Jessie Scott, artist

Jessie Turnbull Scott's painting of Stratford in the summer of 1899 has been part of the Stratford-Perth Archives collection for many years. When Scott died, her obituary noted "she was well known in Stratford as an excellent painter and had done many beautiful outdoor scenes in oils and watercolours."

The building in the background is John Idington’s (see William Street) 1870s mansion on the north side of the river – now 300 William St. In 1956, local historian Mary Ellen Burt wrote that Idington’s home, “situated on an isolated slope well away from the rest of the town . . . dominated the north side of the river, its tower visible to the entire town." The

perspective in Scott’s painting is from the south side of the Avon River, looking east towards the Waterloo Street bridge. In Mary Jane Lennon’s 1985 book, A Stratford Album, is a copy of the postcard that Jessie Scott used as the basis for her painting. Lennon says the photograph was taken from the post office, when it was at 60Ontario St.

The scene is similar to the photograph below, on an old black and white postcard, also in the Stratford-Perth Archives collection. It seems likely Scott used it for reference when she did her painting. She eliminated a hydro pole and the sign for E. G. Smith's livery next to the Orr sawmill, and added a more picturesque canoe and small sailboat. The exceptionally tall tree near the courthouse is in the photograph, as are the horses on the bridge and the detailed reflections of the buildings on the north side of the river.

Scott was born in Stratford in 1858. Her parents were John A. Scott (1819-1879) and Catharine Munroe Gowanlock (1828-1916). They arrived here in 1848 and operated a general store on Erie Street. Catharine is well known in local history for having purchased Stratford's famous Cigar Store Indian (see below) from a German immigrant sculptor, Charles Textor. After two of the Textor children had perished from starvation, he sold the carving to Scott for $75, and helped the rest of his proud family to survive. When the Scotts built a new store at Downie and Albert streets, the Indian was placed in front, and the building came to be known as the Indian Block. See below.

Years later, a brother of Jessie Scott recalled the Indian years in a newspaper article about their father: "I have good cause to remember that wooden Indian. When I was a lad it had to be carried in at the close of business, and again in the morning it had to be taken out and put in place. Every person in town, and in the country around, was familiar with that old figure, which for some many years stood in front of father's place of business."

Today, the Indian is a cherished artifact at the Stratford Perth Museum. After their mother's death, Scott and her sisters continued to live in the family home at 16 Shrewsbury St. When her older sister, Elizabeth Kidd Scott, died in 1928, her death was described as another "break in one of the oldest and best known families in Stratford. Theirs was and will continue to be an old-fashioned home where the members are devoted one to the other, and where there is kindness and wholesome hospitality!"

In the 1930s, Scott donated a memorial window to Knox Presbyterian Church in honour of her parents and siblings, as one of Stratford's pioneer families. She died in 1943, having been predeceased by her three brothers and four sisters. She is buried with her parents and several of her siblings in the family plot at Avondale Cemetery. Source: Betty Jo Belton Stratford-Perth Archives

The cigar store Indian

The cigar store Indian was created almost 170 years ago, sculpted out of a basswood tree that had been felled near Romeo Creek, where the first city hall would be built. He stands 4 1/2 feet tall, and was the artwork of Charles Textor, an Italian immigrant who had settled with his family in Stratford.

It is likely Mr. Textor's skills could have brought him a good living, but for settlers in those days life was difficult and there was little financial reward for any kind of work.

From 1856 to 1869, the Indian stood in front of John Scott's store, and later, when he moved his business to 33 Downie St., where the downtown branch of the Royal Bank is now, the Indian was placed in front of that store. During the First World War, the Indian was in front of the post office at 60 Ontario St., his hand. People put $100 in his powder horn in support of the war effort.

After the war, he went to the Stratford Historical Society, but he made a couple of public appearances, among them the celebration some special occasions with the Stratford Indians hockey team.

In 1966, he presided at the inaugural meeting of the Perth County Historical Foundation. Then it was back into a storeroom in the Stratford Public Library.

One of his moves resulted in a broken arm, which was healed by the ministrations of Doug Krempien, a skilled carpenter and woodworker, who had a shop behind the Galbraith dry goods store at 90 Erie St., next to Avon Knit (Stratford Textiles), and became a prop-maker for the Festival Theatre. Source: Brian Wendy Reis . . . FB

Read Burritt, first judge

Built in 1857, 52 Devon St. is associated with Read Burritt (see Burritt Street), Perth County's first permanent judge. The house was the first built in the area and set in motion the development of the surrounding area. The street was known for several years as Judge Street, acknowledging Judge Burritt as its first resident.

52 Devon Street reflects the Georgian Revival style of architecture with an early addition that boasts Gothic details. Typical of the Georgian Revival style is the symmetrical three-bay façade on the original portion of the building, and the six-over-six paned windows with shutters. The multi-paned sidelights and transom is unusual in its off-centre placement. Gothic influences on the 1866 addition include the two sets of paired lancet windows in the pitched gable peaks and the brackets under the eaves. Source: Historic Places

52 Devon St.