At age 17, James graduated from Kemptville Agricultural School in 1927 and then pursued agricultural work on the family farm, RR2 Port Stanley in Elgin County.
James went on to study cabinetry and blueprint reading. When World War II began an air force flying Technical Training School was built just outside St. Thomas and James worked there for several years focusing on finishing-carpentry. There, in his spare time, he used the flying school’s fine saws and left-over lumber to create beautiful and personal artifacts turned on a lathe: ornamental lidded containers and also trays with fine, multi-coloured inlay woods.
After purchasing a UNI tractor James was often referred to as the first owner of that kind of Waterloo machine in Ontario. It had two functions. First, it picked field corn cobs, removed their husks and then removed the kernels from each cob and dumped the kernels into waiting trucks that then were taken to a nearby St.Thomas granary. Secondly, the combine part of the machine harvested wheat, oats, barley and rye. James hired out with the machine traveling to numerous farms in neighbouring townships.
Later, as a construction superintendent, he over-saw the building of commercial factory buildings throughout Ontario and Quebec while employed with Commercial Leaseholds, Hamilton. Several of the buildings were in the Elgin and Middlesex counties area and included the UCC Building, University of Western Ontario.
James traveled around Ontario farms for several years building Harvestore grain storage silos, and James’ wife Jean frequently accompanied him. They often resided on site in a recreational vehicle starting with a 12-foot trailer and then bigger trailers eventually spending 14 years wintering in Florida. At age 25 he had married his childhood sweetheart Jean (Metler) McPherson. Jean’s Metler relatives owned The Clementine Bath House and Murphy Hotels, Mt.Clemens, Michigan. James and Jean had three children (David, Hugh, Karen) and James built their lovely home on family farm property with lumber sawn from trees on his father’s farm.
James was an avid reader, gardener, and enjoyed working with wood. His mother was a Bannerman relative of John George Diefenbaker’s first wife, and that family connection generated James’ interest in local politics.
The James H. McPherson Woodworking Award is sponsored by son David and daughter-in-law Dorothy McPherson, London, as a memorial.
Images: Top detail: Pattie Walker, Wisdom of Maat, 1996, glass appliqué with sand blasted overlay, 72” x 96”, photo by John Struthers.