Historical Plaque Properties


Samuel Percy Davis - Schoolmaster
47 Britannia Street
Stratford, ON

Samuel Percy Davis was born, likely in the month of December, about 1850-1 on a farm in Whitby Township in what was then Upper Canada. He was the second child and the first son of James Robert Davis and Mary Ann Gould who had emigrated from England in the mid-1840s. By 1858, James and Mary Ann had relocated to a farm in East Zorra Township in Oxford County where they lived in a comfortable, two storey frame house sufficient to accommodate their family, which had grown to include six children.

Percy was obviously an intelligent young man and made the decision to leave the farm and pursue a career in education. In 1871, he is recorded as boarding with the Morrow family in the Township of Cavan in Durham County where he was an itinerant teacher at the local school.

At some point, Percy was accepted to University College at the University of Toronto. The College, which opened its doors in 1859, was the founding college of the University of Toronto and the first non-sectarian college in Ontario. Percy graduated with distinction and received his Bachelor’s degree in 1875.

Following graduation, Percy was hired to teach at the Stratford High School. With the prospects of a steady job and stable income he married Matilda Meharry in Cavan on October 9, 1877. Matilda was the daughter of Robert Meharry and Letitia Blackstock who had emigrated from Ireland. They settled on a farm in the township near the Morrow farm where Percy boarded while teaching in the local school.  Obviously the couple had met, fallen in love and waited until Percy finished university and settled in his career before marrying.

The couple rented a new house at 47 Britannia Street built in 1878 by James Parkinson a farmer who had retired to Stratford. The year also marked another big event for the couple when Matilda gave birth to a daughter, Edith Pearl Davis, on September 20, 1878. Edith may have been the first child born in the house. The couple lived in the house for two years.

Percy’s reputation as an educator was growing and he was hired to become the Principal of Pickering College in 1881. Founded by the Quakers in 1841, in part through a donation by John Joseph Gurney, brother of prominent English social and prison activist Elizabeth Fry, the school relocated to a new facility in the Village of Pickering in 1879. It was a formidable four storey building overlooking the village. The co-educational college could accommodate 75 boarding students.

During this period, Percy received his Masters of Arts degree from the University of Toronto and was in the process of building the academic reputation of Pickering College when he contracted typhoid fever and died on October 4, 1882 at the age of 31 years and ten months.

On February 14, 1887 Matilda married Richard Wickens, in Peterborough. He was a widower with two children and manager of an insurance company in Toronto. Richard adopted Edith who changed her name to Wickens and the couple had two children of their own. They lived in Toronto for the rest of their days. Richard died in 1907 and Matilda died on December 4, 1933.