Historical Plaque Properties

 

Edward McCaffrey - Retired farmer & Former County Constable
147 Cobourg Street
Stratford, ON
1896


Edward McCaffrey was born in 1839 in County Fermanagh, one of the six counties in Northern Ireland. He was the oldest of the five sons of Patrick McCaffrey and Honora Burke.


When Edward was six, Ireland was devastated by the Great famine (1845-1849) caused by potato blight, single crop dependence and lack of intervention by the government. During the famine over a million people died and the same number emigrated from Ireland causing the island’s population to drop by almost 25%. The worst year of the period was 1847 known as “Black ‘47”. It was during that year when Edward’s parents made the decision to leave their homeland with their three sons and Honora’s younger sister, Fanny Burke.
They chose to emigrate to Canada and first settled in Downie Township then later moved to Ellice Township. There they were among the first settlers. Patrick took up farming and the couple had two more sons over the next 5 years. They appear to have done well as by the 1860s they were living in a log house while many of their neighbours still had shanties.


According to the 1861 census, Edward and his Aunt Fanny left the farm and headed to Stratford to work as servants for W. F. McCulloch. McCulloch, one of the first settlers in Stratford, was a large land owner. Some of his property included the present site of the Festival Theatre and surrounding park land. He owned the first grist mill and distillery built in the earliest days of the settlement.


Within a few years, Edward returned to farming in Ellice. In 1864 he married Catherine Bannon in St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, Stratford and settled on Concession 2 in Ellice which today is just on the northern limits of Stratford. Catherine, the daughter of Patrick Bannon and Julia Inglesby, was born in Canada. Her parents had emigrated from Ireland at the outbreak of the famine and settled in Ellice Township.
Edward and Catherine had seven children, four boys and three girls all of whom were baptized in St. Joseph’s Church where their parents had been married.


By all accounts, Edward was known for his honesty and straightforwardness. Qualities which were important in the role of County Constable which he held for a number of years.


When he decided to retire from farming in 1896, Edward built three comfortable brick houses in Stratford.  The yellow brick house on Cobourg Street was where he lived for a number of years before moving to one of the two Ontario Street houses. Even in retirement, he returned to help his former neighbours as he was disinclined to be idle for long.


The late 1890s and the early years of the 1900s were not kind ones for the family. Edward and Catherine suffered the loss of their son Patrick in 1897 and son Edward four years later.


A trip to Detroit to visit his brother Arthur had become a yearly affair for Edward. In 1902, he was also going to see his daughter Catherine who had married William Skelton and had moved to Detroit a short time before.   Tragedy struck when Edward was disembarking from a street car on the way to visit his daughter. He fell backwards, struck his head and died a day later. His body was returned home to Stratford by train and he was buried in Avondale Cemetery.


Catherine lived for another twenty-seven years and spent most of that time with her children. She died in Fort Erie while staying with her son John. Catherine Bannon McCaffrey was buried in Avondale Cemetery in 1929 alongside her husband Edward.