Historical Plaque Properties


John W Clarke - Merchant Tailor
142 Cobourg Street
Stratford, ON

This dwelling which was built in 1889 by Richard Pengelly, is located on the east half of Lot 181 on the north side of Cobourg Street. As Mr. Pengelly was living across the street at 141 Cobourg Street in a house he built in 1866, he rented the new house to the Clarke family who moved in as tenants in 1891.

John William Clarke was born in 1853 in London Ontario, the son of William and Mary Ann, immigrants from England who were among the city’s early settlers.  At the time of his marriage on New Year’s Day in 1873 he was working as a salesman in Guelph.   His bride was Jane Kribs, a young woman of German heritage, born in Elora, but living in Guelph where her father was the Bailiff and where the young couple settled after their marriage. John continued his work in sales and their family grew to 6 children, 3 daughters and 3 sons.

When John and Jane moved into the house on Cobourg Street in Stratford, John was a merchant tailor and, according to the 1891 census, their eldest daughter Minnie was a tailoress and her brother, Wilmott, age 17, a tailor’s apprentice. However, a few years later Willmott moved to London, where he found employment as an accountant and, on January 1, 1900, at the turn of the century, married Maud McCallum of Rodney Ontario. Their son Joseph Wilfred was born in London in 1901.

Wilmot’s younger brother, John Daniel, after setting up business as a merchant in the village of Thedford, Lambton County, married Sarah West from London Ontario. In a few years they moved, with their young son, to Thunder Bay (formerly the adjoining cities of Fort William and Port Arthur) in northwestern Ontario, where John was a travelling salesman.

Meanwhile John Sr. and Jane spent only a few years in Stratford before moving west, with the rest of their family, to Manitoba where they located in Neepawa, near Portage la Prairie.  Eventually Wilmott, John Daniel and their families joined them. John was a traveller and later a bookkeeper and daughters Edna and Gertrude were employed as clerks. John died in 1912 at 61years of age.

Wilmott and John Daniel, with their families, both found their way back to Ontario.  Living in Sarnia, Wilmott managed a piano business and became a skilled piano tuner while John Daniel and family settled in Windsor where he had a management position. Their sister Gertrude, living in Manitoba with her parents, married Frank McGuire, also from Ontario. They lived in Yorkton, Saskatchewan before moving on to Vancouver. Her mother Jane lived with them after the death of her husband and Gertrude’s father, John Sr. Gertrude Clarke McGuire, age 90, died in 1975 and is buried in Burnaby BC.