Historical Plaque Properties


John Smith - Evangelist
55 Argyle Street
Stratford, ON

John Smith was born in Aberdeen Scotland on June 3, 1849, the son of John Smith and Helen Stobie. As a young man, around 1877, John made his way to Canada settling for a time in Grey County near Owen Sound, Ontario. It was likely he was already an active member of the Plymouth Brethren movement when he arrived in Canada and at the time of his marriage, he identifies himself as an Evangelist.


His marriage to Christina Niven took place in Owen Sound on April 24th, 1889.
Christina was born in Scotland on October 15, 1860. She emigrated to Canada with her widowed mother and four siblings in 1865, the year after the death of her father.  The family settled in Derby Township near Owen Sound where her maternal Grandparents, Alexander and Margaret McFee and other McFee family members were farming.


Shortly after their marriage, John & Christina, moved to Stratford. By June 1889 they had settled into the house at 55 Argyle Street built by William McGeorge. They were the first occupants of the house, renting from William McGeorge for the first 5 years of their marriage.

Two children were born to John and Christina while they lived on Argyle Street. A daughter, Margaret Helen was born on January 24th, 1890, and son James Campbell joined the family on May 15, 1892.

In 1894 James moved his family to Cleveland, Ohio where two more children were welcomed into the family. John Henry, born Aug 15, 1894 and Donelda Niven on September 29, 1897.


The Plymouth Brethren was a non-conformist, non-denominational community of Christians whose first congregation was established in Plymouth, Devon, England, in 1831.   John remained active in the movement throughout his life, describing himself on various documents as an Evangelist, a gospel preacher and travelling minister. His preaching style earned him the moniker “Hellfire Jack”. 


John kept his connections with Ontario, travelling to Lambton County occasionally, likely to preach and spread the gospel. He died of a stroke on July 8, 1913, in Lambton County on one of these trips. His body was returned to Cleveland, Ohio and buried in Lake View Cemetery. The stone marking his grave is an indication of his strong connection with the church. It reads “John Smith, Servant of Jesus Christ”.


Coincidentally, Christina also died while on a visit to Lambton County on July 31, 1932. She is also buried in Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland Ohio. Their children all remained in the Cleveland area.  Margaret Helen married Adolf Friedman, a general contractor, in 1915. They had three children. James Campbell married Agnes Moore and had twin boys born in 1920. James Henry married Jean Coney in 1935 and had two children.
Donelda worked in a Cleveland private hospital and never married.