Gerald Cecil Burton signature

On this day in 1916, Gerald Cecil Burton, a fireman, signed up in Toronto. He stated that he was born in Deseronto on July 29th, 1897. At the time of enlisting his mother, Margaret, was living in Elm Street, Sudbury, Ontario.

Gerald joined the 69th Battery of the Canadian Field Artillery with the regimental number 340069. He was five feet seven and three quarter inches tall, with a fair complexion, grey-blue eyes and brown hair. He arrived in England on board the RMS Mauretania on November 30th, 1916. He got to France on March 11th, 1917, serving with the 1st Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery. His service file notes that he was tried at a court martial on August 29th, 1917:

Gerald Cecil Burton theft

 25.9.17 In confinement awaiting trial 31 days. Tried & convicted by F.G.C.M. [Field General Court Martial] of W.O.A.S. [while on active service] Stealing goods the property of an officer in that he in the field on or about 13 July stole a revolver & Holster the property of H. J. Rolph & sentenced to Hard Labor for 1 year 29.8.17

This sentence was commuted to 90 days of Field Punishment number 1. On March 19th, 1918 Burton was struck off the strength of his unit and sent to England when it was discovered that his true date of birth was July 29th, 1900. He left Liverpool for Canada on May 13th and was examined by a medical board in Toronto on July 11th. This board noted that he was under age (17) and was suffering from bronchitis caused by poison gas. He was discharged as medically unfit on July 25th, 1918. It is not clear what happened to him after the war.

Moving archivesA significant change to the operation of the Deseronto Archives will be happening in September 2016, as we are moving the collection into the new Community Archives of Belleville and Hastings County in Belleville. From September 12th, the Archives will be available for research in Belleville.

This increases the availability of the collection, which will now be open to the public from Monday to Thursday, 9.30 to 12 and 1 to 4pm instead of the limited hours we have been open in Deseronto.

Donna Fano labelling shelvesThe Town of Deseronto was the first municipality in Hastings County to provide a staffed archive service, back in 1997. Now it is joining the City of Belleville and the County of Hastings in taking advantage of the facilities of the new Community Archives of Belleville and Hastings County. There our local records will be kept in climate-controlled conditions in a brand-new facility.

Amanda Hill, the Deseronto archivist, has also relocated to the new archives at Belleville, which will provide a continuity of care for the Deseronto materials and knowledge of their contents.

This website will continue to be updated with news from the Deseronto First World War project, and Deseronto Archives images will remain available from our Flickr account.

The email address to contact the Archives is now and you can also call 613-967-3304.

Grateful thanks are owed to Frances Smith and all the staff at Deseronto Public Library for providing a home for the Deseronto Archives, and also to the Deseronto Archives Board and the Corporation of the Town of Deseronto for their support of the Archives over the past 20 years and their continued dedication to the service as it enters this new phase.

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.


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