Thomas Mercer Jones

Thomas Mercer Jones (3 names, 3 streets)

Jones Street first appeared on the 1857 map as one of three streets named in honour of the Canada Company commissioner, Thomas Mercer Jones (1795-1868). The survey was laid out by William Mackenzie in 1853, the year after Jones was dismissed by the Canada Company. The two other streets named to honour Jones were Thomas and Mercer.

Charles Street, which crosses those three streets at right angles in the middle of the subdivision, was named for his the commissioner's eldest son, Charles Mercer Jones.

What Mackenzie called Thomas Street, is now that part of John Street North between Caledonia Street and Churchill Circle. The name Thomas disappeared some time before 1879. The Mercer, Jones and Charles names remain in play. There is also  still a sprinkling of the early frame and brick houses which were built on those streets in the early days.

Though Jones was a frequent visitor to Stratford, he never lived here. During the days when Jones was "king" of the Canada Company, he ruled from his "castle" atop Harbour Hill in Goderich (see below), to which he moved in 1843. That house still stands, as a reminder of the days when it was the social and business centre of the Huron Tract. It was from there that Commissioner Jones exercised his power. And it was there that his wife Elizabeth Mary (Strachan) held court and ruled all before her. They had married in 1832. Her father was John Strachan, the first Anglican Bishop of Toronto. He was best known as a political bishop who held many government positions.

Jones rose quickly to a position of great influence by marrying into the powerful "Family Compact" and fell quickly from power by displeasing his Canada Company court of directors. The Canada Company mansion was vacated by the Jones family and Mrs. Jones (1814-1857) died shortly thereafter. A few years later, Jones (1795-1868) retired to Toronto and into obscurity. In the same year, Mercer Street appeared on the map of Stratford. The era of opulence brought to the Huron Tract by Thomas Mercer Jones and his wife was gone forever. 

With notes from Stanford Dingman

Plaque In Goderich reads:

A powerful Canada Company land magnate, Jones was born in England and acquired business training there. By virtue of his London connections he obtained an appointment as a Company Commissioner and moved to York (Toronto) in 1829. He administered a large portion of this Company's lands, the 405,000 ha Huron Tract, and by 1839 wielded unrivalled authority in the area. At the height of his influence he moved his headquarters to a newly constructed, lavishly furnished Goderich mansion, later known as Park House. A controversial figure, he was dismissed in 1852 for exceeding his authority. He remained in Goderich as the Bank of Montreal agent until 1857 when he moved to Toronto where he died. 

The Thomas Mercer Jones house

The Thomas Mercer Jones house, thought to be the oldest surviving residence in Goderich, was constructed in 1839 by Canada Company engineer John Longworth for the commissioner of the Canada Company, and the house's namesake, Thomas Mercer Jones.

The Georgian-style house has undergone many alterations, most significant among them the addition of a third storey and flat roof following a fire in 1945. The frame retains its Georgian proportions, symmetrical placement of windows and recessed central front entranceway.

During the settlement of Goderich, West Street was an important residential and social area in the town. It now serves as an excellent display of Goderich's early architecture. The Thomas Mercer Jones house (168 West St.)  occupies a prominent lot and contributes to the heritage value of West Street, which comprises buildings mostly from the mid-1800s. It sits atop Harbour Hill, which offers memorable views of Lake Huron, the Goderich harbour, the Maitland River and Menesetung Park. The building now houses the popular Park House Restaurant. Source: Historical Places

Ralph Donaldson Jr., carpenter and builder

Ralph Donaldson Jr. was a well-known and respected citizen of Stratford. A carpenter by trade, he built every frame, set every window and hung every door in the Perth County Courthouse (see Huron Street) when it was built in 1886. When his parents, Ralph (1822-1891) and Jane (Gray) Donaldson, came from Scotland in 1855, Stratford was just a village.  

Ralph Jr.  was born in Stratford on April 29, 1856. He attended Central School (see St. Andrew Street), where the Stratford Public Library now stands, and after school he learned his trade as a carpenter and builder.

He was the caretaker at Knox Church (see Ontario Street) at the time of the disastrous fire on May 13, 1913, in which three lives were lost. He also supervised and took a hands-on role in much of reconstruction, all the while playing close attention to the details that continue to beautify the building.

Ralph Donaldson Jr. Stratford-Perth Archives


Ralph Donaldson served as church beadle under five ministers. He died in 1936 at his residence, 18 Jones St. Source: Reflections: Stratford-Perth Archives

Photo Fred Gonder