Historical Plaque Properties


Alexander Caven
36 Norman Street
Stratford, ON

Alexander Cavan was born in 1836 in Prince Edward County, a few miles from Picton, Ontario. His father was a prosperous farmer in the area and Alexander was the oldest of four sons. His brother, John, later became the Member of Provincial Parliament for Prince Edward County. As a youth, Alexander traveled to Coburg where he worked in a dry goods store.  There he learned the trade well enough to set out to Stratford where he became a partner in a general store with WH Mitchell in 1836. They later opened a hardware store on Ontario Street where Alexander became the sole proprietor at the age of 25.


In 1864, he married 19-year-old Elizabeth Eleanor Woods.  She was the daughter of Peter and Lydia Woods. Peter, who was born in Devonshire, England, immigrated to Canada in 1843 with his parents and older brother, James. His father was a farmer and tavern keeper in Ellice Township. In the 1851 Stratford city directory, Peter was listed as the owner of the Union Hotel and Stagecoach and Ontario St. He later built the first Albion H otel, on the corner of Ontario and Erie Streets, with his brother James. In March 1858, he left the Albion Hotel for his home on the western outskirts of Stratford when his horse bolted. He was thrown from the carriage and died from the impact.  His wife Lydia who had immigrated from Wales with her family, died one month later. According to her obituary 32 year old Lydia never recovered from the shock of her husband's death. They left behind four children, two boys and two girls. The children moved in with Peter's brother, James, and his family.


After their marriage Alexander and Elizabeth moved into the newly built house on Norman Street.  Although the house was owned by Charles McDonald, Alexander Cavan was tenant for over 36 years. Alexander was appointed to his job with the Department of Inland Revenue in 1869.  The office was located at 79 Ontario Street and later in the new Federal Post Office building built in 1882. At this time, Alexander's brother, DL Cavan was the proprietor of the Albion Hotel.


Alexander and Elizabeth family quickly grew with the birth of six children Lydia (Georgie) in 1866, James in 1868, Alexander (Sandy) in 1869, Margaret Alice in 1872, Eleanor Maud 1875, and Charlotte 1877. Tragedy struck the young family when Elizabeth Eleanor at the age of 34 died in 1879. Sadly, this was not the end of Alexander Cavin’s sorrow. Charlotte died in 1881, George died in 1887, Sandy died in 1888 and James in 1893. Two of his girls Margaret Alice and Elizabeth Maud, remained living with him almost to his death. Alexander and his daughters lived in the Norman Street house until 1900 when they moved to Church Street and later moved to Albert St. where he died in 1903.  He was buried in Avondale Cemetery next to his wife, Elizabeth Eleanor.


Margaret Alice Caven married Henry Benjamin Parsons in 1902. He was from Goderich and was the son of sailing master, James Parson, and his wife Anne Marie Craig. Harry, as he was known, was a bank clerk and his employment moved them to a number of different locations. Eleanor Maud left with her sister and Harry when they move to Michigan. Eleanor worked as a nurse there and died of tuberculosis in 1917. Her body was returned to Stratford, and she was buried with her parents and siblings. Margaret and Harry returned to Canada and lived in Windsor area where Harry died in 1943. Margaret died in 1951 and both were buried in the Maitland Cemetery in Goderich.