March 9, 2019. In the course of his research into the names on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, sometimes Pieter is approached for help in solving mysteries that are unrelated to the project. While he helps when he can, sometimes he gets stumped.
One of these unsolved mysteries concerns a chest that once had belonged to a Sgt. Ross and is now owned by retired Reverend Adrian Auret, a former Minster at the Presbyterian Church in Burnside (Clyde River). Reverend Auret explained that the chest was left behind in a barn at the Presbytery. He had stored it in the garage to protect it, and when he moved to another church in New Brunswick, the chest was packed by the movers and sent with his belongings. Now he wondered if Pieter could find out if the chest belonged to someone or if it was a yard sale purchase from a previous minister and then left behind as unneeded baggage.
Outside of the name on the chest, there were no other identifying marks, such as a date or military unit. Pieter guessed that the initials H.S. after the name Ross indicated the initials for the first names of Ross, rather than a rank or unit. It was wooden and quite large, definitely not a contemporary object. Perhaps it had been used on a ship or was strapped to a wagon during the horse and buggy days?
Pieter thought it best to start with the church itself. He contacted the Head Office of the Presbyterian Church in Summerside and was incorrectly told that no one with that name served at the church in Clyde River. However, in a 1993 book written by William and Elizabeth Glen, “BONSHAW: A Stroll Through The Past”, mention was made of a William Ross, who had been ordained in 1860. Could the chest be from the 19th century? He contacted the Glens, but unfortunately they had no information other than what was in the book.
He searched military records for someone with that name and found a Cpl S.H. Ross who attended Infantry School in Fredericton, N.B. in 1885. Could this be the same Ross? It was inconclusive without more information about the chest itself.
Pieter then contacted the Military History Research Centre at the Canadian War Museum, and reached out to several people on Facebook who dealt with military insignia, and military museums. Perhaps the hinges on the chest could help date it?
The general consensus by everyone, including an archivist at the Canadian War Museum, seemed to be that the chest could be a trunk from WW II. Three theories about the use of the chest were that it may have been used in a footlocker in a barracks, was used by a member of the Home Guards, or was used by a military instructor for holding instructional tools and materials.
Ross was identified by one person as an Island name, so it seemed reasonable to assume that it belonged to someone from the Island. As was confirmed by the Canadian War Museum, it was not possible to look for a Sgt. Ross who served in WWII as the service files for the Second World War are still under privacy legislation. The Army Lists also only list officers, and so a Sgt. Ross would not appear.
Can you help Pieter solve this mystery? If you think you might be able to identify the period of the chest, or the identity of Sgt. Ross, please send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on this blog.
© Daria Valkenburg