Historical Plaque Properties

 

Frederick Kuch - Cabinetmaker & Foreman/McLagan Furniture Co.
312 Cobourg Street
1924

Julius Kuch and his wife, Ernestina Roth, emigrated in 1869 from Germany to the United States with their 1 year old son Charles. A second son, Anthony and a daughter Louisa were born there before they crossed the border to Canada and travelled to Waterloo County in southwestern Ontario locating in the hamlet of Phillipsburg where their third son Frederick was born in 1876. A second daughter, Annie, followed in 1879.

 

When the 1891 Canadian census was taken the family had moved down the road to New Hamburg where Julius was working as a carpenter, the first son Charles was earning his living as a painter and the younger sons, Anthony and Frederick were farmhands. Louisa, age 17, was employed at a local knitting mill and 12 year old Annie was going to school. When Frederick married Margaret (Maggie) Wettlaufer who was born and raised in West Zorra, a township in neighbouring Oxford County, in 1899, he was working as a carpenter, the trade which would lead to his life’s work. Maggie, the daughter of Conrad Wettlaufer and Catherine Schellenburger was also of German heritage and the young couple began their married life in New Hamburg where their first child, Julius Frederick Conrad, was born. Four more sons and a daughter, Ernestina Viola, would complete their family.

 

The early years of the twentieth century saw the furniture industry quickly become, after the railway repair shops, the other major industry in Stratford. Surrounded by large stands of oak, maple, birch, pine, walnut and several other woods favoured by furniture makers and with planing mills already operating along the river, the emerging town attracted the attention of a young Canadian man, George McLagan. who had been in Michigan learning the skills of furniture making. He began working at Scrimgeour’s Planing Mills in 1886 and soon with a partner, George Porteous, leased the mill’s furniture making business. Fire destroyed their building in 1900 but with support from the city and its taxpayers, McLagan was able to build his own factory on Trinity Street. The business quickly prospered and the McLagan name became famous for the fine furniture the company produced in Stratford. In a short time about 20 furniture businesses were operating here and the demand for furniture produced in Stratford was strong with regular shipments going by rail and road to national and international destinations.

 

Many employment opportunities awaited skilled cabinet makers and other trades in Stratford’s growing furniture industry so it was an opening at The George McLagan Furniture Company that brought Frederick, now an experienced cabinet maker, with Maggie and their family to Stratford in the early 1900’s. He was soon promoted to a foreman’s position which he held until his retirement in 1940.  The Kuch family lived at various locations and were residing at 66 Queen Street in 1913 when Maggie became ill with pleurisy and died suddenly at age 38, leaving Fred a single parent with 5 young children, the eldest age 13.

 

In 1914 he built a larger house at 171 Ballantyne Avenue, immediately behind the Queen Street residence, and they lived there for several years. In 1924 he purchased property on the north side of Cobourg Street where he built a new residence on the east part of Lot 9/west part of Lot 10. It became 312 Cobourg Street which at the time was the last house before Queen’s Park. Shortly afterwards he married Janet Davis, 18 years his junior, and they lived in the house, on occasion joined by one of his sons, until the 1950’s. Three of his sons worked in the furniture industry as cabinet makers and upholsters at McLagans and other companies.

 

Frederick Kuch died in 1955 at age 79 and is buried in Avondale Cemetery with Maggie and Janet, who died in 1972, and his young son Edward who only lived to age 4.