Historical Plaque Properties


James Pirie - Locomotive Engineer
66 Bay Street
Stratford, ON

In 1870, The Bank of Upper Canada was the owner of 5 acres along the street that included the lot on which 66 Bay Street would be built. In 1871, William George Forman, a conveyancer, bought slightly over 2 of those acres. In 1878, James Pirie bought 2 of those lots, numbers 22 and 23 for $225. In 1879, he had a house built for his family.


James Pirie was born in Rhynie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland in 1846. At the age of 22 he emigrated from Scotland to Canada to begin a new life. On the ship’s passenger list, James was listed as a farm servant.


He settled in Queenston where he worked as a farm labourer. In November of 1870, he married Elizabeth Johnson in Welland. Elizabeth and James were enumerated in the 1871 census for Niagara Township where James continued to work as a farm labourer. The couple had their first child, George, later that year but unfortunately he did not live more than a few years.


Over the next 5 years, there is little recorded about the life of James and Elizabeth. We do know that they left Queenston and James was trained as a locomotive engineer. They arrived in Stratford before 1873 as their son George was buried in Avondale Cemetery in June of that year. A daughter, Elizabeth Jane died in 1875 and was also buried in Avondale.


By 1876, when their son John was born, James’ occupation is noted as “engine driver” on the birth registration.


In 1879 the family moved into their newly built house. There were 6 members of the family including James, Elizabeth and their children; James, John, Alfred and Mary. Over the next 8 years another 4 children were born to James and Elizabeth.


The joy of a growing family also brought sorrow with the death of their two year old son, Benjamin, in 1886.