Historical Plaque Properties


James M. Rankin - Hotel Keeper
99 Water Street
Stratford, ON

James M. Rankin was born about 1853, the sixth of seven children of James Sr. and Marjory Rankin. James’ father was born in Ireland while his mother was a native of Scotland. They emigrated to Canada in the early 1840s and settled on a farm in North Easthope Township, Perth County. They lived in a one-and-a-half storey brick house when most of their neighbours had log dwellings, which suggests the Rankins may have had money. When James Jr. was about seventeen, tragedy struck the family when his father died. James, along with his siblings, helped his mother operate the farm.

James was 24 years of age when he married 22 year old Catherine (Kate) Scobie Dow on November 1, 1876 in Stratford. She was the daughter and the sixth of nine children of John Dow and Catherine Scobie McLeod who farmed in South Easthope Township.

On August 30, 1877, James and Kate’s daughter, Georgina Leslie Rankin, was born.  When Georgina was almost eleven months, her mother died on September 15, 1878. Kate was only 24 years of age. As appeared to be the custom of the day, James turned his daughter over to his wife’s parents to care for and raise her. On April 26, 1899 Georgina married Fred Hannam of Stratford. The couple had two children. Georgina died in 1948.
With the death of his father and his wife, Jame's life began to change. In 1880 he had a new house built at 99 Water Street, Stratford where his mother and two of his sisters came to live with him. James owned the house until 1885 when he sold it to Thomas Trow Jr., a prominent realtor in Stratford and son of the long-time Member of Parliament for the area.

In the same year, James wed for a second time. He married 22-year old Emma Peter at the Lutheran church in Sebastopol, Perth County on September 9, 1885. Emma was born August 26, 1863, the daughter of Henry Peter and Magdalena Merner (?) who farmed in South Easthope Township. It appears that Emma and James did not have children.

On their marriage certificate, James records his occupation as hotel keeper. In the 1888 Stratford City Directory, James is also recorded as Clerk at the Royal Hotel which stood on Wellington Street at the corner of Downie Street before it was destroyed by fire in the 1950s. Emma went on to become a practical nurse and was well known in Stratford and the surrounding area.

James contracted Bright’s disease and died from it on October 10, 1909. He is buried next to his first wife, Kate, in Avondale Cemetery.  Emma lived for another 26 years and died on April 8, 1935. She is buried in the Peter family plot in Avondale Cemetery.