Historical Plaque Properties


Charles Lyman Holding - Boilermaker - GTR
111 Grange Street
Stratford, ON

In 1878 Thomas Crossen, a carpenter, built a new house on the north side of Grange Street (about half a block west of Front Street). The first residents were Charles Lyman Holding, his wife Rachel and their daughters Mabel, Catherine and Norma.

Lyman, as he was known, was born in 1844 in Brantford, Ontario, the son of Julia, and Josiah Holding. His mother Julia was born in Ireland and his father, Josiah, a carpenter, was from the United States. In 1870, in the town of Galt (now part of Cambridge), he and Rachel Bawtinhimer, the 22 year old daughter of Peter and Charlotte, who had raised a family of nine on their farm in Blenheim, Oxford County. were married. They began their life together in Brantford, living with Lyman’s widowed mother Julia, where he was employed as a boilermaker and Rachel as a housekeeper. The first daughter, Mabel, was born in 1872 and her sister Catherine (Katie) followed in 1874.

In the latter part of the 1800s railways were a vital part of the young country’s growth. The Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) was actively developing its lines in Ontario and Quebec and heading toward Chicago. Its main line in this part of Ontario came through Stratford which meant attractive employment opportunities for the residents. Rachel and Lyman re-located here with their two little daughters and settled into 111 Grange Street.  Lyman found a position as a boilermaker and, in 1886, a third daughter, Norma joined the family.

One of the conditions for British Columbia becoming part of Canada in 1871 was a promise by the Prime Minister, Sir John A MacDonald that a railroad would be built to connect the west to the rest of Canada. The Maritime Provinces had also been promised rail links to  central Canada  at Confederation in 1867. But fulfilling these promises was challenging. The early westward bound railroad construction years were filled with controversy and not much progress was made until the Canadian Pacific Railway was founded in 1881. William Van Horne, a prominent American businessman, was hired to manage the construction and the last spike was finally hammered down in 1885 in British Columbia, five years ahead of schedule.

Many railroad employees followed the opportunities created by the opening of the west. Winnipeg became a key western location for the CPR and experienced a lengthy period of growth and prosperity.  In the early 1900s Lyman, Rachel and their daughters followed the trend west to Winnipeg  where, with his experience, Lyman became a boiler inspector with the CPR. Mabel continued her work as a stenographer, Katie with her nursing and Norma, as a teacher. The family would remain in Winnipeg where Lyman died in 1920.