Historical Plaque Properties


John Rodger MacDonald - Manager-MacDonald Thresher Co. Ltd.
220 Church Street
Stratford, ON

Character, elegance and charm is the best way to describe 220 Church Street. This large red brick house with its majestic wrap-around, covered porch and decorative turret was built in 1905 for John Rodger MacDonald.


John MacDonald was born in Tuckersmith Township, Huron County, Ontario on November 20,1866 to James MacDonald and Isabelle Rodgers. James and his family immigrated to Nova Scotia from Inverness, Scotland in 1831 when he was only an infant. The family remained in Nova Scotia for 14 years before moving to the vicinity of Brucefield, Huron County. They had 10 children, 6 girls and 4 boys. 


James and Isabelle sold their farm in 1876 and moved to Stratford to join James’ brother John and his partner Alex MacPherson in their threshing machine business, MacDonald & MacPherson Co. Their threshers, remarkably simple in design, were of the conventional apron or canvas type with side-shake shoe. The company had successfully built and sold without difficulty 30 threshers they had planned in 1877 and the success of their machines from the start assured increasing sales and prosperity for the company. After Alex died, the two brothers changed the name to the MacDonald Mfg. Co. and James’s sons Peter and John joined the company. In the early 1880’s, John MacDonald’s health was failing and he left James and his two sons to carry on the business. After his father James died on December 12, 1911, John reorganized and renamed the company the MacDonald Thresher Co. Ltd. and a modern factory was built at the eastern outskirts of Stratford.


During World War 1, the company used much of their equipment to manufacture artillery shells a dangerous business indeed as a fire broke out in 1916 destroying the office and almost threatened the entire factory. After the war, they stopped the manufacture of steam engines and concentrated on gasoline tractors, this choice caused serious financial hardship and the company was sold to the Brooks Steam Car Co. in 1923.


On June 29, 1892 John married Eliza Patterson in Stratford. She was born in Millbank, Ontario on January 29, 1870, the daughter of Donald Patterson and Mary Jane Phillips.  In the 1902-1904 Vernon City Directory they are listed as living on Stratford Street, Stratford with their son Rodger Allan, born August 24, 1893, daughters Edith Mary, born May 15, 1898 and Isabel Patterson, born August 5, 1899 as well as Eliza’s mother and servant Susie Hughes. Another son, Charles, was born June 23, 1904 but sadly died soon after on July 14, 1904.


As well as being a prominent businessman John was active in the community. In politics, He was a Liberal and was frequently urged to run for this riding for his party, but never did although his uncle Peter served as deputy speaker. In 1910-1911, he was the president of the Board of Trade of Stratford. He was also a member and worker in the St. John’s United Church and a member of the Masonic Order.


John Rodger MacDonald died on August 18, 1932 after a lengthy illness and is buried in Avondale Cemetery along with his wife Eliza who died on May 10, 1938 and many members of their families.