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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.

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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.

Nurses of World War I: Annie Mabel Foster

Annie Mabel Foster was born at the farm house at Concession 1, Lot N ½ 13 near Moira, Ontario on February 22, 1891, daughter of Owen Foster and Sarah Sills.

She was raised on the Scoharie Road in Prince Edward County and completed her secondary education, graduating from the Picton Collegiate and the Nursing School at the Toronto Wellesley Hospital in 1917; here she graduated with honours and won two scholarships. Miss Foster enlisted in the Canadian Army Medical Corps on May 1, 1917 in Toronto.

Height  5’ 5”

Weight  130lb

Stated age: 25 (actual:26)

Nursing Sister Foster served initially at Camp Borden then proceeded overseas and was stationed at the No. 16 Canadian General Hospital near Orpington, England. This hospital had over two thousand beds filled with battered and war-weary soldiers; after the Armistice she was left in charge of Orpington Hospital for a time until all patients were either discharged or transferred. Following the War, Miss Foster and other Canadian nurses were presented to King George V and Queen Mary; they took a trip to the Continent visiting the principal cities of France and Germany. She returned to Canada setting sail on the S.S. Tunisian on November 14, 1919 and was discharged on January 3, 1920.

Tired and worn from her strenuous duties, Miss Foster never enjoyed as good health afterward. She had contracted Tuberculosis during her service in England and spent the duration seeking treatment at the Mowat Sanatorium and Hotel Dieu in Kingston, the Christie Street Hospital in Toronto and the Calydor Sanatorium in the Muskokas. In December 1938 Miss Foster designed and built a new home at 258 Dundas Street East in Belleville where she resided and also enjoyed a summer home at Oak Lake. She died at the Belleville General Hospital and Nursing Sisters and members of the Legion paid their respects by forming an honour guard.

Annie Mabel Foster died on February 18, 1949 aged 57 years 11 months 26 days. She is interred in the Military Section of Glenwood Cemetery Section L, Grave 93.

Grave at Glenwood Cemetery

100 Years Ago: Men Between 16 and 60 Must Work, Call for Citizens to Pray and Attend Church, Theatre Fare Advertised, Private Clifford Gunn Welcomed in Madoc Masonic Hall, Lieut. A. Kelso Roberts Missing

The Intelligencer April 6, 1918 (page 1)

“Everyone Between 16 and 60 Must Engage in Useful Work. Ottawa. An order-in-Council to suppress idleness has been adopted by the Government. It provides that every male person shall be regularly engaged in some useful occupation, with the exception of persons under sixteen years of age and over sixty, or physically unfit, or a student or temporarily unemployed. …  There are careful provisions against employers using this regulation as a club over the heads of strikers, as these are specifically exempted.”

The Intelligencer April 6, 1918 (page 3)

“Leaders of the Empire are Calling Us to Prayer at This Time, Worship at Your Church To-morrow. Emmanual Reformed Episcopal—Rev. A. M. Hubly; John St. Presbyterian—Rev. D. C. Ramsay, B.A.; St. Andrew’s Presbyterian—Rev. A. S. Kerr, B.A.; Holloway St. Methodist—Rev. J. N. Clarry, B.A.; Tabernacle Methodist—Rev. S. C. Moore, B.A., B. D.; Bridge St. Methodist—Rev. C. T. Scott, D.D.”

The Intelligencer April 6, 1918 (page 6)

Theatre listings

“Griffin Theatre: Gus Hill’s Big Minstrels. Grand Concert, City Hall: Isolde Menges. Palace Theatre: Ethel Barrymore in ‘Life’s Whirlpool.’ Griffin Pictures: Miss Billie Burke in The Land of Promise, Valeska Surratt in A Rich Man’s Plaything. Griffin Pictures: Mabel Normand in ‘Dodging a Million,’ Jack Pickford & Louise Huff in ‘Jack & Jill.’ Palace Theatre: Theda Bara in ‘Her Greatest Love.’ ”

The Intelligencer April 6, 1918 (page 7)

“Reception to Returned Soldier. A large and enthusiastic meeting was held in the Masonic Hall, Madoc, on Monday night to tender a hearty welcome to Pte. Clifford Gunn who has just returned from overseas. Pte. Gunn enlisted at Madoc, went overseas in October, 1916, proceeded to France where he was shell shocked at Vimy Ridge and invalided to Blighty.

Pte. Gunn, although still suffering from the effects of shell shock, is looking well. There appeared on the platform along with him his father looking his approval of Clifford’s actions and happy in the consciousness of his safe return. Madoc Band was out in full force to celebrate Clifford’s return and a hearty welcome on behalf of Madoc’s citizens was tendered.”

The Intelligencer April 6, 1918 (page 7)

“Lieut. A. Kelso Roberts. A cable received by Mrs. A. A. Roberts, who resides at 159 George St., in this city, conveyed the sad intelligence that her son, Lieut. A. Kelso Roberts, who has been on active service in the war zone, is reported as missing since March 21st. Lieut. Roberts obtained his commission from the Royal Military College at Kingston, and went overseas last September. He enlisted with the Royal Field Artillery in England and had been in France since New Years. His many friends in this city will hope that the more favorable news will soon be received from the popular young officer.”

100 Years Ago: Gunner Ralph Coon Killed in Action, Circus Held at Y.M.C.A.

The Intelligencer April 5, 1918 (page 2)

“A Brave Soldier and True Comrade. Mr. and Mrs. D. E. Coon, of the fourth concession of Sidney, received further particulars of the death of their son, Gunner Ralph A. Coon, in letters from some of the members of the 16th Battery, of which he was a member. Ralph went overseas in December, 1915.

The following is one of the letters received: France, February 10, 1918. Dear Mrs. Coon,—The sad news of your son Ralph’s death no doubt long since reached you. However, at the request of the boys of the battery I am writing you this letter with a view of giving you the particulars of how your son and our comrade met his death. From men who were with Ralph when he met his unfortunate end I gleaned the following particulars.

It was on the morning of February 6th, about 7 a.m., when a shell from the German lines came over. Ralph was asleep at the time, and it is our belief that he never knew what happened to him, even though it was two hours before he died. From the gun position he was at once removed to a dressing station close by. Despite the heroic efforts of the doctor there was nothing could be done to save his life. He never regained consciousness. …

In a little cemetery far back from the firing line we buried him the day after he was killed, and, Mrs. Coon, I can safely say the funeral was one of the most impressive ones I ever saw in this country. Practically every member of this big unit turned out to pay homage to one of our bravest soldiers and truest comrades. Our army chaplain conducted the service and in addition to his two cousins, the other pall bearers were A. Bde. J. Lummand, and Gunner L. Smith.

Yesterday two of the gunners made a long trip to a well known little French town, where they succeeded in purchasing a truly beautiful monument. This will be suitably engraved and erected in the course of the next few days. It is customary to erect crosses over the graves of the fallen battery boys, but in Ralph’s case, he was so popular that twelve of his most intimate friends got together and secured a monument.

Well, Mrs. Coon, I guess there is little left to say, so in concluding, permit me to express to you the heartfelt sympathy of every officer and man in the battery, and when you lost your son Ralph we here lost one of the truest, bravest and most popular boys the battery has ever known.

If there is anything further you desire to know please write me and I will feel it more than a duty to answer your letter immediately. I remain, yours truly, A.-Bde. J. Trimm.”

[Note: Gunner Ralph Addison Coon died on February 6, 1918. He is commemorated on Page 388 of the First World War Book of Remembrance.]

The Intelligencer April 5, 1918 (page 4)

“Unique and Amusing Circus at Y.M.C.A. Dingaling & Bungaling Brothers celebrated Country Circus is in the city and is creating considerable excitement and interest not only among the younger citizens, but even with the grown up population. It is rightly termed Belleville’s classy circus. It opened in the Y.M.C.A. building last night and the attendance was such that nearly every apartment of that spacious building was filled.

Previous to the opening of the large show in the gymnasium the side show was a source of great attraction and curiosity. …  Hundreds visited this important feature of the circus, and were edified and pleased with all presented to gaze. Whilst the big show was in progress in the assembly room a minstrel show took place, and the programme was such as to delight all who attended.

At a few minutes after 8 o’clock the grand entry took place. …  The grand entry was a spectacle of surpassing beauty, a galaxy of acrobats, tumblers and gymnasts and gorgeous costumes, funny clowns, weird freaks and ferocious animals, and a stupendous moving tableau. A most entertaining programme was then carried out consisting of boxing drills, gymnastic dancing by a class of young ladies was thrilling and bewildering. …

Six young men gave a fine exhibition of work on the parallel bar. They won hearty applause by their swiftly evolving tricks which were something new, novel and unique. A band of soldiers of the soil wielding rakes and hoes in wonderful evolution and in perfect unison to music, was much enjoyed. …  Every part of the programme was well carried out by those taking part, there being not a dull moment. The performance will be repeated this evening, and those unable to witness it last night should avail themselves of the opportunity to do so.”

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