As Ontario archaeologists, we often come across objects from the many wars that have involved British and Canadian forces. In honour of Remembrance Day, we’ve found a few more items to share with you from our sites. Lest we forget.
67th Regiment of Foot (1841 and 1842)
The first items in our series are from the Loretto Site in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The Loretto site has served as the location of several buildings and organizations, ranging from the Ontario House Hotel (demolished in 1859) to a convent and school. The site also has numerous connections to local military history; Ontario House was located within a kilometre of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane. Because of its proximity to the fighting, various military encampments were positioned nearby the site. In fact, historical mapping depicts a regimental encampment only 700 m from the site location (Litt et al. 1993). The military presence at the Loretto Site did not end in 1814, as archaeological evidence suggests that later regiments were also billeted here.
One of the excavated features at the Loretto site yielded many military items including regimental buttons. These particular buttons are flat pewter disks cast with the number 67 to denote the 67th (South Hampshire) Regiment of Foot of the British Army. This regiment was stationed in Niagara between 1841 and 1842.
World War I at Fort York
These two items were found during the excavation for the Fort York Visitors’ Centre in Toronto (download the full site report here) and although the site has yielded many items from earlier wars, these two artifacts are related to World War I.
The first object is a CANADA epaulette (1914-1918) from the shoulder of a uniform worn during the First World War (also known as the Great War). Brass shoulder titles were worn by all members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, with this epaulette being the most common variant (Royal Canadian Army Service Corps 2011).
The second item from early twentieth-century Fort York is a wagon licence plate embossed with the letters “WAGON. G. S. – M. D. / O. C. Co / II / 1910 / Reg No 338.” The letters indicate that this was a plate for a general service wagon of the Department of Militia and Defence. The plate dates from 1910 and has the registration number of 338. It is uncertain what “O. C. Co” might refer to but it has been suggested that it either belongs to the Ottawa Car Company or Oshawa Carriage Works (Kevin Hebib, personal communication 2012).
The Joseph Picard Site
From 2010 to 2012, ASI carried out the assessment and salvage excavation of an ancestral Huron-Wendat village in Durham Region on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. The remains of 10 longhouses were documented, three large midden areas were hand-excavated, and tens of thousands of artifacts were collected.
The village was named the Joseph Picard site by the Huron-Wendat Nation, to honour the memory of a soldier from Wendake, Quebec, who fought for Canada during World War I. Approximately 4,000 First Nations soldiers voluntarily fought in the Great War, which is a considerable number given that during the early twentieth-century civil rights were poor for First Nations (Canadian War Museum 2013). First Nations veteran, Syd Moore, explains the use of the word “volunteer”, saying, “We’re proud of the word ‘volunteer.’ Nobody forced us. We were good Canadians, patriots. We fought for our country” (White 2005).
Joseph Picard fought with the 8th Battalion, Manitoba Regiment of the Canadian Infantry during World War I. He died of injuries sustained in battle when he was 28 years old, and he is buried at Vimy Ridge, France (White 2005).
In recent years, archaeologists have increasingly engaged with First Nations, including the Huron-Wendat Nation, in all aspects of archaeological investigation, including the naming of archaeological sites associated with their ancestors. As a tribute to their nation’s brave fighters, the Huron-Wendat decided to select a soldier from a list of Huron-Wendat veterans and name the archaeological site in his memory. Several other veterans have been similarly honoured. During ASI’s excavation of the Joseph Picard site, dignitaries from the Huron-Wendat Nation and elementary school students from École Wahta’ in Wendake, QC, came to visit the site and hold a naming ceremony. Among the dignitaries was the great-niece of Joseph Picard, himself.
For a haunting fictional interpretation of two Cree youth fighting in the First World War, read Joseph Boyden’s award-winning book Three Day Road (Penguin Canada).