Historical Plaque Properties


Ann Ward - Widow
293 Albert Street
Stratford, ON


It is certain that Ann Coyle was born in Ireland, however, where in Ireland is not known. What is less certain is the year of her birth which varies widely from 1813 to 1822 depending on the document. There is little record about Ann’s parents, although her mother was likely Elizabeth, maiden name perhaps Reilly, who according to census data was born in Ireland about 1800. Some researchers believe that Ann’s father was a Philip Coyle.


The Coyle family appear to have emigrated to Canada prior to the mid-1840s. As with many of their countrymen they likely came up the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City or Montreal and on to Toronto before dispersing to various parts of the province and beyond. The parish records for Toronto’s St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Basilica show that on August 13, 1845 an Ann Coyle married a Thomas Ward. Documentation is scarce concerning the Ward family, however, various census suggest that Thomas was born in Ireland about 1811 or 1812.


Land records for 1845 also show that Thomas Ward leased Lot 1, Concession 4 in Ellice Township from John H. Cameron a Toronto lawyer, businessman and politician who had purchased several lots in the township purely for investment purposes, although he apparently never visited the township.


By 1851, Ann and Thomas were living in a one storey log shanty with their family of two boys and a girl, which would grow to a total of nine children. Through sheer determination and hard work they were able to raise enough cash to purchase or, at least, put a down payment on the 100 acre farm, which was a significant milestone for any immigrant family. By 1860, Thomas sub-divided the land into two fifty acre farms, fronting present day highway 119, and transferred or sold the east part to Patrick Coyle who had lived next door and was likely Ann’s brother.


In May 1870, Thomas died of consumption and in December of the same year Ann’s eldest child, William, who was in his twenties passed away.


Ann continued on the farm with her six surviving children and was helped by a 30-year old aboriginal, Jacob Indian, who described himself in the 1871 census as a hunter.  She sold the farmand in 1873 purchased two-fifths of an acre on Albert Street. The following year she moved into her new house at 293 Albert Street with her children.


Ann lived in the house for the rest of her life. During that time her children left to get married or moved away to be replaced by various grandchildren. In 1901, as an example, four Culliton grandsons, the children of her widowed daughter Ann came to live with their grandmother for a time.


Ann Coyle Ward died on Thursday, April 15, 1909. She was survived by her daughter Mary who had married James Easson of Stratford in 1874 and her son Philip who had like many young men from Stratford moved to the Canadian West in search of opportunity. Ann, who could neither read nor write, exemplifies the resilience and toughness of spirit of many Irish women who came to this country during the nineteenth century. Despite adversity Ann  survived and built a better life for her family.