Reuben Sero signature

Reuben Sero joined up in Belleville on this day in 1916. He gave his place of birth as “Indian Woods, Hastings County”. He was born on October 5th, 1897, the son of Israel Sero and Eliza (née Brant), who were both Mohawks. The family were living in Tyendinaga in 1901 and 1911, but Reuben was living in Market Street, Belleville when he enlisted.

Sero joined the 155th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force with the regimental number 637184. He was five feet five and a half inches tall, with a dark complexion, brown eyes and black hair.

George Albert Butler signature

On this day in 1916 George Albert Butler, a civil engineer, signed up in Montreal. He was born near Deseronto on October 31st, 1876 (probably 1874), the son of Tobias Butler, a lumberman for the Rathbun Company, and Elizabeth (née McVey). Tobias died in 1896 and Elizabeth was living in Belleville at 268 George Street when George enlisted.

George joined the No. 1 Construction Battalion with the regimental number 1081681. He was five feet seven inches tall, with a fair complexion, blue eyes and fair hair. His service record shows that he arrived in England on the SS Northland on September 23rd, 1916 and was promoted to be a sergeant on October 21st. He arrived in France four days later. In February 1917 the No. 1 Construction Battalion’s name was changed to 1st Battalion Canadian Railway Troops. On May 22nd 1917 Butler was promoted to the rank of temporary lieutenant.

On October 3rd, 1917 Butler was arrested and kept in confinement until October 13th, awaiting trial. His service file records the details of his offence and court martial:

George Albert Butler court martial

1.11.17 1st C.R.T In confinement awaiting trial, 3.1017 to 14.10.17
Tried & convicted by F.G.C.M. [Field General Court Martial] of ‘When on Active Service’
(1) A.A. Sec. 19 – Drunkeness, in that he, in the Field, on 3.10.17 was Drunk.
(2) A.A. Sec. 15 (1a) – Absent without leave, in that he, in the Field, 3.10/17 was absent from parade at 6.45 p.m.
Proven guilty on both charges & sentenced to be dismissed from His Majesty’s Service, 14.10.17
Confirmation of sentence recommended by Lieut. General The Earl of Cavan, 18.10.17, and General Sir H. de la P. Gough, 22.10.17.
Sentence confirmed by Sir Douglas Haig, Commander in Chief, British Armies in France, 27.10.17.
(Accused kept in confinement from 3.10.17 until handed over to A.P.M. [Assistant Provost Marshal] XIX Corps on 31.10.17)

George Butler was sent back to England on November 2nd, 1917. It is not clear what happened to him after that.

James Wilmont Sharpe signature

James Wilmot Sharpe signed up in Deseronto on this day in 1916. He was born on January 8th, 1883 in Deseronto, the son of Philip Sharpe and Sarah (née Smith). On October 19th, 1901, he married Mabel Hayes in Napanee. In 1904 the couple were living in Fourth Street, Deseronto when their son was born. By 1916, when Sharpe enlisted, their home address was 114 Peter Street, Toronto. Sharpe’s three younger brothers, Ernest, Alfred Nelson and Harry had already enlisted.

Sharpe joined the 74th Battery of the Canadian Field Artillery with the regimental number 344822. He was five feet four and a half inches tall, with a dark complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair.

He survived the war and was back at 114 Peter Street in Toronto with Mabel and their son in 1921. James died on February 23rd, 1970 at the age of 88. His obituary in the Quinte Scanner notes that Mabel predeceased him and that the couple had two sons, William and James. He worked as a millwright. James was buried in Deseronto Cemetery.

In April and May 1916 there was a measles epidemic in Deseronto. The 1916 report of the Medical Officer of Health was presented to the Town Council at a meeting on December 15th of that year and described the outbreak in the following way:

Description of measles outbreak

During April and May, an Epidemic of Measles passed through the town, a large number were attacked and there were two deaths from this disease. It was part of a general epidemic which swept through the Province of Ontario last winter and spring.

The first death was of Audrey Jean Whiting, daughter of Arthur Henry Whiting, the principal of Deseronto Public School, and Annie (née Leedham). Audrey was two years old. She died on May 16th.

Isabella Barnhart was the second child to die in the epidemic. She was the daughter of George Barnhart and Isabella (née Louis or Lewis), who were both Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. She was fifteen months old when she died on June 17th, 1916. She had been ill for three weeks.

Joseph Edward Barnhardt signature

Joseph Edward Barnhardt signed up in Kingston on this day in 1916. He was born in Shannonville on March 6th, 1901, the son of David Barnhardt and Susan (née Bey), who were both Mohawks. David had died in December 1913 and Susan had died in May 1916. Barnhardt claimed to have been born in 1898 and he gave his sister Celia as his next of kin.

Joseph joined the 155th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force with the regimental number 637180. He was five feet six inches tall, with a dark complexion, brown eyes and brown hair.

Joseph’s service record shows that his unit sailed for England on October 17th, 1916. He had been treated for syphilis while in Kingston. In England he was transferred to the 4th Battlaion, Canadian Mounted Rifles and he joined them in France on November 29th, 1916.

After six months of active service, Barnhardt was admitted to hospital in Calais suffering from appendicitis. He was treated at the 2nd Western General Hospital in Manchester, England, where he stayed for 92 days. He was discharged from hospital in September 1917, but at some point suspicions about his age must have arisen. There is a copy of his birth registration in his service record, the copy having been made on October 4th, 1917.

Joseph Edward Barnhardt - copy of birth registration

This information proved that at 16 years old, Barnhardt was too young to be serving in the army. He sailed from Liverpool on October 18th, 1917 on the SS Missanabie (this ship was sunk by a German submarine in the following September). Joseph was discharged from the army on March 12th, 1918 six days after his 17th birthday. He was then two inches taller than he had been when he enlisted.

Joseph married Alice Sutton in Shannonville just a few months after leaving the army, on August 16th, 1918. He gave his occupation as mechanic and his age as 18. In 1921 the couple were living in Front Street, Belleville and had two children. Joseph was working as an electrician.

Eldon Roy Wagar signature

Eldon Roy Wagar, a chauffeur, signed up in Montreal on this day in 1916. He was born in Napanee on October 11th, 1896, the son of Sampson Wagar and Mary (née Asselstine). The family were living in Richmond Township, close to Deseronto, in 1901 and 1911 and Eldon attended the Deseronto High School.

Eldon joined the 4th Canadian Divisional Train with the regimental number 515348. Divisional Trains were units responsible for transporting baggage and supplies for an infantry brigade. Wagar was described as five feet nine and a half inches tall, with a fresh complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair.

Wagar survived the war and got married while he was in England to Ena Mabel Higgins in 1919. He died in Ontario in 1948.

Guy Reginald Stratton signature
On this day in 1916, Guy Reginald Stratton was killed at the Battle of Mount Sorrel near Ypres in Belgium. He was a member of the 2nd Canadian Divisional Ammunition Column. He was seventeen years old and had been in the army for seven months.

Guy’s father, Walter C. Stratton was a former member of the Town Council of Deseronto. The Council minutes of July 18th, 1916 noted that:

The Reeve said he supposed all the members of the Council had heard of the death on the battle field of Guy Stratton, a son of ex-councillor Walter C. Stratton. He was a resident of Deseronto up to the time of his enlistment, and the whole community, while deeply lamenting the untimely fate of the gallant boy feel proud of the fact that he died a noble death, bravely fighting for his King and Country. He moved seconded by Councillor Fox, that his Worship the Mayor and the Town Clerk, be hereby Appointed a Committee to prepare a letter of condolence to the bereaved parents and that the Mayor and Clerk do sign the said letter on behalf of the Council, and that the seal of the corporation be affixed thereto. Carried.

Stratton was buried at Bedford House Cemetery, south of Ypres, but his grave is not marked. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial and in Deseronto.

Deseronto memorial


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