Historical Plaque Properties


William Brooker - Locomotive Engineer - GTR
131 Front Street
Stratford, ON

William Edward Brooker’s early years are somewhat sketchy. He reported in various census documents that he was born in January 1860 in England. His marriage certificate records his father as Henry Brooker, though no mother’s name is given. Thus the exact location of his birth or a profile of his family could not be determined.

Like many young men at the time, William sought opportunity beyond England. A review of ship’s passenger lists found that a William Brooker, about twenty-one years of age, boarded the Allan Line’s vessel the “Peruvian” in Liverpool and arrived in Quebec City on May 23, 1882. Whether this was William Edward Brooker cannot be stated with certainty.

It is known, based on census and marriage records that William went to work for the Grand Trunk Railway where he was initially employed as a fireman.

On July 18, 1883 he married Alice Curd in Goderich, Ontario. According to census data and her marriage record, Alice was born in England on March 12, 1858 the daughter of John and Elizabeth Curd. Alice and William had four children: Rosalie Alice (b.1885), Ernest (b. 1887), Elsie Jennie (b. 1888) and Winnifred (b. 1895). In 1890, the couple suffered a tremendous loss when their third child, Elsie Jennie, died at the age of two from a combination of summer cholera, which was a prevalent childhood disease and chicken pox.

By the eighteen nineties William was promoted to locomotive engineer. In 1895 he purchased a lot on Front Street and had the house at 131 Front Street built by 1896. In addition to the family, census data also shows that William and Alice took in boarders. In 1901 they had a music teacher, nurse, dry goods clerk and an apprentice boarding with them. In 1899 William left the railway and joined an insurance firm. They lived at 131 Front St. until 1903.

In 1905 William and Alice’s son left Canada for the United States. Two years later the family also made the decision to emigrate. On June 28, 1907, William crossed the border at Detroit bound for Cleveland, Ohio. Once William was settled, Alice and her two daughters followed in October and also crossed the border at Detroit. The family, including their son, settled in Cleveland.

Alice died on March 25, 1914 and is buried in Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery. Following his wife’s death William made the decision, perhaps out of grief, to leave Cleveland and appears to have relocated to Independence, Kansas, where he became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1921.  William is last recorded in the 1930 census living in Independence. He likely died sometime during the thirties as he does not appear in the 1940 U.S. census. It is not known where he is buried.

William and Alice’s children remained in Cleveland for the rest of their lives. Rosalie and Winnifred do not appear to have married and both worked as librarians for the Cleveland Public Library. Their brother, Ernest, married and had two children. He worked for the W. S. Tyler Wire Company for most of his career progressing up the management chain before his retirement.