Historical Plaque Properties


Alexander Vivian - Cabinetmaker
191 Cobourg Street
Stratford, ON

Alexander Ritson Vivian was born in Stratford in December of 1857. He was the sixth of seven children of John Polkinghome Vivian of England and Maria Luke who was born in Oshawa. The Vivian family appear to have deep roots in the County of Cornwall, England where John’s father, Samuel, was a publican and innkeeper.


John and Maria arrived in Stratford in the mid-1840s.  He established the Vivian Brewery near the corner of Erie and St. Patrick Streets, which he ran from 1846 to 1857 and for many years was the only brewer of ale in Perth County. He was also active in politics and was elected to the first council of the newly incorporated town of Stratford in 1853. Despite his accomplishments, John was overcome by alcohol and died in the Stratford Jail on February 26, 1863. The jury ruled his death was a result of excessive drinking. Maria died on January 2, 1904. Both are buried in the Avondale Cemetery.

Twenty-one year old Alexander Vivian married nineteen year old Helen Todd on January 21, 1876. She was the daughter of Walter Todd and Margaret Connelly. According to her death certificate, Helen was born in Madoc, Ontario, however by the time of her marriage the family appear to be living in Stratford. Alexander and Helen had eight children, one of whom, Frederick Alexander served as a Lieutenant with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War I. Helen died on August 28, 1914 and is buried in the Avondale Cemetery.

On June 20, 1917, Alexander married a thirty-two year old widow, Mary Jane Huchtenhausen, daughter of George Jeffrey and Jane Ross of Stratford.

With the death of his father, Alexander and his family had to fend for themselves. At the age of thirteen, Alexander opened a second hand furniture shop at the Old Union Hotel. When he was fifteen, Alexander worked as a printer alongside his older brother Samuel who had apprenticed at the old Herald newspaper. However, from the mid 1870’s through to the turn of the century he was part of the burgeoning furniture making industry in Stratford. Alexander was variously described as a furniture finisher and cabinet finisher on the census for the period.

By 1905 when he, Helen and his family moved into the newly built 191 Cobourg, Alexander was recorded as a Cabinetmaker. However, the following year he entered into a lifelong partnership with C. W. Greenwood to form a business known as Greenwood & Vivian House Furnishings and Undertaking Limited located on Ontario Street. By the 1911 census the family had moved to 239 Cambria Street and at the time of his death Alexander lived at 152 Albert Street.

Alexander Vivian died on November 4, 1939 and is buried in Avondale Cemetery.