Bruce County Museum receives two special military medals

Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre is now in possession of two very special medals.  One belonged to Josiah Tranter of the 1st Bruce Militia and the other by Joseph Lion Tranter of the 1st Battalion Canadian Infantry , Western Ontario Regiment of World War I.

The medals were presented to the Museum by direct descendant Stephen Vaughan.  “I was always interested in everything military as a little boy,” says Vaughan, “and because of my family’s military history that included the medals and letters home.

I can’t thank Bill Streeter enough. He really encouraged me to give these medals to the Museum … and it was the right thing to do.  I want to bring my mom here to the Museum to see all the Tranter family things on display.”

  Tranter war-time letter home is on                          display

Military historian, Bill Streeter, arranged for the medals to be presented to Deb Sturdevant of the Museum Archives where the handover took place in the War Exhibit area of the Museum.  In the exhibit, there is extensive knowledge of the Tranter families including letters written home during war time.

(L) Bill Streeter explains his findings of the Tranter men’s military service to                                Deb Sturdevant and Stephen Vaughan

Josiah Tranter, who had been born in 1836 in Northumberland County, New Brunswick, moved to Southampton in 1856.  He was a sawmiller, stone mason and plasterer and was one of nine children.

In the 1800s, it was early days for Southampton and Port Elgin along with Ontario and Canada as a whole.

It was also a time of the Civil War south of Canada’s border, but its end in 1865 was not the end of conflict. The threat of war between America and England seemed remote and so Britain withdrew its troops that had been sent to defend the colonies.  However, a small army of Irish Federalists known as the Fenians, began to emerge as a military threat to Canada and as part of the Civil war were experienced troops.

32 Bruce Battalion in Goderich (Bruce County Museum Archives)
Undated photo of            Josiah Tranter (Museum Archives)

In 1866, the Fenians invaded and captured old Fort Erie in the Niagara region and it galvanized Militia battalions across the colonies.  In Bruce County, the 1st Bruce Militia, including Josiah Tranter of Southampton, boarded the steamer, the Bruce, and headed for Goderich, where the government of Canada at the time was worried that the Fenians would seize Goderich, a major railroad hub. There, the 1st Bruce Militia waited for the Fenians for four weeks with no sign of them.

There, the alarm sounded that the Fenians were landing at Bayfield and the 1st Bruce quickly headed toward the area armed with 50 cartridges each.  Marching to Point Edward the Militia arrived to discover the Fenians had disappeared.  Although the Militia never met the Fenians in battle, it did demonstrate that mass mobilization was critical in preventing an invasion.  In the words of Lt.-Col. Belcher (whose house still stands in Southampton), “We returned home full of glory, honour and pleasant memories.”

Joseph Lionel Tranter was born in Saugeen Township in 1887 on the family farm on the 14 Concession close to Southampton.

He joined the local militia in 1905 and, when World War I was declared in 1914, he travelled to Val Cartier in Quebec to enlist and then was shipped out to England as part of the 1st Battalion Canadian Infantry arriving in England on October 14th.  Following training, they left for France in February, 1915 and, in June, fighting raged near Vimy Ridge. The battle began badly for the Canadian and they had to retreat and in the morning the 1st Battalion had almost 400 casualties.  One of those was Joseph Lionel Tranter who died and was buried 599 feet behind the trench he fought in.  He was 28.

Close by, five days earlier, his cousin also dies in the Battle at Festubert.

Joseph Lionel’s name is remembered on the Vimy Memorial and also on a stone in the Southampton Cemetery along with his brother Stanley and his wife Mary.

Today, there are family descendants living in the area, including Stephen Vaughan.


With records from historian G. William Streeter and Bruce County Museum