James Norris, one of the successful business men and leading manufacturers of St. Catharines, was born in Argyleshire, Scotland, in February, 1820, his parents being James and Ann (Black) Norris. His father was a farmer on a moderate scale. The son was educated at a parish school, finishing at fourteen years of age, at which period of his life he immigrated with the family to Upper Canada, locating in the Township of Caledon, then in the County of Peel, now Cardwell. There the son aided his father in farming, until nineteen or twenty years of age, when he came to St. Catharines, sailing on the lakes and Welland Canal in the season of navigation, and for awhile spending his winters at home.
About 1849 Mr. Norris formed a partnership with Sylvester Neelon, and the firm of Norris and Neelon continued until 1870, they being engaged in the vessel business, lumbering and milling, and, years later, also in stove manufacturing. Since the dissolution of the firm Mr. Norris has not materially changed his business, he being engaged in shipping grain, flour, and timber to the foreign markets mainly to England.
Mr. Norris is very enterprising as well as public spirited, and has aided in more than one way to build up the lively and growing City of St. Catharines. He was in the Town Council several years, Mayor one term, and represented the County of Lincoln, in the House of Commons, for five years, being elected in January, 1874, and re-elected twice in four years. At the general election, held in 1878, he was defeated by John C. Rykert, the Conservative candidate, Mr. Norris being a staunch Reformer.
Mr. Norris was one of the liberal founders of the Marine Hospital at St. Catharines, and has been a trustee of the same from its inception. He earnestly encourages every enterprise tending to the public welfare.
He was first married, in 1847, to Miss Sophronia Neelon, of Port Dalhousie, sister of his partner, mentioned above, she dying in 1860, leaving two children. His second marriage was in 1863, to Miss Elizabeth Waud, of St. Catharines, by whom he has had four children, three of them still living.
Mr. Norris may justly be classed among the self educated and self made men of St. Catharines. Leaving school at fourteen; starting in business for himself on a few hundred dollars of his own earning, and coupling with’ his small capital a liberal stock of energy, perseverance, and pluck, he rose by degrees to a high financial and political, as well as social standing. Like most prominent men doing business the last twenty-five years, he has had his reverses, but is ranked to day among the successful manufacturers and the most honorable business men of the County of Lincoln.