Who Am I?

Who Am I?

By: E3161 Victoria Edwards

  • I was born in Ottawa on January 23, 1863, the son of a contractor in Ottawa and also Commanding Officer (Major) of the Ottawa Field Battery.
  • I studied at at Collegiate School (now Lisgar Collegiate) in Ottawa.
  • On February 5 1880, at the age of 17, I joined Royal Military College (RMC), having taken first place in entrance marks in my class of seventeen.
  • As Company Sergeant-Major in the Cadet Battalion, I graduated on June 26 1883, at the top of my class at RMC. I was presented with the Governor General’s Gold Medal, awarded to the cadet standing first in General Proficiency, as determined from the date of joining to that of graduation.
  • RMC records show that I was 5’7″ tall, with dark complexion, brown hair and hazel eyes.
  • I started work for the Rideau Canal Office, Ottawa, and joined the one-year old Georgian Bay Survey (later to become the Canadian Hydrographic Service) on March 22nd, 1884 at an annual salary of $550.
  • I took over as Canada’s First Chief Hydrographic Surveyor in 1893 and continued to survey in Georgian Bay and the North Channel until 1894.
  • In 1891, I surveyed Burrard Inlet in British Columbia. In 1895-97, I with my ship Bayfield was in Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie and Lake Huron.
  • In 1898, I was back at Parry Sound. During 1901, I took part in the first year of the Lake Winnipeg survey , but for the next two years, I was in Lake Superior surveying with a new Bayfield.
  • I obtained my Master’s Certificate, Inland Waters in 1897, though I never commanded my own survey ship.
  • I was a member of the International Waterways Commission in 1909. In 1910, I suffered an ailment that left my right arm crippled.
  • In 1912-13, I was appointed by the Dominion Government to determine the effect of the Chicago drainage scheme on the level of the lower St. Lawrence River.
  • At the request of the British Government, I went to Europe to assist in layout the new international boundaries as determined by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles.
  • To Canada’s First Chief Hydrographer, Mr. R.J. Fraser wrote this tribute in later years, “about 170 navigation charts of Canada are either the product of his own skilled hand or result from the responsible planning and production during the years of his personal administration of the Service.” A noble and parting tribute to a man who devoted forty-one years of his life in recharting Canada’s inland and coastal waters, and to the heritage he left his successors.
  • An island, a rock and a ship were named after me.

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I died on May 5, 1925, leaving my wife, Clara Lasher, and two unmarried daughters, Avis and Sybil. I was buried in Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa.

a) 85 Mr. William J Stewart (RMC 1880)
b) 62 Mr. William H. Robinson (RMC 1883)
c) 52 Mr. William Grant Stairs (RMC 1882)
d) 87 Mr. Reuben Wells Leonard (RMC 1883)
e) 168 Mr. William Heneker (RMC 1884)
f) 187 Mr MJ Murphy (RMC 1884)

Answer: a) 85 William J. Stewart (RMC 1880) was Canada’s First Chief Hydrographic Surveyor. Stewart Island, Algoma and Stewart Rock, Owen Channel, Manitoulin and the William J. Stewart (ship image above) were named after him.

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