'Our Sam Gloade': First World War Mi'kmaq veteran was from Queens County

Brittany W. Verge brittany.verge@theadvance.ca
Published on August 19, 2014

A family is speaking out to let the public know about their great grandfather’s origins and legacy.

It was reported in the Aug 5. Edition of the Queens County Advance that Sam Gloade, a Mi’kmaq man who fought and was decorated in the First World War was from Cape Breton. 

That’s when Bev Purdy and her sister Cathy Conrad stepped forward to let everyone know that their great grandfather was from Milton.

It has been published in various sources that Gloade was from Bear River or from Cape Breton, but he owned and lived in a home in Milton and is buried in Liverpool near his son and other Gloade relations.

“He’s our Sam Gloade… this is his family and he’s buried here,” says Brian Purdy, Bev’s husband.

Gloade was born in 1878 in Milton.  His father, Stephen Gloade, was born and lived in a camp near Cowie Falls below the dams. Although Sam Gloade’s family lived in Lunenburg and Shelburne County for a time, they eventually returned to Milton.

Gloade married Louisa Francis in 1900. She died all too soon in 1905 but not before they had a son, Louis. After his wife passed he started guiding with Adelbert (Del) Thomas, a guide who worked through the Milford House. Thomas is well known for his part in Albert Bigelow Paine’s novel, The Tent Dwellers.

“He guided and river drived,” says Brian Purdy. “He guided mostly American sportsmen.”

Gloade was interviewed several times by Thomas H. Raddall back in the 1940s about his life and his experiences in the First World War.

Purdy says her great grandfather was one of the first Mi’kmaq men in the community to volunteer for the war.

  According to notes made by Raddall in 1944, Gloade and a friend of his, John Francis, were in the woods felling trees for a mill owner in Milton when they decided that the money and the guarantee of food offered in the military would be better than what they were doing then. 

That was a common sentiment in rural and poorer communities in both world wars.  The two signed up in 1915 and were overseas by 1916.

During the war, over half the Maliseet and Mi’qmaw men in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick eligible for war signed up to serve.

Gloade joined up with the 64th Canadian Battallion and while training in Sussex, New Brunswick, he and a friend snuck into a group of volunteer former miners to serve with the Canadian Engineers.  The two wanted to see France and felt the 64th would never be called to action so off they went.

During the war regiments actively tried to tunnel to enemy trenches and that is exactly how Gloade found himself and his regiment of former miners, stuck in a collapsed shaft underground.

Gloade describes it as being trapped in a sort of cave.  When no one would do anything about their predicament, Gloade started to tunnel upward toward the surface and not the cave in spot.  He figured they weren’t far from the surface but the shaft they had just tunneled was 80 feet long so there was little chance of getting through there.

“It’s something to be an Indian, after all,” said Gloade in Raddall’s notes. “You look at a piece of country and it’s like a picture in your mind. I remembered the long dip of the ground between our front line trench and the Germans.”

Gloade dug all night and tunneled up through to “no man’s land.”  By that point it was light out and he and the other men decided to wait until nightfall where they were able to creep back to their own trench.  No one was hurt.

Purdy says her grandfather Louis, Gloade’s son, lied about his age to get into the military and fight in the First World War as well.  He was 15 years old at the time. As Gloade was serving at the time, he didn’t know that his son had signed up.

“He didn’t know it, they met overseas somewhere,” says Purdy.

Louis and his father ended up crossing paths in Europe and Purdy says Gloade was not pleased to his son had signed up. Louis was a part of the Nova Scotia Highlanders and was wounded by a piece of shrapnel but he came home fine.

Gloade is buried in the Catholic Cemetery on College Street along with much of his family, including his son Louis. He earned a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his service in the war.