Historical Plaque Properties


John Alexander Scott - Merchant/Chairman Board of Education
104 Devon Street
Stratford, ON

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


According to family researchers, John married Catherine Munro Gowanlock on February 22, 1848 in Hawick. She was born on October 28, 1828 in Kelso, Scotland, the daughter of Andrew Gowanlock and Elizabeth Kidd. Shortly after their wedding John and Catherine emigrated to Canada and by 1851 were living in the city of Hamilton where John plied his trade as a tailor. The 1851 census also records that a sixty-nine-year-old female member of the family had died within the past twelve months, 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 Ellice Township. Catherine’s younger sister, Jennie, who married Edward Trout in 1865 at the original Knox Presbyterian Church in Stratford became the first woman to be licensed to practise medicine in Canada. Jennie Trout was the only licensed woman physician 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 is recorded as seeking election to the first municipal council in January 1854 following the incorporation of Stratford as a town the previous year. Though unsuccessful, he was selected as one of the original trustees of the town’s school board. John was very active in the public affairs of Stratford, at one time serving as a police magistrate, elected for a number of terms as alderman for Falstaff Ward, and he held the 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 on the present site of the Toronto Dominion Trust building. The building’s name resulted from a sad incident in the life of Stratford.


During the early 1860s, Charles Textor, who was born in Prussia and had emigrated to the United States, moved his family from Ohio to Stratford, perhaps because he was subject to being drafted into the Union Army during the American Civil War. He was 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, who was born in Stratford about 1862, died apparently of malnutrition. When John witnessed 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 Catherine arrived, Mrs. Textor showed her a magnificent statue of an Indian that her husband had carved out of a solid piece of basswood.  Catherine was so touched by the state of the family’s situation and so taken by the carving that in her desire to help she paid Mrs. Textor one hundred dollars for the Indian, which stood outside the Scott’s store 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 Textors moved from Stratford after the death of their child but not before Charles carved a reportedly stunning memorial to his son, which has subsequently disappeared. The family returned to the U.S. where Charles established a marble works in Bay City, Michigan and the family prospered. He died there in 1890 and his wife Emma Roher died in 1913.


John and Catherine Scott had nine children, all of whom appear to have survived to adulthood, which is unusual at a time of high infant mortality rates. During the period, John also expanded his business interests to include selling insurance and being a jobber and auctioneer for the disposal of bankrupt stock. The family prospered. In 1869, John purchased a ten acre lot from Judge Reid Burritt who had subdivided 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 he never 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 of Education.


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


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