James Shaw of Port McNicoll
Jim Shaw was dubbed “the Dean of Elevator Builders” by his peers.
After 1919 he made his home in Port McNicoll, where he is best known for his role as Superintendent of the Port McNicoll elevators and his involvement in sports.
Jim was born in Keppel Township, Grey County in January 1868. He spent his early years helping his father in a sawmill near the family farm, followed by two seasons in lumber camps in Michigan. At the age of 19 he went to work for the H. J. Tromanhauser firm, building many grain elevators throughout the west.
Jim returned to the east in 1903 and built his first marine grain elevator at Point Edward, Ontario. He soon became VP in charge of construction for the Tromanhauser Company.
Under his guidance many more elevators, mills, wharves and harbour works were built. These included elevators in Goderich, Sarnia and the Maple Leaf Mill and Elevator in Port Carling, as well as the floating cribs for the New Welland Canal. While working in Goderich he received the Carnegie medal for bravery for saving an employee from being killed in a conveyor belt accident.
In 1919 Jim was engaged by the CPR as Superintendent of the elevator in Port McNicoll. While under his supervision the elevator gained the reputation as the most efficient handler of grains on the Great Lakes. In 1939 a record was established by the loading of 386 cars of 2,000 bushel capacity in 19 ½ hours. In addition to his Port McNicoll duties he also looked after extensive repairs and alterations on the company elevator at West St. John’s N.B.
Throughout his life Jim was involved in sports, particularly baseball. When he moved to Port McNicoll he continued his involvement,–from organizing baseball, to playing and to coaching. He and the baseball team that he coached- the “Spencer Foundrymen” are currently in the Penetang Sports Hall of Fame. They were runners up in the Ontario Championships in 1937.
Later he coached the Port McNicoll Shamrocks. This softball team wound up his coaching career with the Championship of Simcoe County and the Ontario Finals Intermediate C championship. He was also instrumental in the building of the curling rink in Port McNicoll.
Mr. Shaw retired from his CPR duties in 1940 due to poor health. He was a man of great character who contributed greatly to the heydays of growth in Port McNicoll, when the seemingly endless flow of wheat from the west brought prosperity and it seemed that the sky was the limit.
Thanks to Jim’s granddaughter, Barb Benson, and Tay Heritage Committee Chair, Lynda Hook for this article.