Historical Plaque Properties


Robert A. Moderwell - Insurance Agent
194 Hibernia Street
Stratford, ON

Robert Andrew Moderwell was born in Stratford on December 21, 1892, the youngest child of Andrew Moderwell who worked for the post office and Jessie Catherine Easson.
Robert had the good fortune of being born into two of the oldest families in Stratford. His grandfather and namesake, Robert, was appointed the first sheriff of Perth County in 1855 and served in that capacity for well over a decade. Sheriff Moderwell has a street named after him in Stratford.
Robert Andrew’s mother, Jessie Catherine Easson, was the daughter of William “Boss” Easson from Perthsire, Scotland who built the biggest sawmill in Stratford. The mill was located on the north shore of the Avon River starting from what is now the William Hutt Bridge west along William Street. Easson was a contractor and according to the book “Floodtides and Fortune,” built many of the older buildings in Stratford and was, at one time, the largest employer in the town.  His home built in the Second Empire style and dubbed “Easson’s Castle” still stands at 113 William Street.
During Canada’s centennial year in 1967, the Beacon Herald featured a series of interviews with Stratford’s older residents who reminisced what it was like to grow-up in the town around the turn of the twentieth century. Robert, or Bob as he was known, reminisced about his childhood, including catching frogs from a tributary of the Avon River every Saturday morning for the Commercial Hotel which featured frogs legs as the highlight of its Saturday night menu, skating on Victoria Lake every winter, playing out under the newly installed street lights every evening until his father called them in by ringing a school bell and the concerts and regattas on the lake in summer. 
Robert married Mary Hughine Clark in Blenheim, Ontario on June 25, 1919. She was born on New Year’s Eve 1894, the only child of David Clark, a carpenter, and Sarah Elizabeth Collar (ne Granger). Both of the first spouses of Mary’s parents had died.  David and Sarah had married in August 1893.
Robert and Mary had two daughters Ella (b. 1921) who was a medical librarian at UWO, a member of Don Wright chorus, CFPL radio and married J. Desmond Newel and Mary Kathleen (b. 1930) who had an exemplary career in nursing, administration and education.
Initially, couple lived at 198 Hibernia Street but when the lot was subdivided they purchased the east half and built the house at 194 Hibernia in 1923 and lived there until the mid-1930s. Robert worked for Mutual Life as an insurance agent for most of the time they lived in the house but latterly had a number of jobs and lived in a number of communities.
Robert returned to his family home at 89 William Street in the late 1950s.  He died there on January 22, 1968 and is buried in Avondale Cemetery. Mary died in 1987.