Historical Plaque Properties


John Josiah Otto - Builder
37 James Street
Stratford, ON

John Josiah Otto was born June 17, 1866 in New Hamburg to Valentine Otto and Magdalena Kleinknecht. Valentine was born in Germany, emigrating to Canada West in about 1849. In 1850 in Waterloo he married Magdalena, who was born in South Easthope Township  to a German father and a mother of German descent born in Pennsylvania, but raised in Upper Canada.

John Josiah was the seventh of eight children. He spent the first several years of his life in New Hamburg where his father worked as a carpenter. By 1879 his family was farming in Ellice Township near Wartburg. From 1890 to 1911, John Josiah and his older brother Moses were running the farm near Wartburg, while their father was on a different farm near Sebringville.


On October 11, 1893 John Josiah married Annie Christina Kruspe. Annie was born in 1865 in Ellice Township, the youngest of ten born to Johann George Christopher Kruspe and Anna Maria Christina Weisgaber, who married and started their family in Germany before emigrating to Canada West (probably Perth County) in 1853 or 1854, along with Annie’s grandparents. Annie was raised on a farm in Ellice Township.


By 1911 John Josiah had moved into Stratford and was a grocer living at 351 Ontario Street. In the 1913 directory he is listed living at 163 Brunswick Street, but there is no occupation listed. However, according to the tax assessment rolls, by September 1913, John Josiah had purchased a lot on James Street from merchant J. A. Duggan, and by August 1914, he was living in the house at 37 James Street along with Annie and their two children as well as another person.It appears that he built the house.

They lived at 37 James for only about two years. By 1916 they were living at 30 Hibernia Street, and from 1917 until 1928 they lived at 77 Nile Street.

John Josiah is listed as a builder or contractor on and off from 1914 to 1928. It appears that when he didn’t have enough work as a builder, he worked for other companies. In 1919-1920 he worked at the Kindel Bed Company, in 1925 at General Electric, and in 1927 he was a salesman at H. J. Cotty.


John Josiah and Annie had two children: Ruby Magdelene (Gray), 1894-1987; and Anna Olivia Marvel (Black), 1898-1935, who married American Nelson E. Black and moved to Buffalo.They had one grandson, John Black, son of Anna Olivia Marvel, who was living with his aunt and uncle when Annie died in Stratford from tuberculosis. It would appear that Annie and her son stayed in Stratford for some time while she was ill, and John was then raised by his aunt and uncle for several years.  When he was 19, about eleven years after his mother’s death, John joined his father in Buffalo, where he had been raised for the first years of his life.

It appears that John Josiah and Annie lived with their daughter Ruby for many years at 207 Ontario Street, from about 1929 until their deaths.


John Josiah died in Stratford at age 79 on September 1, 1945.  Annie died at age 80 a few weeks later on October 16, 1945. John Josiah and Annie are both buried in Sebringville with John Josiah’s parents, Valentine and Magdalena Otto. Annie’s parents and paternal grandparents are also buried in Sebringville.