George John Grange Stratford-Perth Archives

Sheriff of Wellington

Grange Street appears on the 1857 map of Stratford as part of the Grange survey. It was probably named by and for the man who developed the survey, George John Grange.

Grange had been involved in organizing the armed militia of Guelph against the Young Street uprising of rebels under William Lyon Mackenzie in 1837. In the same year, he was appointed to a building committee for the construction of the courthouse in Guelph for the new District of Wellington. He was named the sheriff of Wellington in 1840.

Guelph, like Stratford, was a Canada Company town. As a leading member of the Guelph community, Sheriff Grange was active in the legal, business, social, religious, political and military (in which he attained the rank of lieutenant-colonel) life of Guelph and the District of Wellington. He also established Grange Street in Guelph.

George Grange was also a strong railway promoter and a key negotiator between Guelph and the Grand Trunk Railway. On Jan. 30, 1856, a train carrying  Sir Edmund Head, Governor-General of British North America (1854-61)  and various GTR and government officials, was welcomed to Guelph by Sheriff Grange and local politicians.


As the GTR was  soon to reach Stratford, Grange Grange bought and developed land in Stratford. His survey was bordered by Front, Douro and Waterloo streets. He was a shrewd businessman and probably profited well from the 46 lots in those two blocks.  By Stanford Dingman

19 Grange St. Photo Fred Gonder

Thomas Edison lived here, maybe

Legend has it that Thomas Edison boarded at William Winter’s home at 19 Grange St. (see also Ontario Street). In March 1940, Winter’s sons,, James and Blake, both elderly, recalled stories of "the strange American," told to them by their mother and father 

The brothers were born in the little red-brick cottage at 19 Grange St. According to them, young Edison, seeking a job, wandered into the office of their father, who was the city agent for the Montreal Telegraph and American Express companies.

William Winter didn’t have a posted job opening, but he was impressed with the lad and made a place for him in his office as assistant telegrapher and messenger boy. And because young Thomas didn’t have a home, Winter gave him shelter at his house, at 19 Grange St. “I can recall my mother speaking about him frequently,” said Blake Winter. "She said he was a very quiet chap and, when he wasn’t working, spent most of his time in his room, experimenting with old batteries and wires. Mother said she often told him she was afraid he would blow the house up.”

Teresa Flaherty and her brother Frank lived in the Grange Street house after the Winters and were convinced that Edison had also lived there. She said, “There were burn marks left under the flooring from Edison’s experiments, and the name of one of Edison’s friends was scratched on a window. Edison’s sister would come to visit every summer." After he had left Stratford, he was preparing for a return visit when he died. Recent research indicates cottage was not built until 1866, three years after Edison worked in Stratford, but that does not solve the mystery of where Edison lived while in Stratford. Story by Blain McCutchen in Antique Photographic News

* Did Edison experiment with a primitive telephone while in Stratford? There are stories that Edison experimented with a primitive telephone in Stratford. He experimented with sound effects as early as 1863. One of his simple devices remained a prized possession of Miss Georgia Winkler, 145 Wellington St., a sister of the late Robert Winkler, with whom the famed inventor spent many hours while in this city. The instrument consists of two round tin-and-parchment cylinders, open at one end and linked by a long string. Miss Winkler didn't remember Edison being in Stratford, but recalls her mother, Priscilla (Mrs. Fred) Winkler, discussing Edison’s association with Robert. The two would talk to one another by means of the cylinders, with the string stretched between different rooms in the brown cottage on Wellington Street. Source: Nancy Musselman: If you grew up in Stratford, FB

Another story of an Edison Invention from his Stratford days.  This is a little known fact about Thomas Edison. Edison invented a cockroach trap in Stratford, though it was never marketed. Robert Koolakian, keeper of Edisoniana at the Edison Institute in Dearborn, Michigan, states, “ The roach trap evolved from Edison’s stint as a telegrapher in Stratford in the early 1860s, where young Edison found the telegraph office infested with roaches and mice. He cut concentric circles out of sheet brass, one larger than the other, and then connected one to the positive pole of a zinc battery and the other to the negative pole. A morsel of food was the bait inside the smaller circle. When the hungry roach came for dinner, its body closed the electrical circuit and it was electrocuted. Slightly larger devices were used for mice. The idea worked, but was never patented or manufactured”. Some other inventions you've never heard of by Thomas Edison.  Top 10 Inventions by Thomas Edison (That You've Never Heard Of) - YouTube   Source: Nancy Musselman: If you grew up in Stratford, FB

Romeo School

The Stratford Beacon-Herald, said in 1905, “Romeo School is a fitting testimony to the sentiment that Stratford parents think nothing is too good, too expensive nor too up-to-date when education of the young is at stake.”

It was torn down in the mid-1960s to make way for a nondescript so-called modern school.

Stratford-Perth Archives

Like most schools of the time, there was a separate entrance for Boys and Girls, as well as segregated playgrounds. A boy would not dare step foot on the girl's playground and risk getting the strap from a school official. The words Boys and Girls  were clearly etched in stone in giant letters above the entrance doors. It is hard to imagine what the educators thought adolescence boys and girls might be up to on the knee-skinning, cinder-covered playing fields of Romeo School. By Paul Wilker  (my school)  

Duggan house, 146 Church St.

Trow house, 220 Cambria St.  Fred Gonder

David Gunn Baxter, architect

David Gunn Baxter (1871-1898) was the son of Joseph Baxter, chief dispatcher with the Grand Trunk Railway. David was also a precocious and remarkably prolific architect in Stratford, Ont. According to his obituary, he was ". . . a clever young man, making a good beginning as a designer in his boyhood days, and capturing a diploma awarded to the Stratford school at the Intercolonial Exposition in London, England." He trained under Joseph Kilburn of Stratford, and began his career in June 1892 by preparing elaborate plans in competition for the legislative buildings in Victoria, B.C. He designed dozens of commercial, ecclesiastical, educational and residential buildings throughout southwestern Ontario. David lived at 37 Grange St.   

His works in Stratford included:

Source: Biological Dictionary of Architects 

Loretto Academy

Loretto Academy existed from 1878-1973 at 8 Grange St. on the site of the present-day Jeanne Sauvé Separate School. The Loretto sisters, from Loretto Abbey, a prominent girls’ school in Toronto, came to Stratford in 1878, 10 years after the new St. Joseph’s church  was completed on Huron Street, with its seating for 900. (see  Huron Street).

The Catholic members of the St. Joseph’s parish were delighted that the sisters arrived as teachers. In 1878, the party of lay sisters and choir nuns was met at the railway station in Berlin (later Kitchener) by the carriages of prominent Stratford families, who brought them to Stratford in style, to establish a convent and separate school.

Loretto Academy in about 1910.   Photo:  Nancy Musselman . . . FB

In the Stratford city directory of 1880-1881 is this: “The Convent of the Ladies of Loretto, on Waterloo Street, was established in August 1878. It occupies a fine two-storey brick building which was purchased at a cost of $11,000. There are 11 sisters in connection with it, who conduct a select day-school of 35 pupils, and also assist in the separate schools. The grounds are tastefully laid out with lawns, shrubbery, etc. The convent is a branch of Loretto Abbey, Toronto. Adjoining the convent is the Romeo Ward separate school, a very fine two-storey brick building erected in 1878, at a cost of $7,000, and accommodating 300 pupils.” 

The history of Loretto Abbey in Toronto, which began in the 1840s, traces its roots back to Loretto Abbey in Rathfarnham Ireland in the 17th century. The Abbey, a school for girls, was established by the religious of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, better known as the Loretto Sisters. The Institute, which has a long tradition in education, was founded for that purpose early in the 17th century by an English woman, Mary Ward. She was described by Pope Pius XII as “that incomparable woman given to the Church by England in its most somber and bloodstained hours.”

On Sept. 16, 1847, by invitation of the first Bishop of Toronto, the Most Rev. Michael Power, there came from Loretto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Ireland, five young missionary sisters. All in their 20s, they were the first religious teachers in the newly formed diocese. The school was planned on the model the sisters had known and Bishop Power had admired at Loretto Abbey in Rathfarnham. Well before she became the famous Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu enrolled in Rathfarnham in 1928 to learn English.

One of the noted Catholic families in the St. Joseph’s parish, which met and actively supported the Loretto sisters in their convent and teaching work, was that of  James Corcoran (1830-1915) (see Church Street). Corcoran, St Joseph’s and the Loretto Academy were closely connected. Corcoran’s wife, Catherine (Stock) (1838-1881) provided much personal support. The Corcorans' daughter, became the first postulant from Stratford and later Mother Superior at Loretto.  

Sister Mary Grace (Francis) Corcoran was born in Toronto on Sept. 15, 1858, before her family relocated to Stratford. She entered Loretto Abbey Novitiate in Toronto in 1882, was received in 1883, and professed in 1885.  She returned to teach at Loretto and became its Mother Superior. Her most devoted service to the church and her community spanned omte than five decades. She died on March 1, 1941 .

While bound for Stratford, the Loretto Sisters were met and greeted in Berlin (Kitchener) by a Stratford delegation led by Rev. Edmund Burke Kilroy, pastor of St. Joseph’s church, and James Corcoran. The Corcorans hosted the small community for several weeks, while the old Brunswick Place was transformed into the new Loretto Academy. establishment.

St. Joseph's Separate School,                 39 Grange St.  Photo Nancy Musselman . . . FB

Another friend of Sister Francis and the Loretto Sisters was Stratford music teacher Cora B. Ahrens (see Ahrens Court and Hibernia Street). She arranged concerts with a number of her talented pupils over many years at the academy. Concert pianists included Audrey Whiteside (see Water Street) and Gordon Jocelyn (see Strachan Street)   

St. Joseph's school, at 39 Grange St., was beside the Loretto Academy, at 139 Waterloo St. S. Romeo school (see above) was at 66 Grange St., where it intersected with Nile Street. Source: Find a Grave; and Floodtides of Fortune by Adelaide Leitch.  Compiled by Gord Conroy