Historical Plaque Properties


Henry Schonmeyer - Painter
173 Nelson Street
Stratford, ON

On May 7, 1853, Jacob Schonmeyer, his wife, Dora, and their eight children, including seven year old twins, Henry and Christopher, arrived in New York aboard the packet ship Ashburton. As a packet ship, the Ashburton made regularly scheduled trips carrying passengers and freight. In April 1853, the Ashburton had sailed from Liverpool to New York carrying passengers from England, Scotland, Ireland and Germany.


According to the ship’s manifest, Jacob Schonmeyer was a farmer. Five years passed between landing in New York and the family’s arrival in Stratford in 1858. Here, Jacob made his living as a labourer and gardener.


In Stratford, Jacob’s older sons married local girls, began their own families and were employed as grocers, hotel managers and labourers. Henry and one of his older brothers, Frederick and Frederick’s family, went to Detroit in 1863 where they learned the trade of house painters.


Fredrick and his family remained in the United States but Henry returned to Stratford. In 1871, he is enumerated in the census living with his parents and continuing in his trade as a painter.


Two years later, in December of 1873, Henry, aged 27, married Wilhelmina Schmidt. She was twenty years old, had been born in neighbouring Fullarton, and went by the nick name “Mina.” A year later, their first son, Christopher, was born.


In 1876 Henry built a house on part of Lot 2 on Nelson Street that Jacob had purchased in 1870. By the time the 1881 census was taken, Henry and Mina also had a daughter named Clara. His parents, Jacob and Dora, who were in their late 70’s, were living with them. Jacob continued to work as a gardener and Henry continued to support his family as a painter.


The increase in the value of the house in the assessment records shows that Henry added to the size of the house in 1800 and again in 1888. Henry and Mina’s family also grew and by the time the 1891 census was taken, they had three boys and four girls. Henry’s parents, Jacob and Dora, had died a few years earlier. Another son, Edward, was born in 1893.


In 1902 Henry sold the house to William Nelson, a merchant. He had moved his family to Cleveland, Ohio in 1895. They are listed in the 1900 US census which shows Henry’s brother, Fred, also living in the household. Christopher, their oldest son, worked for the electric railway and returned to Canada in 1896 to marry Sarah Smith of Mornington Street, Stratford. Henry junior followed in his father’s footsteps and became a painter and paper hanger.


Henry and Mina’s family continued to live in the United States where Henry died in Toledo, Ohio in 1935 at age 89.