100 Years Ago: Belleville Welcomes Captain E.D. O’Flynn, Tom Vance Writes Home

The Intelligencer July 17, 1916 (page 1)

“Auspicious Homecoming of Captain E.D. O’Flynn. Hardly had the message been received about nine o’clock Saturday morning, that Captain E.D. O’Flynn would arrive on the 3.05 train, than operations were in motion to give the young hero a welcome worthy of his magnificent record as a soldier.

His Worship, Mayor H.F. Ketcheson, immediately became busy in behalf of the city, and after seeing that his own office decorations were thrown to the breeze, he started for a printing office, ordered handbills announcing the homecoming, and soon flags began to appear on Front and Bridge Street business houses, extending to private residences, until the city had become a veritable bower of waving welcome.

Every resident was in the height of ecstasy. Eddie was coming home. Even then the train was bearing him nearer his loved ones and friends.

Those who owned automobiles ordered them in readiness; those not thus blessed, determined to walk or take the van to the depot; and as the hour approached the crowds began to move northward, the open space about the G.T.R. Station becoming packed with decorated cars, the long platform crowded with people.

The remnant of the 15th Regiment Band were on hand to express their loyalty in music. The faces of the vast concourse were turned eastward, hoping the train would be on time. Then the rumbling sound was heard—the smoke was seen ascending—the cry went out ‘It’s coming! It’s coming!’

As the train steamed in the band played a popular air. Then two ‘stalwarts’ were seen to wend their way toward where the particular car was likely to stop. They were the same pair who had carried Eddie to the car upon their shoulders two years previous—Wm. Carnew and Hope McGinnis. The train came to a standstill; a mighty shout went up; and as the lithe, uniformed figure of our young townsman appeared on the car steps, he was immediately grasped, raised to two husky shoulders, and conveyed slowly through the jostling crowd, everyone striving for a handshake. It was truly an inspiring moment. The King himself could not have been more highly honored.

Onward the trio moved until opposite the large touring car of Mr. E. Guss Porter, K.C., M.P., into which Captain O’Flynn was gently deposited between his mother and Mrs. Porter (President of the Quinte Chapter of I.O.D.E.), who, with Miss Falkner and Mrs. S.A. Hyman were in waiting; Mr. F.E. O’Flynn, who had met his son at Kingston, being also of the party.

Then began the parade to the city proper—moving cars to the number of a hundred or more, occupying the street, while pedestrians filled the sidewalks, and as the business portion of Front and Bridge Streets were traversed, the waving decorations and lusty shouts of greeting made up a spectacular event.

At the O’Flynn residence, on Bridge street, a massive crowd had collected, barely room being obtainable for passage to the main entrance. Here the true welcome was extended. As soon as possible, in response to a united call, Captain O’Flynn appeared upon the upper piazza, and briefly thanked his friends for their manifestation of affection, expressing his gratitude at being permitted to return to them.

He was followed by Mayor Ketcheson, in behalf of the city, who heartily welcomed him to his old home, giving voice to the interest that had ever been taken in his work and welfare while in the trenches, and commending his loyalty to the Empire. …

Though wearied by his long journey, Captain O’Flynn responded heartily to the many greetings, at the same time feeling deeply the friendly attitude of his home friends and comrades.

The Captain, in appearance is much improved, the home journey adding to his health, he having gained sixteen pounds in weight while enroute. He came on the Empress of Britain, and is on a furlough of two months.”

The Intelligencer July 17, 1916 (page 7)

“From Tom Vance. Belgium, June 27th. Dear Father, Mother and all:—Just a few lines in answer to your most welcome letter, which arrived yesterday. I am glad to hear you are all well, as this leaves me the same, only a cold, and you know that is a usual thing for me.

Sergeant Hutchinson, who came from Belleville with us is wounded, and a fellow by the name of Frank Barnum, is back in Blighty again, so there are not many of the old Belleville lads here now. I hear Will Styles has gone home on a month’s pass.

I have been in the firing line longer than I was before, and I am thankful I have not been touched yet. I would very much like to be home and get a good home-made meal again. I have been away from home so long I forget what one tastes like. Hope the crops are good this year. Give my love to all the family, and answer. Your loving son, Tom Vance.”