Historical Plaque Properties


William Benjamin Fraser - Carpenter
304 Mornington Street
Stratford, ON

William Benjamin Fraser’s story begins when his grandparents, James Fraser and Ann Cumming, left Scotland in 1820 and followed many of their countrymen to settle in Nova Scotia. Here their son William was born in 1821. Nine years later James and Ann set off on another adventure moving their family to London, Upper Canada. Ann Cumming died in 1831 shortly after arriving in London. James Fraser married Margery McBain a few years later.
William Fraser, William Benjamin’s father, married Mary Johnston in London in 1842. Mary had been born in Scotland and immigrated to Canada in 1834 with her family. The couple chose not to stay in London and show up in the 1851 Perth County census as living in Downie Township where William turned his hand to farming. William Benjamin was born there in 1855. Less than ten years later, the couple and their eight children are living in Stratford where William was working as a framer. By 1871, William listed himself in the 1871 census as a builder. It would become a family affair with one son becoming a mason and two taking up carpentry.
William Benjamin was one of those who became a carpenter. In 1877 he married Catherine Keegan. Catherine was born in Wilmot Township of Irish Catholic parentage. Her father, John Keegan, was a farmer but died in 1871. At that time her mother, Eliza, moved the family to Stratford where Catherine met William Benjamin.
Stratford was booming in the 1870s with the building of the Grand Trunk Railway Shops. By 1872 there was a tent city housing 400 and many Stratford families took in railway workers as boarders. The repair shops in Hamilton closed in 1881 and moved to Stratford. It was a perfect time to be in the house building business.
In the 1881 City Directory William, Mary and three sons all in the construction business were living on Elizabeth Street near James. William Benjamin and their three children were on William Street near Waterloo. It was at this time William built the house at 290 Mornington and seven years later William Benjamin built 304 Mornington. By that time William Benjamin and Catherine had seven children of their own.
Wanderlust seemed to be in the Fraser’s blood and after 1895 but by the time the 1901 census was taken, William Benjamin, Catherine, seven children and parents, William and Mary aged 79 were living in Assiniboia, The Territories, later to become part of Saskatchewan in 1905. They are recorded as living in Wolseley, Saskatchewan in 1921. By that time William Benjamin and Catherine were 66 and 62 respectively.
It is interesting to note that William Benjamin did not sell 304 Mornington when he left Stratford but chose to rent it in 1895 to Adam Blay, a worker for the railway. In 1903, Nathan Cantley Smith bought the home. Members of his family have lived there for the last 115 years!