WWI Veterans Remembered
In July 2005 I wrote about
Edith Parkin of Chisholm Township, a nurse in World War One who finally was
recognized with a new head stone and a moving ceremony. Bert Simpson, Board
member at the Nipissing Museum felt that two members of his extended family Jean
and Harvey Cameron-Smith had not received proper recognition and contacted Linda
Thompson who was behind the Chisholm event. Bradley Normand, a summer student
at the Museum was also concerned and started a campaign of recognition. Two
head stones will be unveiled Saturday September 30th at 11 a.m. the
Union Cemetery, Hwy 534 west of Powassan with a strong military and family
presence – everyone is welcome. Funding has been provided by the Last Post
which supplies headstones for fully documented cases of neglected histories of
Jean and Harvey Cameron-Smith
Jean and Harvey
Cameron-Smith grew up in Christian Valley near Nipissing Village when their
mother moved here from Perth to be with family after her husband’s death. Jean,
born in 1866, was a teacher for several years when she decided to become a nurse
and got her R.N. at Kingston Hospital. Harvey became a medical doctor and
served overseas with the rank of Major. He practiced in Northern Ontario and
died in 1947. Little is known of his life but his Military career is well
documented allowing for the memorial headstone.
Teacher Jean Cameron-Smith with Hartley
Trussler, Nipissing Museum Photo
Jean took on the courageous
and challenging task of becoming a medical missionary to Japan for the Anglican
Church and spent 7 years from 1895 to 1902 in Japan. Her teaching and
leadership skills helped develop a successful training school for nurses. A
book has recently been published in Japanese on the program and it is being
transcribed into English. Jean is well represented in the book for her role in
the program. People involved in the book have visited the museum to find out
more about her from Joe Steele, Museum Curator, Gladys Piper, Researcher and
Bert Simpson. Bert’s mother Marguerite is a sister to Jean.
Jean’s history from between
1902 and her military career, which began in 1915, is vague. A photo of Jean
and well-known Nugget columnist Hartley Trussler (1897-1990) has a note that she
was his favorite teacher. Hartley wrote a lengthy obituary at the time of her
The First World War
Jean was one of the first
Canadian nurses to go overseas in WWI. She immediately took on a leadership
role in 2 hospitals behind the front lines and in England at Canadian
Headquarters. She received the King’s Red Cross Medal in 1921 from George V for
her outstanding service. Joe Steele was surprised recently when a Cameron-Smith
relative from British Columbia showed up at the Museum with the beautiful dress
Jean wore on the occasion. It is proudly displayed in the Jean Cameron-Smith
display at the Museum.
When Jean came back after
the war she became well known in the community for her poetry and her lectures.
One former student, Hartley Trussler called her the “Bard Of Christian Valley”.
She lectured for the Red Cross and the Women’s Institute. She organized the
I.O.D.E. in Powassan (the Independent Order of the Daughters of the Empire) and
founded the first Powassan Library.
||Original Burnbrae Cottage
on Highway 534 in Christian Valley, Wilf Nubel photo.
She died in a tragic fire
at her home (Burnbrae Cottage) in Christian Valley 1942 at age 76 and her papers
were destroyed. Family lore tells one of the most interesting parts of her life
– her friendship with John McCrae who wrote “In Flanders Fields” and established
the poppy as the Rememberance Day symbol. Jean apparently worked with him and
was with him when he died. She is said to have sent his famous poem to a
publisher and from there it became a piece of WWI history. It is fitting that
Jean and Harvey’s lives have been remembered.
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