Historical Plaque Properties


Cyrus Benjamin Smith - Tanner and Tea Merchant
244 Mornington Street
Stratford, ON

The house at 244 Mornington Street, Stratford was built in 1915 by builder, James Mayze.  James is listed as a farmer in the assessment record but never lived in the house. John Keyes, a local builder and contractor also worked on the house and even wrote his name and the year 1914, in the cement in the basement. Interesting fact about John is he enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in August 1915 at the age of 47 and served until 1919, although he was wounded in the Battle of Passchendaele. John had two sons, Eugene and Victor. After immigrating to the States, Eugene unsuccessfully tried for various political offices, ranging from Mayor of Dearborn to the United States Senate. He did become became Lieutenant Governor of the State of Michigan from 1943-1933 and 1947-1948. He is buried in St. Marys, Ontario.


The first occupant of the house was Cyrus Benjamin Smith, the eldest son of Alexander Smith and Sarah Marshall. He was born on April 6, 1856 in Goderich, Ontario. Alexander was born in Ireland and Sarah was born in France. They married on May 24, 1853 in Chicago, Illinois, USA and immigrated to Canada before Cyrus was born. Cyrus, their oldest child was followed by Fredrick Henry (1859), John Franklin (1862), Edward (1864), Edith Jane (1866), Alice Maud (1868), Sarah (1873), Clara (1874) and Edwin George (1874).


In the Census of 1881, Cyrus’s address is 72 Church Street, where he continued to live until 1915. His address in the 1921 Vernon’s city directory is 57-59 Church Street.  He was elected as  Deacon of the Ontario Baptist Church on May 23, 1883 and was an honorary Deacon at the time of his death. The marriage between Cyrus and Lydia Lillian Hoffman took place on July 3, 1889 in Stratford, Ontario.  Their first son, Clarence Marshall was born on April 2, 1891 followed by another son, Melvyn Hoffman on October 23, 1892.


Cyrus was a tanner for over 20 years and then he became a tea merchant, owning the May Tea Company. His brother Edwin is listed in the city directory as owner of the tea/coffee business in 1888 and continued until 1901when Cyrus was then listed as the owner. Edwin started a new business as owner of a livery/kennel at 97 Ontario Street across from Knox Church. Cyrus continued with his tea business at 42 Wellington Street until 1935. He became an expert at blending teas in order to obtain the best flavours and was known by many people across Ontario because of it. He loved to read and was keenly interested in the progress of hockey and baseball teams in the city. His son Melvyn wrote about his father:  “My dad’s philosophy was ‘you are what you are, not what your family was.’”

Cyrus lived in Stratford for over 70 years at the time of his death on January 29, 1940 and is buried in Avondale Cemetery along with Lydia, who died on May 22, 1935.