Historical Plaque Properties


George Hay - Cabinetmaker
96 Nile Street
Stratford, ON

George Hay was born on May 2, 1828 in Ireland. However, records about George’s early life, who his parents were, where he was born in Ireland or when he came to Canada have not been found.
Based on the ages of their children it is likely that George Hay married Jane Taylor about 1850-51. Jane was also born in Ireland on September 9, 1831. As with George, no information has been found about Jane’s early years or her family. Consequently, it is not known whether they were married in Ireland or in Canada.

Between 1852 and 1868, Jane gave birth to nine children, eight girls and a boy. Three of their daughters died in infancy, which sadly exemplifies the high rate of infant mortality during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Canada.

The couple appear to have arrived in Stratford during the mid-1850s at a time when Stratford was undergoing significant change. It was incorporated as a village in 1853, had been designated as the county seat for the newly created Perth County and had become a railroad town with the arrival of the Grand Trunk and Buffalo-Lake Huron railways in 1856. It is possible that George served on the early town councils as his obituary noted that he had been on council for a number of years; however, after 1863 he doesn’t appear on council lists.

The 1863 Directory records that George was appointed a police constable in Stratford by the County Court of the General Sessions. When Stratford was incorporated as a municipality, the council had the power to establish a police force. In 1854, Council appointed George Larkworthy as constable of its first one man police force. Under the arrangement, the County retained the power to appoint volunteer constables, usually businessmen and hotel keepers, to assist the permanent constable with special events such as fairs and circuses, breaking-up bar fights and generally helping to enforce the town’s by-laws, including the management of livestock running loose through the town, which appeared to have been of particular concern. At the time of George Hay’s appointment, scandal had hit the one man police force when the then permanent constable, Thomas Lunn, was found guilty of extorting two dollars from an apple vendor. He had skipped bail and had fled to the United States.

George Hay was a cabinetmaker and practiced his trade through to the mid-1860s when, like others of his craft, he transitioned to become a full-time undertaker. His business and premises were located on the north side of Ontario Street between Waterloo and Nile Streets. Like other businessmen, in Stratford, he dabbled in real estate and built at least one income property located at 96 Nile Street in 1865.

George Hay died on June 5, 1881. His beloved wife Jane Taylor Hay died on October 11, 1892. They are buried in Avondale Cemetery alongside five of their children.