Historical Plaque Properties


George Kennedy - Boilermaker - GTR
67 Caledonia Street
Stratford, ON

In the mid 1840s Thomas and Elizabeth Kennedy, living in Crosshill, Ayrshire, Scotland welcomed George, the first of their 6 sons.  At age 16 when the 1861 census of Scotland was taken he was listed as a cotton weaver. By the time he emigrated to Canada in 1888 he had become a boilermaker but was also a widower.  However, a new life began in Kingston in 1889 when he married Esther Coffey, the daughter of William and Grace, both born in County Down, Ireland, and the eldest of their ten children.

George brought his bride to Stratford where he was already living and employed by the Grand Trunk Railroad (GTR) shops as a boilermaker. In 1902 the Kennedy family moved into a new house built on the east half of Lot 467 on Caledonia Street, property which George purchased from William Bolger. The Bolger family had originally acquired the lot from the Canada Company.

The house at 67 Caledonia Street would be the home of four daughters, Elizabeth, Grace, Jean and Georgina.  The eldest, Elizabeth became a high school teacher, holding positions in Peterborough and later Hamilton where she lived until her death at age 95.  Her sister Grace married George McCready, a farmer from Lincoln County in the Niagara Peninsula. They settled there and raised their family of two daughters and a son.

The third daughter Jean trained as a nurse and then married George Lockhart, a salesman from Windsor where they began married life. In 1930 they made the move, with their son, across the river to Detroit where George established a roofing business. They retired to Florida and are buried there.  The baby of the family, Georgina became a stenographer and also moved to Hamilton with her parents. In 1928 she too crossed the border to spend the next 30 years in Detroit and Chicago, returning as a widow (Mrs. Sexton) in 1952 to join her eldest sister Elizabeth in Hamilton.  Both are buried with their parents in Avondale Cemetery.

In 1921 George was 76 years of age. He and Esther had moved to Hamilton where he died in 1934. His obituary in the October 30, 1934 edition of the Beacon Herald describes him as a “pioneer railroader of Ontario”.  The establishment of the Grand Trunk repair shops in Stratford in the 1870s brought a huge and continuing influx of skilled craftsmen, like George Kennedy, from abroad and other parts of the young country to the city. Among them were boilermakers, originally needed in the Great Lakes region for the steam powered ships but then becoming essential in the building and maintenance of steam locomotives. By the 1950s diesel technology was replacing steam technology and another era was beginning.