Lest We Forget – The Hadden – Wagner Families Wall Of Honour

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we pause to reflect and remember those who went before us, bravely sacrificing their youth and in too many cases their lives, for our freedom.

Poppy
The following is the list of those known brave ancestors, some from my family and some from Ellen’s, who gave so much. Today especially, we remember them. They shall not be forgotten.

World War I

GAMMIE, James (1895-1918), Private, Canadian Expeditionary Force, killed in action

GAMMIE, Peter (1893-1984), Private, Canadian Expeditionary Force (enlisted, not sent overseas)

GORDON, Alexander Garrow Duncan (1891-1917), Private, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, killed in action

MERNER, Albert Edward ‘Herbert’ (1897-1917), Canadian Expeditionary Force, killed in action

TRIGGS, James Little (1899-1916), Cabin Boy, Royal Navy, killed in action

TRIGGS, Phillip (1899-1967), Cabin Boy, Royal Navy

FINDLATER, William (1880-1918), British Army, died at home from wounds

FILKIN, Carl William (1897-1976), Canadian Expeditionary Force, lost left arm to shrapnel gun shot wound in France

World War II

SENATO, Nicola F. (1913-1945), U.S. Army, killed in action, Japan

NUSBICKEL, Thomas Raymond (1923-2002), U.S. Army

GAULL, George Leonard ‘Lenny’ (1920-2013), Canadian Armed Forces

MORGAN, Bruce Evan, M.D. (1924-2007), Navigator, Canadian Air Force

WAGNER, Carl Francis (1917-1993), Canadian Armed Forces

WAGNER, Gordon Gilbert Henry (1914-1994), Canadian Armed Forces
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The Service File Of Peter Gammie

Each month I would check and find nothing but the attestation (enlistment) form for my great granduncle Peter Gammie.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) had a much publicized project underway to digitize and post the full service files for the Canadian Soldiers of the First World War (according to the website, they are about one-third of the way through the digitization project). As batches of these digitized files were completed, they were posted on the LAC website. Available for free for all who were interested.

Long ago, I had paid LAC to photocopy and send me the service file of James Gammie, Peter’s brother. I had great interest in James’, or ‘Jimmie’s, file because his death in the 1918 from injuries sustained in France during combat had triggered the events that lead to my great grandfather, and Jimmie’s half brother, to move the Hadden family to Canada. The move had been at the invitation of my great grandfather and the Gammie brother’s mother Helen.

A distant cousin had once informed me in an email that while James had died in combat, Peter had not seen action in the war. But there was no explanation.

Peter Gammie

Peter Gammie

What was known was that Peter, aged 23, and his younger brother James, aged 21, had enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force together on May 17, 1916 in the village of Aneroid, Saskatchewan. Together, they completed the enlistment form giving their names, dates and places of birth, as well as listing their next of kin. Both brothers listed their mother Mrs. Helen (Shand) Gammie (my 2X great grandmother) as next of kin.

The brothers stated they were farmers willing to serve overseas. They swore oaths to King and Country. They were assigned consecutive regimental service numbers; the younger Jimmie becoming #1010103 and Peter becoming #1010104. Both were found to be medically fit to serve. Both were sent off for training.

For Jimmie, time would see him sent to the front lines in France where he was injured by shrapnel. He spent time in a hospital, recovered from his injuries and was sent back to the front lines. He wasn’t so lucky the next time. On September 28, 1918, Jimmie was killed in action. He was buried in France where an iconic maple leaf adorned gravestone marks his final resting place.

James Gammie gravestone, Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Arras, France

James Gammie gravestone, Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Arras, France

The mystery that surrounded Peter’s military career has now been cleared up.

His service file has now been posted and reiterates what was known. He enlisted with his younger brother and assigned to artillery training with the 229th Battalion. As all soldiers were required to do, on October 20th, 1916 he completed his pro-forma last will and testament, leaving all his possessions to his mother, “Mrs. A. Gammie.”

His medical record indicates that he received his required inoculations and all five feet, nine inches and one hundred and fifty-two pounds of him seemed well and fit. At least until February 1, 1917 when he was diagnosed and hospitalized for 29 days with a severe case of the mumps.

Two months later, on April 24th, 1917 he was again medically examined and was found to have “defective vision and varicose veins,” dating back, although never previously noted, to his pre-enlistment days.

To quote the examining doctor, Peter was “practically blind in right eye – left eye subnormal – varicose veins in right leg below knee.” The vision of the left eye was tested at 20/80 vision.

It is puzzling how a young man, an eager soldier recruit, could be medically examined numerous times by various medical personnel, spend a month in hospital and then, after six months of military service, be found to have pre-existing condition of near blindness in one eye and very poor sight with the other. But, apparently that was the case for Peter Gammie.

The doctor recommended a medical discharge. The medical board agreed and so, on June 7, 1917 Peter Gammie was medically discharged from the army and sent back home to the family farm. Never to see action in the war. Never to see his younger brother again.

52 Ancestors: Andrew Gammie, Sr. (1861-1926) or Why My Family Moved to Toronto, Ontario?

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of ’52 Ancestors’ in her blog post “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don’t know.

When I became curious about the history of my family, some thirty plus years ago, one of the first people I spoke to was my great uncle Alexander Gaull Hadden, or Uncle Alec as I knew him. Uncle Alec told me what he knew of the family. His paternal grandmother was Helen Shand. She had given birth to his father, my great grandfather Alexander Shand Hadden and then later re-married a man named Gammie. In 1907, she and this Gammie fellow moved to Saskatchewan to homestead. Years later, she contacted her eldest child Alexander and invited him and his family to come join her working on the farm in Canada. In 1923, the Haddens accepted her invitation.  

The family story went a bit further but still lacked detail. Uncle Alec told me that his mother, Jessie Gaull, didn’t like it in Saskatchewan, with it’s bitter cold in winter, so in 1927, the family moved to Toronto, Ontario where Jessie had a brother George Gaull who owned a small grocery store. Uncle Alec also made a comment I wrote down in the notes I made during the family history interview with him and have kept to this day. The comment was that there was some tension between the Gammie boys and his father Alexander. No details. Nothing more said.


Andrew Gammie (1861-1926)



I first must confess that I am not genetically related to Andrew Gammie Sr. and I am not really descended from him. But Andrew Gammie Sr was the step-father to my great grandfather Alexander Shand Hadden as seen in the snippet below from the 1891 Census of Scotland.




Andrew Gammie was the eldest son in a family of ten known children (five boys and five girls) born to Andrew Gammie and his wife Jane Christie. Andrew was born on 28 Jun 1861 in Huntly, County of Aberdeen, Scotland. Andrew’s father was a successful farmer of 135 acres in Monqhitter, Aberdeen, Scotland, employing two men and a boy according to census records. It is very likely that Andrew worked on the farm and learned from his much from his father.

On the 14th of June, 1890, Andrew married Helen Shand, a domestic servant, in Ythan Wells. As the census record above shows, with Helen came her son Alexander Hadden whom she had raised on her own, supported by her Shand relatives. Andrew was 29 years old and Helen was 25 when they married. A year later, and just a few months after the 1891 census was taken, Helen gave birth to their first child, the first of three sons. They named him Andrew, like his father and grandfather before him.

Sons Peter and James, or ‘Jimmie’ as they called him, would follow over the next four years. Finally, in 1897, they had a daughter whom they named Helen, after her  mother. I’m not certain as to the reason, but Helen and Andrew later adopted a little girl born in 1904 named Whilimena (Williamina) Alexander, known in the family as ‘Minnie.’

Andrew supported his family by working as a farm servant and then as a baker’s van driver and grocer’s carter. Opportunity knocked, at least in Andrew Gammie’s eyes, when the Canadian government offered the chance at land ownership – for free. All that was required was moving half-way around the world to the prairies of Saskatchewan. It was with this promise in mind that Andrew and Helen along with their five Gammie children boarded the Lake Erie in April 1907 for the voyage to St. John, New Brunswick and from there to Stoughton, Saskatchewan where they would wait for their homestead application to be approved and land granted.

While they waited for their land, Andrew moved his family and worked on farms first in Morse, Saskatchewan and then in Anerley, Saskatchewan. Likely the lessons in farming he received from his father now served him well. Eventually, their homestead application was approved and the family settled on and began farming their own land near Aneroid, Saskatchewan.

As in all families, the kids grow up and begin making their own decisions. Such was the circumstance when on 17 May 1916, sons Peter and James enlisted in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force. The two Gammie boys went off to fight in World War I but only one would return. Jimmie would die of shrapnel wounds suffered when the Allies were taking a bridge in Fricheux, France. He was buried not far away in a military cemetery outside of Arras, France.

Land that Jimmie had acquired in Saskatchewan, not far from the Gammie homestead was bequeathed to his mother Helen. It was help with this land that she sought when she invited her first-born Alexander Hadden to come to Saskatchewan. Eventually, Alexander agreed to the move and to help with the farming even though he really had no farming experience. I’m told by a member of the Gammie family that Helen had kept her correspondence and this offer secret and so I suspect it was quite the surprise to the Gammie children when their half-brother Alexander Hadden and his family showed up on the prairies in 1923. It is also likely that there was much that needed to be done so there was not much time to quibble about the new arrivals.

However, on 23 August 1926, at the age of 65, Andrew Gammie died. He also died intestate, meaning he had left no will. I don’t know the reason, but Helen, now a widow, chose the younger of her two surviving sons to be the executor of her husband’s estate. Andrew Gammie’s estate file records that Helen, Andrew Jr. and Helen, the daughter, all renounced their rights to letters of administration which were duly granted to Peter by the Surrogate Court, appointing him as executor.

On 11 January 1927, when Helen Gammie renounced her rights to the letters of administration in favour of her son Peter, she listed her husband Andrew’s survivors as: herself, her sons, Andrew Gammie Jr. and Peter Gammie, and Helen Gammie, then Mrs. Harold Hardement. No mention of step-son Alexander Hadden nor adopted daughter Minnie Alexander Gammie. Son Andrew’s renunciation instrument listed the same survivors.

However, just two and half weeks later on 29 Jan 1927, Peter Gammie signed his affidavit as executor that included an inventory of his father’s estate and a list of the surviving family members to whom the estate would pass. Those surviving family members were: his mother Helen who would receive as required by law one-third of the estate, Andrew Gammie Jr., Peter Gammie, Helen Gammie then Mrs. Harold Hardement, and Whilimena Gammie, adopted daughter. No mention of step-son Alexander Hadden.

The estate that they divided consisted of land valued at $7,000, the property described as West Half, Section 1 in Township 8, Range 11, West of the 3rd Meridian. The remainder of the estate consisted of a stove, kitchen cabinet, table, chairs, bed (valued at a combined $100), a wagon, two plows and a set of harrows (combined value of $135), and 6 horses at $60 per head (total $360). The total estate value was $7,595 of which Andrew’s widow Helen received $2,351.66.

And so, the Hadden family, just four years after leaving their home in Scotland appear to have been stranded, at least by circumstances on the prairies of Saskatchewan. Was this the cause of the tension my uncle had told me about? If it was, it seems entirely understandable to me. With apparently nothing for them in Saskatchewan, was this the reason the family moved to Toronto where at least there was some family support available? It seems entirely likely to me. 


52 Ancestors: Helen Gammie (nee Shand) 1864-1951 – "The Strongest Woman I Ever Saw"

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of ’52 Ancestors’ in her blog post “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don’t know.

Helen (nee Shand) Gammie was described to me by my grand uncle Alexander (Alec) Hadden as “the strongest woman I had ever seen.” Helen was Alec’s paternal grandmother and he had watched her strain and toil, carrying heavy loads long distances as she worked the Gammie homestead lands of southwest Saskatchewan, Canada. 

Helen Shand was born 20 Sep 1864 at Hillhead of Aucharnie in the Parish of Forgue, Aberdeenshire. She was the daughter of John Shand, an agricultural labourer and his wife Isabel Morrison. All was well for the working class Helen, or Nellie as she was called. She worked as a domestic servant, a maid in a local home, until the day she met was smitten by John Hadden, an assistant shopkeeper to his father Alexander Hadden who ran a general merchandise shop in Insch, Scotland. 


Helen ‘Nellie’ Shand



John and Nellie were both teenagers when they found out that they were going to be parents. And so, on 6 Sep 1883, just before her nineteenth birthday, Nellie gave birth to a baby boy. Following the Scottish naming convention, John and Nellie named their son after John’s father Alexander and they included Nellie’s surname as the baby’s middle name. As they were just teenagers, John in fact was even younger than Nellie and he likely had no real means by which to support Nellie and their son, they decided not to marry. Nellie kept the baby to raise on her own.

A few years later, Helen met and married Andrew Gammie, a local farm servant who is recorded in the 1891 Census of Scotland as the head of his small household and step-father to Alexander, who was then recorded as being seven years of age. Helen and Andrew soon started a family of their own children, three half brothers and two half sisters to Alexander.

When the Canadian government began offering free land as part of an initiative to settle the western prairies, Andrew and Helen decided to leave Scotland and become landowners in the far off land that had been made to sound so attractive. On 22 Apr 1907, Andrew, Helen and their five children arrived in Canada on board the ship “Lake Erie.” According to the Gammie family in a commemorative local history “Ponteix Yesterday and Today” (Ponteix and District Vol. 2), the family rented some land while their homestead application was being processed. In 1910, they made the last part of their journey by horse team and wagon to their land, described as W 1/2 of 2-8-11-W3rd south, where they lived in a sod hut until a two-story frame house was built.

When Helen’s son James Gammie was killed in World War I, land that James had owned was transferred to Helen as next-of-kin. I’m told that Gammie family members knew Helen was corresponding with someone whose identity she did not divulge. That someone was her first child, the son she left in Scotland as a young man, Alexander Shand Hadden. Helen convinced Alexander to bring his family to Canada and join her working the land. And so, the Hadden family arrived late in 1923 on the Canadian prairies, only to move away in 1927.

Helen’s husband Andrew died the year before the Hadden family departed and she continued living on her land for many years before she too passed away at the age of 86 on 2 Apr 1951 in Ponteix, where she was buried next to her husband.





Lest We Forget – The Hadden – Wagner Families Wall Of Honour

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we pause to reflect and remember those who went before us, bravely sacrificing their youth and in too many cases their lives, for our freedom.

The following is the list of those known brave ancestors, some from my family and some from Ellen’s, who gave so much. Today especially, we remember them. They shall not be forgotten.

World War I

GAMMIE, James (1895-1918), Private, Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force, killed in action






GAMMIE, Peter (1893-1984), Private, Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force







GORDON, Alexander Garrow Duncan (1891-1917), Private, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, killed in action





MERNER, Albert Edward ‘Herbert’ (1897-1917), killed in action






TRIGGS, James Little (1899-1916), Cabin Boy, Royal Navy, killed in action

TRIGGS, Phillip (1899-1967), Cabin Boy, Royal Navy

FINDLATER, William (1880-1918), British Army, died at home from wounds

World War II

SENATO, Nicola F. (1913-1945), U.S. Army, killed in action, Japan

NUSBICKEL, Thomas Raymond (1923-2002), U.S. Army


GAULL, George Leonard ‘Lenny’ (1920-2013), Canadian Armed Forces


MORGAN, Bruce Evan, M.D. (1924-2007), Navigator, Canadian Air Force






WAGNER, Carl Francis (1917-1993), Canadian Armed Forces


WAGNER, Gordon Gilbert Henry (1914-1994), Canadian Armed Forces 

Minnie Has Been Identified!

Back in November (2012) I posted a photograph that had been sent to my paternal grandmother, Agnes Hadden (nee Little). The photograph of a young woman included an inscription on the back “To Agnes from Minnie with Love.” I had no idea as to who Minnie might be and what connection she had with my grandmother.



Minnie (seen above in the photo sent to my grandmother) turns out to be Wiliamina ‘Minnie’ Gammie. Minnie was identified by my cousin David Hadden of Florida.

Here’s what I know of Minnie: she was born Williamina Alexander in 1904 in Aberdeen, Scotland. In 1905, she was adopted by Andrew and Helen Gammie (Helen Gammie was Helen Shand when she gave birth to my great grandfather Alexander Shand Hadden in 1883). 

There were four Williamina Alexanders born in 1904 – 1905 in Aberdeenshire and as I don’t know the names of either of her birth parents, I can’t pinpoint nor document her exact date of birth. In April of 1907, Minnie, as she was referred to, boarded the ship ‘Lake Erie’ and immigrated to Canada with her Gammie family consisting of parents Andrew and Helen, brothers Andrew, Peter and James, and sister Helen Ruby ‘Ella.’ The ship’s passenger list that documents the journey records that the family arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick and was bound for Saskatchewan.

Minnie married George Loken in 1927 and passed away in Swift Current, Saskatchewan in 1986.

I am unsure as to the connection with my grandmother but can theorize that Minnie may have met my grandmother while visiting the family when travelling through Toronto and they struck up a friendship.

Many thanks to my cousin David and for those of you who offered great suggestions on how I might try to identify Minnie.

We Remember


Most were just boys, really. They enlisted with the enthusiasm of youth, proud and invincible in their new uniforms. Their parents likely were frightened enough for them but proud of the young men they had raised. They were off to conquer a faceless enemy and save the world.


The training was tough and the discipline sometimes a difficult adjustment. Both were hopefully thorough in the manufacturing of these young soldiers. For the most part, none had chosen this profession, rather they were farmers, students, apprentices at a trade who would soon enough experience the terror of war.

On May 17, 1916 young Jimmy Gammie left his farm to enlist in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force. Maybe he had seen the posters stating, “Your Chums are Fighting, Why Aren’t You?” All of 5 feet, 8 inches in height, Jimmy, who joined with his brother Peter, would fight in France with the 46th Battalion. He would know what it was like to hear bullets whistle as they closely passed, he would know the sound and vibrations of bombs exploding, he would know the pain of being wounded, and after recovering, he would know the fear of returning to the front lines. He would know what it feels like to die for his country. 

Jimmy never returned to his farm, there was no repatriation ceremony for him. Jimmy is buried in France, with too many of his comrades, not far from the bridge he was fighting to gain. His grave, pictured above right, marked for all to remember him.

James Little Triggs was even younger, only 15 years of age and just under 5 feet in height, when he and his twin brother Phillip, followed in their father’s footsteps and joined the Royal Navy as cabin boys. On May 31, 1916, James toiled away below deck so likely would not have seen the shells coming that would sink his mighty battleship and end his young life.

Today at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we remember them, along with those who did survive but who have had lives filled with memories of the terrors of war. And we remember those still fighting and sacrificing their lives in the name of freedom.

The Hadden family motto is ‘n’oublie’ – never forget. I, for one, will not.