Webb, Sidney James

Regimental Number: 2469811
Rank: Private

Sidney was born on June 10, 1874 in Hackney, Middlesex, England to James and Sarah Webb. The Webb family immigrated to Canada and landed at Montreal, Quebec on August 10, 1883. Unfortunately, Sarah suddenly passed away which left James with a large family to raise. More tragedy occurred in 1885 when James died after an accident. A friend of the family, Captain Denham of the S.S. Ocean King offered to look after Sidney.

On May 23, 1885, Sidney became the cabin boy on the S.S. Ocean King at age 10. The ship carried Canadian Boatmen to Egypt to portage supplies up the Nile for the relief of General Gordon. Sidney worked as the cabin boy until 1888 when Captain Denham was killed on a trip to New Orleans, which left Sidney to his own defenses in London. One of Sidney’s sisters lived in Smith Falls, Ontario and offered her home to James. He, therefore; worked his passage back to Canada on the S.S. Pomeranian in May 1888. He stayed with his sister until 1895 when he decided to move to Manitoba. However, his stay in Manitoba was short and he moved back to Ottawa and worked for his brother-in-law who had rented a farm on Walkley Road in Carleton County. His brother-in-law died shortly thereafter. Sidney continued to rent the land and operated a dairy and mixed farming operation until he was in a financial position to purchase the property. The farm was located within a mile of the Ottawa Experimental Station. In 1899, Sidney married a widow, Elizabeth (nee Lees) Evans who had three small children, Grace, Cecil, and David “Wesley.” They later had three more children.

Maynard Bezanson met Sidney Webb in Ottawa and convinced him of the agricultural possibilities in Northern Alberta. Maynard and Sidney entered into a partnership in a cattle operation. Sidney subsequently left Ottawa with his 16 year-old step-son, Cecil Evans, in June 1910. Once a home was established and a school district formed, arrangements would be made for the family to follow. Sidney’s land (SW 28-71-2-W6 & SE 28-71-2-W6) was located next to Maynard’s. As it was located at a higher elevation, Maynard had Sidney establish the first experimental plots in Northern Alberta – a full five years before any plots were undertaken in Beaverlodge.

Once Maynard was successful in enticing several potential investors to his Townsite, he required the assistance of Sidney and Cecil with the improvements to be made to the area. Sidney built the access roads to the ferry landing on both sides of the Smoky River. Sidney purchased one of the business lots at the north end of the Townsite and built a 30’ x 90’ barn and also added a two-story bunk house with an attached restaurant. The lot chosen by Sidney was excellent as it was next to the road that led down to the ferry; consequently, all those who would arrive from the ferry would generally stop to utilize the services his business offered.

Sidney left the Bezanson Townsite late in 1914 with the intention of bringing back his family with him in the spring of 1915. However, Sidney was unable to do so due to an illness. Cecil stayed behind to look after the business ventures and to continue to assist Maynard with improvements to the Townsite. It had become increasingly difficult to find hired help as many of the young men in the area had enlisted in WWI, including Sidney’s stepson, Cecil Evans, who was killed in action in 1916. As it also soon became apparent that the railroad was not going to cross at the Bezanson Townsite, Sidney decided to sell his property to the Goodwin Brothers and remained in Ottawa. The area lost a true pioneer – a business owner, Townsite developer, cattleman, mail courier, road builder and the first agricultural experimentalist. Not only that, he was also the Justice of the Peace for the Townsite.

Once back in Ottawa, Sidney found employment with the Department of the Interior’s Seed Grain Branch. However, duty to Country beckoned Sidney and on April 26, 1917, at age 43, he enlisted in the Army, Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force, Railway Construction and Forestry Corp at Ottawa. Sidney sailed for England aboard the S.S. Justice and arrived on July 5, 1917. He was subsequently transferred to France on July 30th. Private Sidney Webb served in Canada, England and France and received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He was discharged on demobilization on March 18, 1919 in Ottawa.

Sidney again found employment with the Government, this time with the Surveyor General Office – a position he kept until the office was disbanded. Sadly Elizabeth passed away in 1926, however; Sidney was 98 when he passed away in 1972. Both were buried at the Beechwood National Cemetery in Carleton, Ontario.

Contributed by Wanda Zenner

Pioneers of the Peace History Book
Sodbusters Invade the Peace by A.M. Bezanson
Grande Prairie Herald Old Timers Historical Edition
Webb Family Information