Rebecca Street

Dressmaking and printers

Joseph Kirk  1894 Stratford-Perth Archives

Rebecca Street was laid out by surveyor Joseph  Kirk in 1855. It first appeared on the 1857 map of Stratford. Kirk owned the land between Waterloo and Nile streets, and it was marked as "Kirk's Survey" on the 1857 map. He named Rebecca Street for his wife Rebecca Durrant. Kirk played an important role as a leading pioneer surveyor in Stratford and Perth County.  By Stanford Dingman

In 1851, Kirk submitted a pencil sketch for the new courthouse and jail, which was soon built on McCulloch's hill, north of the Avon River just east of what is now Hamilton Street. But the sketch arrived late and was not seriously considered in the design contest, for which the winning entrant got a prize of 12 pounds 10 shillings from the provisional government of Perth, which had been established in the previous year.   

Kirk also missed out on providing the land for the first courthouse (see William Street). Joseph Kirk and James Wood owned a rectangle of land bound by Brunswick, Nile, Douro and Waterloo streets, and the triangle formed by Waterloo, George and Downie streets. Land owned by William Frederick McCullough (see Water Street) was chosen for the site of the courthouse.  Source: Streets of Stratford, 2004

Note: For an interesting story see  Reminiscences  of a Canadian Land Surveyor by Joseph Kirk

89 Rebecca St. Photo Fred Gonder

Dressmaking and printing 

Bridget McQuade was born in Ireland in June 1833 and came to Canada when she was nine years old. By 1851, she was married to John Tracy and had a  year-old daughter, Anne. John's parents were living in a log cabin on Lot 5, Concession 1 of Downie Township, near the present-day intersection of O’Loane Avenue and Huron Street. Bridget and John’s son, Cornelius John, was born in 1853.

By the early 1870s, Bridget Tracy was a widow and had moved into the town of Stratford, where she had a dressmaking business near Market Square. She was astute about money matters because in 1874 she bought lots 9 and 10 on Rebecca Street, most likely as an investment for her children. Anne had married machinist Matthew Swift in 1869, and they lived in one of the two house. The other house was for Cornelius and his family.

Cornelius had become a printer and married Sarah Frances Rutledge on July 24, 1876. With financial assistance from his mother, he and his bride moved into their newly constructed house at 89 Rebecca St., in 1877. On April 27 of that year, Sarah gave birth to their son John Rutledge Tracy.

In 1880, FRancis Pratt and Cornelius opened Pratt and Tracy Printers at the corner of Market (now Downie) and Ontario streets, in the same building as his mother's dress shop. Almost no job seemed too small for Pratt and Tracy. They printed everything from business cards and envelopes to periodicals and journals. Cornelius was also secretary-treasurer of the local chapter of Father Theobald Mathew's Total Abstinence Society. 

By 1891, the Tracy family had grown to include daughters Cornelia, Helen, Anne and Mary. There is no further record of their oldest child, John, or of his brother Peter, who was born in 1886. They might well have died in infancy. Bridget lived next door to Cornelius and his family, with her daughter and son-in-law, and remained with them when they moved to 102 Railway Ave.

In 1892, Cornelius sold his share of the printing business to his partner, and he and his family moved to Brooklyn, N. Y. He died there a few years later, on March 1, 1896. That his funeral and interment were in Stratford is evidence of his ties to the community in which he was raised. His funeral was well attended, several prominent fellow businessmen, including his former partner, Francis Pratt, as pallbearers. His wife and children appear to have chosen to live in the United States after his death.

Bridget operated her dress shop for many years. She died at the home of her granddaughter Margaret Swift Patrick at 281 Erie St. in June 1923. She and her son Cornelius are buried in the old Roman Catholic cemetery on O'Loane Avenue, north of Huron Street. By Stanford Dingman