John Russell Miller

John Russell Miller was my Great Grandfather. He was born on October 30, 1884 in Belfast, Northern Ireland to Walter Miller and Agnes Fee.  I know nothing about his parents other than their names.  The Allan Line steamship, Tunisian, arrived in Montreal on May 28, 1904 with my Great Grandfather as one of its passengers, and thus began the Canadian story of this branch of my family.

He settled in Toronto, and was listed in the census data of 1911 and later as a “presser.” Family stories tell of his work at the Timothy Eaton company working on lovely high end clothing. He married Elizabeth Brady in Toronto in 1910. Elizabeth was also born in Northern Ireland, and had also arrived in Canada in 1904 although later in the year than John.  When they married, John was 25, and Elizabeth was 20.  They had two children soon after their marriage, Samuel, born in 1911, and Dorothy, born in 1914.

I have a small glass cup that was purchased at the Canadian National Exhibit in 1912 and given to Elizabeth.  I’ve had it in my possession for over 15 years–my grandmother gave it to me when I was living in Ontario, and she told me that it had been her mother’s.  I’m just now realizing that since Elizabeth would have only had one child when this was purchased in 1912, and he would have been an infant at the time, it must have been John who bought it for his wife.  This is the only tangible artifact I have in my possession of any of the Davids. I’ve always found this a very special family heirloom, but it is even more beautiful to me today.

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The small cup that was given to Elizabeth Miller by her husband in 1912.

John enlisted in the war effort on November 11, 1915. He joined the Canadian Army Service Corps which provided supply services to the troops in France, and in England was responsible for feeding the troops. After training in Toronto, he sailed for England, arriving on Christmas Eve, 1915.

John worked as a cook with the corps, and it appears that he was in England for the entirety of his service.  I have no information about why he was not in a combat role, as there is nothing in his medical report from enlistment that would indicate that he was anything other than a healthy 31 year-old. That said, early in his time in England ,he was hospitalized for “rheumatism” and “myalgia” with pain in his ankles, chest, and back, and he was diagnosed with chronic bronchitis in 1917, so it is possible that this could have been indicative of a broader condition that would have made combat service untenable.

He spent the war moving to various places in England and filling in as acting corporal and acting sergeant at times.  He was specially trained, and was sent for a period of two weeks at one point to a school of cookery, and it appears that he was given special assignments cooking for senior ranks.  It was after the official conclusion of the war that he was actually wounded in his role.  On February 13, 1919, he was severely scalded as he attempted to pull a pot of boiling water off of a stove.

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Description of John’s injury.

He was in hospital for over seven weeks as the second degree burns on his left foot were treated. By mid-April 1919, he was sent to Kinmel Park in northern Wales to await repatriation to Canada.  Interestingly, he narrowly missed being present for the “mutiny” of Canadian soldiers at Kinmel Park, protesting the length of time it was taking to be repatriated, and the conditions that they were living in as they waited. John was only at Kinmel for a few weeks, sailing on May 3 for Halifax aboard the RMS Mauretania (sister ship to the famous RMS Lusitania that had sank in 1915 after being hit by UBoat torpedoes).  He was back in Toronto and discharged by May 14, 1919.  He had been overseas and away from his wife and children for nearly three and a half years. His son Samuel may have remembered him, having been 4 years old when his father went overseas, but his daughter Dorothy who had only been a year old when he left, certainly would not have.  I’m sure it was a tremendous adjustment for everyone. My grandmother was born less than two years later.

Many years later, John’s son Samuel also participated in a war, as a pilot in the Royal Air Force,  Sadly, Samuel did not survive his war, as he was shot down in 1941.  John passed away eight years later on April 9, 1949 at the relatively young age of 64.

My grandmother remembered her father very fondly.  I dedicate this post to her: Florence Elizabeth (Miller) Foster, 1921-2010.

 

John Brady

This is an interesting post for me as this is the first entry where I have memories of people who had direct connections to the subject of the post. This makes it feel both more personal and more difficult to write.

John Brady was my 2nd Great Uncle.  He and his siblings, my Great Grandmother Elizabeth Brady, my second great uncle Thomas, and my second great aunts Emily (who my father remembers fondly) and Charlotte (who I met several times as a child), were all born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to John Brady and Emily Topping.  The family emigrated to Canada in 1904 when my Great Grandmother was 14, Thomas was 12, Aunt Em was 11, John was 8, and Aunt Charlotte was 3. The family settled in Toronto on Salem Avenue where John was a carpenter, as was his son Thomas according to the 1911 census.  In April 1911, John contracted Influenza and died soon after of pneumonia.  His eldest child, Elizabeth, had already married John Russell Miller in 1910, and had delivered her first child, Samuel, just ten days before her father’s death.  John’s other four children were still at home at the time of his death, the oldest of whom, Thomas, was 19.  In October of 1913, Thomas died of “phthisis pulmonalis,” otherwise known as Tuberculosis. Less than a year later, Canada was at war.

On February 5th, 1915, at the age of 19, John Brady enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, in the 7th Canadian Mounted Rifles. He arrived in England in June of 1915 where he was transferred to the 2nd Canadian Divisional Ammunition Column. It was with the 2nd CDAC that he first arrived in France in September of 1915.  From arrival in France until April 2, 1916, the John was was stationed near Berthen, about 20 kilometres south-west of Ypres, where the Divisional Ammunition Column functioned as the railhead where divisional ammunition was stored before being shipped to the front.  On April 2, John and 21 other ordinary ranks were transferred to the 6th Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery.  Just over a month later, he was transferred to the 5th Brigade stationed in Dikesbusch, Belgium due to a reorganization of the brigades.

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John Brady, Age 19

It is in May 1916 that there is a first mention in his record of an issue with his hearing as he was admitted to hospital for an infection in his ear.  This became a chronic problem for him, and was attributed to his exposure to gunfire. He spent the duration of the war alternately serving in artillery units and in hospital for his painful ear.

He finally returned to Toronto in May 1919 at the age of 23.  In March of 1920, he married Gladys Louisa Moat, and together they started their family. His first three children were born in Toronto, and at some point between 1922 and 1926, he and his family moved to the United States, first to Iowa, then eventually to Illinois, settling in Chicago. In total, he and Gladys had 8 children. In an email exchange with his Granddaughter, she told me that he worked at the Chicago Tribune, and was beloved by his coworkers; so much so that when he suffered a stroke at work in 1964, a group of them carried him to a nearby hospital, where sadly, he passed away at the age of 68.

I would like to thank John’s Granddaughter for sharing her memories and family stories with me as well as for permission to use the above photograph of John in uniform.