Fonds MC2893 - Oakley and Sophia Orser family fonds

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Oakley and Sophia Orser family fonds

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  • Textual record
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  • 1916-1926 (Creation)
    Order family (Oakley and Sophia)

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6 cm of textual records and 2 photographs : b&w ; 10 x 14.5 cms. or smaller

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(1862 - 1956)

Biographical history

This fonds revolves around Sophia (1875-1956) and Oakley Orser (1862-1925), of Cloverdale, Carleton County, New Brunswick. Of Dutch descent, Oakley Munro Orser, the son of Augusta Campbell and John W. Orser (1839-1925), was born 8 June 1864, in Carleton County, New Brunswick. On 9 April 1895, he married Sophia Mae Hanson (1876-1956), the daughter of Emmeline Morehouse and Thomas Hanson, of Jones Forks and Zealand Station, York County, at Carlisle, Carleton County. They had no fewer than 11 children, namely, John Addison (4 November 1896-8 August 1918), Augusta M. (b. 1897), Elwood Ward Oakley (1900-1915), Theresa (b. 1903), Weston C. (b. 1903), Nettie (b. 1905), Francis (b. 1907), Clara Alice (b. 1908), Harvey Earle (b. 1910), Alonzo (1911-1912), and Ralph [b. after 1911].

During World War I, Oakley and Sophia Orser's eldest son, John Addison Orser, enlisted for service, in January 1916, and was shipped overseas with the Canadian Expeditionary Force the same year. He was assigned to the 26th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (New Brunswick Regiment), and saw action at the Front in France. As a result of his actions on the battlefield, he was elevated to the rank of lance corporal. Lance Cpl. John A. Orser was killed in action, at Douai-Mons, on 8 August 1918, age 22, and was buried in Wood Cemetery, Somme, France.

Augusta M. Orser, Oakley and Sophia Orser's eldest daughter, was born 3 May 1898. She married William Edward Burrill (b. 15 May 1892), of Cloverdale, the son of Riley Burrill of Went, Massachusetts, on 29 May 1916, in Carleton County. They had a son, William Harold Burrill (1917-1921), who died at age 4. William E. Burrill also enlisted for wartime service, in January 1916, and went overseas with the Canadian Expeditionary Force the same year. He saw action in France with the 26th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (New Brunswick Regiment). Pte. W. E. Burrill died on 15 August 1917, age 25. His name was inscribed on the Vimy Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

Several of Oakley and Sophia Orser's cousins and nephews also saw action at the Front during the war. They included cousins Samuel Gilbert Barter (1871-1963), William T. Barter, James Barter, and Percy C. Barter (1884-1969), all sons of Oakley Orser's paternal aunt, Harriett Maria Trecia (Theresa) Orser Barter (1849-1915) and uncle, James Abel Barter (1841-1928). Samuel G. Barter served overseas with the Saint John Battalion (later the Saint John Fusiliers). In France he worked with the Y.M.C.A., attached to the 1st Canadian Division, B.E.F. James, William, and Percy all served overseas. At war's end, Samuel G. Barter returned home to his wife, Charlotte (Lottie) Catherine Wallace (1877-1957) and children, Jane (Jennie), Florence, Lottie, Susie, Bettie (Bessie), Charles, and Trecia. He was employed as a cheese maker, storekeeper, and postmaster. In addition to her New Brunswick kin, Sophia Hanson Orser's nephews, Walter and Freddie Hanson, the sons of her brother Willard Hanson, of Rowena, N.D. [North Dakota?], also served overseas during the Great War.

After the war, Sophia and Oakley Orser focused their attention on running their farm and raising their large family. Between 1918 and 1919, Sophia Orser corresponded with the Department of Militia and Defence, in Ottawa, attempting to have John A. Orser's estate distributed according to his will. Later, between 1924 and 1925, Oakley Orser corresponded with the Board of Pension Commissioners for Canada and the Soldier Settlement Board, requesting a pension on account of John Orser's wartime sacrifice. Before this claim was settled, Oakley Orser died, on 27 November 1925, age 63, leaving Sophia with a number of children to support. She continued to press the pension claim, and on 28 May 1926, was awarded a monthly pension of $20. Sophia Mae Orser died on 2 February 1956 and was buried beside her husband in Cloverdale Cemetery, Carleton County.

Custodial history

Sophia Orser kept these letters in a tin box along with a number of other personal treasures for many years. Marcia Graham, Sophia Orser's granddaughter, first saw the letters when she was about 12 years-old. After Sophia Orser's death, the letters were handed down among her children, including Trecia, Nettie, Frances, Clara, and Ralph. Marcia Graham enclosed them in plastic pages. In June 1998 members of Marcia Graham's family, along with Clara Orser Hatfield, Sophia Orser's daughter, travelled to New Brunswick with the purpose of donating these records to the Archives.

Scope and content

This fonds consists primarily of correspondence received by Oakley and Sophia Orser and members of their family, including their daughter, Augusta Orser Burrill; Oakley's father, John W. Orser, and sister, Georgia Orser, from family members serving overseas during the First World War. Taken collectively, these letters underscore the fact that many young men from Carleton County, a number from, and related to, the Orser family, enlisted for wartime service, and suggest the impact this had on their families and community.

The bulk of the correspondence is from John A. Orser, Oakley and Sophia Orser's son, but there are also letters from Augusta Orser Burrill's husband, William E. Burrill; cousin Samuel Gilbert Barter; and two of John A. Orser's wartime friends, Fred B. Wallace and Bert [?]. These letters offer news of wartime activities in England and France and, particularly, information about soldiers from Carleton County who were at the Front. They also highlight family and community ties and provide insights into feelings of loneliness, dangers, and difficulties soldiers faced during wartime.

There are also a few letters between family members at home during wartime; correspondence relating to Sophia Orser's attempts to have her son's estate distributed after his death and pertaining to Oakley Orser's claim to a pension on account of his son's wartime service; a poem by John A. Orser about working on farms in the state of Maine; a scroll commemorating the wartime sacrifice of Pte. William E. Burrill; and two photographs, one of Orser family siblings taken on the farm,and the second, a studio portrait of John A. Orser and his friend, Harold Olney, in uniform.

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