Historical Plaque Properties


William and Sarah Kennedy - Retired Farmers/Blanshard Township
72 Ontario Street
St. Marys, ON

William Kennedy was born in Tyrone, Ireland around 1818. His wife, Sarah Jane Bell, was also born there about 1807. They were married in 1843 and their first son, John, was born in 1844. They had two other children born in Ireland, Eliza (1845), and Wilson (1847). Their third son, Robert, was born in Canada in 1849. The Great Irish Famine started in 1845, and the worst year was 1847. By that time, the great exodus of 2.1 million people had started. William, Sarah, John, Eliza, and Wilson were among the 20-25% of the population that left Ireland at that time.

The family settled outside of St. Marys in Blanshard Township on Concession 15 Lot 4 consisting of 148 acres. William was able to get the deed for the property from the Canada Company in 1855. According to the 1851 Blanshard census, William and Sarah had welcomed another son, David, in 1850. Their family would be complete with the birth of Alexander in 1852. The census also shows they were living in a one-storey log house. It is interesting that John, age 7, and Wilson, age 4, are listed as labourers on the farm.

By 1861, the farm had many improvements, including their home which by that time was a one and one-half storey stone house. John, age 17, was the only one of the children listed as a labourer. Of the 148 acres that the Kennedys owned, 74.5 acres were under cultivation, 43.5 were under crops, 30 under pasture and 1 acre as orchard or gardens. They had 8 acres of fall wheat with a production of 272 bushels expected. The 1864 tax assessment showed the total tax value of the property and personal worth was $1,600. William’s name was listed as being a member of the Reserve Militia. The Fenians (an Irish group residing in the United States which wanted to overcome Canada and exchange it with Britain for Irish independence) were seen as a threat to peace, and all area towns and townships had a militia which could be called up to fight. In 1865, attacks occurred in Windsor, Sarnia, Niagara and Prescott. By 1871, the threat from the Fenians was basically over.

The following years brought a lot of changes for the family. Eliza was married in 1868 to Andrew Muir Driver and had a daughter a year later. Five other children would be born to Eliza and Alexander. Alexander died in 1886 leaving Eliza to run their farm alone. She is described in the 1891 census as a widow, and a farmeress. John married Florinda Greer and their only child, William Greer Kennedy, was born in 1872. John died in 1892 at 45 years of age. Robert became a clergyman and in 1882, in Vaughan, Ontario, married Mary Bryson. They emigrated to the United States in 1883 where they had four children. They returned to Canada to live in Essex County in the 1890s. It isn’t recorded anywhere that Wilson had married. He died in 1882 at the age of 35 and is buried in the St. Marys Cemetery. Alexander married Mary Jane Hanan in 1882. Together they had 5 children. They moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan where Alexander died in 1932.

In 1880 William and Sarah retired from farming and moved into the newly built house at 72 Ontario Street South in St. Marys. Sarah, who was approximately ten years older than William, died in 1893 at the age of 85. William sold the house to John Bridgeman and moved to Queen Street. William died four years later at the age of 79. He and Sarah are buried together in St. Marys Cemetery.