John Bertram was born in Scotland in 1829, where his mother’s family, the Aimers, were prominent millwrights and engineers. He married Elizabeth Bennet on May 7, 1852 in the Parish of Stow, County of Edinburgh, Scotland.
A month after their wedding, they sailed from Glasgow aboard the “Clutha” bound for Montreal.
They arrived in July, just after the city suffered the greatest fire in its history. Because of the devasation, there was no place for the Bertrams to stay so they decided to go to Toronto. When an acquaintance found out that John had apprenticed as a millwright, he suggested they go to Dundas and see if John could get a job at Gartshore’s Foundry. John did just that.
The Bertrams settled in Dundas, and eight months after their arrival Alexander was born in 1853. He was followed by Henry in 1856. At this time, John was listed as a turner, with a taxable income of $75.
John Bertram lost his job when production slowed with the economic downturn following the Crimean War. Released from Gartshore’s, he and his brother-in-law obtained a 100 acre bush farm in Kent County. Two of John and Elizabeth’s children were born in the log home they constructed: George in 1858 and Jessie in 1861.
The iron business picked up in 1862. John, Elizabeth and their children returned to Dundas and John resumed work at Gartshore’s. In 1863 he joined Robert McKechnie and formed McKechnie and Bertram, a small machine shop on Park Street. The operation was also known as Canada Tool Works.
The Bertram family expanded again after their return to Dundas: Thomas Aimers was born in 1864 and James Bennet in 1868.
Three of John’s sons apprenticed in the shop — Alexander, Henry and James. McKechnie retired in 1886 and the name was officially changed to John Bertram and Sons Co. in 1901.
In 1884, John built Glenholme on twelve acres of land on Governor’s Road.
John was also active in community life outside of his business. He was a member of the St. Andrew’s Society, President of the Mechanics’ Institute, and a trustee of Knox Church. For many years he was a member of Town Council and was Mayor from 1889-1890.
John and Elizabeth celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1902. They commemorated the occasion with a family portrait taken on the steps of Glenholme. Elizabeth passed away from rheumatic fever on March 2, 1904. John had a heart attack and passed away suddenly on April 4, 1906. The Dundas Star reported “Dundas has lost her foremost and most highly-respected citizen in the death of John Bertram…”
– with information from “The Heritage of John Bertram” by Janet Bertram Brown, 2000.