Historical Plaque Properties


Ellen Sullivan - Widow
327 Nelson Street
Stratford, ON

The pretty Ontario cottage at 327 Nelson Street was built by Ellen Sullivan in 1888. She had purchased the land from William J. Holmes, carriage maker and mechanic, in January of that year, for the sum of $1,170, with Mr. Holmes holding a mortgage for $920.


Ellen was the widow of Michael Sullivan. They were both born in Cahirciveen, on the County Kerry coast of Ireland; Ellen Sheay, in 1833 and Michael Sullivan, in 1831. In the 1850s, they immigrated to Ontario where their family was born, including Mary (1854), Abbie (1856), Johanna (1863), Eliza (1867) and Dennis (1870). They lived in Berlin (now Kitchener) when Abbie was born and possibly spent time in Ridgeway, Michigan, where Johanna was born. Michael Sullivan worked as a labourer and by 1871 they were living in St. Marys. Michael died in 1878, at age 51.


Perhaps because of that or of the greater opportunity available, Ellen Sullivan and her children relocated to Stratford in the 1880s. Her daughters, Mary, Abbie and Johanna, were all employed as dressmakers in Stratford, while her son Dennis became a cabinet maker. Ellen’s pluck in relocating her family and acquiring a new house for them is notable, given that she was unable to read and write; the bill of sale for the parcel of land at 327 Nelson Street contains only her mark, confirmed by the conveyancer who handled the transaction.


Abbie clearly had the business head in the family. In March 1890, Abbie assumed the mortgage from her mother and in 1891, her mother transferred ownership of the house at Nelson Street to her. Ellen moved back to St. Marys where she lived with her youngest daughter Eliza, also a dressmaker. Ellen Sullivan passed away in May 1893, at age 60.


A few months later, Eliza married Patrick James Clifford, a native of County Kerry, Ireland.  He was a section foreman for the Grand Trunk Railway. Eliza was the only one of Michael and Ellen’s children who married. She and James had two sons and three daughters. Eliza died in 1932.


Abbie sold the house at 327 Nelson Street to William Weeks, a farmer from Logan Township, in 1901. The Sullivan siblings moved to the larger 35 Grange Street, also a house bearing a Stratford-Perth Architectural Conservancy of Ontario plaque, built by William Gibson, baker in 1879. They lived there together for several years. Johanna died in 1909; Dennis, in 1911; and Abbie, in 1914. Mary continued to live in the Grange Street house until her death in 1933. In the early 1920s, she took in her sister Eliza’s son and daughter as lodgers, who were no doubt attracted to Stratford’s booming economy of that time. In fact, Eliza’s daughter (Ellen’s granddaughter) Abigail Clifford, lived at 35 Grange until the 1950s and then moved next door to 37/39 Grange Street. She carried on the family tradition of capable women, having a career first as a clerk and later as a manager, remaining in Stratford until her death in 1979.


Fittingly for a family that remained close during life, Michael, Ellen, Mary, Abbie, Johanna and Dennis are buried together in a family plot in Avondale Cemetery. Eliza is buried with her husband and one of her daughters in St. Marys Cemetery.