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The First World War Scrapbooks of Annie Boyes

Few records at the Simcoe County Archives have had as far a reach as those in the Annie Boyes collection. A number ​of years ago an unknown individual uploaded copies of clippings from her First World War scrapbooks​ to the Canadian Virtual War Memorial. Since then, Archives staff members have been asked by countless people; “Who was Annie Boyes?” This blog was written in response to that question and provides a brief history of a remarkable set of records and the woman who created them. 

Annie Cornelia (Rothwell) Boyes (1872-1960)​, ca. 1930
From the Simcoe County Archives
Annie Cornelia (Rothwell) Boyes (1872-1960)​, ca. 1930 From the Simcoe County Archives

Who was Annie Boyes? 

Annie Cornelia (Rothwell) Boyes (1872-1960) was born near Gilford, Ontario, the daughter of William and Susannah (Todd) Rothwell.  After completing elementary school she attended the Bradford Model School and then taught at schools in Gilford and Fisher’s Corners, where she was the school’s first teacher.  After her marriage to Robert Boyes on December 31, 1903, Annie lived on farms near Churchill (Ontario) and Gilford. Annie was active in church affairs; volunteering with Sunday Schools, Women’s Missionary Societies.  She also played the organ at the Gilford church for several years.  Annie Boyes died at Stevenson Memorial Hospital, Alliston, on November 4, 1960. She was buried in the Sixth Line Cemetery in Innisfil. ​​

Women’s Institute & Simcoe County Museum 

Throughout her life Annie was very active in her community. In July 1904 she was elected President of the Churchill Women’s Institute, the first of numerous executive positions she held at branch and district levels of the organization.  She was the Secretary-Treasurer of the South Simcoe District W.I. from 1910 until 1938, when she became President. In 1939 Annie attended the meeting of the Associated Country Women of the World.

 ​984-103    Simcoe County Women's Institute Museum, ca. 1934
​984-103 Simcoe County Women’s Institute Museum, ca. 1934

During the 1920s, Annie served on the committee which organized what became the Simcoe County Museum, and was still a member of the Museum Committee at the time of her death.  She regularly contributed articles to the Barrie Examiner newspaper that detailed the latest donations to the Museum; copies of the published “Museum Notes” were then carefully pasted into scrapbooks.

First World War Scrapbooks 

Annie Boyes created two scrapbooks dedicated to the First World War.  Together, they contain nearly 70 pages of images of men and women who died while serving in the military or support services, as well as of poems and articles.  The items were clipped from newspapers and magazines published both inside and outside Simcoe County.  The “Our Fallen Heroes” items, for example, primarily pertain to former residents of Montreal, the province of Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces.  

It should be noted that the scrapbooks have few annotaions. Annie let the content of the images and captions speak for themselves.  For several of those remembered in local newspapers, however, she wrote their date of death next to the clipping. 

967-129 WWI Scrapbook No. 2, page 24 from the Annie Boyes collection
967-129 WWI Scrapbook No. 2, page 24 from the Annie Boyes collection
967-129 WWI Scrapbook No. 1, page 20 from the Annie Boyes collection
967-129 WWI Scrapbook No. 1, page 20 from the Annie Boyes collection

Clippings from Annie’s scrapbooks can be found attached to many memorial profiles on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial​. For many researchers and family members these clippings provide a face to the names of fallen servicemen and servicewomen.

Through her work with the Women’s Institute, it is clear that Annie saw the importance of preserving history for future generations. Though it is impossible to say for certain, staff at the Archives suspect that she would be pleased with the legacy she left with these scrapbooks.

​Related material

First World War history

Women’s Institute history