Historical Plaque Properties


Edward C. Power - Train Dispatcher
72 Douglas Street
Stratford, ON

Edward Douglas Power was born about 1874 in the village of Eganville located along the Bonnechere River in Renfrew County, Ontario. The village is named after John Egan who established a grist mill on the river in 1848. Edward was the fourth of eight children born to Edward Power Sr. and Margaret McKiernan. Documents show that Edward Sr. who could neither read nor write was the village shoemaker.

Edward lived at home until he completed his schooling when he appears to have gone to work for the railway and trained as a telegraph operator, which was the occupation listed on his marriage certificate.

Edward married 25-year old Elizabeth Maude Mahon on September 28, 1903 in North Bay, Ontario. Maude, as she was commonly known, was born in Sebastopol Township, Renfrew County on April 18, 1878. She was the daughter of John Mahon and Catherine McDougal. John had originally farmed in the township, but by the time of his daughter’s wedding had opened a general store.

Not long after their marriage, the couple moved to Stratford where Edward took a position of train dispatcher which is responsible for the safe movement of train traffic in a particular district. Initially, dispatchers used Morse code to communicate and later with its invention the telephone or a combination of both. Either way the train dispatcher had to know the physical characteristics of his district, the type of engines being used and the operating idiosyncrasies of the train crews. Perhaps the most famous dispatcher, at the time in Canada, was Vince Coleman who on December 6, 1917 was working at the station near Halifax Harbour where he remained on duty and sent his final Morse message to all surrounding railway stations “Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbour making for Pier 6 and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye boys.”

Wages for train dispatchers were at the top of the range and in 1904 Edward purchased the property on what was then known as Mill Street and had a house built at what is now 72 Douglas Street. It was here that a son Cyril, the first of Edward and Maude’s eight children was born in 1905.

During the turn of nineteenth to the twentieth century there appears to have been a considerable wanderlust among Stratford railroaders, many of whom moved to either the Canadian or American west. Edward and Maude were no different than many and emigrated to the United States, with their infant son in 1905 seeking opportunity and perhaps adventure. By 1910, the couple were living in Minot, North Dakota where Edward continued to work for the railway as a dispatcher.

By 1921, the family had returned to Canada and were living in Vancouver, where Edward worked as a train drayman. A drayman responsible for loading and off-loading cargo and transporting them via flatbed wagons between trains and warehouses or aboard ships at the Port of Vancouver.

Edward died in Vancouver on October 21, 1934. Maude died on November 13, 1970 in North Vancouver.