April 20, 1917 An Unnecessary Inquest

April 20, 1917

Today, I heard someone died in the Park. Joey Kehoe. He was only seventeen. I heard the news from Mark Robinson. He came down the the lodge this evening and he was visibly upset. We did some small talk first, and when all of the other guests went to bed he did some more talking.

Joey’s death happened on Thursday – two days ago. It happened by Islet Lake, near the rail bridge. Nobody was sure exactly what happened, but he was found dead beside the tracks two hours after the train went through. The train was no regular train, it was a troop train. The troop trains came this way because it was the quickest way to Ottawa. The recruits from out West would come in by steamship at Depot Harbour, and when there was a good load of them, they would go on the Grand Trunk Line to Arnprior, to Ottawa and then to Montreal and Halifax where they were shipped overseas.

Whenever a troop train came through the Park, George Bartlett would get a telegram from Ottawa to make sure the rail lines were safe through the Park. Several Park sections were tricky, but more importantly, the government was worried that enemy aliens would sabotage the lines. It’s bad enough to have a rail bridge or trestle blown up, but it’s infinitely worse to have a load of troops hurtle to their deaths.

Mark Robinson said that Bartlett got the telegram on Wednesday afternoon, and he needed to muster his men to guard the rails for Thursday morning. Now I understood why all of the shelter houses had telephones. Bartlett needed the ability to mobilize the Park Rangers at short notice.

Bartlett ordered the Rangers to get section men to guard the bridges throughout the Park. In the eastern part, the Blue Lake section gang was ordered to watch the bridge at Islet Lake, and it was Joey Kehoe’s turn. He’d have to stay the night and they’d pick him up the next morning. When they came, they found him dead. When Bartlett heard the news he ordered the Rangers to come to Park Headquarters this morning. Mark Robinson went to Cache Lake were he met with other Park Rangers, seven in total to discuss Kehoe’s death. After a brief discussion Bartlett decided that it was an accident and there was no need to discuss the issue any further. Tom McCormick thought an inquest should be held but Bartlett would have nothing of it.  He ordered that Kehoe be sent back to his family on the next train possible.

I could tell by Mark Robinson’s recounting of the story that he agreed with Tom McCormick’s position and that he felt that Bartlett’s handling of the affair was too abrupt and cursory. But Mark’s a good soldier, and he said that what he saw overseas would make your hair curl, and its best to follow orders without question. I believe that’s why Bartlett asked for Robinson to be in the Park back so soon after his service overseas – not because he was a good man (that counted) but that he would follow orders. I think the other Park Rangers, especially McCormick, got the message, that if they didn’t stay in line, then they could go to the Front instead.

So Mark and I sat by the fireplace for a good while. Shannon came over too, and we talked some more. No whisky was in sight because Mark wasn’t a drinker and Shannon knew well enough that he needed Mark’s goodwill in times of need.

As for sketching today. I did go out but not for long. The wind was biting cold this morning and it was strange weather. A thunderstorm last night, rain, and then snow pellets.

As for Joey Kehoe, I feel sorry for him and his family. Mark told me that his father died the year before and Joey was the sole support for his mother and two younger siblings. You think there would be compensation for the families in these situations, but you never hear of it. The Park is silent about these things.