Historical Plaque Properties

 

Thomas B. Johnson - Butcher/Builder
185 Albert Street
1888


Thomas Benjamin Johnson was the son of George Johnson and Elizabeth Hill who had emigrated from England in the late 1830s or early 1840s. It is not known whether George and Elizabeth married in England or Canada, however their first of ten children was born about 1844 in York County, Canada West where they had settled on a farm.  Benjamin who was the couple’s eighth child was born on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 1860 in their one storey frame farm house.


A few years later the family had relocated to a farm in Downie Township and by the late 1870’s George had retired and moved the family to  Stratford where they lived in a house on the north side of Albert Street, four doors east of Nile Street. Benjamin’s father died in 1880.  The 1881 census records that Benjamin, who by this time had become a butcher, lived with his mother and five of his siblings at the Albert Street house.


On September 4, 1889, Benjamin married twenty-four year old Mary Ann (Minnie) McCurdy in Toronto. Minnie was the daughter of Alexander and Ann McCurdy. It appears the McCurdy’s knew the Johnson family, perhaps when they lived in York County, because Minnie was a witness at the wedding of Rebecca Johnson, a sister of Benjamin, which was held in Stratford in 1886. Benjamin and Minnie had two children: Jennie (b. Oct. 5, 1891) ; and Henry (b. Jan. 7, 1896) who followed in his father’s footsteps as a butcher and after World War II became the Governor of the Stratford-Perth County Jail.


Benjamin’s business appears to have prospered. Commencing during the mid-1880s, he rented two stalls on the ground floor of the original Market and Townhall building constructed on Market Square in 1857.


Like many merchants in Stratford, Benjamin dabbled in real estate. In 1887 he purchased land on Albert Street from John and Robert Forbes. The Forbes brothers were well known stable keepers and livery men in Stratford.. Indeed, Robert Forbes was the first occupant of No. 4 Waterloo Street North, which would become the home of renowned Canadian actor, William Hutt.


In 1888, Benjamin completed construction of 185 Albert Street, which he used as an income property. His first tenant was an Albert Thompson, who was listed as a Traveller (i.e.Travelling Salesman). Mr. Thompson lived in the house for a short time.


On November 24, 1897 fire broke out in the Town Hall and Market building, which not only destroyed the Council Chamber and Public Library but also businesses on the ground floor including Benjamin’s butcher stalls. While he and his fellow tradesmen lost everything, Benjamin was able to recover and continued as butcher until he retired.