March 13, 1918: Lance Corporal Norman Rogers Morris

Morris Norman Rogers headstone

Date of Birth: December 26, 1893 at Lynn, MA

Parents: John Richard & Margaret Ann (Murray) Morris

Father’s Occupation: Farmer

Siblings: Sisters Edna, Gladys, Jean & Ida

Marital Status: Single

Occupation: Miner

Enlistment: September 19, 1917 at Vancouver, BC

Unit: 1st Depot Battalion, British Columbia Regiment; 1st Reserve Battalion (BC)

Service #: 2204424

Rank: Lance Corporal

Previous Military Service: None

Next of Kin: John Richard Morris, Lochaber, Antigonish County, NS (father)

Date of Death: March 13, 1918 at Seaford, England

Final Resting Place: Seaford Cemetery, Sussex, UK

Norman Rogers Morris was the second of five children born to John Richard and Margaret Ann (Murray) Morris. Richard was a native of Lochaber, Antigonish County, while according to the 1871 Canadian census, his father, John, and mother, Margaret Costey, were born in Scotland. A carpenter by trade, John Sr. moved the Morris family to Westville, Pictou County, sometime before 1891. Shortly afterward, 23-year-old Richard departed for the Boston area, where he worked as a blacksmith.

On March 30, 1892, Richard married Margaret Ann “Maggie” Murray, daughter of John and Mary (McKinnon) Murray, in a ceremony held at Boston, MA. Maggie’s paternal grandfather, John Murray, was born at King Edward, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, around 1785 and emigrated to South Lochaber, Nova Scotia, in the early 1800s. He married Elispet [Elizabeth] Sinclair, daughter of Alexander and Isabel (Sutherland) Sinclair, Goshen, around 1817. The couple raised a family of 11 children, one of whom was Maggie’s father, John.

Maggie’s mother, Mary McKinnon, was born at Middleton [located between Lochaber Lake and South River Lake], Antigonish County, around 1830, the daughter of Donald and Catherine (Cameron) McKinnon, both natives of Scotland. During Maggie’s childhood, the family lived at Forks of St. Mary’s (1871 Canadian census) and in the Goshen – Giant’s Lake area (1881 Canadian census), where her father, John, operated a farm and saw mill.

Richard and Maggie established residence at Lynn, MA and welcomed their first child—a daughter, Edna—before year’s end. Their first and only son, Norman Rogers, was born at Lynn on December 26, 1893. Shortly after Norman’s birth, the family returned to Antigonish County and settled on a farm at Collegeville [Ashdale], where their remaining children—daughters Gladys (1896), Jean (1897) and Ida (1899)—were born before the turn of the century.

Sometime after 1911, Norman departed for the southwestern United States, where he found employment with the Copper Queen Mine Company at Bisbee, southeast of Tucson, Arizona. The Company had established the state’s most productive hard rock mine in the 1880s, harvesting a seam of ore that was 23 % copper. While the valuable mineral was plentiful, labour was often in short supply, a circumstance that prompted a number of young Nova Scotians to make the long journey to the area during the pre-war years. Among the miners working alongside Norman at Bisbee were brothers Bill and Charlie Sinclair, Goshen, and their cousin, Huntley Sinclair, South River Lake.

The United States’ April 6, 1917 declaration of war on Germany soon impacted Norman and his Sinclair companions. As young men of military age, all were required by law to register for military service. An American citizen by birth, Norman completed his draft registration form at nearby Lowell, AZ, on June 5, 1917. He was working the Copper Queen Company’s Gardner shaft at the time, and indicated that his parents were dependent on his income.

The Sinclair boys also registered for the American draft, but as Canadian citizens had the option to serve with the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). Rather than remain in the United States, the trio chose to return to Canada and enlist. Bill travelled to British Columbia, while Charlie and Huntley returned to Nova Scotia.

After considering his circumstances, Norman decided to accompany Bill to British Columbia. Their consecutive attestation numbers indicate that they stood in line together when they attested for military service with the CEF at Vancouver, BC on September 19, 1917. One month later, on the other side of the country, Charlie and Huntley Sinclair enlisted with the Nova Scotia Railway Construction and Forestry Draft at Windsor, NS, on the same day.

At the time of his enlistment with the 1st Depot Battalion, British Columbia Regiment, Norman stood five feet, seven and a half inches and weighed a solid 167 pounds. A thorough medical examination detected no health issues and Norman was placed in Category A-2—lacking only military training before deemed “fit for active service.” On October 27, he was hospitalized at Esquimault with tonsillitis, but quickly recovered from the resulting surgery and returned to duty in late November.

During the winter of 1917-18, Norman completed the required training for a commissioned rank at the Royal School of Infantry, Victoria, BC, and was promoted to Lance Corporal. On February 10, 1918, he reported to the 1st Depot Battalion’s No. 4 Company at Vancouver and departed by train for Nova Scotia shortly afterward. Bill Sinclair was also among the British Columbia soldiers making the journey to Halifax, where the group boarded SS Metagama and departed for overseas on February 27.

Upon landing at Glasgow, Scotland on March 11, Norman, Bill and their companions were assigned to the 1st Canadian Reserve Battalion (British Columbia), Seaford, England. The new arrivals immediately boarded a train and made their way southward to the unit’s camp on England’s southern coast.

While previous medical examinations had detected no signs of poor health or illness, according to a death notice later printed in The Casket, Lance Corporal Norman Rogers Morris unexpectedly died of heart failure at Seaford, England on March 13, 1918. His service file identified the cause of his death as myocarditis, an inflammatory disease of the heart muscle. Norman was laid to rest in Seaford Cemetery, Sussex, UK.

Norman’s companion, Bill Sinclair, was assigned to the 72nd Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada) on June 6, 1918. Wounded in the neck and right leg during combat near Valenciennes, France on November 2, Bill was invalided to England, where he made a full recovery. Upon returning to Canada, he was discharged at Vancouver, BC on April 6, 1919. Bill eventually made his way back to Nova Scotia, where he married Lucy Vinton, a native of Lower South River, Antigonish County.

Bill and Lucy resided for a time at Isaac’s Harbour, where he tended to the local lighthouse. The couple eventually relocated to Abercrombie, Pictou County, where Bill operated a farm and worked for the Department of Transportation. The couple raised a family of seven children. Bill Sinclair passed away at Aberdeen Hospital, New Glasgow, on May 30, 1962 and was laid to rest in Abercrombie Cemetery.


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