Historical Plaque Properties


John Avery - Plasterer
330 Ontario Street
Stratford, ON

In 1874 a house was built on the property now known as 330 Ontario Street but which was originally part of a larger tract of land owned by James A. McCulloch, a lawyer in Stratford. James was a son of William F. McCulloch, a miller, distiller and lumber merchant, Stratford’s wealthiest businessman and the first reeve of the new village of Stratford when it was incorporated in 1854.

William McCulloch arrived in Stratford from Ireland in 1842.Local history books describe him as an early land baron who accumulated large quantities of riverfront property along the Little Thames, now the Avon, River, and adjacent lands including a one hundred acre estate which he named “the Grange” where he built a luxurious house with a grand entrance off Ontario Street. This property included much of what residents and visitors now know and love as Queen’s Park.  The land on which 330 Ontario Street is located would have been part of the Grange property.

Prominent Stratford residents, James Trow and George McLagan, were subsequent owners of the McCulloch house. The latter had it demolished and built a new house on the same site which now faces onto Water Street.

In 1850 Perth’s status as a county was provisional until a county building was established. Mr. McCulloch donated land north of the river and in 1853 the first County Building was erected and Perth County became an official entity.

In April 1874 John Avery became the first occupant of 330 Ontario Street when he moved in with his wife Martha and their daughters Margaret Elizabeth, known as “Maggie”, age 9 and Martha who was 6 years old.  Both were born in Ingersoll in Oxford County.

Ingersoll was settled in 1793 by Major Thomas Ingersoll, an American from Massachusetts who immigrated to Upper Canada after the American Revolution. He obtained a land grant of 66.000 acres from Sir John Graves Simcoe, the Governor and named his settlement Oxford–on-the-Thames.

His son Charles had the name changed to Ingersoll in honour of his father when the Village of Ingersoll was incorporated in 1852. Thomas Ingersoll’s eldest daughter, Laura Ingersoll Secord, earned her place in history when she made a dangerous journey to warn the British of a planned attack by the Americans during the War of 1812.

The 1840s marked the beginning of Ingersoll’s long connection with the history of cheesemaking when the first cheese factory in Canada was built nearby. Since then Oxford County cheese has achieved international acclaim.  In 1866 the famous “Big Cheese” weighing 7300 pounds and measuring three feet high with a seven foot diameter was made in a local cheese factory to promote the local cheese industry. It was exhibited at the New York State Fair and shipped to shows in England.

A plasterer by occupation John Avery was born in Bristol England in 1830 and after immigrating to Canada, married Martha Hicks, born in Ireland, who grew up in East Nissouri, Oxford County, where her father Robert Hicks was a Toll Gate Keeper.  Several roads in pioneer Ontario had toll gates established at various locations along the way for the purpose of collecting fees, or tolls, from travellers to accumulate funds for maintenance and future construction.

The Avery family’s stay in this early Stratford house was brief as they moved back to Ingersoll in 1876 where a third daughter, Mary Ann was born in August 1876. According to Canadian census data John continued his work as a painter/plasterer in Ingersoll where he died in November 1893.  His widow Martha died in 1920 and both are buried in the Ingersoll Rural Cemetery.  The cemetery records report that there are no headstones; however their deaths are recorded in the Cemetery burial book.

In 1886 their daughter Maggie married John Montgomery from Walpole, Middlesex County, in St Mary’s Ontario. Their married life began in Walpole where by 1891 they had a family of 2 sons, the eldest being named John, and a daughter Maggy. In 1922 they moved to Toronto where a second daughter Gladys lived and John went into business as a building contractor. Both died in 1932 and are buried in Jarvis Ontario.

Martha, the 2nd daughter did not marry and died in London Ontario in 1923.
The third daughter, Mary Ann married William A. McCutcheon, a farmer from Mosa Township, Middlesex County, in Ingersoll in June 1903. They farmed there until her death in December 1932.