James was 2 years old when he and his sisters and brothers were placed in the Quarrier’s Home in Bridge of Weir, Scotland. They were sent, likely by train, from Edinburgh to Glasgow and were first examined at the City Orphanage in Glasgow to determine their state of health. They were transferred after only 1 day because they were in good health.
When James was 3 years old he sailed to Canada and was taken from the Marchmont Home in Belleville, Ontario by Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Harris, who, (according to the orphanage records) had recently lost their only son. Mr. Harris was a builder and the Harris’s had a daughter named Ethel. Shortly, after they picked up James at the Home, Ethel wrote the orphanage saying, ” Mamma thought you would like to know how Jamie is after his journey. He arrived safely. When the cab drove up to the door, he put his head out of the cab window and called out ‘ There’s Papa ! ‘ He was very tired. Mamma put him to bed about eight o’clock, but he would not stay without her. She laid down by him; he said to her, ‘ Keep close to me, mamma. ‘ We thought him very wise. Papa and I like him very much. We think he is a sweet little fellow. I think I shall like him for my brother. Mamma would have written herself, but she is so busy getting him some clothes. He is very happy. Trusting you will not be anxious, Ethel Harris ”
The family settled initially in St. Thomas, Ontario and the following are excerpts from the Marchmont Home’s records on James–Mrs. Harris came for him, spent Sunday at the Home, and took him away Monday August 11, 1884. Mrs. Harris writes Jamie is getting very fat, goes out walking 2 hours every
morning. Mrs. Harris writes James has had scarlet fever. Says hislittle hymns. Dr. says out of danger. Enclosed photo with sister and dog. Jamie is running about again and so happy. Ethel writes a nice
letter about Jamie. She is very fond of him. He weighs 38 lbs and has grown 1 1/2 inches. Nice letter about our little sunbeam. Summer of 1885, Ethel writes Jimmy was jumping off the verandah and broke his leg two weeks ago, otherwise he is well. We are going to the country in August. Jimmy can walk around again.
Miss Bilbrough of the Home spent the day at Jamie’s house, found him grown tall and rosy cheeks, nicely brought up and parents and sister devoted to him. In 1888, wrote James is doing very well at school. Is fat and well and growing such a big boy. By November of 1889, the family had moved to Vancouver, British Columbia and Ethel wrote, Jimmy is well and a good boy. When my mother was at the point of death he did all he could to help me.
At this time, Ethel would have been 15 years old and James 9 years old. Five yearslater in 1894, Ethel writes,I am now Mrs. MacKintosh. I thought you would like to hear of Jim. He is now with father and my step mother at Vernon, a town up in the mountains. They left Vancouver after mother died. My step mother is very kind to Jim and he is very fond of her. He has lately joined the Methodist Church for 3 months probation. He was converted recently. I have a boy 9 months old and am very happy, but should like Jim near me. He writes to me occasionally. ”
It is said that he advertised in newspapers and that Margaret Blance saw his ad and answered it, being overjoyed to learn of her brother that she had lost all contact with. James traveled all the way from British Columbia to Ontario where his 4 siblings were still living.
He got work at a resort in Rockport, Ontario. There he met Scillennia Kirker, who was working in the kitchen at the resort. The Kirker Family asked him to stay with them and he was thus able to locate and reunite with his long, lost siblings. Scillennia’s youngest sister, Annie, was still living when I began this family research in the late 1970’s and she told me her memories of James as being a very well educated, gracious young man who was musically talented. She saidher whole family loved him!
James married Scillennia and they moved back to British Columbia where James had grown up. Shortly after their son, Harold, was born in British Columbia in 1908, James developed a progressive paralysis and the family returned to Ontario so that James might get the best medical care from doctors in Montreal, Quebec. Nothing was able to help him and he died in 1913.