Historical Plaque Properties

 

John Alexander Scott - Merchant/Chairman Board of Education
104 Devon Street
1870

John Alexander Scott was born September 13, 1819 in the village of Hawick,Roxburghshire, Scotland. Though his parents are unknown, the 1841 Scottish censusrecords a twenty-two year old John Scott, who was a tailor, living in Roxburghshirewith his widowed mother Elizabeth and his siblings.

 

According to family researchers, John married Catherine Munro Gowanlock onFebruary 22, 1848 in Hawick. She was born on October 28, 1828 in Kelso, Scotlandthe daughter of Andrew Gowanlock and Elizabeth Kidd. Shortly after their weddingJohn and Catherine emigrated to Canada and by 1851 were living in the City ofHamilton where John plied his trade as a tailor. The 1851 census also records that asixty-nine year old, female member of the family had died within the past twelvemonths, suggesting that John’s mother may have accompanied them to Canada.

 

The Gowanlocks also emigrated to Canada in 1849 and settled on a farm in ElliceTownship. Catherine’s younger sister, Jennie, who married Edward Trout in 1865 atthe original Knox Presbyterian Church in Stratford became the first woman to belicensed to practice medicine in Canada. Jennie Trout was the only licensed womanphysician in the country between 1875 and 1880.

 

Perhaps to be closer to her parents, Catherine and John moved their family to Stratford in the early 1850s where John opened a general store on Erie Street. He isrecorded as seeking election to the first municipal council in January 1854 followingthe incorporation of Stratford as a town the previous year. Though unsuccessful, hewas selected as one of the original trustees of the town’s school board. John wasvery active in the public affairs of Stratford at one time serving as a policemagistrate, elected for a number of terms as alderman for Falstaff Ward and heldthe position of Chairman of the Board of Education at the time of his death.

 

John was also a successful businessman. He relocated his store to Market Street(now Downie St.) in what became known as the Indian Block, which was located onthe present site of the Toronto Dominion Trust building. The building’s name resultedfrom a sad incident in the life of Stratford.

 

During the early 1860s, Charles Textor who was born in Prussia and had emigratedto the United States moved his family from Ohio to Stratford, perhaps because hewas subject to being drafted into the Union Army during the American Civil War. Hewas a stone cutter and sculptor who hoped to start a new life in the community.Unfortunately, the Textor family fell on hard times and their infant son, Emil, whowas born in Stratford about 1862, died apparently of malnutrition. When Johnwitnessed the funeral procession and heard the story he rushed to the store and asked Catherine to bring a huge basket of food to the family. When Catherinearrived Mrs. Textor showed her a magnificent statue of an Indian that her husbandhad carved out of a solid piece of basswood.  Catherine was so touched by the stateof the family’s situation and so taken by the carving that in her desire to help shepaid Mrs. Textor one hundred dollars for the Indian, which stood outside the Scott’sstore for many years and ultimately became part of Stratford’s history and folklore.Charles Textor’s wonderful carving now has a permanent home and is on display atthe Stratford-Perth Museum.

 

As a footnote to the story, the Textor’s moved from Stratford after the death of theirchild but not before Charles carved a reportedly stunning memorial to his son,which has subsequently disappeared. The family returned to the U.S. where Charlesestablished a marble works in Bay City Michigan and the family prospered. He diedthere in 1890 and his wife Emma Roher died in 1913.

 

John and Catherine Scott had nine children all of whom appear to have survived toadulthood, which is unusual at a time of high infant mortality rates. During theperiod, John also expanded his business interests to include selling insurance andbeing a jobber and auctioneer for the disposal of bankrupt stock. The familyprospered. In 1869, John purchased a ten acre lot from Judge Reid Burritt who hadsubdivided his property, on which John built the house at 104 Devon in 1870.

 

During the latter part of the 1870s, John contracted typhoid fever from which henever fully recovered. He died on September 17, 1879. The funeral procession to Avondale Cemetery was reportedly the largest ever seen in Stratford up to that point and schools were closed on the day of his funeral in honour of John’s role in furthering education and the contribution he made as Chairman of the Board o fEducation.

 

Catherine continued to operate their store until 1889 when she sold the businessand the house on Devon Street and moved to Shrewsbury Street where she livedwith three unmarried daughters until her death on June 7, 1916. She is buriedalongside John, her parents and some of their children in Avondale Cemetery.

 

In 1936, their daughter Jessie who was an accomplished artist presented a stainedglass window depicting Moses finding water in the wilderness to Knox PresbyterianChurch in honour of John and Catherine.