Historical Plaque Properties


Edmund Abner Cawsey - Stonemason and Contractor
200 Cambria Street
Stratford, ON

Edmund Abner Cawsey was born in 1860 in Allanburg, Ontario which is now within the City of Thorold on the Welland Canal. His parents, Edmund Cawsey, a blacksmith, and Thirza Challice were married in Devonshire, England and emigrated to Canada a few years later. Their first child, a daughter, was born in Pickering in 1853. The family soon moved to the Welland area where Edmund senior most likely plied his trade on the third Welland Canal connecting Lakes Erie and Ontario. In the 1861 Allanburg census, their neighbour was the locktender. By 1871, the family of nine had moved to Pelham, just northwest of Welland.

Growing up surrounded by the canals with its stone locks could possibly have sparked Edmund Abner’s interest in stonemasonry.  As a young man of twenty, he was residing and working in St. Marys which is well known for its stone quarries. The quarries were a major source of supply in building the many stone houses, public buildings, and churches in St. Marys and the surrounding area. 

In 1880 Edmund married Martha Horner in St. Catharines. She was the daughter of James and Salome Horner. James Horner was a school teacher in St. Catharines. The young couple set up home in St. Marys and were soon expecting their first child. The excitement of becoming parents ended tragically when their son arrived prematurely on Christmas Eve 1881. Due to complications, the baby and Martha both died that night.

Edward continued to live and work in St. Marys and in September, 1883 he married Mary Jane Hill, the daughter of Joseph Hill, a veterinary surgeon, and Annie Mercer. On their marriage registration, and in the 1891 St. Marys’ census, Edmund had changed his occupation from stonemason to builder and contractor.
In 1892, the couple’s first child, Clara Evelyn, was born. Fourteen months later, their son, Gordon Edmund arrived. The house at 200 Cambria Street was finished for the family to move into in 1895. Sadly, a year later, three year old Gordon Edmund Cawsey died of meningitis.

In 1897, the first Stratford City Hall burnt to the ground and tenders were put out for a design and building contractors to construct the present day one. After the design was chosen, the contract to build the structure was awarded to Edmund Cawsey and his partner, John Lant Youngs. Today, their names can be seen on the marble plaque in the lobby of the city hall.

In 1897 Edmund Cawsey had his invention for a machine to dig trenches to fit sewer lines registered in the Canadian Patents Office. This was at a time where cities were starting to lay out sewage lines and improve their water systems.

After the construction on city hall was underway, Edmund Cawsey was awarded the contract to build the dam and works for the Renfrew Power Company on the Bonnechere River. A few years before this, he had been in Renfrew laying new macadam (early asphalt) roads and concrete walks. In the 1901 census he had been enumerated in both Renfrew and Stratford as he had been in Renfrew overseeing the construction project there.

A year after the census was taken, Edmund Cawsey was killed in a tragic accident while supervising the construction of the power dam. A cable that was lifting a heavy timber allowed it to drop and pin him to the ground. He died shortly afterwards. His body was returned to Stratford and he was buried in Avondale Cemetery. As a tribute to his standing in the town, the mayor was one of his pallbearers.

His daughter, Clara, became a teacher and married Dr. Frederick Forster in 1927. Mary Jane lived with the couple at 1 Daly Avenue at the time of her death in 1936. She is buried beside her husband in Avondale Cemetery.