Sharman Street

The Little Giant Thresher

John Sharman  Stratford-Perth Archives

One of the newest streets, Sharman Street, is named for one of Stratford's leading pioneers, John Sharman. It is in the northwest corner of the city and curves between Norwood Court and Greenwood Drive. 

John Sharman was one of the first settlers in Stratford. He was a blacksmith from Bedfordshire, England, who had been invited to emigrate. His good friend, John C. W. Daly, had preceded him in the summer of 1833, and quickly realized this burgeoning locale urgently needed a blacksmith. Daly somehow sent word to Sharman, who arrived with his wife Lydia (Brown) in July 1834, with about 400 dollars.  

The Canada Company surveyors had just completed the town plan, in time for Sharman to buy the first lot from the Company. It was in a clearing on the riverbank ,just north of what is now the Huron Street bridge and opposite St Joseph’s Church (see Huron Street).

John and his wife built a dwelling on the lot and also located the settlement's first blacksmith shop there. Lydia died shortly after their arrival, and was buried in an unmarked grave in "God’s Little Acre,” a small cemetery plot adjoining St. James Anglican Church. Some historians believe she may have been the first person to die in the new settlement.


In 1839, John married Isabella Gibb, (see Gibb Street), whose parents, John and Beatrix, in 1834 had travelled from Northumberland in England with their family to Downie Township. They settled on a farm property adjoining one soon to be purchased by John Sharman. His blacksmith business quickly prospered, not only because horses and oxen needed to be shod, but also in response to the demand for nails, tools and other supplies needed for the building of the new settlement. He was soon able to purchase additional land, including farm properties in adjoining Downie Township, and was also appointed a Crown lands agent for the sale of properties in the northern townships of Perth County.

The first frame building in Stratford was the Shakespeare Hotel, erected in 1832 by the village’s first settler, an Irish immigrant, John Sargint (see Sargint Street) and his wife. Located on the south bank of the Avon River, close to the top of what is now Ontario Street, it quickly became the centre of business and community life until it was destroyed by fire in 1849. Other hotels followed, one of the first being the Farmers’ Inn, built by the Sharmans at the corner of Huron and Mornington streets. 

The Sharman blacksmith business led to the establishment of the settlement’s first foundry  on Birmingham Street opposite St Patrick Street. The family business prospered with its manufacture of machines such as The Little Giant Thresher and other equipment farmers used to plant and harvest their crops. The Little Giant Thresher was powered by a three-horse treadmill. The family business was called Sharman and Foster Mfg. Co.

John's eldest son, Joseph Sharman, was born in 1841, perhaps the first immigrant child born in Stratford. He, too, became a deputy Crown lands agent, and served on both the Perth County and Stratford municipal councils. With his brothers John Junior and James, Joseph managed and operated the foundry and agricultural implements manufacturing businesses.  

In 1885, Joseph moved to Manitoba with his wife Isabella (Logan), their 11 children and a herd of pure-bred Hereford cattle. There, he established a successful farming operation and eventually retired in Russell, Man., after living in Winnipeg and other locations.

In addition to his involvement with the family foundry and agricultural implements manufacturing business, James Sharman, the third son of John, and the only family member to remain in Stratford, took a prominent role in the city’s civic affairs. He served as a councillor in 1888 and was also the city assessor. Too, he was a school board trustee when Central Collegiate opened in 1885. He died in 1925 and is buried in Avondale Cemetery.

The fourth son, John Sharman Jr, his father’s namesake, was also active in the family business endeavors but branched into one of Stratford and area’s early businesses, cheese-making. In 1873 he was operating the Town of Stratford Cheese Factory. By 1881, still a cheese-maker, he and his wife, Annie Skidmore Brown, also of Stratford, were living on a farm in Downie Township with their three children.

According to assessment and census records,  John J. Odbert, a 25-year-old tinsmith, acquired the quarter-acre acre property at 110 ( then numbered 31) Douglas St. in 1872. He built the first residential structure (see below) there in 1873, but almost immediately sold it to John and Isabella Sharman, who were by then in their 60s, and living nearby on Avon Street. The Sharmans enlarged the existing dwelling, which doubled the assessed value from $900 to $1,800 by 1876. John Sharman died in May 1883. His wife Isabella lived until 1902.  Source: Historical Plaque Properties   John Sharman picture thanks to Debra Mackie

The Little Giant Thresher

in the Huron County Museum and Historic Gaol

Thomas B. McCarthy 53, born 1841, and Joseph Sharman 53, born 1841. Photo taken by C. W. Young Marger of the Merchant Bank. Source Bill Donaldson . . .  FB

John Sharman house. First residential structure at 110 Douglas St. Built in 1873.  Photo Paul Wilker