I am Alice Ward-Potvin. Before I was married to Jerry Ward, I lived on Mission Island (then Island #2). My parents were Eugene & Blondine Potvin (nee DeSchutter). She came from Belgium at two yrs of age with her brother and mom and dad (Alice and Joseph DeSchutter).
They went to Weyburn, Saskatchewan where Grandpa had a sister, Hortense, and then World War One hit and he had been in the Belgium Cavalry so he went back to Belgium to fight on his horse for Belgium, leaving my grandmother, mother and brother here in Canada to make out as best they could – cleaning houses, etc. He got hit with mustard gas and was expected to die but came back to Canada and was in McKellar Hospital and surprise got well – he also had another sister, Blondine Webster, and low and behold the sister in Weyburn had married a man in management of “Lille White Corn Starch & Corn Syrup”. The Company decided to build a red brick warehouse maybe 5 stories high on the edge of the Mission River to allow them to bring the produce up the river and then store it. From there it would send on out to the east by train. As my grandpa lived and got stronger he was hired as watchman and he then built a beautiful little house, front porch and all.
It has a beautiful food and flower garden. They had four more sons and a daughter, built a gymnasium outside where my uncles learned to use the rings and all, built his own brick road, so when my mom and dad married guess where they built, right behind Grandma and Grandpa and his brick road. He even built an upstairs, where the stairs could be pulled up and down. That large brick building was at one time used for World War II and then turned into a shell plant, then it was used for wood (hardwood floors) owned by the Chornies family.
My life on Mission Island was lovely to grow up. “Coney Island” was on the edge of the Lake where before I was born the city had laid street car tracks and the street car would take people from the city out to enjoy the water. Then Typhoid hit and it was closed. Tracks were still there when I was young. We had a lovely community – a stone and lovely people who helped each other, when the city thought they were going to do a big project, we were told if you want to sell your house, the City must buy it, it will be torn down, many houses were torn down (nice ones), including my grandparents. Many plants are still there at the site of the house, and the road into my parents’ house is still there. My five uncles were all in the Second World War (Air Force and Navy).
Across the river from the Brick building that is still used to be a family living there and they would row across to our side of the Island and drop off a daughter. My uncles would help her and she became a nurse. There used to also be a building on that side that belonged to The Sisters of St. Joseph – it was called “St. Joseph Home 1895” – the large red stone is here in an outside chapel where I live at St. Joseph’s Heritage on Carrie St.
The above history has been contributed to the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project by Alice Ward of Thunder Bay, granddaughter of Joseph and Alice DeSchutter.