Hector Gordon Wishart was born with the surname Voltz on 20 November 1893 in Buffalo, New York. He was the son of a maltster and civil war veteran from Germany named John Sebastian Volz, and his wife, Elizabeth McLean Wishart. When Hector was 17 his father died and a lengthy court case involving two wills ensued in which his wife, who he blamed for putting him in a sanitorium, was virtually written out of the second dated just before his death.
After leaving school young Hector found work as a salesman and lived in Buffalo with his mother and older brother at 500 Richmond Avenue. By 1918 he was employed by the Canada Office Furniture Company, which was based in Montreal, and registered for the draft on 22 July of that year. Four days earlier he made a petition at the Erie County Court to change his name to Hector Gordon Wishart with effect from 20 August. It is not recorded why he wanted to do this, however, two possible answers may have been that he was unhappy with the way his mother was written out of his father’s will and preferred to be known by his mother’s surname. Alternatively, and more likely, like many other men bearing surnames of German origin, he may have felt that his time in the military would be easier without this connection.
On 9 August almost four-hundred men from Buffalo entrained for preliminary service at Fort Slocum on David’s Island, NY. Hector was among them and eventually assigned to Battery E of the 35th Field Artillery, which was based at Camp McClellan in Alabama. On 20 December he was promoted to the rank of corporal and eventually demobilised on 5 February 1919.
After the war, Hector moved to Montreal and worked as secretary-treasurer at the company headquarters. He lived with his uncle Duncan Wishart who was president and manager of the firm but on 3 September 1921, he tragically drowned while on holiday in Lac l’Achigan. The Gazette, Montreal, carried a story of the incident on 5 September:
BATHER DROWNED IN LAC L’ACHIGAN
Montrealer Entered Water Soon After Long Walk and Meal
BODY WAS RECOVERED
Hector Gordon Wishart, 27 years of age, of 126 Durocher Street, secretary-treasurer of the Canada Office Furniture Co. Ltd., of 243-245 Notre Dame street west, was drowned while bathing in Lac l’Achigan, twelve miles from Shawbridge, on Saturday evening. The body was recovered fifteen minutes after the accident and was brought to Montreal last night.
Wishart, and a friend, Martin Jenson Barford, had gone to Lac l’Achigan to spend the holiday over Labor Day. They arrived at Shawbridge shortly before four o’clock and decided to walk to the lake. It was nearly six o’clock when they arrived. They had supper and later, being warm after their long walk, decided to have a swim. The two young men entered the water and in a few minutes Wishart sank. His friend plunged to the bottom after him and quickly found him and pulled him ashore. Wishart was dead.
The body was taken to the residence of friends with whom the two young men had been staying, and Dr. L. Labelle, of St. Jerome, coroner for the district, was notified. The coroner held the inquest yesterday morning. The coroner was unable to ascertain if Wishart had died of heart disease or if he had been taken with cramps caused by going into the water too soon after eating. A verdict of accidental drowning was returned.
The victim’s uncle, Duncan Wishart, president and manager of the Canada Office Furniture Co., Ltd., went to Lac l’Achigan yesterday afternoon and the body was brought back to Montreal last night. While arrangements for the funeral were not completed last night, Mr Duncan Wishart stated that the body of his nephew would be buried at Dundas. The victim’s mother, who is in Buffalo at present, was notified of the tragedy last night.