Historical Plaque Properties


George Sillifant - Boilermaker - GTR
89 Dufferin Street
Stratford, ON

George James Sillifant was born on April 17, 1876 in Stratford. He was the second of five children born to Richard Sillifant and Mary Ingram Hester. Both of George’s parents emigrated from England to Canada. They appeared to have met in Stratford and on January 2, 1871 thirty-two year old Richard wed twenty-four year old Mary who was a widow.
Like almost forty percent of the working population of Stratford, Richard Sillifant was employed in the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) shops. He was a boilermaker.
In his early twenties, George followed in his father’s footsteps and about 1894 also went to work as a boilermaker in the GTR shops. He worked as a boilermaker at the shops for forty-seven years and witnessed the transition from the GTR to the Canadian National Railway (CNR) in 1923 following the financial collapse of the GTR. He retired in 1941.
Skilled jobs at the shops were relatively good paying compared to elsewhere and provided the opportunity for financial stability. Not long after joining the GTA, George met Clara May Wheatley, fell in love and married her on June 18, 1896 at the Central United Church in Stratford.
Clara was born in the town of Cotton End, Bedfordshire, England, the daughter of Ebenezer Wheatley and Mary White. Generally, family lore has Clara being born in 1876 either in Canada or England. However official passenger lists record that on July 15, 1874, the infant Clara and her family boarded the ship “Ontario” in Belfast and sailed to Quebec City, ultimately settling in the town of Mitchell, Ontario. Not long after arriving, Clara’s mother died and her father was left to raise at least four children.
George and Clara had three children: Arthur Richard (b. 1897), Ralph Horace (b.1900) and Erma Georgina (1907). With the high mortality rate at the time, tragedy struck the family when their nineteen year old middle child, Ralph, who was a harness maker, died of tuberculosis on October 25, 1919.
Clara remained active throughout her life including volunteering at church and was deeply involved with the Red Cross during both World Wars. She lived until she was seventy-six and fittingly died on Remembrance Day, November 11, 1950.
George lived another seventeen years. He died at the age of ninety-one years in January 1967 and is buried with his wife Clara in Avondale Cemetery.