Sunday, 13 January 2019

William Ollett (1838-1922)

Although the subject of this week’s blog post is not a direct ancestor, William Ollett has an interesting story.  Aunt Dodie helpfully labelled the above picture in the 1959 Blanshard History book and the Ollett biography in it is the main source of my information. As well, this Rootsweb site included his obituary from the Oak River Post in 1922, part of which is below. Two of William and Ann Ollett's grandchildren were the subject of previous blog posts: Ć amuel Robert Henry and Jessie Henry Sinclair .  Their mother was Amelia Ollett Henry, called Millie, who was the daughter of this William.

In 1881, while Millie's future husband's family was homesteading the prairies of Manitoba, the Ollett family lived in Gelligaer, Glamorgan, Wales where William was described as a Railway Platelayer on the census.  He and his wife Ann Fletcher had a family of 7 children, 3 boys and 4 girls. Five years later, 48 year old William made a daring decision to leave Wales and join the flood of immigration to Manitoba.  His youngest daughter Millie, then 13 years old, accompanied him on this adventure throughout parts of Manitoba building the railway before Ann and some of the rest of the family joined them in 1888.  His experience in Wales helped him become foreman of a gang building the railroad from Brandon west.  He had also been a gardener as in Wales so the story goes that he planted trees all along the way in places he lived.  William helped open up Canada's west and beautified it too!

Daughter Millie worked first in Headingly and then once her mother arrived, they ran a boarding house at Gautier Junction just two and a half miles west of Rapid City on the CPR line. (The location of this spot on the Little Saskatchewan River was identified using the memoir written by Charlie Mundell in the Rapid City History Book.)

In 1899, Millie moved to the next stop on the line at Pettapiece to work in the store.  It was about this time that the Ollett men, William Sr, William Jr, James and Robert decided to try their hand at farming and bought land southeast of Floors Siding.


Robert married a daughter of the neighbours John and Jennet Henry, Mary in January of 1903 while William and James always remained unmarried. Robert and Mary had a family of 5 - 3 girls and 2 boys and lived at SE 27-13-21, I believe. Three months after Robert and Mary, March 11, 1903, Amelia Ollett married Samuel Henry, sister of Mary. Millie seems to have chosen a tamer brother as two of Samuel's brothers, Charles and Joseph, made the headlines of the papers at least 3 times in 1887  , 1896 and 1898 before their premature deaths as told in previous blog posts.  Millie and Samuel had a daughter and then 3 sons and farmed the homestead farm across the road from Robert and Mary Ollett at NW 22-13-21 (pictured above) except for a short time in Rivers where he built and ran a livery stable.

From the Oak River Post, Oak River, MB1/11/1922 WILLIAM OLLETTThe death occurred on Thursday, January 5th, at his home near Pettapiece ofWilliam OLLETT at the advanced age of 84 years and 25 days. The late Mr.OLLETT came to this country from Wales about thirty-four years ago. Heacted as caretaker of the Oak River station during the interim between thecompletion of the road and the running of the first train. Later he wassection foreman and ran a boarding house at Gautier Junction. About twentynine years ago he homesteaded the farm on which he died. He remained welland hearty until a few months ago but appeared to be feeling better thanusual when the end came, without pain and without warning, as he sat in hischair after having eaten his supper.

Samuel Henry died in 1947 and Millie followed 10 years later.  Samuel and Millie's stone is pictured below in The Oak River Cemetery.  Millie lived at home with her son Sam and his wife Doris.  I have Aunt Dodie's diaries from that time and she always refers to her as "Mrs. Henry" in them. I am guessing that Millie Ollett Henry would have seen many changes since her youth in Wales but held onto the formalities of days gone by.

William's wife Annie Ollett died in February of 1926 at the age of 88.  The Ollett men are named on stones at the Pettapiece Cemetery.   The name may be gone from the district but I hope that one of the descendants stumbles over this blog post someday and finds out what I have gathered on the Ollett's time here on Earth and the legacy they have left to those who follow.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

James Rae (1894-1966)

Two previous posts about Peter Deans Rae here and here, got me interested in the story of his younger brother James. He had been identified by my Aunt Dodie in the picture below on the left with Pete. It was rather puzzling however to hear from a Rae relative overseas that James had died in WW1. I wondered how Dodie would have know who it was when she was born in 1921.

A little digging online found the WW1 attestation papers for James Rae with Regimental Number 700418.  (There were at least 20 other men with the same name in the Library Archive Canada database of Canadian Soldiers.  It makes me realize the monumental number of files they had to digitize during the project.

Volume 2 of the Blanshard Municipality History book written in 1970 says James left Galashiels, Scotland some time after his brother Pete did in 1910.  He worked for farmers around the Oak River area until enlisting in WW1 just before Christmas on December 23, 1915 when his current address was 438 Hampton St in St James now Winnipeg.  According to the history book, he saw service in France with the 43rd Cameron Highlanders.  

The online personnel files fills in a few details for James but also gives but a glimpse of the terrible experience it must have been for him.  He was no stranger to the hospitals overseas and the combined effect of his injuries and illnesses would have left him a changed man.  After his enlistment and during his training at Camp Hughes, Jim contracted diphtheria in April of 1916.  Although hospitalized in Winnipeg, two months later he was well enough to set sail on board the Olympic for England.  In October of 1916 he is admitted to hospital for gun shot wounds to his arm and as a result he lost his left index finger up to the first joint.  He was admitted again in November for influenza.  In April of 1917, James is docked a day's pay for the neglectful loss of  equipment - his helmet. June 30, 1917 he received gunshot wounds to both legs.  Continued x-rays and removal of pieces of shrapnel are documented over the next few weeks until his wounds are declared "practically healed" by the end of July. 

Notable in his file is a notation that be refused to make a will dated October of 1918. I wonder if he thought by the time he had lived through that much, there was no need to make out a will! On his discharge in March if 1919, he stated he intended to make his home at Oak River. Twenty dollars was sent to his mother Elizabeth in Scotland as support each month he was on duty.
After the war he worked for a Henry connection of mine, Charles Henry among others. The history book goes on to say he became ill with sleeping sickness and remained in poor health for several decades until his death at age 71 on January 25, 1966.  His mother Elizabeth came to Canada to live near her sons in the early twenties and perhaps it was due to James needing more care than Pete could supply.  A note from Veterans Affairs appears in his personnel file that James died on January 25, 1966 at the Hospital for Mental Diseases in Brandon.   There is no evidence but I wonder if James suffered from the following condition as described in Wikipedia.
Encephalitis lethargica is an atypical form of encephalitis. Also known as "sleeping sickness" or "sleepy sickness", it was first described in 1917.
The disease attacks the brain, leaving some victims in a statue-like condition, speechless and motionless. Between 1915 and 1926, an epidemic of encephalitis lethargica spread around the world. Nearly five million people were affected, a third of whom died in the acute stages. Many of those who survived never returned to their pre-existing "aliveness".
Although not one of my blood relatives, James Rae deserves to be honoured and remembered for his part in fighting under Canada's flag and being a friend and neighbour to my ancestors.  He is buried with a soldier's headstone in Oak River Cemetery alongside his mother Elizabeth.  Rest in Peace, James.