Historical Plaque Properties


Thomas J McAvelia - Carriage Builder
12 Trow Avenue
Stratford, ON

In 1908 Letitia and Thomas McAvelia arrived in Stratford and moved into the new house built for them on Trow Avenue. The Grand Trunk Railway was in the final stages of building larger and better equipped repair shops and the city was celebrating its prosperity. Thomas came with his skills as a blacksmith who specialized in making and re-furbishing carriages, still then a well-used form of transport.

A look at Thomas’ life before he came to Stratford. His parents, Patrick and Bridget McAvelia were natives of Ireland who made their way to Canada in the mid 1800’s and located in Peterborough, Ontario. In 1881 Patrick was working  as a labourer, their elder son, William was learning the skills of tailoring and his younger brother, Thomas, age 17, was a student.


When Thomas finished his studies his interests led him to becoming a blacksmith, a trade very much in demand in the pioneer days. Setting out on his own he located in Brantford and established a blacksmithing business. There he met Letitia Elizabeth Martin, the daughter of George and Elizabeth, Brantford residents. They married May 14, 1890 and two years later crossed the Canada/US border to live in Detroit, Michigan. Sons, Millard and Howard, were born there and Thomas continued to pursue his occupation and support his young family as a blacksmith.


As the new century began, they returned to Brantford in1901 for a few years before making the move to Stratford. Their stay was brief and they were back in Brantford by 1912 when, a third son, George, joined the family. World War 1, ‘The Great War’ was imminent and Letitia, newly widowed, was living in Kingston when her first son, Millard Thomas, then a medical student, was recruited to serve with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. His younger brother, Howard, was also drafted into the Canadian forces just as the war was coming to a close.

After his military service Millard finished his medical education and returned to the United States where he practised as a physician in Florida and other states, finally settling in Mount Vernon, Washington State, where he lived for the rest of his life and is buried there with his wife. After the war his brother Howard came back to Kingston where he worked as a salesman until his death at the early age of 40. George also was in sales in Kingston. Howard and Letitia are buried in Farringdon Cemetery in Brantford, the city where Letitia was born.

Trow Avenue has a historical background. In 1840, William F. McCulloch, a wealthy early resident whose 100 acre estate comprised much of what is now Queen’s Park, built a large residence which he named “The Grange” on the property now known as 210 Water Street. The estate entrance was on Ontario Street where large ornamental gates opened to a tree-lined roadway, now Trow Avenue, leading to the house. The street is named for James Trow, a distinguished early resident who became the second owner of the estate in the mid 1800’s and lived there until 1907 when George McLagan purchased the property, demolished The Grange and built the house that stands there now.