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Dundas | Tragedy of Richest Man, James Coleman

Dundas (Hamilton), Ontario, Canada

The building now used by the Thirsty Cactus Restaurant in Dundas, Ontario, Canada was built in 1834.  Almost 200 years ago, this served as the first business for a man named James Coleman. Who, only temporarily, lived as it’s richest man!

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Tragic life of Dundas Richest Man, James Coleman

by Ghost Guide Daniel

Built by the then Merchant. The building served as a neighborhood grocery story called Coleman & McIntyre. 

Run by the two James’s, Coleman and McIntyre.  They dealt in groceries, wines, liquors, provisions, paints, oils, dyestuffs, stone and glassware, pig iron, coals, and more!

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He built up his money from investments.  Focused on Milling and made an incredible fortune, helping to bring up the Dundas manufacturing prowess. Manufacturing skyrocketed the town to greatness. That is, until Hamilton took over thanks to it’s amazing Harbour.

So well respected in town, he became mayor of Dundas in 1850 and served for two years. Then in 1857, he built Ogilvie Terrace.  Once the town’s largest and most beautiful house.

“Coleman Castle” once stood in Dundas

Odd Deaths of Coleman Kids

A strange occurrence in the life of James and his wife was the curse of their children.  Six never made it to adulthood. Not given a chance at marriage or kids.

This included …

  1. John Coleman who died in 1839 at 3-years-old.
  2. Jane who died in 1842 at 5-years-old.
  3. James Jr. who died in 1847 at only a few-days-old.
  4. Margaret who died in 1854 at 15-years-old.

Desjardins Canal Take Two of Them

Then there was his first-born son and heir to the family business, Edwin.  Along with his daughter, Caroline.

It happened in 1865. The two of them went out with a few friends, taking a rowboat onto the Desjardins Canal. 

Staying out there too late, a large steamer ship called The Argyle rolled through. The captain didn’t see the much smaller rowboat.  As a large wake pushed through.

One of the girls panicked and stood up in the rowboat, maybe to call out to the Argyle. Her shaking caused the rowboat to flip, throwing all of them into the water. The pressure pulled them under. 


  • Caroline Coleman died in 1865 at 20-years-old.
  • Edwin Coleman died in 1865 at 22-years-old.

In the end, only two of the eight Coleman children survived into adulthood.

It’s said James never recovered from the death of Edwin and Caroline, and all of his other children. 

This is considered one of the reasons for his downfall.

Downfall of James Coleman

James Coleman may have become the first millionaire of Dundas. This wasn’t to be. After the 1865 tragic death of Caroline and Edwin, nothing went right.

History claims the reason for his failure was the collapse of wheat prices. Which was a big part of his milling businesses.  Partly thanks to devastation at the end of the Crimean and American Civil Wars.

And then…

His beautiful home, Ogilvie Terrace, burned down.  James put great cost put into rebuilding the massive mansion, which depleted his money.

Years past and his life changed. Gave up his mansion and eventually moved to Toronto.

It’s there his wife died.  Causing the now regular, 9 to 5 worker James to return and live with his son-in-law and daughter in their house on Caroline Street in Hamilton. 

It’s here James Coleman died from what the Hamilton Spectator reported as, “… a short illness”.

And a final description of the man which stated…

“Mr. Coleman was a large hearted, liberal man, and a consistent member of the Methodist Church”.

Hamilton Spectator

Written by Ghost Guide Daniel

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