Historical Plaque Properties

 

John Welsh - Watchmaker
75 Nile Street
1884

In the early 1870’s  John Welsh, age 25, born in Brantford, the son of Irish immigrants, James, a mason by trade, and Jane Welsh, opened his jewellery and watch making business on Ontario Street at the location of the present Swanson’s Jewellers. He came to Stratford with his wife, Carolyn (Carrie) Marie Bradley, also from Brantford. They would become the parents of nine children.


In the early 1870’s  John Welsh, age 25, born in Brantford, the son of Irish immigrants, James, a mason by trade, and Jane Welsh, opened his jewellery and watch making business on Ontario Street at the location of the present Swanson’s Jewellers. He came to Stratford with his wife, Carolyn (Carrie) Marie Bradley, also from Brantford. They would become the parents of nine children.


John and Carrie’s first child was a daughter, Mabel, born in 1871. A son Charles followed in 1873 but tragically they experienced the loss of 4 other sons in infancy. Daughters Ethel, Ida and Fannie Irene completed the family. In 1884 the family moved from Grange Street to a new house at 75 Nile Street.


Charles graduated as an optician from the Detroit Optical Institute and as a watchmaker from the Canadian Horological Institute in Toronto. As a note of interest, this school for watchmakers, although only in existence for a limited time, was apparently highly regarded world-wide. He returned to Stratford to join his father in business which then became known as J Welsh and Son, Jewellers and Importers.


After Carrie’s death in 1902, John went to live in England to search there and across Europe for the highest quality clocks, jewellery and other treasures to ship back to the store. Stratford residents must indeed have had a wide choice of fine merchandise.


The daughters were establishing their own families. Mabel married Edgar Warner, a teacher/preacher from Lincoln County in the Niagara District. They eventually made their home in Toronto and raised two children. In August 1919, Ethel, by then a nurse, married returning World War 1 soldier, Archibald Terry, a New Brunswick native who had located in North Bay where he was working as a salesman. Ida became the wife of John Diggins, a British army veteran who was also in the jewellery business. They lived in Toronto and later Hamilton with their son John. Fannie Irene, the youngest family member whose twin John was one of the four deceased infant sons, married Lawrence Maxwell of neighbouring St Marys. Lawrence’s family, prominent in the town, operated foundry business manufacturing farm equipment and domestic items. At one time the Maxwell factory was described as the largest in Perth County. During World War 2 they produced hand grenades. 


In September 1895 Charles married Ida Coulton, also from Stratford. They had a family of three daughters and a son. Ida died in 1920 and five years later Charles, age 53, married Gretta Gould, about 20 years younger, who lived in Harmony, just south of Stratford. After his retirement they moved to Los Angeles where Gretta pursued her interests in acting and writing plays, at one point sharing the stage with Marie Dressler, a famous early Hollywood comedic actress from Cobourg, Ontario   Charles died in California in 1963 and is buried there.


When WW1 began John returned to Canada, living in Hamilton and wintering in Florida where he died suddenly in St. Petersburg in April 1922 at age 77. After a slow train trip home through blizzards and delayed by a train wreck near Cincinnati he was buried with Carrie in Avondale Cemetery.