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Ninth annual Spirit Walk takes on military theme

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.
Participants in the Dryden Genealogical Society’s 9th Annual Spirit Walk listen to a historical account of local resident and WWI veteran, John H. Davies, July 9 at Dryden Cemetery. Photo by Chris Marchand

By Chris Marchand

The grave of Cecil Crowley.

There are many stories to be told among the monuments of the Dryden Cemetery, stories that go beyond the individual to describe life in our community.

The Dryden Genealogical Society hosted their 9th Annual Spirit Walk, last week, offering two sessions, July 7 and 9. Sizable crowds enjoyed clear skies for a stroll through the well kept grounds to the final resting place of various individuals of interest.

2015’s walk took on a distinctly military theme, more specifically 10 individuals who served in the First World War including Frederick J. Bicknell (1894-1938), John H. Davies (1898-1966), Stanley Bartlett (1880-1962), Cecil Crowley (1887-1921), William H. Brownhill (1885-1971), Albert E. Thompson (1892-1977), Allan G. McDonald (1895-1971), James Stovel (1893-1950), Frederick W. Goldrup (1890-1974) and James T. King (1964).

Each stop along the tour included a detailed account of the person’s life, involvement in the military and post-military life, cobbled together from various sources.

“A lot of them we are fortunate to find that they still have some friends or relatives still in town,” said Dryden Genealogical Society’s Will Vermeer. “We get a lot of the personal aspects from family, and a lot of the more basic details from records online from ancestry websites and Library and Archives Canada who have the records of the First World War vets. They’re in the process of digitizing all the WWI records — some of them are available and some won’t be available for another few months, most of the people we were looking at had some records available.”

Among the many remarkable stories was the tale of Cecil Crowley, a resident of Quibell when he enlisted in the 94th Battalion in 1915.

Upon arriving in Europe, Crowley’s unit was folded into Canada’s 43rd Battalion — the famous Canadian Cameron Highlanders of the Canadian Expeditionary Force who played a role in the Battles of The Somme, Cambrai, Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele.

In the Battle of the Somme, Crowley was one of 68 surviving members of his 1,040 man battalion. Three weeks after being wounded at Vimy Ridge, Crowley was back on the front line, Crowley was badly wounded by shrapnel during the capture of Avion and was sent to England to recover where he served as a mounted policeman.

Crowley returned to Canada in July 1919, but passed away in 1921 at the young age of 34 following a lengthy and painful illness — the direct result of his service in France.

Many others among the personalities explored lived long lives returning to become civic leaders in Dryden

Vermeer says the event has been lucky to have never been rained out in its nine year history. About two dozen history-buffs showed up for the July 9 event.

“There’s a core group we can always count on,” said Vermeer. “We can always add a few more just by making some phone calls. It’s nice just to walk around there and look at some of the headstones, the parks board do a great job of maintaining it. Each headstone has a story to tell, unfortunately we can only choose a few of them.”


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