Historical Plaque Properties


Daniel McGowan, Railway Labourer - First Tenant Alexander McLean Foreman, GTR Shops
249 Nile Street
Stratford, ON

The house at 249 Nile Street was built in 1871 by railway labourer Daniel McGowan, apparently as a rental, as he and his family never lived in it. From 1871/1872 until at least 1884, there were several tenants, mostly connected with the Grand Trunk Railway, including a foreman, two conductors, a locomotive fireman, and a carpenter.


Daniel McGowan was born in County Clare, Ireland in 1831 or 1832. He and Mary Donelly (Donnley), also of County Clare, probably were married in Ireland before emigrating by 1852 to Gaines, Orleans, New York, on the south shore of Lake Ontario, where their first two children were born. Daniel and Mary then emigrated to Caledonia, Ontario by 1859, and then moved to Stratford by 1864. They had 13 or 14 children. In the 1861 census Daniel was listed as a railway labourer and the family was living in Downie Township just outside of Stratford. By 1881 Daniel was listed as a section foreman, apparently at the GTR shops, and the family was living on Birmingham Street near St. David Street. Daniel died on October 8, 1882 while still working as a section foreman. He was buried in St. Joseph Roman Catholic Cemetery. Mary continued to live in the family home on Birmingham Street with some of her children. Mary died in Stratford in 1911 and was buried with her husband.


Several of John and Mary’s children became involved with the railways. Joseph Anthony was a section foreman with the GTR in Stratford and later was an engineer with the Northern Pacific Railroad in Minnesota. Daniel Junior was an engineer with the GTR, staying in Stratford. Michael Henry ended up in Minnesota where he was an agent with the Northern Pacific Railroad. Four of their daughters ended up in the U.S. Their son Isaac moved to North Dakota where he was a travelling salesman. John became a sailor living in Collingwood. John and Mary had numerous grandchildren.


The first tenant of 249 Nile Street was Alexander McLean, a foreman at the Grand Trunk Railway shops. He and his family lived at this address from 1871/1872 until 1876. When the new Grand Trunk Railway shops were opened in Stratford in 1871, machinery and mechanical staff from the GTR’s shops in Brantford and Toronto were transferred to Stratford, so we can assume that Alexander was one of these. He was a Scottish immigrant who was listed as a machinist in Toronto in 1869 and 1871. He and his Irish immigrant wife, Margaret, were married in 1857. They had at least five children. After living at 249 Nile Street, Alexander and his family lived at 116 Nile Street, apparently moving back to Toronto by 1878, and then back to Stratford by 1880, when they were living at 24 St. David Street. It is difficult to ascertain what happened to Alexander after 1882, as the records are incomplete, and his name was extremely common at that time.