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The Community Archives of Belleville and Hastings County preserves the history of our community through the records of local governments, individuals, families, businesses and organizations. Find us in the Belleville Public Library building at 254 Pinnacle Street, Belleville, Ontario. Call us at 613-967-3304.

The archives is open Monday to Thursday, 9.30am to 12pm and 1pm to 4pm and on Friday and Saturday by appointment.

Archives News

Belleville in World War I

Follow the citizens of Belleville and Hastings County as they face the challenges of the home front during the First World War through excerpts from The Daily Intelligencer, August 1914 to November 1918.

100 Years Ago: Belleville Women Knit Weekly, All Must Carry Papers in June, Successful West Belleville Tag Day, Harry Pound Called to Duty

The Intelligencer May 20, 1918 (page 2)

“Belleville Women Knit Weekly in ‘Rainbow Circles’. Twenty Circles, With Twenty Members in Each, Turn Out 1,000 Socks Monthly—A Model Organization Started Just After The War Broke. (Toronto Star Weekly)

In the first month after war was declared, Belleville women organized their ‘Rainbow Circles.’ They have twenty of them with twenty women in each. A few circles are made up of young, unmarried women, and the others of married women. Each circle has its own particular color. When a pair of socks is completed it is marked with the Circle color and all are handed to the Convenor, who in turn passes them on to the Red Cross Society. The mark of the Circle color gives the convenor a chance to tally up and see which Circle has done its duty for the week or month. Each woman is supposed to complete at least one pair of socks a week. The combined Circles’ work always tally up over 1,000 pairs a month.

Lately they have taken to having some of the ‘legs’ knitted by a machine, and the Circle women hand-knit the feet. So to each meeting the convenor comes with a supply of ‘legs’ and a big quantity of wool. The legs they have knitted by a woman who has a machine in her home and is glad to do it for 10 cents a pair. She does her ‘bit’ by her low charge.

Each circle meets once a week at the home of some members from 2 to 5.30 o’clock, so they get in a good bit of knitting during that time. There is no law against talking while the knitting is going on! Then of course, the knitting is taken home and worked at there. Towards the close of this weekly knitting party a cup of tea is served with a slice or two of bread and butter or biscuits. The rules about the ‘eats’ are very strict, and no one is allowed to go beyond this simple menu, for the Rainbow Circles are out to do business and comprise intelligent, patriotic women. If any of the members live in apartments or board and cannot thus take their turn at entertaining their circle they are allowed ‘the privilege’ of paying in a dollar or so instead.

Each member pays a 10-cent weekly fee, which helps to buy wool. The younger circles, however, pay a 10-cent monthly fee. (They are daughters of those belonging to older circles.)

The ‘Rainbows’ had no difficulty in raising the wherewithal to buy wool. One of their fetes was on a big scale and held in the Armouries. At this each circle had its own booth decorated in colors of its circle, and sold whatever that circle saw fit to sell. Then they have ‘showers’ for the boys’ Christmas boxes. And hope when ‘the boys come home’ to give them some kind of a big celebration.

‘Everything goes on without the slightest friction. We never have any quarreling, and we’ve just accomplished wonders,’ said an enthusiastic member. ‘Then it’s got the women acquainted with each other drawn some ‘out of their shells’ and helped keep them from feeling so blue over the war—for our weekly gatherings are so friendly and nice.’

No doubt a great deal of the success of these circles is due to the promoter and originator of the Rainbow Circle idea, Mrs. (Dr.) Yeomans—she is the head convenor. Mrs. Yeomans has thrown herself heart and soul into the work. Her two sons were amongst the first (and youngest) Belleville boys to enlist for overseas service. One of them is now a prisoner in Germany, the other killed in action.”

The Intelligencer May 20, 1918 (page 3)

“All Must Carry Papers in June To Avoid Arrest. A far reaching amendment to the Military Service Act that covers every man in Toronto and throughout the Dominion, under the order-in-Council passed on April 30, has been received by C. Leslie Wilson, Military registrar.

The order states that, beginning June 1, all persons who claim not to be in Class One under the Military Service Act must carry papers at all times with the proper certificates of proof that they do not come within Class One. The identification papers must either be a birth certificate or a marriage license. The act previously covered only the men of Class One and has now been stretched to take in all classes.”

The Intelligencer May 20, 1918 (page 5)

“Successful Tag Day. The War Workers of West Belleville in conjunction with the members of the Victory Club, also of West Belleville on Saturday conducted a successful tag day in the city. During the day and evening many ladies and young women were engaged in disposing of tags. When the boxes were all turned in and counted the amount secured totalled $685.25.”

The Intelligencer May 20, 1918 (page 5)

“Honored Young Soldier. A number of friends and neighbors gathered at the house of Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Pound to spend an evening with their son Harry, who has been called to military duty. The following address was read by Rev. Mr. McMullen, while Mr. S. Heene presented Harry with a wrist watch.

Canifton, May 13th, 1918. Dear Harry:—We, a few of your many friends, knowing that you were about to leave us in response to the call of your country for the defence of our free institutions and for the preservation of justice and liberty for the whole world, feel that we could not allow you to depart from our midst, from the hearts that love you and the dear old home that is devoted to you without in some way expressing to you the very high esteem in which you are held by this dear old community in which you were born and reared. …

As a slight token of the esteem in which you are held by us, we ask you to accept this wrist watch with the assurance that you will ever live in our hearts and prayers.”

Nurses of World War I: Mary Hele Hambly

Mary Hele Hambly was born in Belleville on October 29, 1885 daughter of Philip Hambly and Mary Mayo. Lieutenant-Colonel Hambly, the father of our subject, was a confectioner and caterer and served with the 49th Battalion, Hastings Rifles, Belleville during the Fenain Raid of 1864.

Miss Hambly was educated locally and when she was eighteen travelled to Philadelphia where her brother Charles worked as a retail jeweler; here she studied at the Nursing School and graduated about 1908. She worked at the Philadelphia hospital but at the outbreak of War enlisted in the Canadian Army Medical Corps on May 5, 1915 at Kingston.

Height: 5′ 6″

Weight: 115lb

Age: 29 (stated age: 28)

Nursing Sister Hambly served at the Military Hospital in Etaples, France and at several hospitals in England. She suffered illnesses during her service and required hospitalization on many occasions with diagnoses including influenza, neurasthenia, pleurisy and gastroenteritis. From the Belleville Intelligencer July 22, 1916: “She was one of the first to enlist and serve, and her skill and enthusiastic work have earned her official commendation”. Miss Hambly was awarded the Royal Red Cross, 2nd Class on October 23, 1917. She returned to Canada on June 14, 1919 setting sail aboard the S.S. Aquitania and was discharged on June 22, 1919; she lived with her parents at 237 Ann Street.

After the War Miss Hambly immigrated to the United States on April 16, 1920 and was united in marriage on November 25, 1926 to James Young at Los Angeles, California.

Mary Hele Young died at Santa Ana, California on November 1, 1929 aged 44 years 2 days. She is interred at the Riverside Cemetery, California.

100 Years Ago: Sergeant Arthur Edward McGlashon Improving, Arthur Nelson Pyear Leaves for Overseas, Lieut. R. Scott and Wife Return to Stirling, Cadet Blue Knitting Circle Holds Tea

The Intelligencer May 18, 1918 (page 2)

“Sergt. McGlashon Is Improving. Mrs. McGlashon wife of Sergt McGlashon, caretaker of the Armouries, in this city, is in receipt of the following communication which refers to her son, Sergt. A. E. McGlashon, who some months ago was seriously wounded: NO. 5 Canadian General Hospital, Kirkdalt, Liverpool, April 30th, 1918.

Dear Mrs. McGlashon:—I am writing to let you know that your son, Sgt. A. E. McGlashon, is now in Ward A, in the above Hospital. I have had the pleasure of calling upon him from time to time during the past few months. His cheerfulness and good spirit were always an inspiration to me. Now he is still more happy, that he is among Canadians in a Canadian institution.

Before long, I cannot tell you definitely, but it is not likely to be more than four weeks at the very latest we expect he will be on his way back to Canada. For this I am sure you will be very grateful. Should you receive a cable with the simple message ‘Leaving,’ you will know that he has got started. Our hospital ships travel with practically absolute safety, so that you need have no fears of his coming to any grief on the water.

His wound, as you know, was quite severe, but in time he will recover almost, if not altogether, completely. In all your anxiety for him you have had our thought and prayers, and now that he will soon be restored to you, you have our congratulations. Yours very sincerely, James W. Melvin, Capt.”

The Intelligencer May 18, 1918 (page 3)

“Bade Farewell To Soldier Boy. On Thursday evening, May 9th, about 100 of the friends and neighbors assembled at the home of Mr. Richard Pyear, River Road to bid farewell to his youngest son Arthur, who expects to leave shortly for overseas service. During the evening the following address was read by Albert Carlisle:

Mr. Arthur Pyear, Stirling. Dear Friend and Neighbor,—We, some of your neighbors and friends, have met before your departure for overseas and the great war to voice our appreciation of you as one of the boys of our church and community and to wish you Godspeed and a safe return. …  Today we recognize that the greatest service a young man can render his generation is to help preserve to his fellowmen the privileges and freedom our fathers won and handed down to us. …

In accepting this wrist watch and fountain pen our hope is that you will be frequently reminded of the love of your friends and that some of us will frequently hear from you and of your welfare. Signed on behalf of your many friends, Geo. R. Meggison, Henry Farrell, Albert C. Carlisle.

Mr. Richard Pyear and son, Arthur, made suitable replies, thanking their friends and neighbors for the remembrances. Rev. F. H. Howard acted as chairman and addressed the gathering. Speeches were also made by Gilbert Windsor, Geo. Meggison and others. A piano solo by Miss Vera Hubbell and songs by Miss Viola Windsor, Miss Edith Abbott and Frank Abbott formed a very enjoyable part of the program. Lunch was served and in the ‘wee sma’ hours of the morning the gathering dispersed after singing the National Anthem.”

The Intelligencer May 18, 1918 (page 5)

“Welcomed Home. Lieut. R. Scott and Mrs. Scott arrived in Stirling Wednesday on the 6:30 train and were greeted by the ringing of all the church bells and the cheers and congratulations of a large number of friends who had assembled at the station. Lieut. Scott left Canada about two years ago, having enlisted with the 80th Battalion, and served as a gallant son of the Empire in the firing line in France, where he was wounded and afterwards invalided home.”

The Intelligencer May 18, 1918 (page 6)

“Birthday Party. Yesterday from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Y.M.C.A. the Cadet Blue Knitting Circle held a most successful At Home in the form of a birthday party. The arrangements and decorations of the spacious rooms were beautiful, the color scheme being cadet blue with cowslips and various spring flowers.

Mrs. Clarke, convenor of the Circle, assisted by Mrs. S. Bongard, received; Miss M. Campbell took the pennies at the door from the many that attended. Refreshments were served by the seventeen ladies who belong to the Circle. Tea was poured by Mrs. G. Simmons and Mrs. A. Thrasher. The proceeds, which amounted to a goodly sum, will be used for socks and comforts for the soldiers.”

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