The People

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These are the stories of Kenora participants in the First World War.

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  • Olsen, Horace Albert Image
  • Olsen, Horace Albert

  • Horace Albert Olsen was born on 12 October 1897 in the Ullswater area in Muskoka, Ontario. His father Tobias Olsen, the son of Norwegian immigrants, was born in 1862 in Quebec while his mother Mary Ann McCaskill, the daughter of a Scottish immigrant and his Upper Canadian born wife, was born in 1861 in Glengarry, Ontario. Tobias and Mary Ann were both living in the Township of Watt, Muskoka when they married on 3 January 1889 in Bracebridge. Following the marriage the couple farmed in Watt, giving birth to seven children: Andrew Olla (1889), William Samuel (1891), Clara Laverne (1892), Thomas John (Jack) (1893), Nellie (1895), Horace, and Mary Annie (1899). By the time of the 1911 census for Watt household members were Tobias and Mary Ann and children Samuel, John, Nellie, Horace, and Annie. Olla had married and was living in the area, while it appears that Clara was rooming in Toronto and working as a stenographer at a drug house/store.

    Horace signed his attestation papers with the 122nd Battalion on 17 March 1916 in Huntsville, Ontario. Living in Ullswater, his occupation was given as bushman and his father Tobias at the nearby Raymond PO as next of kin. Based in Huntsville, Ontario, the unit began recruiting in late 1915 in the Muskoka district. After sailing to England on the Olympic in early June 1917, the battalion was absorbed into the Canadian Forestry Depot on 9 June 1917. However, developing a hernia during a farming furlough in the summer of 1916, Horace did not embark with the battalion, instead arriving in England aboard the Grampian 23 August 1917 in a Forestry Draft to the Canadian Forestry Corps Depot. That June in London, Ontario he had been fitted with a truss to support the hernia.

    Horace was to serve in France with the No 75 Company, CFC for the balance of the war. The Canadian Forestry Corps provided lumber for the Allied war effort by cutting and preparing timber in the United Kingdom and on the continent of Europe in both the First World War and the Second World War. Forestry units also cleared terrain for the construction of installations such as airfields and runway, prepared railway ties, as well as lumber for the creation of barracks, road surfaces, ammunition crates, trench construction, etc. These units were sometimes called on in the First World War to perform as infantry. (canadiansoldiers.com). He was awarded a Good Conduct Badge on 17 March 1918. He returned to England in mid January 1919 and embarked for Canada aboard the Princess Juliana on 8 February. Once in Canada Horace went before a medical board at Exhibition Camp in Toronto where it was recommended that he have surgery to repair the hernia. Refusing, he was discharged from service as medically unfit on 11 March 1919 in Toronto. At the time of discharge his intended residence was given as Ullswater.

    Not a lot is known about Horace’s life after the war. He eventually ended up in northwestern Ontario, living in the Fort Frances area around 1928 before working for a number of years at Camp Robinson. Camp Robinson is an unincorporated place and former settlement in Unorganized Kenora District in northwestern Ontario, Canada. It is located on Cedar Lake about 3 kilometres east of Ontario Highway 105 and 33 kilometres north of Vermilion Bay. The camp was created as Camp 69 on Cedar Lake, Ontario in 1947. Established by the Minnesota and Ontario Paper Company to house woodland workers and their families, Camp Robinson was named in honour of Mr. RHM Robinson, the then President of the company. The camp had over 30 homes that were four room bungalows which were first painted green. These small houses created low rent homes for the company’s workers and their families. A two-room school was built to house 50 students overseen by Mr Edwin Sweet, teacher/principal. Eventually, a bakery, butcher shop, a laundry, a small infirmary with a registered nurse were all located in the camp. For entertainment, the camp had its own curling rink and baseball diamond and a church for spiritual needs. The camp had its own power generation using large diesel powered generator sets. The company’s woodland garage was located in the camp to service all the equipment from surrounding woodlands operations. The camp even had its own sewage system. Camp Robinson was in existence for over 30 years until its demise in 1980. The end for the camp was in the works since the takeover of the company by Boise Cascade, as they had planned to replace the workers (represented by the Lumber and Sawmill Union) with independent owner operators of log skidding equipment. The camp was leveled and buried by Boise Cascade and trees were planted over the site. (Wikipedia)

    Leaving the camp in 1958, Horace moved to Kenora, taking up residence at 329 Third Street South. He was a member of the Kenora Branch of the Canadian Legion and St Alban’s Pro Cathedral.

    Horace died on 14 August 1965 in the Kenora General Hospital. He was predeceased by his mother Mary Ann (1926), father Tobias (1945), and brother Olla (1960), all interred in the Ullswater Cemetery. Although his obituary stated that there were no surviving family members, his siblings Clara died later that year, William Samuel in 1968, Thomas in 1976, Nellie in 1979, and Mary Annie in 1980. Not having heard from him since shortly after the war, over the years family members had searched for Horace’s whereabouts, in particular his niece and the family historian, Edith Smith. Having no luck, surviving family now know his final chapter and resting place.

    Horace is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora, his grave unmarked. A memorial marker giving his date of birth and unit of service is located beside his parent’s grave in Ullswater. Through a successful application made by the KGWP to Last Post, during the 2018 season a military marker for Horace will be installed at the cemetery, with Edith and possibly other family members planning a visit to his grave.

    By Judy Stockham

    Family photographs provided by Olla’s son Ed Olsen.
    Family information and photographs provided by niece Edith Smith.
    Memorial marker photograph provided by Rachel Olsen.

    Olsen-Horace-Albert-1 Olsen-Horace-Albert-2 Olsen-Horace-Albert-4 Olsen-Horace-Albert-5Olsen-Horace-Albert-5b Olsen-Horace-Albert-6 Olsen-Horace-Albert-7

  • Regimental Number:
  • 763377
  • Service Record:
  • Survived War:
  • Yes
  • Force:
  • Canadian Expeditionary Force
  • Branch:
  • Canadian Forestry Corps
  • Battalion:
  • No 75 Company
  • Place of Birth:
  • Ullswater, Muskoka, Ontario
  • Country:
  • Canada
  • Next of Kin:
  • Tobias Olsen, father, Raymond PO, Ontario
  • Address at Enlistment:
  • Ullswater PO, Muskoka, Ontario
  • Date of Birth:
  • October 12, 1897
  • Trade or Calling:
  • Bushman
  • Marital Status:
  • Single
  • Place of Enlistment:
  • Huntsville, Ontario
  • Date of Enlistment:
  • March 17, 1916
  • Age at Enlistment:
  • 18
  • Religion:
  • Church of England
  • Enlisted or Conscripted:
  • Enlisted
  • Saw Service In:
  • Europe
  • Date of Death:
  • August 14, 1965
  • Age at Death:
  • 68
  • Buried at:
  • Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
  • Plot:
  • 51E-45-5
  • Prisoner of War:
  • No
  • Horace Albert Olsen was born on 12 October 1897 in the Ullswater area in Muskoka, Ontario. His father Tobias Olsen, the son of Norwegian immigrants, was born in 1862 in Quebec while his mother Mary Ann McCaskill, the daughter of a Scottish immigrant and his Upper Canadian born wife, was born in 1861 in Glengarry, Ontario. Tobias and Mary Ann were both living in the Township of Watt, Muskoka when they married on 3 January 1889 in Bracebridge. Following the marriage the couple farmed in Watt, giving birth to seven children: Andrew Olla (1889), William Samuel (1891), Clara Laverne (1892), Thomas John (Jack) (1893), Nellie (1895), Horace, and Mary Annie (1899). By the time of the 1911 census for Watt household members were Tobias and Mary Ann and children Samuel, John, Nellie, Horace, and Annie. Olla had married and was living in the area, while it appears that Clara was rooming in Toronto and working as a stenographer at a drug house/store.

    Horace signed his attestation papers with the 122nd Battalion on 17 March 1916 in Huntsville, Ontario. Living in Ullswater, his occupation was given as bushman and his father Tobias at the nearby Raymond PO as next of kin. Based in Huntsville, Ontario, the unit began recruiting in late 1915 in the Muskoka district. After sailing to England on the Olympic in early June 1917, the battalion was absorbed into the Canadian Forestry Depot on 9 June 1917. However, developing a hernia during a farming furlough in the summer of 1916, Horace did not embark with the battalion, instead arriving in England aboard the Grampian 23 August 1917 in a Forestry Draft to the Canadian Forestry Corps Depot. That June in London, Ontario he had been fitted with a truss to support the hernia.

    Horace was to serve in France with the No 75 Company, CFC for the balance of the war. The Canadian Forestry Corps provided lumber for the Allied war effort by cutting and preparing timber in the United Kingdom and on the continent of Europe in both the First World War and the Second World War. Forestry units also cleared terrain for the construction of installations such as airfields and runway, prepared railway ties, as well as lumber for the creation of barracks, road surfaces, ammunition crates, trench construction, etc. These units were sometimes called on in the First World War to perform as infantry. (canadiansoldiers.com). He was awarded a Good Conduct Badge on 17 March 1918. He returned to England in mid January 1919 and embarked for Canada aboard the Princess Juliana on 8 February. Once in Canada Horace went before a medical board at Exhibition Camp in Toronto where it was recommended that he have surgery to repair the hernia. Refusing, he was discharged from service as medically unfit on 11 March 1919 in Toronto. At the time of discharge his intended residence was given as Ullswater.

    Not a lot is known about Horace’s life after the war. He eventually ended up in northwestern Ontario, living in the Fort Frances area around 1928 before working for a number of years at Camp Robinson. Camp Robinson is an unincorporated place and former settlement in Unorganized Kenora District in northwestern Ontario, Canada. It is located on Cedar Lake about 3 kilometres east of Ontario Highway 105 and 33 kilometres north of Vermilion Bay. The camp was created as Camp 69 on Cedar Lake, Ontario in 1947. Established by the Minnesota and Ontario Paper Company to house woodland workers and their families, Camp Robinson was named in honour of Mr. RHM Robinson, the then President of the company. The camp had over 30 homes that were four room bungalows which were first painted green. These small houses created low rent homes for the company’s workers and their families. A two-room school was built to house 50 students overseen by Mr Edwin Sweet, teacher/principal. Eventually, a bakery, butcher shop, a laundry, a small infirmary with a registered nurse were all located in the camp. For entertainment, the camp had its own curling rink and baseball diamond and a church for spiritual needs. The camp had its own power generation using large diesel powered generator sets. The company’s woodland garage was located in the camp to service all the equipment from surrounding woodlands operations. The camp even had its own sewage system. Camp Robinson was in existence for over 30 years until its demise in 1980. The end for the camp was in the works since the takeover of the company by Boise Cascade, as they had planned to replace the workers (represented by the Lumber and Sawmill Union) with independent owner operators of log skidding equipment. The camp was leveled and buried by Boise Cascade and trees were planted over the site. (Wikipedia)

    Leaving the camp in 1958, Horace moved to Kenora, taking up residence at 329 Third Street South. He was a member of the Kenora Branch of the Canadian Legion and St Alban’s Pro Cathedral.

    Horace died on 14 August 1965 in the Kenora General Hospital. He was predeceased by his mother Mary Ann (1926), father Tobias (1945), and brother Olla (1960), all interred in the Ullswater Cemetery. Although his obituary stated that there were no surviving family members, his siblings Clara died later that year, William Samuel in 1968, Thomas in 1976, Nellie in 1979, and Mary Annie in 1980. Not having heard from him since shortly after the war, over the years family members had searched for Horace’s whereabouts, in particular his niece and the family historian, Edith Smith. Having no luck, surviving family now know his final chapter and resting place.

    Horace is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora, his grave unmarked. A memorial marker giving his date of birth and unit of service is located beside his parent’s grave in Ullswater. Through a successful application made by the KGWP to Last Post, during the 2018 season a military marker for Horace will be installed at the cemetery, with Edith and possibly other family members planning a visit to his grave.

    By Judy Stockham

    Family photographs provided by Olla’s son Ed Olsen.
    Family information and photographs provided by niece Edith Smith.
    Memorial marker photograph provided by Rachel Olsen.

    Olsen-Horace-Albert-1 Olsen-Horace-Albert-2 Olsen-Horace-Albert-4 Olsen-Horace-Albert-5Olsen-Horace-Albert-5b Olsen-Horace-Albert-6 Olsen-Horace-Albert-7

  • « Return to all stories
  • Olsen, Horace Albert Image
  • Regimental Number:
  • 763377
  • Force:
  • Canadian Expeditionary Force
  • Battalion:
  • No 75 Company
  • Place of Birth:
  • Ullswater, Muskoka, Ontario
  • Next of Kin:
  • Tobias Olsen, father, Raymond PO, Ontario
  • Date of Birth:
  • October 12, 1897
  • Survived War:
  • Yes
  • Branch:
  • Canadian Forestry Corps
  • Country:
  • Canada
  • Address at Enlistment:
  • Ullswater PO, Muskoka, Ontario
  • Trade or Calling:
  • Bushman
  • Marital Status:
  • Single
  • Place of Enlistment:
  • Huntsville, Ontario
  • Date of Enlistment:
  • March 17, 1916
  • Age at Enlistment:
  • 18
  • Religion:
  • Church of England
  • Enlisted or Conscripted:
  • Enlisted
  • Saw Service In:
  • Europe
  • Date of Death:
  • August 14, 1965
  • Age at Death:
  • 68
  • Buried at:
  • Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
  • Plot:
  • 51E-45-5
  • Prisoner of War:
  • No
  • Olsen, Horace Albert

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