Historical Plaque Properties


William Hepburn - Cabinetmaker
35 Church Street
Stratford, ON

The house at 35 Church Street was built by Roderick Lean, blacksmith, inventor and entrepreneur. He invented a disc harrow while living in Stratford and in the late 1870s established an iron harrow manufacturing business in Ohio. First his sons and then his grandson carried on the agricultural implement business until 1954. Despite having moved to Ohio almost twenty years before, he continued to own the properties on Church Street until his death in 1894.


The first family to live in 35 Church Street was that of William Hepburn. William, the son of John and Margaret Hepburn, was born in Donegal, Ireland in 1845. In 1850, the family emigrated to New York when William was only five and later moved to Stratford. In the 1861 Stratford census, Margaret is listed as a widow, William, already a cabinet maker, and his sisters, Susan and Rebecca, make up the rest of the family.


According to his obituary, William joined the old Victoria Fire Company, a volunteer service, and later became chief. At the time of the Fenian Raids, he joined the 28th Perth Regiment in the No. 1 Company and became a corporal when answering the call to service.


When the family moved to Church Street, Rebecca had moved out on her own and William, his mother Margaret, and his sister Susan were joined by his ten year old niece Annie. Here, William continued to earn his living as a cabinet maker. In the 1870 Stratford City Directory, William was entered as a partner with John Abraham in the business “Abraham & Hepburn, Cabinet Makers and Upholsterers.”


After several years, the family moved to Mill Street (the present day portion of Douglas Street between Huron and St. Vincent St.) By 1881, William had a business at 60 Ontario Street as a furniture dealer.  His sister Susan had married and left Stratford in1877 but Rebecca had returned home and continued to live with his family until her death in 1901. Annie became a school teacher and married in 1893.


In 1883, at the age of 38, William married 23 year old Sabina Graham. She was the daughter of William Graham and Fannie Giben. Her family had emigrated from Ireland in 1868. Her father died when Sabina was very young and the St. Marys Census for 1871 lists Sabina’s widowed mother with seven children between the ages of 22 and 4. Later Sabina and her younger sister moved to Stratford to live with her sister Margaret (Mrs. Isaac Corbet.)


By 1911, the family lived at 296 Ontario Street and William and Sabina had become the parents of three boys and three girls. William was prominent in civic life and was elected to City Council for a term and to the Office of Mayor twice, the first time in 1903, and again in 1904.


William had remained in the furniture business for more than 35 years both in partnership with others and on his own. He dissolved his last partnership to accept the appointment of tax collector. William Hepburn continued in this capacity until his death in 1917. He was survived by his wife and their six children.