Publication Date: 1965
Of the many pioneers of Guelph, none are remembered with more respect or more tenderness than the late William Stevenson, who passed 62 years of his useful life at 'Maple Bank', the home which he made from five acres of virgin forest into one of the most beautiful and best known residences in Guelph.
Mr. Stevenson was born in 1817, in Nottinghamshire, England, near Thrumpton Hall, famous as the family seat of the Byrons. There he was raised and educated. At 20 years of age, he came to Canada and located in Guelph, and there remained until his death in 1899.
From his boyhood days he was of a dedicated literary turn, and when the other boys were spending their pocket money, he was saving his and purchasing the works of his favorite authors, thus laying the foundation for a library where year after year he spent many pleasant hours. The literary culture thus early acquired was strongly in evidence throughout his career.
From the time of his arrival in Guelph he was connected with the Methodist Church, being a local preacher from 1841 and class leader from 1849. He was trustee of Norfolk Street Methodist Church from its inception, and many of the older members of that congregation have pleasant memories of the scholarly sermons delivered by him in the church, in the building of which he bore a large share of the responsibility. He took an active interest in the educational welfare of the city and was a member of the School Board for many terms. In 1851, he was elected a member of the Municipal Council, and after serving several years was, in 1885, called to the Mayorality, and re-elected in 1886. During his term as Mayor, the Guelph Junction Railway by-law was passed, and it was largely due to his zeal and enterprise that the road was built.
After his retirement from municipal life, he continued to reside at Maple Bank enjoying his family care, books, and flowers to a degree made possible only by the whole-hearted and consistent practice of a conscientious Christian life. He married Rebecca Croft, of Guelph, who only lived a few years after their marriage, leaving two children. Sarah Anne married John Jackson, Chicago; and Anne married William Jehu Clark, pioneer of Guelph. She still survives and resides at Maple Bank. Their family consists of: Rev. (Meth.) E. B. Stevenson, Marden; Miriam, married to Charles McGill, General Manager of the Ontario Bank, Toronto; Laura married Dr. Mortimer Foster, Guelph; Belvidera married Gilbert H. MacIntyre M.P. for South Perth; Caroline married Thomas J. MacIntyre, Toronto; Clara married Claude W. Harrington, Rochester; Maude married W. Mitchner Pentelow, Auditor, Bell Co., Guelph.
Jehu Clarke (D) father of Mrs. Stevenson was also a pioneer of Guelph Township. West Penward, Somersetshire, England, is the home of the Clarkes – a family prominent in early days in the military circles. Of this family Jehu Clarke, born West Penward, 1799, settled in 1818 in New York State, seven miles from the head of the Delaware River. He later removed to Oxford county, where Woodstock now stands, and in April 1828 came to Guelph and built the first bridge across the River Speed, on the Dundas Road, for the Canada company, and another one, called Strickland’s Bridge of the Eramosa Road. The following season he went to Goderich and cleared up the Market Square, and six of the leading streets for the Canada Co.
Returning to Guelph, he cleared a good farm, the west corner of the town of Guelph. About the year 1850, he moved into town and commenced tanning and he carried on this business until the market was established, and then went on the market as a commission buyer in hides, skins, tallow and other produce.
He proved himself to be the best buyer on the market in this particular line.
About 1871, he retired from business on account of ill-health; and built a residence over the Dundas Bridge on Water Street, where he died.
From “Historical Sketch of The County of Wellington” (p. 63, 1906). Toronto; Historical Atlas Publishing Co.