Historical Plaque Properties

 

Alexander Murdoch - Spinner
141 Water Street
1874

In April 1874  Alexander Murdoch, age 29, purchased a quarter acre property, Lot 549, valued at $200 and  located on the south side of Water Street, from Samuel Crothers, a local carpenter. He quickly built a storey and a half house for his family of three on the property which would later become 141 Water Street. The Murdoch family stay in Stratford appears to have been very brief as a year later, a tenant, John Shera and his family of 7 are living in the house. In 1905 when the property changed hands again it was divided into two lots, each an eighth of an acre. The house at 141 Water Street is located on the east half of the property. 

When he bought the property Alexander’s occupation was identified as a Spinner. The spinning function relates to the machines known as spinning jennys or spinning mules used in flax and woollen and knitting mills to make yarn and other fibres. The operators were called spinners. Large flax mills handling 100 tons a year were established in the 1860s. In 1866 The Stratford Flax Factory, located nearby on the northwest corner of Water and Nile Streets had over 200 employees. In those early years Stratford’s place in the Canadian textile industry clearly was becoming more prominent. Floodtides of Fortune- The Story of Stratford refers to it as the third industry after furniture and the railways.

 

Several knitting and yarn mills were also in business including Stratford Woollen Mills owned by J. Sugden and Sons which was located near the Huron Street Bridge while Duftons Woollen Mill was beside the river in what is now the Shakespearean Gardens. There was however a high risk of fire in these early mills, newspaper reports mention that following a second fire at Duftons in 1910, only the 65 foot brick chimney remained. It still stands today topped with a large birdhouse.

 

Although a search of reference documents at the Archives yielded no additional information about his employment it is likely that Alexander worked in one of these industries during his  apparently short time in Stratford.

 

In 1874 the early Water Street extended from Waterloo Street to Front Street. A search of the archival records of the time shows a building down the street towards Waterloo Street on Lot 554. A few years earlier in 1871, the opening of the Grand Trunk Railway repair shops brought an influx of tradesmen and their families to locate in Stratford. The gas street lights would soon be replaced with electrically powered fixtures and plans were underway to improve the water supply. In 1873 the construction of Knox Church with its magnificent spire was completed. Life in the growing community of Stratford was changing quickly.