The son of a shoemaker, James Plumridge was born in the village of Lane End, Buckinghamshire, England, in 1861. He attended school for just a few years and soon entered the working world. At 21, James decided to emigrate to Canada, and planned to become a farmer in Manitoba, but his plans changed after he arrived in Port Arthur, Ontario.
He met Florence Emily MacKenrot, a native of Kingston, Ontario, and they married in 1885. After living in Port Arthur for three years, during which time James worked in a bakery, the couple moved to Fort William. There, James opened his own bakery, which he ran for two years. In 1890 the Plumridges visited Vancouver, where James contacted John Langley, an old acquaintance from Fort William, who was then living in Mission.
As Plumridge later recalled, “I felt that I must look over Mission while I was out here, and I was very much impressed with its steady growth and excellent opportunities for a young, ambitious man.”
At that time, the north side of the CPR tracks in Mission was very sparsely settled. Close to the CPR station, James Trethewey ran a general grocery store while also doing duty as postmaster, greatly inconveniencing Mission residents, who had to walk about a mile to the general store to collect their mail. The Plumridges decided to stay in Mission, purchased two lots on the corner of Grand Avenue and Main Street, built the first of what would eventually total eleven dwellings, and established Mission’s first bakery at the north end of town.
In 1903, Plumridge was appointed postmaster, a position he held for fifty-five years, during which time the Plumridges raised seven sons, two of whom served in World War I. On his father’s retirement, his son Arthur took over the important community function of postmaster. Plumridge was also an active member in the municipal life of Mission. He was a school trustee for eight years, as well as Treasurer of Mission’s Masonic Order; he also occupied a seat on the Village Board of Commissioners and served as an honourary member of the Mission Board of Trade.
In 1930, James Plumridge undertook an adventurous six-month journey around the world, accompanied by his friend F. Banister, the owner of the only movie theater in Mission. They travelled from Vancouver to Japan, then on to China, stopping in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore. They visited the Suez Canal, Port Said, then continued to Marseilles, Gibraltar and finally London, where Plumridge spent some time before returning to Canada.
James Plumridge was an optimistic and resourceful man, enterprising, curious and outgoing. When interviewed in 1946, he gave this positive assessment of Mission: “This is the first time that I have ever lived in a town or city where two banks were being built at the same time. After I came to Mission the town was growing and it has continued to do so ever since.”
Fraser Valley Record, December 12, 1946