Pack up your troubles

After John Beaumont married Mary Battye on March 9, 1880, their family grew quickly with Alfred in 1881, Annie in 1882, and Hannah in 1884. The UK census of 1891 shows the family members at 18 St. James street were as follows:  John (41) a milk dealer, Mary (34), Alfred (10), Annie (8), Hannah (6) and James (9 months).  The street still is filled with hard-working people: dressmaker, marble polisher, chemist, warehouse man, French polisher, Grocer, Plumber’s apprentice, tailoress, carting agent, tinsmith, cardboard box maker, brick layer’s labourer, bailer composition manufacturer.  One couple lists “private means.”

When I envision a “milk dealer”, I think of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof or the horse drawn cart that came to my grandma’s house on 7th Street in Weyburn even in the 1950s.  Milk delivery in early 1900s England seems to fall somewhere between my two images.

Before the invention of pasteurization, milk dealing in Victorian England.

In 1901, the year that Queen Victoria died, another census finds the Beaumont home with some young adults.  Alfred (20) is working, as his father is, in the milk dealing business.  Annie 18 is employed as a teacher while Hannah and James are 15 and 8.  Before the next census in 1911, the Beaumont family goes through big changes.

In April of 1907 when James Beaumont is 16, he on a ship called the Victorian embarking at Liverpool and headed to Halifax with a final destination of Moose Jaw.  He is travelling with a 57 year-old man named Frederick Durrant.  Although Mr. Durrant is listed as a leather cutter, both he and James have a stamped notation beside their names: “Farm labourer”.  This is not Frederick Durrant’s first trip to Canada; he has already settled his wife, Elizabeth, and a daughter, Mary (15), a son, Lawrence (11) in Moose Jaw after they arrived on the Tunisian in 1905.  Perhaps Frederick was glad to escape the rather toxic chemicals used in the leather trade, some of which may already worked some damage to his health. The wide open spaces of the Canadian prairies would maybe revive him to health and well-being.

In 1906, another Durrant daughter, Lily, had crossed on the Tunisian to Canada.  Her husband, Robert Lucas Speight Boyes kept a journal on that trip. Partway across the ocean, their second child was born. Her name was Mabel, a sister for Willie.  This large and adventurous Durrant family was the family into which James Beaumont’s sister Annie will marry.  These big changes will be happening quickly and a the differences can be seen between the 1906 and the 1911 Census documents.

In 1906 William Keighley Firth Durrant (25), son of Elizabeth and Frederick Durrant,  is farming near Tuxford with his sister Jessie (19) and his brother Laurence (13).  The farm is listed as 10-18-25 W2. They have 4 horses and 8 pigs.   Their mother, Elizabeth, is listed with her daughter May and her husband, Walter H. Wright, who had come to Canada in 1899 and had married May Durrant in 1905.  May is 18 years old in the 1906 census, and her husband is 30.  Their farm is 25-19-27 W2.  Both these farms are in the Tuxford area.

In spring of 1908, just 13 months after James Beaumont had arrived in Moose Jaw, his mother, Mary Beaumont, and two sisters, Annie and Hannah, arrived  in Moose Jaw. They stayed for 3 months, returning to England on August 21st.

After that visit, the travel arrangements are a little fuzzy. The same three seem to have returned to Canada in the summer of 1909. After returning to England again, Hannah is married there on September 14, 1910 to Mr. Sydney Wells less than a year before the 1911 Census in April.

Mary Beaumont must have felt the pull between her two daughters, Hannah, setting up a home in Leeds, and Annie setting up a home on a farm near Moose Jaw.  Annie, by 1911 Census in Canada, is married to William Keighley Firth Durrant.

William KF and Annie have a son, Alfred, born in 1909 and a daughter, Mary, only 5 months old. Living on the west half of 25-19-27 W2, Mary Beaumont is with them at Census time, and is listed as “Head” of the family.  James at age 20 is also there.  So three generations were living in a farm house for the year of 1911.  Some farm families were spending the winter in town. It is not a wonder that there would be some appeal for a 3 generation family to do that, depending on what size of house they had on the farm.  It was April 16 of 1912, when James Beaumont took title to a property on Clifton Avenue.  It is likely that there was a house on the 50 foot lot already built by  or being built by Bob Eaket and his brother-in-law, George Taylor.  It is also likely that the house was still not ready for living in.  The sewer and water connection was not signed for at City Hall until August 12, 1913.  By that time, James Beaumont was no longer the owner of the property.

James had possession of this property until  March 4, 1913.

Other transitions that the family faced at this time involve Mary (Battye) Beaumont  moving back to England in June 1912 . James accompanies her. William and  Annie  travelled to England with their two children, Alfred and Mary, in November of 1912, returning to Moose Jaw in May  of 1913.

On June 28th of 1913,  James is returning to Canada, seeming to travel alone on the Victorian.  With all these family members spending the winter in England, it seems likely that they have sold the farm near Tuxford.

There were rumours of war in Europe, and many young men who had recently moved to Canada are quick to volunteer once war had been declared by Great Britain on August 4th , 1914.  James Beaumont is one of these.  On September 23rd of 1914, he signs his attestation papers at Valcartier, Quebec, volunteering for the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force.  He lists his next of Kin as his mother, Mary Beaumont, now living no longer in Canada, but back in Leeds, Yorkshire. His trade or calling is “Farmer.”  He is 5 feet 5 1/2 inches tall, fair complexion, blue eyes , and fair hair.  He is 24 years and 2 months old and is deemed “fit.”  He packed up his troubles in his old kit bag, and was off to war.   Punching in James Beaumont’s number  from his enlistment papers shows his basic information from his attestation day.  

At three o’clock on October the 3rd, 1914, the First Canadian Contingent with guns, ammunition, horses, and equipment left Gaspe enroute to the Great War.  James Beaumont( 21684) is listed in the booklet for the 11th Battalion along with Moose Jaw soldier Charles Ernest Bolding (21683).

The story of the voyage of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and their arrival at Plymouth, their subsequent training on the muddy Plain of Salisbury is well told by the  Canadian Great War Project, quoting from war diaries and   newspapers. It was reported that “Troops Embarked At Quebec To Strains Of ‘ Tipperary’.”

Apparently, there was chaos in the loading of the 30 ships  at Quebec, and more chaos at the disembarking at Plymouth.  The destination had been changed, so no one at Plymouth was expecting 30 ships of soldiers and supplies.  Weather was a factor in the leaving of Canada being rather chaotic, and in the the training that was scheduled for the Salisbury Plain. 

February 16, 1915:  The Canadian Newspapers reported an announcement made in the House of Commons.   “Sir Robert Borden in the House to-day read a telegram from Mr. L. Harcourt, the Colonial Secretary, announcing that the Canadian Contingent had safely landed in France. The news was greeted with prolonged cheers.” The training period on the Salisbury Plain was over, and while the grass would now have some time to recover, the 30,000 Canadian troops who had been training there were on to duties in Europe.

Asphyxiating chlorine gas was first used on April 22, 1915, in a German attack on Algerian and Zouave troops, who were taken completely by surprise”. On the two following days, attacks under cover of gas were made on Canadian and English soldiers in the neighbourhood of Ypres.   The role of Canadians in the second Battle of Ypres is well told in the Canadian Encyclopedia.  It was near  this battle that  Dr. John McCrae wrote the poem, “In Flanders Fields“.

On Wed. April 28, 1915, the Manitoba Free Press, Winnipeg listed the wounded from the 10th Battalion: Private James Beaumont formerly of 11th battalion, Next of Kin: Mary Beaumont, Bugbyfields, Leeds, England.  Medical records show a gunshot would left neck and shoulder.

Moose Jaw News Report

Winnipeg News

James was struck by a rifle bullet in the neck during the advance at St. Juliens Wood.  He crawled to a dressing station and was sent to Poporinge Hospital.  After one day, he was taken to St. Alma’s.  He remained there for four days and was sent to No. 2 Hospital in Freeport.  On May 11th he was admitted to 5th Northern General at Leicester.  He was discharged June 5th.   A closer view of some of the medical notes in his file reveal that he also had several teeth knocked out, and that his tongue was partly paralyzed.  After his first wounding in 1915, James was kept on base duty until the very end of the war.  James  was hospitalized again in 1918 with influenza.

Back home on Clifton Avenue and in the rest of Moose Jaw, friends and neighbours who were trying to keep the home fires burning were battling the Influenza as well.  According to Larsen and Libby, “In one month from mid-October to mid-November, 1918, the influenza killed a staggering 253 people in Moose Jaw.  The death toll was so high that graveyards couldn’t keep apace of the burials needed. Schools were closed, a bylaw was passed prohibiting public gatherings, people wore face masks, and local merchants allowed their employees to stay home or to volunteer with medical efforts. ”

Moose Jaw People, Places History by John Larsen and Maurice Richard Libby.

James Beaumont was discharged in June of 1919 apparently staying on through the demobilization process and returning home after the big welcoming celebration for Moose Jaw’s returning soldiers. He had recovered from the influenza but still had lingering effects of his wounding and war experience.  His mother Mary had died during the war, and James’ documents were changed to reflect his sister Hannah Wells taking over the listing for “next of kin.”  But it was his sister in Canada, Annie, who took James into her home in Moose Jaw, and had him live with her for the rest of his life.

The 1921 Census shows James Beaumont at age 30 living with his sister Annie and her family at 1143 7th Ave. N.E. There are three children living: Alfred (11), Lucy (7), and William (4).  Three children have died: Mary, (the daughter who had travelled to England with them in 1912-13)  infant boys, James, and Francis (2 of a set of triplets who died from whooping cough before they were a year old.) James, now a returned soldier, has employment as a car cleaner at the railroad. His brother-in-law William Keighley Firth Durrant is employed by the City of Moose Jaw as a foreman in the Sewage Disposal Dept. He is later called a Superintendent, and he worked for the city until he retired to British Columbia in the early 50s.

The war years have been difficult for the Durrant family.  In addition to the deaths of 3 children, two family members have been committed to health care facilities because of mental illness. Frederick Durrant, William’s father has died in North Battleford in 1920.

Was James Beaumont hoping at one time to live in the Clifton house with his extended family?   Was he hoping to sell the house at a profit that would benefit him and the family perhaps living elsewhere in a smaller house?  They did live in a smaller house with James.   He was also there in 1935 on a Voters’ List and again on a Voters’ List in 1945.

1935 Voters’ List

There are no houses in that vicinity today.

As the calendar turned from 2018 to 2019, I thought of James Beaumont and the plans he may have had for his future here in Moose Jaw before he headed out to Europe to represent his new country in the muddy and bloody fields and trenches of  “The War to end all Wars.”  He came home from England in 1919, just 100 years ago.  I am sorry that James didn’t get to live in this house. I am sorry that he suffered the ill effects of the chorine gas until his death in Vancouver at the age of 70.  I am glad, however, that he had a family who took him in and cared for him.  I imagine that he may have passed by the house sometimes after the war.  By 1921 two other families had  owned the house and lived here, moved away, and a third family was renting.  All three of those families farmed in the Tuxford area as James did before the war.   I have tried to find their home quarters in the area and figure out if any of them knew each other or if they knew James Beaumont. I am thankful for my limited acquaintance with him.

One Reply to “Pack up your troubles”

  1. Fantastic, detailed and moving treatment of James’ life Brenda!
    I especially enjoyed reading your thoughts on James’ life and his family towards the end of the blog.

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