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Honouring a North Bay man, one of 137 workers who lost their lives building the Welland Canal

'James West was on the job three weeks and three days when he was struck and killed by a passenger train. His unmarked North Bay grave site will be given a grave marker during a spring time ceremony.'
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In 1915, North Bay's James West was working as a labourer for the Confederation Construction Company, on the Welland Ship Canal.

On May 20, the 43-year-old married father of two, who had been on the job for exactly three weeks and three days, was struck and killed by a Grand Trunk Main Line Passenger Train, while walking the tracks. 

The canal project started in 1913 and lasted until 1935, except for a two year period, 1917 and 1918, when there was a shortage of labourers and money due to the war.

In the end, West would be one of 137 workers who died while working on the project, including four pairs of fathers and sons. 

This coming Sunday, November 12th, the $1.2 million Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial, will officially be unveiled in St. Catharines as a place to honour people like West. 

In conjunction with the memorial project, a book entitled, Triumph and Tragedy: The Welland Ship Canal, will be released sometime next year.

Walter Sendzik, Mayor of St. Catharines, stated in a letter to North Bay Mayor Al McDonald that, 

"The construction of the Welland Ship Canal was one of the most monumental projects in Canadian history. It is a marvel of modern engineering, connecting two Great Lakes and two great countries. As the canal continues to carry thousands of vessels each year, it continues to be an economic driver for communities on both sides of the border."

Sendzik went on to note,

"The story of the Welland Canal is also a story of staggering loss of life for the men and families whose lives were forever changed when their loved ones did not come home from work on the construction site-men like James West."

Like 52 other workers, West is buried in an unmarked grave.  

Bob Sears, president of the Canadian Canal Society, brought to the Discovery North Bay Museum, the donation of a grave marker. Individual grave markers have been made for distribution by Kirkpatrick Monuments of Fonthill for other unmarked graves, including ones in New York and Pennsylvania.

The marker belonging to West will be installed next spring, at his final resting place at the Terrace Lawn Cemetery, in North Bay.

"We really don't know much about West. We don't know where he was born, we know he had a wife and two children. He gave his home as North Bay and he is buried here. It's just that there's no marker at that particular location."

Naomi Hehn, is the Director Curator of Discovery North Bay Museum. 

"The marker will be placed in a display case with a little bit of information here at the museum, until  the cemetery is ready for it, sometime in the spring. So until then, people can stop by the museum and see it here." 

North Bay Mayor Al McDonald says a ceremony will be held once the marker is in place.

"He needs to be recognized appropriately and it's a wonderful opportunity for the City of North Bay to be part of that ceremony and show our respect for an individual who is a part of Canadian history. We're hopeful that other family members will come forward after hearing about this, because we would like them to be part of the ceremony."

No date has been set for that ceremony.




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