Historical Plaque Properties


Edward James Balsden - Harness Shipper
169 Elizabeth Street
Stratford, ON

Edward James Balsden was born on February 22, 1892 in the small village of Melbourne located in the southwest  corner  of  Middlesex  County,  Ontario. He  was  the  son  of  Christopher  James  Balsden,  the village tailor, and Georgina Elizabeth Dawson.


By the time Edward was nineteen he was working as a salesman, according to the  1911 census, which also recorded that he was living at home with his parents in Melbourne.  Shortly, thereafter, the family moved to Stratford where Edward’s father continued to work as a tailor, while Edward took a position as a harness shipper with the firm of G. L. Griffith & Sons, which was located on Erie Street. The family lived at 40 Britannia Street.


By 1917, Edward’s parents had relocated to London where his father would ultimately establish a men’s fine  clothing  store.  Edward,  on  the  other  hand,  remained in  Stratford. He  was  conscripted  into  the Canadian  army  under  the  provisions  of  the  Military Service  Act  of  1917,  though  he  did  not  serve overseas. His attestation papers show that he lived at 55 Elizabeth Street was five foot eight inches with blue eyes, fair complexion and brown hair.


During this time Edward met Ethel Esther Atkinson who was working as a stenographer in Stratford. She was born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1896 in Biddulph Township, Middlesex County. Ethel was the daughter of  Robert  Atkinson  who  farmed  in  the  township  and  Jane  Flynn  Hamilton.  Edward  and  Ethel  were married on December 12, 1920 in the Village of Lucan.


There were a number of branches of the Atkinson family who had originally emigrated from Ireland and settled in the township not far from the Village of Lucan. A number of Atkinson’s are mentioned in thehistory Biddulph County and in one way or another, Ethel’s grandfather and father lived through the tragedy of the Donnelly family, who were at the centre of turmoil and lawlessness in the township for a number  of  years,  which  resulted  in  the  murder  of  the  family’s  patriarch  James  Donnelly,  his  wife Johanna, their sons Thomas and John and a niece Bridget in the early hours of February 4, 1880. 


Leading up to their marriage, Edward purchased the lot on Elizabeth Street from James Ballantyne who was a co-worker at G. L. Griffith & Sons and who lived at 165 Elizabeth Street. The young couple movedinto the house after their marriage and lived there for the rest of their days. They had one child, a daughter Dorothy Ethel who was born about 1930.


Edward continued to work for G. L. Griffith & Sons in various capacities until his retirement. He died on September 30, 1960. Ethel and Dorothy, who never married, continued to live in the house until Ethel’sdeath in 1978.


Dorothy graduated from Stratford Teacher’s College and taught at Juliette, Romeo and Shakespeare public schools in Stratford, Central Public School in St. Marys and Emily Carr public school in Londonuntil her retirement in 1985. She died in London on October 27, 2013 and is buried along with her parents at St. James Anglican Church, Clandeboye which is about one mile north of Lucan.