Historical Plaque Properties


R.H. McKenzie - Woodworker
313 Cobourg Street
Stratford, ON

In the summer of 1914 William Schenck, a  Stratford resident whose business was building  houses, began to construct one on Lot 17, one of  the two adjoining lots he owned on the south side of Cobourg Street. It was in the summer of 1914 that World War 1 began and many city residents soon unexpectedly found themselves going off to join the battles once Great Britain became involved in the conflict. When the new house was finished R.H. McKenzie purchased it and moved in with his wife and family.

In the 1870s his parents brought young R.H. and his brothers and sisters from Scotland to Canada and a pioneer life on a farm in Ashfield Township, Huron County. By 1881 they were a family of 10 with four daughters and four sons. R.H. and his brothers worked the farm with their father and eventually acquired their own farms. In 1911 R.H. was 45 years old and farming on Concession 13 of Ashfield Township, Huron County when he met and married Mary Swan Barge, a young widow living in the nearby town of Clinton with her four children. Mary’s first husband, James Barge, a mechanic from Mitchell and the father of her children, died of pneumonia in 1908. Mary grew up in a family of six on a farm near Goderich and, after becoming R.H.’s wife, she returned to farm life, this time in Ashfield Township.  Their daughter, Ruth was born there in 1912.


However, their days on the farm were fairly brief. They came down the Huron Road to Stratford and, in 1915, moved into the new house at 313 Cobourg Street. R.H. found work at Globe Wernicke, the flourishing furniture business on King Street which produced several lines of office furniture. He became a skilled woodworker, was promoted to a foreman’s position and continued working there until his unexpected death at age 62 in September 1925.

Mary’s children were daughters Jeanette, Cora Elsie and Dorothy Mae and a son Louis Alfred, the youngest. In July 1917 Jeanette married Frank Plaskett born in Portsmouth England and now working as a baker in Stratford but would later be a boilermaker with the railroad.  After finishing school Elsie became an upholsterer, a skill then very much in demand because Stratford was a leader in the furniture business with several companies producing high quality products.  On December 26, 1921, at 19 years of age, Dorothy married 22 year old Frederick Buckingham, a machinist with the railroad. Her brother Louis began his working life as a salesman in George Larkworthy’s grocery and butcher shop. This experience led him to becoming a butcher working at a shop on Erie Street. In 1949 R.H. and Mary’s daughter Ruth, who was only 13 when her father died, was living with her sister Dorothy and Fred Buckingham on Douro Street and earning her living as a knitter.


At the time of his quite sudden death from acute appendicitis R.H. may have been about to change careers again. He and Mary were living at 330 Huron Street, an address which included a residence and a grocery store. Perhaps the farmer and woodworker was about to become a grocer.