Historical Plaque Properties


Joseph Johns - Painter
175 John Street North
Stratford, ON

According to his obituary, Joseph Johns, the son of Samuel Johns and Mary Downs, was born in 1830 in Highhampton, Devonshire, England. When he was fifteen his family made the decision to emigrate to Canada. They arrived in Stratford in 1845. Their journey had been a long one. After seven weeks crossing the Atlantic they made their way up the Ottawa River to Bytown (Ottawa), sailed through the Rideau Canal to Kingston, and crossed Lake Ontario to Hamilton. From Hamilton they made their way by cart to Stratford which then had a population of 200.

By 1851 the family was well settled into Stratford. Samuel Johns Sr. was employed as a carpenter and Samuel Jr. was a tavern keeper. At the time both occupations were in high demand as Stratford was growing quickly and was a stopover on the way west to Goderich. Joseph was self-employed as a painter and, at the time the 1851 census was taken, he was working in Brant County.

In 1855 John Married Ann Vanstone, the daughter of John Vanstone, a wagonmaker. Ann was born in England and had arrived in Stratford with her family in 1841. Joseph and Ann moved in with Joseph’s parents on Norman Street. Within three years they had become the parents of two children, Mary Elizabeth and Edwin John. Joseph’s parents moved to Southampton shortly afterwards.

The property at 175 John Street had belonged to Samuel Jr. but after his death in 1861, title to the property was in Joseph’s name. At first, Joseph rented out the barn on the property to a neighbour, Mathew Headley. During the summer of 1865 the house was built on the property. James Hogg, a bank agent for the Bank of Montreal on the Erie Road rented the house for number of years.

In the meantime, Joseph had a career change. First he became the city assessor and later the city tax collector. He held the position of tax collector for thirty years. Joseph and Ann continued to live on Norman Street while renting out the John Street property. After her marriage to George Tune, a prominent soda water maker, Mary Elizabeth and her husband moved into the house at 175 where they lived for many years.
Joseph and Ann’s son, Edwin John, became a druggist. Edwin remained single and lived on Norman Street until his death in 1929.

Joseph Johns became one of Stratford’s leading citizens and a proud member of St. James Anglican Church. When the church purchased the first set of bells, Joseph donated the largest one. When he died in 1910 he was buried in Avondale Cemetery. Ann Vanstone Johns lived at 58 Norman Street until her death in 1925.