Bruce Mines and the Remembered Soldier.
Please remember to stop in to small town museums. Especially these little gems that are the center of small town life before becoming museums.
A historical sight seeing:
I have been on hiatus for a bit, my father having passed away after a brief illness in the spring. Between his illness and some people's attempt to control what I write, have resulted in my leaving for awhile.
But I am reminded that the primary reason I do this is to tell the story of those who can no longer do that.
My destination was the North Shore, to a family favorite of Thessalon. Thessalon is a biblical named town on the North Shore of Lake Huron.
We stayed at the Carolyn Beach Motel in a location very likely camped on by my ancestors on their migration east in 1828.
Due to the National Park of St Joseph Island being closed, we went to the Ermintinger House and Clergue House in Sault Ste Marie. We also stopped by Fort LaCloche, to commune with ancestors.
A Chance Meeting
On returning we were going to drive by St Joseph and began to do so, but something pulled me elsewhere. A feeling overwhelmed me that we had to be somewhere else. So in the middle of nowhere, we did a U-ey.
Off we went, to Bruce Mines, where I needed to look around. Driving through town my wife said, "there's a Museum right there." I felt a need to hurry.
The Bruce mines museum is in a beautiful old pioneer church. The type of church that doubled as so many things over the years, having been a school as well. The bell tower is in the design of parapets style of the castles of Europe.
Talking my way into what should be a half hour, it turned to a 10 minute tour, as it was 10 to 4 pm, closing time. I found myself being surprisingly interested in what was inside. As an icon to what was to come, the first thing I seen was stone tools. Grooved axes and celts particularly interesting to me. Often these tools talk to me in some way, but they were not the story.
Hurrying through the exhibits, excellent as they are, we found ourselves at a plaque from a World War 1 Soldier. Fraser Ingram, Sgt died in Bramshott England. We passed by the plaque but as fortune would have it, had to return past to find the exit.
"What did he die from?" I asked.
"Fraser," my courteous tour guide said past her hours of work. (It sounded like she had been scolded before for staying to late. )
"I don't know, I assume he died in action."
"No" I found myself saying.
Bramshott was not in the theater of war, and it wasn't really a place to be evacuated to. Soldiers should not be dying in Bramshott! But they did. Accidents happened, but it just wasn't a usual place to die in World War 1. Bramshott was a training ground.
"He didn't die in Action!"
A Story to tell
So this is why I am here, to tell Fraser's story I immediately realized, and quite the story it is.
Fraser was born in Banff
Scotland. He spent 5 months in the services with the Gordon Highlanders before emigrating to Canada and becoming a mine Captain. Born in Banff, in 1871 he and at least 2 other brothers immigrated to North America. One passed away in Cofax, Washington in which an industrious undertaker found Fraser and another brother in California to pay for his burial services.
Working as a machinist in the mining industry, Fraser would bounce around at various mining towns before finding his way to Bruce Mines, on Lake Hurons North Shore. Probably wasn't any other reason to go to Bruce Mines at the turn of the century.
Jemima was born in Bruce Mines, her father was a clerk at a mine and somewhere along the way met Fraser. Born the same year, they were unusually old to get married at the time, but that didn't mean the love was not there. Fraser's parent would arrive soon after and Jemima took on the care of the elderly couple. Sadly Fraser and Jemima didn't produce any children. Jemima would be involved in the children of the village however, teaching them to swim and some to read and write.
In 1916, the call was on for volunteers to go to the Great War representing Canada. The push was especially great in the Anglican church, so
Fraser made his way to Sault Ste Marie to enlist in the service of his country. Fraser was a skilled tradesmen, which probably assisted him in being accepted. Fraser was in his forties, and would reach the age of 45 soon after going overseas. The upper age limit to join was 45. Fraser and Jemima had no children.
Fraser didn't have to go to war? Fraser didn't have to go....he wasn't drafted, the draft didn't take place for another couple of years. By that time he would have been over the maximum age of 45. Fraser, wanted to go, he had been part of the Gordon Highlanders as a youth and felt the obligation. But he didn't have to, nobody would have looked down on him had he not.
After a few months of training Fraser found himself climbing aboard the Metagama. On August 9th of 1916 he was on his way to England. He would arrive on the 19th of August 1916. A fairly quick 11 day trip.
On arrival in England he was appointed Sergeant armorer, and attached dually to the 119th, with whom he trained and CCAC. In early 1917 he contracted Pneumonia, which landed him in Hospital seriously ill. It was noted he was making a recovery when at the 10:30am rounds, he was found with his throat cut.
His throat cut? A medical examination discovered no wrong doing but I do not believe the verdict of self inflicted. He was recovering! He was not going to the front but was going to be the armorer. He was listed as a Machinist, so his skills would have been transferrable. He would look after the weapons and such, not sent to the front lines.
And he should have been done his service anyway. Forty five years old was the upper limit usually. Back home in Bruce Mines he had a loving and faithful wife. Until her death decades later she referred to herself as the wife of Fraser Ingram. Even writing that on her tombstone. Fraser
was well liked as well it would seem, as fellow sergeants erected a tombstone for him in Bramshott.
So Fraser would lose his life in a hospital far from home. And be buried in a Anglican cemetery where he likely didn't know anyone. Meanwhile Jemima, his loving widow, would spend her life looking after friends and family. Travelling to California and Winnipeg before returning to spend her last years in Bruce Mines where she grew up, married the love of her life Frazer Ingram.
So was Frazer murdered? We'll never know. Was he responsible for taking his own life? You will never convince me of that. The mental state of men who signed up to travel to distant lands fight a enemy...we now know of the effects of many medicines. Could he have taken his own life as a side effect of a medication? Every second or third medication ones comes by seem to have depressive or suicidal side effects as a risk, did he get given
something that would make him fall into a pit of despair?
Jemima continued on her energetic life. She looked after ailing relatives, was part of the Church Women's Association and the Legion. She lived not far from the museum in a little cottage on the waterfront and would teach children how to swim. Passing away at an advanced age. She and Fraser are remembered in Bruce Mines Heritage book published in 1984. She never forgot her husband though, and made sure to have it on her grave.
Sadly their graves are thousands of miles apart, but not their hearts. I didn't feel a sadness in that museum, but a love that transcends time and space.
Pipesmoke of the Past