Historical Plaque Properties


James Benedict - Chairmaker
521 Ontario Street
Stratford, ON

James Benedict was born in Chesley, Elderslie Township, Bruce County on February 27, 1879, the son of James William Benedict (1845-1906) and Sarah Willamett (1855-1930).


James’s paternal grandfather, Smedley Benedict, moved as a child with his family from Vermont to Lennox & Addington County, Upper Canada in the early 1800’s. At some point after 1851, Smedley and his wife Catherine along with their ten children, includ-ing James’s father James William, moved to Grey County, where they farmed. In 1867 James William, his brother Ard, and his mother moved to Chesley, Bruce County, where James William met and married Sarah Willamett, daughter of Robert Smith Willamett and Ann Gistrope (spelling unclear), both born in England, and formerly of Woodstock. James William and Sarah later moved to Woodstock where they lived the rest of their lives. It appears that James William was a farmer throughout his life.


James was seven when he moved from Chesley to Woodstock. For several years he drove the fire team for the Woodstock Fire Hall. He was also a labourer while living in Woodstock. James moved to Stratford in 1904. On November 7, 1906 he married Eliza-beth Mary “Lizzie” Harvey, the daughter of George Harvey and Elizabeth Longfoot, im-migrants from England and the East Indies respectively. Lizzie was born in 1877 or 1878 at 551 Ontario Street, the residence of her parents.


For many years from at least 1907 to 1913, and again from 1917 to 1919 James was employed by the Stratford Chair Company Ltd. at 459 Albert Street. It is possible that he moved to Stratford to work at this company, as it opened the same year that he came from Woodstock. The land registry lists James as a chair maker, while other documents describe him as a cabinet maker, woodworker, or sander. The Stratford Chair Company specialized in the production of medium and high-grade chairs in oak and mahogany. A railway siding connected the factory to the Grand Trunk Railway line and gave the company easy access to markets across the country. The Stratford Chair Company eventually became part of the McLagan Furniture Company.


The house at 521 Ontario Street was built in 1908 by H.W. Dempsey. James then ac-quired the property and he and his wife were the first occupants, moving into the house in late 1908 or early 1909. It appears that they lived there until 1913/1914 when the family moved to 488 Brunswick Street.


From approximately 1920 to 1932 James and Lizzie operated a small grocery store at 555 Ontario Street, where they also lived. About 1932 James entered the trucking business, but was forced to retire after five years because of ill health. He died follow-ing a heart attack on October 16, 1942 at his home at 501 Ontario Street. Lizzie died in February of 1956 at her parents’ home, 551 Ontario Street. Both are buried in Avondale Cemetery.


James and Lizzie had three children: two daughters who died before the age of three, and a son, James William, born October 29, 1909, while the family was living at 521 Ontario Street. James William owned and operated Benedict Cartage for many years. He also worked at Imperial Furniture and the DeHavilland Aircraft Plant (during the war). He was married and had four children. He died on December 17, 1989 in Stratford.