Historical Plaque Properties


William Garner.- Cooper
198 Elgin Street East
St. Marys, ON

Garner was a cooper who had come from England to Canada in the 1830s and moved to St. Marys with his wife and family in 1859. Garner later became a contractor and builder and in 1882 constructed four brick cottages on the southwest block of Elgin Street and Peel Street.

From the St. Marys Argus of April 27, 1882:
"Mr. William Garner, senr. having purchased the fine building site on Elgin Street, in rear of the Methodist Church, intends building four neat dwelling houses there, and operations have already commenced. The location is a very desirable one, and we understand three of the four houses have already been spoken for. Mr. Garner is an enterprising man."

The four houses were built as rental properties. The first tenant of 198 Elgin St. E. to appear on the assessment rolls was James Busselle in 1888. James was a commer-cial traveller and his wife Matilda was the daughter of Thomas B. Guest, the first mayor of St. Marys. Matilda had grown up in St. Marys and James had St. Marys’ roots too.

James Alfred Busselle was born about 1847 in Canada West (later Ontario), the son of James Busselle and Lydia H. Bower. James Sr. was born in France and Lydia was born in England. James Sr. died a few years after his son’s birth leaving Lydia with six young children. By the time of the 1861 Canada census she had moved her family to St. Marys and was running a boarding house. The 16-year-old James was already employed as a printer.
In 1872, at the age of 25, James was working as an agent of the Grand Trunk Railway in Kingston, Ontario, when he married Matilda Guest, known as Tilly, the eldest daugh-ter of Thomas Boy Guest and Elizabeth Lynham. Tilly, at 21, was living at home in St. Marys. It is reasonable to surmise that she and James had met growing up in St. Marys. The marriage took place in Port Hope.

James and Tilly soon made their home in Yorkville (Toronto), where the first of four sons and two daughters was born in 1874. James was now working as a commercial traveller. By the time of the 1881 census their home was at 50 Bloor Street West (where the Holt Renfrew store is located today).

At some point in late 1883 or 1884 the family moved to St. Marys. Although James’s occupation may have allowed for flexibility as to place of residence, one might specu-late that James and Tilly returned to St. Marys for family reasons. In February 1884 Til-ly’s father, T.B. Guest, died. Perhaps the Busselles had come back during his last ill-ness and decided to stay on after his death to be near Tilly’s mother Elizabeth. Soon after, Tilly became pregnant with their second daughter, Evelyn, who was born in St. Marys in January 1885.

It seems possible that the Busselles first stayed in the large Guest residence and after their daughter’s birth looked for a place in town of their own (they now had four chil-dren and two more sons came along in late 1886 and early 1890).

The assessment records for 198 Elgin Street East are missing for 1886 and 1887 but it seems likely that in 1885 or 1886 the Busselles moved into the new cottage. They are living there in 1888 and 1889 but no tenant is listed in 1890. However, according to the 1891 Canada census the family was still in St. Marys. It appears from the assess-ment rolls that James and Tilly had acquired property elsewhere in town better suited to their large family.

In 1893 or 1894 the Busselles left St. Marys and Canada for the United States. James died about 1918 in Indianapolis and Tilly died there in 1923.