Leigh often talking about the extraordinary Christmas dinner that the Seaforths enjoyed in a church in Ortona.  As per military tradition, on Christmas he and other officers were the waters and servers of the privates, corporals and sergeants.  Thirty years later, in April 1975, he visited the re-built church with Seaforth buddies who were at the famous dinner, including the quartermaster Borden Cameron of Vancouver who organized the food and drink for that event which went on just a few blocks from where vicious street-fighting was going on between the two sides.

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Leigh met a fellow Nelsonite while in North Africa for treatment of a bullet wound to his shoulder.  Nelson Daily News

The hilly terrain in Sicily and mainland Italy was such that the advantage was almost always with the defending forces.  On May 23, 1944 Leigh and his men were part of an ambitious attack on the Hitler Line.  That day is remembered as his hometown city of Nelson’s Black Day of the War, as two Nelson boys (Priv. Ray Hall and Priv. Jack Wilson) were killed, and two others (Leigh and Priv. Joe “Bud” Dyck) went missing.  Both were seriously wounded and were hospitalized at Italian and later German hospitals.  Word came through the International Red Cross in July that Bud was alive and recovering in a German POW camp, but it was not until September 20, 1944 – four months after going missing – that his parents were advised that he was alive in a German POW camp, recovering from serious wounds, including schrapnel to his legs, arms and face, and the permanent loss of his left eye.  In response to a request for the Regimental History of the Seaforth Highlanders, Leigh wrote about the fateful day he was captured (see the November 4, 2019 posting in this blog).

pow article in local Nelson newspaperLeigh received treatment at a hospital in Rome before being sent by train for medical care in Germany, followed by time in prisoner of war camps.  I am not sure how many POW camps he went to, but once when I visited Regensberg as part of Western Europe he said “oh, I was in a prison in Regensberg”.   His last camp before repatriation was Oflag 7B (VIIB) north of Munich.  This was a camp for Allied officers.  He describes his experiences at this camp and others in newspaper interviews conducts as he was returning home in February 1945, and later in presentations in Nelson in March and April 1945.

He knew as early as October 1944 that the extent of his wounds made him a good candidate for a prisoner exchange and repatriation.  His parents worked tirelessly to get packages of supplies, particularly food, to him through the Red Cross, which was trusted by the Germans.

His repatriation was confirmed on about January 11, 1945 when he was at the German military centre Heilig Annaburg near Berlin, where he was photographed in a group with other injured Allied officers about to head home in prisoner exchanges.

My dad rarely went to movies, but he did make a point of taking our family to a drive-in theatre in Spokane, Washington in 1970 to see the movie “Patton”, where much of the story involved the Allied push across Siciliy and the conflicting egos of American General Patton and British General Montgomery.   I suspected his Seaforth Highlander friends recommended the move, and he told me it was very well done.  I don’t think he ever saw the movie “The Great Escape”, and I never heard comments about it from him one way or the other.   That escape concluded in May 1944 just a couple of weeks before he was captured.  Hitler’s vengeful act of having 50 of the escapers shot would have been one more reason for the next-of-kin of POWs to be worried about getting them back.

In retrospect, they had good reason to worry.  On April 14, 1945 a group of British and Commonwealth officers was being marched away from the camp when they were attacked by an American warplane which mistook them for German troops.  Fourteen of the POW officers were killed and 46 wounded.  The camp was liberated by the U.S. Army two days later.

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Leigh’s mail card from Oflag 7B POW camp.  It may have arrived in Nelson after he was home.

Leigh occasionally watched the TV comedy “Hogan’s Heroes” and enjoyed it.  He said while in one POW camp he played chess with a German guard who looked a bit like Sgt. Schultz in the show.  Through the efforts of his parents, Leigh was able to get law books included in his Red Cross packages which he read in preparation for the bar exam he would be taking after returning from the war.

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German Christmas card image from Oflag 7B

After his prisoner exchange was confirmed, he left Heilig Annaburg by train for the Swiss border.  As a result of Allied bombing, rail trips took about four times longer than normal.  He became officially free in Constance, Switzerland.  From there he was taken to the port of Marseilles, which had been liberated in the Allied invasion of southern France in the fall of 1944.  The Red Cross ship “Gripsholm” took him to New York, where he and other freed Canadian were taken in a sealed railway car to Toronto, and headed west from there on the Canadian Pacific Railway.  Reporters met them at several locations along the way, but, as part of the repatriation agreement, they could only comment on the help provided by the Red Cross, which Leigh and others were happy to do.

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In repatriation group, Leigh is top row, third from left, at Heilig Annaburg.  Below, photo of the same facility today by Brennen Jensen of Maryland, whose late father is four in, front row.  Brennen contacted me when he saw that I had posted on an online site the same Heilig Annaburg photograph that his dad brought home from his own repatriation.

pic from brennenWhen he finally got to Vancouver he was greeted by his mother Winnifred Foote McBride, who had not seen him for almost three years.  The reunion was particularly poignant because her other son, Capt. Kenneth Gilbert McBride, also with the Seaforth Highlanders, was killed in action near Rimini on Sept. 16, 1944 when his jeep ran over a German mine.

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Winnie McBride greeting her son Leigh at Vancouver CPR station.  She probably asked the Sun newspaper to send her the print when they were finished with it for printing purposes.

From Vancouver, mother and son made their way home to Nelson on the Kettle Valley Railway, arriving in the evening of Feb. 28, 1945 to an enthusiastic welcome party of family, friends, the mayor and other dignitaries.  In the coming weeks he was in strong demand as a speaker at service club meetings, and an extensive interview with the Nelson Daily News.

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After passing his bar exam he began his career as a lawyer in Nelson.  He was never the same physically after the war, as he had nerve damage and hearing loss as well as adapting to life with vision in just one eye.  He once showed me where schrapnel was still in his leg because it would be dangerous to remove it.  This was painful for him, but he never complained about it, as he remembered so many fellow soldiers who had more serious injuries or died in the war.  In the late 1960s his cousin (and former law partner in Nelson) Judge Blake Allan told him he could get an appointment as a judge if he wanted, but Leigh declined the opportunity because, as he told me, it would not be fair to soft-spoken defendants if he could not hear them.

Each year until the 1970s Leigh would travel to the Shaughnessy Veterans Hospital in Vancouver for examination by doctors there.  In 1969 he moved to Trail to begin working as a lawyer for the large mining and smelting company, Cominco Ltd.   In addition to golf, his hobby in retirement was reading books about Italian art and architecture, an interest he developed while participating in the 30th anniversary of Canadians in the Italian Campaign in 1975.  Within a couple of years after retiring from Cominco I 1982 Leigh contracted Parkinson’s Disease, which got progressively worse and resulted in him in 1990 going to a care home in Trail, where he died August 8, 1995 – exactly 42 years after being wounded in Sicily.

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The Christmas dinner he mentions in his talk to the Nelson Rotary Club would become famous as the Seaforth Highlanders’ 1943 church dinner in the middle of the Battle of Ortona.

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On these maps of German POW camps, Leigh circled the camps where he spent time as a prisoner, and noted the site of his repatriation.

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leigh pow stories

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menu on M.S. Gripsholm, page one

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menu on Gripsholm, page 2

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front page of newsletter for relatives of Canadian POW’s

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from POW newsletter

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Oflag 7B mentioned in POW relatives newsletter, December 1944

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Oflag 7B again mentioned in Canadian POW relatives newsletter

 

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Oflag 7B facilities today, used for police training

 

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