Waterloo Region Generations
A record of the people of Waterloo Region, Ontario.

George Alexander "Alexander" Forbes

Male 1897 - 1986  (88 years)


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  • Name George Alexander "Alexander" Forbes 
    Born 2 Jan 1897  Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    Gender Male 
    Religion 1911  Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Presbyterian 
    Military 1914  WW1 Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    WW1, Private 
    Elected Office 1930  Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location 
    councillor of Hespeler 
    Interesting politics, business, conservation, life story, mill, sports, 
    Name Alex. Forbes 
    Residence Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    Eby ID Number Waterloo-83572 
    Died 1986 
    Buried New Hope Cemetery, Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I83572  Generations
    Last Modified 7 Jan 2020 

    Father Mayor George Duthie Forbes,   b. 30 Oct 1860, Puslinch Twp., Wellington Co., Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1934  (Age 73 years) 
    Mother Amy Victoria Ellis,   b. 24 May 1870, Brantford, Brant Co., Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1941  (Age 70 years) 
    Family ID F21752  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Millicent Lyall Buck,   b. 1899, Brantford, Brant Co., Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1973  (Age 74 years) 
    Married 19 Jan 1922  Brantford, Brant Co., Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Last Modified 8 Jan 2020 
    Family ID F24253  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • After the death of his father George Duthie Forbes he became director of a number of companies in which his father had an interest including Simplicity Products where he was active until 1970. He was active in the community and during WWII worked with the Hespeler Patriotic Society. A life member of the Waterloo Historical Society, he is best remembered for his conservation work involving migrating water fowl. He created the Forbes Sanctuary by excavating three depression connected to a stream. He developed a nesting box for the endangered wood ducks and was in part responsible to the saving the Wood Duck from extinction.

      Cambridge Mosaic , Jim Quantrell, 1998, City of Cambridge [abbreviated snippet from original text in book]

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      George Alexander "Alex" Forbes, the son of George and Amy Victoria (Ellis) Forbes, was born Jan. 2, 1897 on his family's Hespeler estate. After completing his education at Hespeler Public School and Ridley College in St. Catherines, Alex flew with the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War 1. Upon his return, he joined the family business; sorting wool at the mill and learning from the bottom up. In 1928, just a few months before the Stock Market Crash, his father sold the large woollen mill for a hefty sum. Following the death of his father five years later, Alex inherited the family business empire including the directorships of various corporations and insurance & trust companies. He became president of Simplicity Products Co. Ltd. and remained in an active role until the company was sold in the mid 1970s. Although he was obligated to look after the family's business interests, his love was always hunting and fishing. The family maintained hunting lodges in the Sudbury area accessible only by small aircraft and Alex became a crack shot and a champion skeet shooter. In the mid 1950s, Alex noticed that the lakes were becoming "fished out" and the waterfowl population was in sharp decline. He gave up hunting and fishing and turned his hand to conservation work. Alex began stocking fish in the streams on his 240 acre estate and created ponds for a waterfowl sanctuary. Noticing the wood duck population was endangered, he began a restoration program. He purchased several pairs of birds from a local research station and began a breeding program. Together with Pete Robertson and Bill Carrick, Alex collected between 1700 and 1800 eggs for incubation. When they hatched, the birds were turned over to Wayne Azumi, a University of Guelph student, who dispersed them in a 150 mile radius. He also designed, with Pete Robertson, a new knock down nesting box kit that was distributed across Canada and into the United States. Bill Miller, head of the Canadian Wildlife Service, credited Alex with bringing the wood duck back from endangerment. He was also instrumental in the reintroduction of the Canada goose into Ontario. For his work in conservation he became known as "the Birdman of Hespeler". In 1984, the GRCA added his name to their "Honour Roll". Outside of this work, Alex was also very involved in the Hespeler community. He was active with the Hespeler Patriotic Society during WW11, a life member of the Waterloo Historic Society; Executive Member of the 1947 Hespeler old Boy's Reunion, and Honorary Chairman of Hespeler's Centenary Committee. Alex Forbes died on May 2, 1986 and is buried in New Hope Cemetery. (Note: Robert and George Forbes have been inducted into the City of Cambridge Hall of Fame. The bird sanctuary created by Alex Forbes was sold and is now occupied by the Mattamay and Millpond subdivisions).

      Cambridge Citizen 5 Jun 2011 by Lary Turner

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      Cambridge veteran digs deep to buy First World War items

      Legion's veteran service officer purchases George Alexander Forbes war items on eBay


      by Bill Doucet Cambridge Times

      The Forbes family had been entrenched in Hespeler since the 1800s. Now that the last members are moving out, Bill Kalbhenn has brought home a piece of one of the town's native sons.

      With the majority of the money coming out of pocket, the veteran service officer for Royal Canadian Legion Branch 272 (Hespeler) purchased three items of military memorabilia of George Alexander Forbes.

      Finding Forbes' First World War service hat, formal wear hat and sewing kit on eBay from a private seller, Kalbhenn, a veteran himself, sat on the price of $3,250. Bending the eBay rules, he asked the man to keep him informed if someone else had made a bid for the item, and the man, from the Ottawa area, agreed.

      "I felt it was too much of a price, and maybe it was a good thing it was a higher price because if it was lower it would have been gone. Someone would have picked it up real quick," said Kalbhenn, who is also on the Hespeler Heritage Centre committee.

      He started a Go Fund Me page to raise the money for the items, with the intent of putting them on display, behind glass, in the Hespeler legion. The Go Fund Me amount stalled at $700, though it is still active.

      "I talked to a few people and put it on Facebook, and that was probably one of the worst things to do. Everybody was upset. I basically said I was disappointed to find it on there. The family had not left it at least to the legion or the heritage centre downtown before they left."

      With Remembrance Day coming, time was of the essence for Kalbhenn and his self-imposed deadline. He whittled the seller down to $2,750 and ate the rest of the cost. With the $700 from the Go Fund Me page, and $500 raised from collections at the legion, he is still $1,550 in the hole. That doesn't seem to bother him.

      "It was just a significant piece of history for Hespeler. It just seemed kind of sad it would go to another private buyer. A lot of this stuff is hard to come by now," he said.

      "The value of it to a dealer is they would pay that kind of money for it. It's First World War, and there's not much of that stuff around, and if it is, it's in a museum already or in a private collection somewhere."

      The items are in fine condition, considering they are 100 years old. Forbes' service cap is the most worn, only because that was his daily wear, but the formal hat and sewing kit are still intact.


      Kalbhenn said he wasn't sure how the memorabilia was stored '97 the man he bought the military items from also purchased them from another private seller '97 but knows the war ended before Forbes was deployed.

      Forbes was drafted into the 1st Depot Battalion of the Western Ontario Regiment on April 26, 1918, in London, Ont. On May 13, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). The RFC was in existence from 1912 to 1918, before merging with the Royal Naval Air Service '97 once a wing of the RFC '97 to form the Royal Air Force.

      Kalbhenn said Forbes was likely still in training in Canada when the war ended on Nov. 11, 1918.

      Kalbhenn also has researched documentation of Forbes' service time, including recruitment papers, his service will, a medical history sheet and his release. When he was discharged from the army to the join air corps, he had made $16.50 over 13 days, but paid out $16.50 in discharge fees and "other charges."

      He was hoping he would be able to find more from Forbes' military service.

      "We don't know where the medals are. We don't know if there was anything else."

      While any First World War memorabilia would be of significance, the Forbes name is a step up from a regular Hespeler resident. Forbes was not only known as an industrialist '97 owning Simplicity Products, a maker of household goods '97 but was also a conservationist. After his retirement from work, he established the Wood Duck Sanctuary on his 24-acre property in Hespeler.

      Before that, his grandfather, Robert Forbes, had founded the R. Forbes Co. Ltd. woollen mill, which grew to national prominence once his son George Duthie Forbes took over as president of the company in 1888.

      Robert Forbes also donated Victoria Park and Forbes Park to the community.

      "The significance of it is so important to the Hespeler community and the people," Kalbhenn said of having something with the Forbes' name.

      "It just kind of tore at me; can we really let this opportunity go by without taking advantage of it. I knew that we had the ability to raise funds for it, and I knew there's enough people in Hespeler that would step up."

      Forbes' war items will be on display for the first time at the veterans banquet on Nov. 3, before going into the legion's cabinets.

      Kalbhenn said the legion is planning two fundraisers so he can try to recoup his money for the items. People can still donate on his Go Fund Me page at www.gofundme.com/rtn-alex-forbes-military-memorbilia.
      by Bill Doucet
      Bill Doucet is the Sports and Entertainment Editor at the Cambridge Times.

      Email: bdoucet@cambridgetimes.ca

      Doucet, B. (2018). Cambridge veteran digs deep to buy First World War items. CambridgeTimes.ca. Retrieved 31 October 2018, from https://www.cambridgetimes.ca/community-story/8997449-cambridge-veteran-digs-deep-to-buy-first-world-war-items/

  • Sources 
    1. [S143] Census - ON, Waterloo, Hespeler - 1901, Hespeler (Village) D-2 Page 24.

    2. [S392] Census - ON, Waterloo, Hespeler - 1911, Div. 21 Pg. 8.

    3. [S1890] Military - ON, Waterloo, Kitchener - Kitchener Public Library WW1 Soldiers Card Index Soldier Information Cards - World War One.

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 2 Jan 1897 - Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsReligion - Presbyterian - 1911 - Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 19 Jan 1922 - Brantford, Brant Co., Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsElected Office - councillor of Hespeler - 1930 - Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - - Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - New Hope Cemetery, Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth