St. Alban the Martyr

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Memorial Tiles: Capt. James Chalmers & Wife

CHALMERS, Capt. James: 1825 - 1895
NIXON, Margaret: 1838 - 1909

After settling in Adolphustown, the Chalmers family became one of the most well-known and respected families in the community, although, they were not United Empire Loyalists. The patriarch of the family was Peter Chalmers (1785-1872). Peter moved from Scotland to Ireland as a young man. He married Margaret (1795-1884) and they had six children: Margaret, James, Eliza, William, Peter and Thomas, who all moved with them from Ireland to Canada in the 1840’s and settled on farms in the Adolphustown area. All six are commemorated on Memorial Tiles in St. Alban’s church.

James, the eldest son, who is commemorated on this tile, was born in 1825 in Ireland. He was evidently the first member of the family to live and work in the Adolphustown area and he encouraged his parents and siblings to settle there. After his arrival in about 1848, James took to sailing on the Bay and the Great Lakes for several years (hence his title Captain) before settling on a farm. He married Margaret Nixon and they had six sons and three daughters.

In the 1881 Canadian Census Household Record, James lists his occupation as farmer. James and Margaret had eight children living with them at this time, ranging in age from four to twenty-four years and all born in Ontario. Father James and all of the children list their ethnic origin as Scottish whereas mother Margaret who was born in Ontario, list hers as Irish.(1)

James Chalmers was first appointed in 1864 to the position of Rector’s Warden of St. Paul’s, Adolphustown, the small frame church that was replaced by St. Alban’s in 1889. He repeatedly served as either Rector’s Warden or People’s Warden at St. Paul’s and then, once it was built, at St. Alban’s, until the time of his death in 1895.(2)

Capt. James Chalmers was described in his obituary as “one of the most respected and best-known farmers in Adolphustown.” His obituary notes that “one of his sons, Frank Chalmers was at one time reeve of Adolphustown. Another son, Walter, worked in the Adolphustown Post Office. A third son, Thomas Wellington, a graduate of the Royal Military College in Kingston, joined the Mounted Police.* A fourth son became a successful farmer in California.”(3)

James Chalmers died in 1895 as a result of a tragic accident while working on his farm. His wife Margaret Nixon Chalmers died in 1809. They are both buried in St. Alban’s cemetery.

* Thomas later fought in the 1899 Boer war in South Africa and died heroically while attempting to warn a messenger who was unaware of hidden enemy nearby.(4) A large brass plaque dedicated to Thomas was sponsored by his fellow soldiers and placed in St. Alban’s immediately above the Chalmers' Memorial Tiles.


1. 1881 Canadian Census Household Record, via

2. In the Beginning: A history of St. Alban’s (St. Alban’s New Horizons Committee, 1984), p. 39.

3. “Obituary of Capt. James Chalmers” (Napanee Beaver, 1895).

4. Brian A. Reid, Our Little Army in the Field: The Canadians in South Africa, 1899-1902 (St. Catharines: Vanwell, 1996), p. 113.