Historical Plaque Properties


George Stacey Robinson - Brakeman/Grand Trunk Railway
45 Perth Street
Stratford, ON

George Stacey Robinson was born in Port Dover, Ontario in 1886 to Samuel Robinson and Melvina Slocomb. George was the youngest of six children. His father was a farmer in Woodhouse Township, Norfolk County which is about 110 kilometres south-east of Stratford. By 1794 the first settlers, a group of United Empire Loyalists, had established the village, first known as Dover Mills. The village was burned in 1814 by Americans, but was later rebuilt.

By 1911, George was the only one of the children still living at home. He was employed as a brakeman for the Grand Trunk Railway. At the time, rail service was offered northward on the Port Dover & Lake Huron Railway (later purchased by the Grand Trunk Railway and in 1923, the Canadian National). Many of the employees of the Grand Trunk moved from Port Dover to Stratford when the GTR Shops expanded in 1907.

The position of brakeman was probably the most dangerous job on the railway. In the yard, the brakeman would stand atop a rail car and through hand signals would direct the shunting and coupling of the cars to make up the train. Once underway, the brakeman was required to respond to prescribed signals sent by the engineer through pulls on the train’s whistle. He would climb to the top of the moving rail cars and turn the brake wheel to slow or speed up the train.

In June of 1914, George (26) married Frances Elizabeth Battersby (20) in Stratford. She was the daughter of Thomas Battersby and Nellie Bartley. Frances’ family lived at 135 Trinity Street at the time and later resided at 438 Downie Street. Thomas Battersby was the Stratford yardmaster for the GTR. The newlyweds, George and Frances, moved into the newly-built house at 45 Perth Street.

In January 1919, their son, Robert George, was born. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Toronto where George worked for the GTR as a switchman in the railway yards. In the 1921 census, the family is listed on Gilmore Avenue and had several lodgers living with them.

Unfortunately, not long after the census was taken, the family broke up. Frances left George and moved to Lansing, Michigan where she moved in with Henry Cecil Sherlock. Henry had been born in England in 1899 and had served in the Royal Air Force during 1917-1918. They were married in 1926.

Robert George appears to have been living with his Battersby grandparents in Stratford. On the document recording ten year old Robert’s arrival in Michigan in 1929, the address of his nearest relative is 438 Downie Street, Stratford.

Robert lived with his mother and step-father in Lansing, Michigan where his mother, Frances, worked as a saleslady. Later they moved to Los Angeles where Frances worked as a dressmaker.

When Robert joined the United States Army during WWII, he was using his step-father’s last name, Sherlock.
George Robinson continued to work for the railway in Toronto and in 1930, he married Josie Schultz. On his marriage certificate, George falsely noted that he was a widower. The couple had no children. At their deaths, (George, 1960) they were buried in Woodhouse, Ontario beside George’s parents.

Upon their deaths, Frances (1982) and Henry (1971) Sherlock were buried in Avondale Cemetery beside Frances’ parents, Thomas and Nellie Battersby.