The Woodbridge Memorial Tower
Wallace St., Woodbridge, Ontario

Constructed in honour of the men of the community who laid down their lives for King and Country in the Great War 1914-1918.

In commemoration of the great courage demonstrated by the twenty-six men from the Woodbridge area killed in the First World War. The Village of Woodbridge Council on June 9, 1924, passed a by-law granting the sum of $1,500.00 for the purpose of erecting a memorial in their honour.

Construction of the Woodbridge War Memorial Tower began in 1924 and was completed that same year with the assistance of volunteer members of the community: John Johnston of Woodbridge donated the fieldstone for the tower's construction; Fred Baret, a stone mason from Humbervale, near Weaton (south of Woodbridge), built the tower.

The tower measures 11' x 60' on a 14' x 34' base. It is constructed of native field stone with a glass dome. At the apex of the tower, there is a domed beacon light decorated with crenellated stonework and small window openings encircling its base. The beacon light once illuminated the surrounding area at night and could be seen from Highway No. 7. The Memorial was built with love and volunteer labour, a real community effort.

The site is designed in four stepped levels; the highest level is occupied by the tower. Each level is supported by a retaining wall of cut stone. The cut stone found at the highest level was salvaged from what was known as the old Humber Bridge, demolished with the widening of Highway No.7 in 1924.

Three field guns are located at the site. Two guns flank the tower on its north and south sides and the third gun sits on the second stepped-level (from the bottom), next to a flag pole. The two top field guns have the inscription "Fried.Krupp" indicating they were assembled by Krupp of Germany, one of the largest German armament manufacturers of the 19th and 20th centuries. The guns were originally located on the Toronto waterfront (property of the Department of Defence) and brought to Woodbridge by Canadian Pacific Railway flatcar.

An inscription on the fieldstone at the base of the tower (on its west side) indicates the tower was unveiled by His Honour Colonel Harry Cockshutt, Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Ontario, on November 16, 1924.

A bronze plaque at the base of the tower commemorates those fallen in World War I and reads as follows:

"In Honor of the Men of this Community Who Laid Down their Lives for King and Country in the Great War 1914-1918."

Brank Birch
James Borland
Fred Evans
Norman Fleming
George Grumble
W.S. Harris
Richard Harrison
William Haslam
D.R. MacKenzie
Beaton McGillivary
Pearcy McKay
Herbert Miller
Edward Morgan
  John Morgan
Robert Rayside
Stanley Robb
Earnest Smith
Roy Taverner
Tex Tinkes
Stanley Warrel
Roy Warren
Christopher Watt
John Wilson
David Witherspoon
Wallace Wood
J.A. Wright

The following passage is carved into the stone:

"This tower is erected in grateful memory of the men who gave their lives in the Great War,
and also of those who, daring to die, were spared to return to the native land.
We shall remember with pride, Ypres, Festubert, Lens, Sanctuary Wood, The Somme,
Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, Amiens, Arras, Cambria-Drocourt, Queant Line,
Bourlon Wood, Valenciennes, and Mons."

The War Memorial

By 1921, the many communities in Ontario were getting back to normal after five years of sacrifice and uncertainty. Fathers, mothers, sons and daughters were rejoined; some hale and hearty, some sorely crippled, and many who would never fully recover. Many had made the supreme sacrifice.

It was the absence of these many young men that motivated the Council of Woodbridge to call a meeting of the people to survey the ways and means of constructing a lasting memorial to do honour to them. They made the supreme sacrifice to save our country from a dictatorship, and to preserve our democratic way of life.

This meeting was called on the 15th of June 1921, to meet in the Orange Hall. At this meeting, a steering committee was appointed consisting of Reeve C.L. Wallace as Chairman, J.J. Rolph as Secretary, and Arthur McNeil as Treasurer. Soldier representatives were Alex MacKenzie and William Smithers. The committee also included Thomas Cole, Arthur McNeil, J. Devins, W.O. Duncan, Miss L. McNeil, Mrs. William Fleming, Mrs. Henry Smith and Miss Mary Burton.

Like all community efforts, finance was paramount. The committee held a tag day to publish the objective, and were successful in raising $197.00. Encouraged by the success of the tag day, they were able to secure the services of Major Gibson of the Queen's Own Rifles to design a "watch tower." He designed a tower 11 feet by 60 feet, on a 14-foot by 32-foot base, to be constructed of native field stone, with a glass dome.

The committee was pleased with Major Gibson's efforts and proceeded to examine several locations. Finally, they decided on its present location. They negotiated for the site and were able to secure the land from Mr. Abel for the sum of $200.00. Tenders for erection were called on May 2nd, 1923, and Mr. Fred Baret's tender was accepted at $1,790.00.

A building committee was formed, consisting of: C.L. Wallace, Mrs. William Fleming, Miss Mary Burton, Miss L. McNeil, Bert Cousins, Thomas Cole, William Mitchell, J. Devins, J. Rolph, William Smithers, Alex MacKenzie, Mrs. H.N. Smith, W.O. Duncan, Dr. G. McLean, R. Johnson, Mrs. A. Harris, James Ross, Alfred Thompson, John McLean, Andrew Frost and G.A. Mowatt.

With the tower designed and land acquired, the Committee had no problem when it became necessary to assemble the material. The farmers volunteered to haul the stone, donated by John Johnson, and the gravel and sand from Robert Huston's pit. There were so many volunteers it is impossible to list them. It was a total community effort.

Mr. Baret, with the help of the district, had the "Watch Tower" completed, and the Building Committee was able to turn over the completed project to the executive for dedication. The executive was able to secure Lieut. Harry Cockshutt to officiate at the dedication on November 16th, 1924.

With the memorial dedicated, the committee's next project was the landscaping. The Defense Department had some German guns available to communities, so the executive was able to secure a "German Whiz Bang." The City of Toronto had a surplus of captured enemy weapons, and the executive was able to secure two 6' Field Guns. These guns were made by "Krupp" in 1901 as Naval Guns and, when the British Navy bottled up the German Navy, the guns were removed from the ships and converted to field use. These guns were located on the waterfront and, although the Executive was able to convince the City of Toronto of their need for the guns, they were faced with the problem of transportation for these guns (three or four tons of steel) to the village, and their mounting on the top of the hill.

Now, the executive, who was in charge of this work, is made up of rugged individuals who did not recognize "can't" as a word in the English language. They negotiated with the C.P.R. to transport these guns to Woodbridge and, with the assistance of Mr. Snider (a local house mover) and a number of local people, enough plank sand timbers were brought to the site to build a ramp for landing the guns. The railroad then hauled the guns to the village on two flat cars and left them on the siding.

The guns were now in the village, and the next move was to transfer them to the Memorial site. The farmers were busy seeding and were reluctant to spare the time. After about two weeks on the siding, the C.P.R. was getting impatient at the delay, and were pushing the executive to release their cars. Again, the executive called on the services of Mr. Snider to erect a ramp at the tracks. The railway company, with patience and co-operation, sent an engine to the village and, when the tracks were clear, moved the first car to the ramp and, with the aid of Mr. Snider's winch, landed the gun on the ramp, thereby freeing the flat car. They still had to move the gun to the top of the cut to clear the ramp so the second gun could be unloaded. Three or four days later another engine arrived and, finally, the executive had their guns located and mounted. This added considerably to the appearance of the memorial.

Major MacKenzie, a lifelong conservationist, was able to secure 1,000 pine seedlings from the Department of Lands and Forests and, under his supervision, they were planted and flourished. The British Royal Family, to show their appreciation for the loyalty of the Canadian people, offered any community who desired them, Oak saplings from The Green Forest. Again, Major MacKenzie, with the approval of his executive, was successful in securing five of these Royal Oaks. They were carefully planted along the west boundary line and are now large trees.

The hill had a natural terrace, and the Committee constructed a Bowling Green that was extensively used for years, and provided recreation for a large number of the Villagers.

The Committee now felt that they had accomplished what they set out to do but, before disbanding, appointed a board of trustees to supervise the maintenance of the project. Those appointed were: Major Alex MacKenzie, Thomas Cole and Bert Cousins. Arthur Banks replaced Thomas Cole in 1945.

In 1945, a Benefit was held in the Orange Hall and it was so successful that, after all obligations were taken care of, the effort had a balance of $1,000.00. The committee who were in charge decided that this surplus should be invested in government bonds, and the proceeds to be used to help maintain Memorial Hill.

This report is a result of a meeting the writer had with Major Alex MacKenzie, at which time we received all the records he had in his possession, and with conversations with him from time to time over a period of 30 years.

No doubt there are many details I have not recorded. There may have been people not mentioned who were helpful in the building of this Memorial, but I am only recording from the data and conversations I received.

This project embraced landscaping, terracing, restoring of the Whiz Bang guns, etc., and, of course, a Centennial Plaque.

Money earned from the Bond has paid for the care taking of this Centennial.

Herb. H. Sawdon


Major Alexander A. MacKenzie

A wee son was born on November 1, 1885, to Donald and Lydia Ann MacKenzie in an area of Woodbridge known as Brownsville to folks back then. He attended Woodbridge Public School with his brother Donald Ross, and his sisters Anne and Florence. They did their farm chores before and after school and talked with each other about the Woodbridge Fair.

Two highlights from his early life are: a handshake from Sir John A. Mcdonald, Canada's first Prime Minister, and a horse and buggy ride with his father in 1890 to the parliament buildings which were still under construction. As a young man, Alexander, known to his friends as Lex, enlisted in the Governor-General's Body Guards. When the war broke out in 1914, he transferred to the Fourth Canadian Rifles and, in 1915, he went overseas. In less than two years, he rose to the rank of Major because of the bravery and leadership he displayed in action at The Somme in 1916 and at the battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917. He was severely wounded at Vimy Ridge. In his 82nd year, he was quoted as saying, "I have seen enough suffering, but I think everybody should be ready to defend his country."

The Woodbridge Memorial Tower, built in 1924, and the Woodbridge Memorial Arena, built in 1951, were two projects he felt very deeply about. His brother, Donald Ross, died in a World War I battlefield in Europe. Canadian children are taught in schools the importance of Remembrance Day, November 11th.

Major MacKenzie died in 1970, having served his country for 23 years as a member of Parliament. His time in office was associated with four Canadian prime ministers. His family home, a 1837 log cabin, was moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village. Maple Side Road was renamed Major MacKenzie Drive, a school south of Kleinburg was named MacKenzie Sr. Public School, and there is a historic cairn at Hwy. 400 & 9. Lex donated the property that the Legion is built on in memory of his brother, and Woodbridge Branch 414 of the Royal Canadian Legion still proudly bears the MacKenzie name.

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