Historical Plaque Properties


Frederick McConnell - Train Dispatcher - CNR
33 Douro Street
Stratford, ON

Frederick Orr McConnell was born in Clinton in February 1892. He was the third son of Charles McConnell and Margaret Neil. His parents were both born in Ireland and while Margaret immigrated to Canada with her parents, Charles came alone in 1882 to join his older brother, Thomas.


Thomas McConnell was in Stratford by the time the 1871 census was taken. He is recorded as boarding on Cobourg Street with Samuel and Rosanna Neil who were the parents of five children including two young daughters, Mary and Margaret.


Thomas was working as a flax dresser and probably employed at Marshall & Fuller Co., a large flax mill, located on Nile Street established in 1866. According to the 1871 Stratford Directory “They dressed 100 tons of flax annually in a frame building 100 by 45 feet where an engine of 25 horsepower is used and 35 to 40 hands employed.”


In 1877, Thomas married Mary Neil and the couple moved to Clinton where Thomas was a mill foreman. His brother, Charles McConnell joined them in Clinton in 1882 where Charles worked as a flax dresser. Five years later, he married Margaret Neil, the youngest sister of his sister-in-law, Mary.

Charles and Margaret started their family in Clinton and by 1891, according to the census; they were the parents of two boys. One year later, Frederick Orr McConnell was born. In 1900 Charles McConnell moved the family to Stratford.


Frederick left school at sixteen and worked for the Grand Trunk Railway in Baden as an assistant telegrapher. He furthered his career in St Marys and Listowel and in 1914 he returned to Stratford. Here he worked as a train dispatcher for the Grand Trunk Railway and then the Canadian National Railways after the government took over the GTR in 1923.


The train dispatcher coordinated the movement of all trains safely along the tracks from point to point. He had to have a working knowledge of the region’s geography and the locations of all rail meeting and crossing points. The dispatcher was required to know Morse code in order to communicate instructions to trains, stations and staff by telegraph. Following the telephone’s invention, orders were communicated less by telegraph.


In 1921 Frederick married Myrtle Mary Stubbs. The couple moved in with Fred’s parents who lived at 43 Milton Street. Here their only child, a son, was born a year later.


Fred and Myrtle bought a building lot in 1923 and a year later constructed their new house at 33 Douro Street. Fred continued to work as a train dispatcher for thirty-three years and was a well known and respected member of the community. He was an elder in his church, St. John’s United, and a long standing member of the Masons.


Frederick McConnell died in 1942 and Myrtle died sixteen years later in 1958. They are both buried in Avondale Cemetery in Stratford.