Historical Plaque Properties


Thomas Leo Purcell - Brakeman - GTR
253 Queen Street
Stratford, ON


In 1905 Lot 450 and part of 427 was owned by John McCaffrey. He sold it to George McCann, a section man with the railway, who constructed the house in 1906. The first tenant, Thomas Leo Purcell, a brakeman for the Grand Trunk Railway, moved into the house in 1907 with his new bride.

Thomas Leo Purcell, or Leo, as he more frequently used, was born in Seaforth in1882. He was the son of an Irish father who had been born in Ballingarry, Tipperary Co. and Bridget Dermody whose parents had emigrated from Ireland before she was born. His parents who were married around 1869 eventually became the parents of five girls and two boys.


Thomas Sr. died in 1890 leaving forty year old Bridget to provide for seven children. By the time the 1901 census was taken, her two oldest daughters were married and her next oldest daughter was helping out by working as a “tailoress.” Eighteen year old Thomas Leo was working as a cabinet maker. By 1911 all of the children except her youngest daughter had left home. Loretta was working as a dressmaker. Bridget Dermody Purcell died in 1933.


Leo had given up cabinet making and joined the railway, where he was a brakeman, by the time he married Mary Robb. They were both twenty-five years old when they were married in June, 1907 in St Joseph’s Church, Stratford. She was the daughter of David Robb and Ann Kelly.


Leo and Mary shared a similar upbringing. Mary’s father, David, died before 1891 when Mary was just seven. He left a young widow with four children between the ages of three and nine. When the 1901 census was taken, Ann Robb was working as a dressmaker and Mary was a “tailoress.”

Just after they were married, the couple moved into their new home. A year later their first child, Joseph Leo, was born. According to his birth registration, he was born at home at 253 Queen Street. In July of 1909 Thomas Francis was born. He too was born at home on Queen Street.


In 1910, the family moved to 293 Huron Street where their third son, David Robb was born. When the 1911 census was taken, it showed that Mary’s mother Ann lived with them. Mary Margaret, their first daughter, was born in 1912 and later another daughter, Ann, was added to the family.


According to the 1924 Stratford Directory, Leo had been promoted to the position of conductor at the railway and they had moved to 234 Brunswick Street. Leo died in 1946 and his wife, Mary, died in 1960. They are buried in Avondale Cemetery.