Historical Plaque Properties


James Barker - Foreman, Round House - Grand Trunk Railway
259 Nile Street
Stratford, ON

This two storey brick house is listed as being built in 1887 in the Assessment records.  According to the Forman’s Survey, Samuel Coulter, a carpenter, owned lots 27 & 28 in 1886. He built a house on lot 27 and possibly laid the foundation on lot 28 in 1873, as that year is scratched in the concrete in the basement of the house. The lot was listed as vacant until 1887 when it was sold to James Barker and he began construction on the house.


James Barker was born in Lincolnshire, England on June 6, 1837 to parents James and Maria Barker. According to the 1921 Census, James immigrated to Canada in 1858. On December 26, 1861, he married Martha Ann Ormerod in St. George, Brant County, Ontario. Martha Ann was born in Brantford, Ontario on October 18, 1844 to parents John and Ellen (Elems) and had nine siblings.


James and Martha’s first child, Helena Marion was born on October 23, 1863, followed by James Albert born on March 12, 1865 and Ida Margaret born on November 23, 1866.  All three were born in Brantford, Ontario. Their last child, Minnie was born in August, 1869 but there are no records as to where she was born. James, Martha and family are not found in the 1871 Census, but in the 1881 Census they are listed as living at Queen Street & Douro Street in Stratford. By the 1891 Census, their daughters had married.  Helena married John Thomas Sheldon and they had a daughter, Minnie Margaret in York, Ontario. Ida married Thomas Robert Irwin and they had a daughter Gertrude and a son, Russell also in York, Ontario. Minnie married Fredrick James Colvin. The 1891 Census lists James as a foreman for the Grand Trunk Railway along with Martha, their son James Albert, who worked as a fireman for the Grand Trunk Railway, their daughter Minnie and her husband Fred, a butcher, as all living on Nile Street.


James Albert married Nellie Spencer on December 19, 1892 and had a son, Fredrick James on January 29, 1895. Nellie died on May 5, 1895 leaving James Albert a widower. In the 1901 Census James was living with his parents but soon he and Frederick moved to 53 Vermont Ave. in Toronto where he worked as a locomotive engineer. On October 12, 1916, he enlisted in the army and eventually became a sapper with the engineers.

James Barker worked at the Grand Trunk Railway for over 23 years, working his way up from a fitter to foreman of the Round House.


After Martha Ann’s death on March 11, 1909, James moved to Toronto to live with his son James until his death on January 22, 1923.  He is buried alongside his wife in Avondale Cemetery in Stratford.