Mills Township War Memorial at Poplar Corner refurbished just in time for Remembrance Day

Erwin Thompson stands in front of the newly refurbished War Memorial at Poplar Corner in Burpee and Mills township.

EVANSVILLE – Fittingly with Remembrance Day November 11 this week, the township of Burpee and Mills recently had the War Memorial at Poplar Corner refurbished.

“It looks really great,” stated Wayne Bailey, a Burpee and Mills township councilor, of the newly refurbished monument.

“The township had the War Memorial monument at Poplar redone,” stated Ken Noland, Reeve of Burpee and Mills. “The base of the monument (originally made of brick) had eroded and was replaced by a riveted steel base completed by Steve Dinsmore of Dinsmore Designs who also repainted the memorial, and cleaned it with help from the public works crew.” 

Reeve Noland explained that, prior to going ahead with the project, “we had talked to Jim Woods at the Royal Canadian Legion (Branch 514 in Gore Bay), Erwin Thompson, Legion Chaplin, and a couple of (former) Women’s Institute members and told them what we were thinking of doing and they were okay with it.”

Reeve Noland told The Expositor, “the monument was originally unveiled in 1924 by the Women’s Institute.”

Wayne Bailey, a Burpee-Mills township councillor told The Expositor, “Several years ago, Erwin (Thompson), who takes part in laying a wreath at the monument every Remembrance Day said the face of the monument was cracking very badly, was in bad shape and needed to be renovated.” 

“I think the new base is something that will be there for a long time and be sturdy,” said Mr. Bailey.  

Mr. Thompson provided information on the history of the War Memorial at Poplar, written by Pat Best in her book “History of Mills Township.”

“On Sunday, August 31, 1924, the monument at Poplar Corner was unveiled and dedicated in an impressive ceremony complete with choir and organist, which opened with the singing of the hymn, “O God Our Help in Ages Past.”

“It was the culmination of three years’ work by the Poplar Women’s Institute, wrote Ms. Best. The land was donated by the property owner, Sarah Sides. At the base of the monument are two machine guns given to Mills by the Canadian government to honour the large number of young men who went to the Great War from so small a community, claimed by some to be the largest per capita enlistment in the whole country,” wrote Ms. Best. 

“The names of the 19 young men from Mills Township (now amalgamated with Burpee Township) are inscribed on the monument,” continued Ms. Best, “with the names of the two who never returned from WWI listed on the front. Killed were Alden Wilkinson and Joseph Gallagher. The other Mills men who went to war, but returned, were Norman Orford, Sidney Dinsmore, William Foster, Arthur Atkinson, Walter Wright, Jack Robinson, Leonard Robinson, Arden Irwin, Herbert Wright, Harvey Robinson, Henry Lee, William Dinsmore, George McPhee, Ted Middleton, Ernest Moscrop, Leonard Wright and Austin Wright.”

Also honoured with a plaque on the front of the monument is Lloyd Orford, killed in action in World War Two in 1944, continued Ms. Best. 

“The surviving Mills township WWII veterans listed on the Honour Roll that hung at the old Poplar school and are now at the Township office at Burpee-Mills are as follows: James Ford, Sherman McCulligh, Carman Middaugh, Dennis Middaugh, Delbert Orford, Chester Robinson, Clifford Robinson and Wm. (Bill) Wright,” wrote Ms. Best. 

As described in “Through the Years,” the unveiling was performed by Lieutenant  Grant Turner of Little Current who spoke with feeling about the soldiers, and of the awful times that they had had to endure. Other speakers and participants were Rev. W. T. Swainson, Rev. Cannon, and Sheriff J. Haddow. The service was brought to an end by the sounding of the Last Post.”

At the 95th anniversary of the Poplar Cenotaph Burpee-Mills Canada Day celebration on July 1, 2019 Mr. Thompson was joined by Coxswain Abigail Harper of the 348 Manitoulin Sea Cadet Corps to take part in the service. 

At the service in 2019, the reading of the names of those who served from Burpee Township (now part of the amalgamated township of Burpee-Mills from 1914-1918 was read. This list includes, Robert Rueben Ainslie, James Bell, Sam Blackburn-killed, John (Jock) Campbell, Isaac (Ike) Campbell, Fred Hayden Sr., David Matheson-killed, James Matheson, J.A. (Arthur) McKinley, Charles Morden, W.A. (Percy) Pidgeon, John Robinson, W.C. (William) Scott-killed, and William Williams.

The list of Burpee Township veterans from 1936-1946 includes Robert John Gibson, William Gibson, James Morrison-wounded, Clarence Morrison, Carman Middaugh, Arnold Bell, Leone Ainslie, Norton Ainslie, Howard Harper-wounded, Hugh Noland, Meldrum Morrison, Delbert Bell, Nelson Robinson, Orace Hayden-wounded, Wilfred Williams, and Neorma Ainslie.

“We also remember and give thanks for all those who have served in the Canadian Armed Services in conflicts such as Korea, Bosnia, Afghanistan and peacekeeping throughout the world. We are proud of our men and women who now carry the torch of peace,” added Mr. Thompson.