Historical Plaque Properties


Jean McMillan - Gentlewoman
48 Elizabeth Street
Stratford, ON

Jeannet (Jean) Dewar was born on January 17, 1872 in Mornington Township, Perth County. She was the daughter of Peter Dewar and Mary Fleming.

Peter Dewar was born about 1833 in Perthshire, Scotland, the son of James and Margaret Dewar. Peter’s father worked as a blacksmith, however, during the late 1840s the family made the momentous decision to emigrate to Canada. They settled on a farm in Wellesley Township in Waterloo County.

About 1863, Peter Dewar married Mary Fleming. She was born on October 22, 1840 in Lachine, Quebec, the daughter of James Fleming who was born in Scotland and Mary Henderson who was born in Quebec. The newlyweds moved to Mornington Township in Perth County where they took up farming. Mary gave birth to eleven children. Jean was the couple’s eighth child.

At the age of twenty Jean married 28-year old Joseph McMillan on June 8, 1892 in the village of Millverton. Joseph was the eldest son of John McMillan and Janet McGilliawee who had died when Joseph was about a year old.

The newlyweds began farming in North Easthope Township. On April 1, 1893, Jean gave birth to a daughter who they named, Janet, after Joseph’s mother.  Tragedy struck the young family the following year when Joseph contracted consumption and died at the age of thirty on November 13, 1894. To be left a widow at the age of twenty-two with a young child was a precarious situation for a woman in nineteenth century Canada. Fortunately, her father-in-law stepped in.

John McMillan had not only lost a son, but like his daughter-in-law he had also lost a spouse and was left with young children, though he did remarry. And like his granddaughter, he had lost his father when he was a boy in Scotland. His mother, Sarah, pregnant with her seventh child dreamt of a better future for her children and made the decision to emigrate to Canada in the mid-1840s.  The child was born during the arduous crossing of the Atlantic. Sarah bought a lot in North Easthope Township and set about establishing a farm. The first wheat they grew was around the stumps of trees the family had felled. Subsequently, John took over the farm from his mother and tilled the land for twenty-two years. Throughout his career, John realised his mother’s dream. For many years he was member of the Township Council serving as Deputy Reeve and Reeve.  He also was on Perth County Council for a decade serving a term as Warden. When he retired to Stratford, John was elected for two terms on City Council as well as serving on on hospital and collegiate institute boards. He was also president of the British Mortgage and Loan Company.

Jean and her father-in-law purchased a lot on Elizabeth Street and built the house at number 48 in 1896. Initially, Jean and her father-in-law were listed as joint freeholders, however, within a few years Jean was recorded as the sole owner. She lived in the house with her daughter Janet who became a teacher until 1944. Jean died in 1962 and is buried alongside her husband in the Hampstead Cemetery.