Col. John Youngs' early schooling was in West Zorra, where his great-grandfather, Gabriel Youngs (1779-1855), bought 1,000 acres after coming to Upper Canada from the United States. John attended school three miles north of Embro, at Youngsville, which had been named after his great-grandfather.
He then came to Stratford to attend the collegiate. While still in school in Stratford, he followed in his father's footsteps as a builder, and spent summer vacations on construction projects in Northern Ontario. He helped build new Canadian Pacific Railway stations as the CPR ran new lines through the north. Col. Youngs devoted more than just 'his working time' to the construction trade. After he was fully trained and experienced as a first-class finish carpenter, he entered into partnership with master stone mason Edmund A. Cawsey under the name “Cawsey and Youngs.” Because of their reputation for excellent work, they prospered.
Prior to getting the city hall contract in 1898, the company had completed many important projects including the large Whyte Packing (see Whyte Avenue) plant and the McLagan Furniture factory at 93 Trinity Street (see McLagan Drive). Early in the morning of Nov. 24, 1897, the first city hall, erected 40 years earlier, burned. That led to one of the largest and most prestigious public buildings projects for Cawsey and Youngs. They were the ones who built it, at total of $34,689.
Casey and Youngs had a contract in Renfrew, Ont., to put down sewers and build a dam. Dynamite was used to blast out trees and one of the charges did not explode. When Cawsey, the senior partner, went to investigate, the charge fired and killed him. That ended the successful partnership.
By the time he had retired from the construction business in 1932, J. L. Youngs' completed building projects in Stratford included the masonic temple on Church Street, a new front section on the public library, the YMCA, St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, the Stratford Chair factory, parts of the Kroehler factory, and the Ballantyne factory. He built his own house, at 240 Birmingham St., in 1905. It is now a B and B called The Birmingham Manor.
The Youngs subdivision plan, laid out in 1922 , divided the block into 58 building lots. The colonel provided the land for Youngs Street which was named for him. When he died in 1947, the city hall flag flew at half-staff in respect for the former mayor and widely known soldier. He built the building on which the flag flew. By Stanford Dingman Picture: Heroes of Zorra