Easson Street

The boss

William (Boss) Easson  Stratford-Perth Archives

Though Easson Street is an old street, it was not until the 1950s that it was been built to any extent.

It first appeared on the 1879 map of Stratford, with all the other streets in the William Gordon survey. That survey, laid out in 1874 took in the area bounded by what are now Erie Street, Lorne Avenue, St. Vincent and John streets. It includes 15 street, all named after friends and business associates of William Gordon. He was the mayor in 1884-85, when Stratford  gained cityhood. He also built the restored Gordon Block, now called Festival Square, and other buildings in downtown Stratford.

Easson Street was named to honour William (Boss) Easson, one of Mr. Gordon's business contemporaries, and also a contractor and builder of some note. Easson was one of the best-liked men in town, and his steam-powered sawmill, with its tall stack, was a landmark. 

Boss Easson was born in Strathmore, Perthshire, Scotland. In 1844, when William was 20, he sailed with his parents for the new world. When the family landed in Montreal, William and his brother Andrew secured employment, but their parents continued on their way to Perth County, where they took up and cleared land in Ellice Township.

The Easson boys soon longed to join their family, and travelled as far as Hamilton by boat. There, they hired a driver who took them to the Sharman Hotel in Stratford, a settlement created about a dozen years earlier. When they learned that horses could taken them only so far into Ellice Township, they took to the trail on foot to reunite with their parents.

William Easson first worked with Henry Drum as a carpenter and later became a contractor in the village of Stratford. In 1857 he built a mill on the north bank of the Avon River, just west of the present Waterloo Street bridge.

An early Stratford newspaper contains the first advertisement for Easson's Mill and reads as follows: Easson's Steam Saw Mill. The subscriber has now completed his steam-mill and is prepared to execute any orders with which he may be favoured. Parties sending in logs to be sawn may rely upon having a quick return, as the mill is warranted to cut 1,000 feet per hour. Lathing and lumbering of all kinds are kept on hand. All orders will be executed promptly and satisfactorily. Contracts for buildings taken on reasonable terms, as the undersigned has now the necessary machinery and materials to enable him to execute all work of the kind which has hitherto been the case."

Avon Castle

Avon Castle' and 'The Twins' 113, 109 and 101 William Street. William 'Boss' Easson owned the 'Avon Castle', a second empire style home (seen on the left) with a mansard roof. It was built in c.1870. The 2 homes to the right were built (in Italianate style) for two of his children. They were known as 'The Twins' because they were built identically to avoid any concerns of favouritism between them. Photo: B0b Toleff  FB

The sawmill, with its tall stack belching smoke, soon became a landmark in Stratford and it was the subject of a large painting which was displayed in the window of White's Furniture Store on Ontario Street in February 1928. The picture was painted by A. E. Hunter of the White company and was taken from a small photo owned by A. Moderwell, who lived on William Street. The title of the picture was Easson's Old Mill and it relayed a vivid idea of Stratford in the early days.


The mill was run by a large steam engine and was composed of several buildings. They occupied a considerable amount of space along the river, behind the houses on William Street, most of which were built by Mr. Easson on Easson property. Originally, these were workers' homes, built for employees of the mill. There were also stables, and a blacksmith's shop, and in the rush season of winter, the mill employed upwards of 150 men, including those cutting and harvesting trees in the swamp and bush which still covered a large part of Perth County.

William Easson built the large mansard-roofed house which still stands 113 William St. It was known as Avon Castle, and was erected soon after the mill was operational. The property later occupied by Falstaff Public School was used

by Easson to store logs. His lumberyards occupied a major part of the land on both sides of Waterloo Street.

Easson's business career was a success from the start, and with the coming of the Grand Trunk Railway he received large GTR timber contracts for a number of years. He became one of the leading businessmen in town. Well liked by his employees, they called him Boss Easson. With notes from Stanford Dingman

* According to Mary Jane Lennon in her book,  A Stratford Album, Boss Easson was a man who worked hard and played hard, and slept through many Sunday sermons at Knox Presbyterian Church because he'd been up partying most of the previous night.   

The Easson mill, a landmark on the Avon

This bird’s eye view shows the Easson mill in the centre of the sketch, with the stack trailing smoke over the Avon River. The Easson workers' houses can be seen along William Street, with the mill buildings behind the Easson’s home. Avon Castle is the large mansard-roof house in the middle of the block, at the end of the long line of small houses. The Waterloo Street bridge, then of wooden construction, leads to Mary Street, now called Waterloo Street. The land on either side of Mary Street, between William and Elizabeth streets, was used by Easson to store logs . 

On the night of March 1, 1900, most of the people of Stratford were packed into the old ice rink across the river to watch an Ontario Hockey Association playoff games between the home side and Peterborough, Stratford was losing and tension was mounting, when someone yelled, "The Easson mill is burning! McLagan’s (mill) is on fire too!" Both mills were destroyed. On the opposite side of the river, the Thomas Orr planning mill is at the top of the drawing, and the building on the left is a tannery. Easson's mill was the largest, and Boss Easson the town's biggest employer.

Easson built many houses, but his own, Avon Castle on William Street, had especially magnificent plaster work within and equally impressive detailing outside. This view, looking north across the Lake Victoria, shows his house and his steam and sawmill in the foreground. Stratford-Perth Archives

*    For the location of all the mills on the Avon River see Mills

See Video below:   Directed  by Andrew.c.Brown, Produced by Nancy Musselman, Interviewer Carol Hubard   SDHC