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An unusual farmer: Brigadier-General Dennis C. Draper, C.M.G., D.S.O. & bar (Part 1)

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At the time of the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Canada was propelled onto the international stage. The Sutton region indubitably reflected the Canadian fervor for the war effort at that time.

Today, all that seems left are somewhat forgotten memorials in Europe and Canada, bearing the names of Suttonites that paid the ultimate price. As for all of us, whether we realize it or not, we are still experiencing many of the positive and negative repercussions of that conflict. Among several of the notable local figures that gained distinction during that unparallel period was Dennis Colburn Draper from Sutton Junction. Draper’s name appears no less than 8 times in the official London Gazette for devotion and bravery in combat. What were the exploits that attracted so many citations? What were his motivations? How did this farmer become a Brigadier-General? Did he survive thewar? Let us examine the history.The descendants of French Huguenots that had immigrated to the USA in the 18th century, the Drapeau family (renamed Draper in America) settles in Sutton around 1840. Dennis, the middle child between two sisters, is born in 1875 to John and Harriet Draper.

Industrious by nature, the Draper family quickly builds a prosperous mixed farming operation in the area. After first graduating from Sutton High School, Dennis later studies Law at McGill University in Montreal.His love of the outdoors and his admiration of the military, however, cut his law studies short and he quickly follows his dreams of a military life by joining the militia of the Victoria Rifles of Montreal and the 43rd Regiment of Ottawa.A few years later, Dennis returns home to Sutton Junction to take over the family farming operation. In 1911, he becomes a Major and Musketry-Instructor of a local cavalry unit - the 13th Scottish Light Dragoons of Waterloo. This cavalry unit has several Suttonites amongstits ranks and a Squadron is based in Sweetsburg (Cowansville),conveniently just 6 miles from Draper’s home. Still single at age 38 years old, Draper is a handsome solidly built man for his era (5’-9” and about 180 lbs.) that is both devoted to his farming and militia life.

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