Historical Plaque Properties


George Riddell - Locomotive Engineer
310 Ontario Street
Stratford, ON


George Riddell was born in Toronto around 1850, the son of Joseph and Elizabeth Riddell. Joseph was a bricklayer and a native of Ireland. By the time he was twenty-one, George had begun his railway career as an engineer for the Grand Trunk.


Since Stratford was one of the main railroad terminuses in Canada, it is not surprising that George Riddell moved here sometime between 1872 and 1875. As a locomotive engineer, he would have been at the forefront of the new technology.



It was in Stratford that George met and married nineteen year old Georgina Cawston. The couple was married on January, 4, 1876. Their first child, a daughter, Eva Emeline, was born on February 13, 1877.


In 1881, George built the beautiful Italianate home at 310 Ontario Street for his growing family. With its quoins, detailed brickwork and imposing south-facing veranda, the house was no doubt designed to impress. The census from April of 1881 shows George, Georgina, their daughter and Georgina’s mother, Ellen Cawston, and her young niece, Margaret Atkin, living in the new house. Georgina gave birth to the couple’s son, Walter Alexander Riddell, on August 3, 1881.



Regrettably, Georgina died on March 8, 1882 and left the care of her young family to her husband and mother. The 1901 census shows the family had moved to Manitoba. George’s name is not on the census as no doubt his duties as a railway engineer took him away from home frequently. By 1906, he and his family had settled into farming in Manitoba.


Eva Riddell married William Douglas in 1910. George Riddell later lived with his daughter and her husband and helped on the farm until his death in 1927.



Walter Riddell returned to Ontario where, as the provincial Deputy Minister of Labour, he was responsible for implementing the Mother’s Allowance Act and Ontario’s first Minimum Wage Act. He was Canada’s representative to the League of Nations for twelve years and ended his illustrious career as High Commissioner to New Zealand.