Historical Plaque Properties


John T. Lauder - Conductor - GTR
47 Grange Street
Stratford, ON

The yellow-brick, storey-and-a-half house at 47 Grange Street was built by long-time railroader John T. Lauder in 1899.


John Thomas Lauder was born on December 29, 1849 in Stonebridge, outside Port Colborne, Ontario. He was the only son of Edward F. Lauder and Julia Eliza Edsall. Edward had been born in Cumberland, England about 1826 and came to Canada West (now Ontario) in the 1840s with his parents, Thomas Dixon Lauder and Elizabeth Forrester.


At the time of the 1871 Canada census John was working as a farmer on his father’s farm in Egremont, Grey County. About that time he joined the Grand Trunk Railway as a conductor. He worked on several western Ontario runs and in 1872 was on the inaugural run of the line between Stratford and Wiarton, where he looked after passengers for many years.


According to one account, John had met Thomas Edison when Edison was a Grand Trunk telegrapher in Stratford, and he was later a member of a “We Knew Edison” club. (Note that Edison was in Stratford only in 1863, when John was still living at home, but he may have met Edison later.)


On January 1, 1876 John married Jennie Woods in Stratford. Jennie was the daughter of Arthur Woods and Ellen Heuston and was born in Sherbrooke, Quebec. The Woods family was of Irish origin. John and Jennie had three sons, Alfred, William and Clifford, and a daughter, Pearl. In 1899 the family of six, including Alfred, Clifford, and Pearl, and Jennie’s widowed mother, Ellen, moved from their previous home on Nile Street into the new house at 47 Grange Street, their last residence in Stratford.


The neighbouring houses at 47 and 45 Grange Street were built the same year on Lot 49, which appears to have been occupied by a more modest dwelling that was demolished when the lot was severed.


By 1904 the Lauder family had left Stratford. The 1911 census shows John has retired and is living with Jennie and 18 year-old Clifford in Corunna, south of Sarnia. John and Jennie enjoyed a long retirement. Jennie died at the age of 80 in 1936. Some years later John moved to London to live with his granddaughter, Mrs. Leslie Hinton.


On the occasion of his 100th birthday in 1949 John received congratulatory messages from across Canada and a telegram from the private secretary of King George VI. A long-time Tory, he received a visit from George Drew, then the national leader of the Progressive Conservatives. Even at that age he continued to smoke two or three cigars daily and enjoyed a few “hookers” of whiskey. Asked the usual question, he attributed his long life to “duck hunting”, a pastime he had given up just a few years before.


After a short illness John Lauder died on May 26, 1950 in London. He was buried in Avondale Cemetery. According to his obituary, at his death he was the oldest retired railroad conductor in Canada and also the oldest Canadian member of the International Order of Odd Fellows.


A photo of John Lauder appears in the May 27, 1950 edition of the Stratford Beacon Herald.