Historical Plaque Properties


J. Russell Stuart - Principal Romeo Ward School
39 Caledonia Street
Stratford, ON

The yellow brick, Queen Anne Cottage a 39 Caledonia St. was built in 1887 by prominent educator, J. Russell Stuart.  Russell was born on October 18, 1860 in Halton, Ontario to parents James and Isabel. The earliest known record of him living in Stratford is the 1876 City Directory, where at the age of 16 he is listed as a boarder on Albert Street. By the 1889 Directory he was listed as a boarder at the Albion Hotel, 55 Ontario Street and his profession is the Principal of the Romeo Ward School. He continued to own the house on Caledonia, renting it to W.P. Zick a merchant until it was sold in 1912 to Sidney Johnston.


On July 13, 1893 he married Ethel M. Cook on Daly Avenue in Stratford. Ethel was born on May 4,1871 in Norwich, England, to James and Mary Cook and came to Canada with her family in 1872. Soon they welcomed a son, James Cecil, on August 9, 1895 and a daughter, Mary Isabel, on November 28, 1896.


To continue with his career, in 1891 he helped promote a modern innovation to the education system by creating the first kindergarten school in Stratford. By 1898 he was no longer a principal but Inspector of Public Schools for the City of Stratford. By 1902 there were over 2000 children in eight spacious school buildings with thirty teachers  employed, the whole of these schools under the inspectorate of J. Russell Stuart. In 1905 he helped secure Stratford as one of the five locations for the Normal Schools in Ontario, by writing to the Department of Education. The Department of Education was convinced Stratford was the right location as it had the required number of school divisions, railway connection and the school board inspector Russell Stuart would be a great asset to the new school. He also sat on the Board of the Public Library. In 1909, he was appointed the Public School Inspector of the city of Kingston and later became a lecturer on Elementary School Education at Queen’s University where they lived on campus at 75 Alfred St.


Russell and Ethel’s son James Cecil became a bookkeeper and would enlist on June 15, 1915 to go and serve in World War I, rising to the rank of Lieutenant and being awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in action. When he returned to England, he married Annie Louise Merry in Hackney.


Their daughter Mary married Arthur Stuart Bleakney in Kingston on February 8, 1918 and they would eventually move out west to Victoria, British Columbia.


Ethel made a trip to Europe to visit relatives in 1923 and a few years in after her return in 1927 Russell decided to retire after 18 years of service to the City of Kingston in. Due to his failing health, he and Ethel moved to Vancouver, British Columbia where he died on February 5, 1929. Ethel would die at the age of 92 on July 20, 1963 in Victoria, British Columbia.