Historical Plaque Properties


William Garner - Cooper
214 Elgin Street East
St. Marys, ON

This two storey white brick house with bay windows, attic dormers and elaborate trim was the showpiece of the career of William Garner, contractor, builder and property developer.   William purchased the north 90 feet of all the undeveloped property (lots 16, 17 and 18) in January 1879 for $500, recognizing the appeal of the neighbourhood.  He placed an ad in the St Marys Journal for tenders to build three brick dwellings on these lots.  He employed the services of the architect, Silas H. Weeks, who was also responsible for the St. Marys Opera House. The two houses at 222 and 224 Elgin Street East were similar design but the third, 214, was designed to fit a corner lot. 


William was born July 21, 1815 in Thetford, England. Along with his wife Mary Anne (Harman), they immigrated to Brantford, Ontario, Canada before the birth of their first son, Joseph Stokes Garner, in December 1838.  The Garners welcomed another son George in 1843 and then moved to Woodstock in 1844. Adding to their growing family, a daughter Sarah was born in 1847, Thomas in 1854, William in 1856 and James in 1859, the same year they moved to St Marys. 


William Garner and Co. was opened in May of 1860 on Elizabeth Street. He was a cooper, a person trained to make wooden casks, barrels, vats, buckets, tubs, troughs and other staved containers, from timber that was usually heated or steamed to make it pliable. By 1862 he had 20 to 50 year-round hands working for him, and his establishment was turning out 200 flour barrels, 12 cords of staves, 18 cords of heading and 16 bedsteads per day. In an advertisement in the St Marys Journal in 1864, it states he would do all kinds of coopering except beer and whiskey barrels, as he was a strict Methodist. In 1864, he had opened a saw and planing mill on Elizabeth Street South and handed over the cooperage to his son, Joseph. A fire destroyed the saw mill in 1882 and instead of rebuilding it, William and his sons built four brick cottages on the site.  In 1884 he again placed an ad in the newspaper for tenders to build four cottages on the southwest corner of Peel and Elgin Street.  His family later added more homes along the east side of Peel Street.


William’s wife, Mary Ann, died on February 9, 1879.  On April 20, 1880 at the age of 64, he married widow Mary Ann Foster, born in Ireland in 1834.  She had two sons, Arthur (1859) and Theodore (1861).

In 1885, William retired and moved to Toronto. He died on October 13, 1890 and is buried in St. Marys beside his first wife.


This house was also known as the “Stanley House” after Dr. James Russell Stanley who purchased the house in August 1910. He was a popular doctor with a full practice and still had time to serve his community.