Historical Plaque Properties


John Way - Boot & Shoe Merchant
129 Brunswick Street
Stratford, ON

According to the 1901 census, John Way was born on  July 3, 1844 in Upper Canada now Ontario. He was the son of William Way and Mary Ann McGraw who had emigrated from Ireland. They appear to have had at least six children, before William died sometime after John’s birth.

Mary Ann married a second time to a Mr. Cooper. However by the 1851 census, the 42-year old Mary Ann is recorded as being a widow for a second time and is living in Downie Township with her six sons: Thomas (19) a blacksmith; Benjamin (17) a labourer; Robert (15); William (13); Richard (10) and John (8).

By 1861, Mary Ann had moved to a one storey frame house in Stratford with two of her sons Richard, a blacksmith and John who by this time had become a shoemaker.

During the late 1860s, John married Maria Rutledge (also spelled Routledge) who according to the 1901 census was born on March 12, 1846. She was the eldest daughter of Thomas Rutledge and Ellen Padden. As with John’s parents, Maria’s mother and father emigrated from Ireland, likely married in Canada, settled on a farm in Downie Township and had five daughters. It appears that Thomas Rutledge died about 1855 as Ellen is listed as a widow in the 1861 census and was left to raise her five girls. 

John and Maria had seven children, two who died in infancy: William named after John’s father (1870-1933); Sarah (b. 1873 - 1969); Thomas, named after Maria’s father who likely died of pneumonia at age two  (1875-1877); Mary (1877-1885) who died at eight years of age of diphtheria; Ellen Nellie (b. 1878) who married Edward McDonnell in 1901; Florence (b. 1879 -1915) who married John McGee in  1914 and died a year later at age thirty-six in Ottawa; and Margaret (b. 1882).

By the late 1870s John’s business prospered. In 1879, he purchased the lot on Brunswick Street from his older brother Robert and a year later John, Maria and the family moved into the newly constructed house at 129 Brunswick Street. The rather large family had a live-in servant to help Maria with the children, house and meals. The family retained live-in servants until the early nineteen hundreds when daughters Sarah and Margaret took over the management of the household while their surviving siblings married and left home.

John expanded his business, at one point employing nine staff. About 1907/8, he constructed the building located at 13-17 Market Place, which still stands, as a new location for his retail store. He leased the second floor to physicians and the Artista Club and the third floor as a flat.

John remained in business on Market Place until his death on February 9, 1921 and is buried in Avondale Cemetery. In her latter years, Maria suffered from dementia and died in a nursing home in London on March 1, 1926. She is also buried in Avondale Cemetery along with the couple’s children Mary, Thomas, William and Sarah.