Oshawa’s John Beaton

The photograph below is of JE Beaton’s store at 27-29 Simcoe Street South; the date of the photograph is unknown.  John Sidey Beaton was the proprietor, who was born in Pickering Village in 1857, and moved to Oshawa in 1872.  He moved to Oshawa in 1872 and entered into the grocery business by working for the Steele Briggs Grocery and Seed Business.  This store was located at 13 King Street West, next to the Central Hotel.  John was paid $65.00 per month for his labour.  With this salary, he built himself a home, and on February 8, 1883 he married Jennie Elizabeth Gibson.  Together they raised two sons, Robert Roy and John Hector.

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After working as a bookkeeper with the Oshawa Stove Company, Beaton returned to Steele Briggs before establishing his own grocery, seed and china retail business.  This store was originally located at 27-29 Simcoe Street South, on the east side of the street.  The business flourished until it was struck by two disasters.  First, the store suffered a damaging fire, which resulted in the relocation of the business to the old Steele Briggs store while the restoration of Beaton’s took place.  Following this, Beaton’s store encountered financial difficulties and went bankrupt.  These events proved to only be minor setbacks, as the Beaton’s picked up the pieces and reestablished their business under the name J.E. Beaton (after John Sidey Beaton’s wife, Jennie).

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Beaton’s experience in the retail business allowed him to gain a large amount of knowledge in tea blending, china and groceries.  He specialized in high class merchandise such as china, quality foodstuffs and seeds.  The store dealt with both wholesale and retail, and offered a large variety of merchandise ranging from teas, coffees, and baking goods to glassware, china and crockery.  The store eventually adopted the name “Beaton’s Busy Store” with the motto “You Can’t Beat Beaton’s.”

The Beaton’s store was popular in the Oshawa area, known for its quality merchandise and friendly, helpful environment.  The customers were always happily welcomed and served with a smile.  A 1909 newspaper clipping stated that “Mr. Beaton . . . is one of our most courteous and affable citizens and has the confidence and esteem of all with whom he does business.”  John Sidey Beaton loved the grocery industry as well as conversing with and helping people.  It was his engaging and inviting personality and his knowledge of the business that allowed the Beaton store to establish a faithful customer base in Oshawa.

The Beaton family also took part in the retail grocery business.  Jennie assisted in the store and maintained the books while their son Robert Roy clerked and eventually took the position of manager.  The Beaton’s store was popular in the Oshawa area, known for its quality merchandise and friendly, helpful environment.  The customers were always happily welcomed and served with a smile.  A 1909 newspaper clipping stated that “Mr. Beaton . . . is one of our most courteous and affable citizens and has the confidence and esteem of all with whom he does business.” John Sidey Beaton loved the grocery industry as well as conversing with and helping people.  It was his engaging and inviting personality and his knowledge of the business that allowed the Beaton store to establish a faithful customer base in Oshawa.

The store was maintained until 1929, when it was liquidated in response to the rising competition of supermarkets and other retail outlets.  John Sidey Beaton passed away shortly after, in 1931, following several strokes and a lengthy illness.  While a well known business man, John was also very involved in community organizations in Oshawa.  He was a Master of Lebanon Masonic Lodge, a member of the Shrine, the Sons of Scotland, the Independent Order of Oddfellows, the Thirty Club of Oshawa and the Rotary Club, as well as an avid supporter of St. Andrew’s United Church. He is buried with his wife Jennie in Union Cemetery in Oshawa.

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Thanks for Visiting!

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

It has taken just over four years, but we have filled up another guest book. I always like to look through them afterwards. Unbelievably, some of those names do bring back memories, even if they were from a long time ago!

I did a breakdown of where people came from and thought I’d share.

Ontario Canada United States International
Whitby Vancouver Island Florida Philippines
Bowmanville Salmon Arm, B.C. Brooklyn, NY Australia
Dorchester Sunshine Coast, B.C. Johns Creek, GA England
Sarnia New Brunswick Duluth, MN Holland
Pickering Lacombe, AB New Jersey India
Toronto Lac Tremblant, QB Barbados
St. Mary’s Moose Jaw, SK St. Petersburg, Russia
Stratford Surrey, B.C. Czech Republic
Scarborough Rosthern, SK
Kirkland Lake Beaumont, AB
Ajax Nanaimo, B.C.
Millbrook
Dundas

Here are a few of my favourite comments too:

August 5, 2015: David A. M. Such a wonderful place. And well cared for! [I am a] triple-great grandson of [Thomas] Henry.

September 9, 2015: Carol S. Well-maintained, a historic-treasure!

December 5, 2015: Madison & Debbie. When can we move in?

May 24, 2016: Richard & Christine D. Great to see my Great-Great Uncle’s home!

June 24, 2016: Tannis H. Lac Tremblant Nord, Que. Descendant of Phineas Henry.

July 8, 2016: Maryam N. (Grove School Teacher) Thank you for educating our new generation!

August 1, 2016: Arika A. The 1800s were lit!

August 2, 2016: Annabella. My favourite part was digging!

October 1, 2016: Ted H. Descendant of Thomas Henry. Oshawa-born.

December 3, 2016: Jennifer French, MPP. Merriest of Christmases!

January 4, 2017: Madelynn M. (Child). Thanks I really apersheate (sic) it.

March 13, 2017: Hope (Child). It was vary fansee (sic).

March 15, 2017: Kylie (Child). Best place ever!

May 22, 2017: Brianne (Child). I like this place a lot! You always learn something new!

July 26, 2017: Darien, Julian, Owen & Aaron (Children). That was so cool! But it’s more like the kids took care of the parents! Totally epic!

September 3, 2017: Maywea & Valtheepar. We [are] just starting our family life in Oshawa & love to learn about the city. Thank you everyone who [is] working towards this great work. We feel the cheer in the air.

September 17, 2017: Donahue Family. Wonderful tour. So great to have Oshawa’s history easily accessible.

September 28, 2017: Dennis & Betty P. Great, Great, Great, Grandson of T[homas] Henry.

September 23, 2018: Cindy A. Wonderful tour & learning about our family background! (Descendant of Jennie Henry McGill)

December 19, 2018: Roberta W. Very fulfilling & grounding.

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Photo credit: Derek Cutting, 2018.

Part of our mission is to disseminate knowledge about Oshawa’s past to the community. We do that without hesitation, but what people don’t realize is that they also teach us about our Museum family history, about what kind of programs we offer, and about how our past compares to that of their family’s experience – whether they were raised locally or far away, just through them sharing their own memories and experiences. The next time you come for a tour, be sure to sign the guest book!

Profiling: Dr TWG McKay

Thomas Wills Gibbs McKay was born on March 8, 1873 at the McKay family home in Oshawa. His parents were Donald H. McKay and Mary Elizabeth Gibbs, cousin of William and Thomas Gibbs.

Donald (known to the family as Daniel), had a successful career with the Denny & Company Marine Engineers and had sailed with the Merchant Marines until he was struck by cholera in Calcutta, India in 1868. He sailed to Canada in 1869 and worked for the Joseph Hall Iron Works as an engineer, building engines for printing machinery. Later he worked for the Universal Knitting Mills in Toronto. The family lived there, at 19 Gloucester Street, from 1886 until Donald’s death in 1911.

His mother, Mary Elizabeth Gibbs came to Oshawa with her father, Philip Gibbs in 1859. They were located close to her cousins T.N. and W.H. Gibbs in the village of Harmony.

Thomas attended Centre Street School in Oshawa during his early years and obtained a medical degree from the University of Toronto in 1896, winning the George Brown Scholarship and was a Starr gold medalist. That same year, he began practicing medicine with Dr. Francis Rae. He was also an examiner in primary anatomy for the Ontario Medical Council, associate examiner in clinical surgery and Medical Officer of Health in Oshawa from 1905 – 1945.

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Early in his career Dr. McKay married Alice Adella Drew, a Toronto General Hospital nursing graduate, on April 4, 1902. It was at this time that he built their family home, a three-storey brick house at 58 King Street West, on the northeast corner of King Street and Victoria Street. They had three sons; Donald Drew, Wilson Gibbs and Ian Blake. The family also had a cottage on Lake Mississauga near Buckhorn, Ontario, and they spent much of their time there. After Alice died in 1933, McKay married her sister, Ina Estella Drew, in 1938.

Dr. McKay travelled throughout the community to houses and schools campaigning for issues such as inoculations and clean water. He was instrumental (along with Dr. D.S. Hoig) in establishing the health program in Oshawa’s schools.  Dr. McKay’s granddaughter, Adella McKay (Wilson Gibbs daughter) has said that her Grandfather was often paid in chickens and farm produce, if at all! This may be why they lost their Victorian home on King Street.

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Photo from findagrave.com

Dr. TWG McKay died at the family home in Harmony on March 12, 1945. He is buried in the Gibbs-McKay-Drew plot at Union Cemetery.

Learn more about Community Health in the 20th Century by visiting our latest feature exhibit! Visit soon because it will close later this month!

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Sources:

Oshawa Museum Archival Collection. McKay genealogy files.
French, Olive. Unpublished Manuscript. 1967.

The Month That Was – April 1937

More about the 1937 General Motors Strike can be read in an earlier post


Toronto Daily Star, 8 April 1937
3700 Motor Workers Strike at Oshawa
“Won’t build another car until they sign” Organizer Declares, Walkout Orderly, 260 Girls quit work with men and help picket plant

Oshawa, April 8 – A stand-up walkout, not a sit-down strike, hit General Motors today when 3700 workers made their peaceful exit from the plant five minutes after filing in as usual at 7am.  At once 400 pickets were flung around the works with pre-arranged precision.  The big motor industry was brought to a standstill in orderly fashion.  The threat has been threatened for more than a week, but only at 1:05am was the decision arrived at following a five hour conference of union stewards.  Six hours later it went into effect.

Thus begins the first test of strength in Canada of the Committee for Industrial Organization, which, under the leadership of John L. Lewis, has been waging a union struggle in the motor industry of the United States.

The real issue of the strike here is the CIO, or rather recognition of its affiliate, the United Automobile Workers Union…

Besides recognition of the Lewis-led union, the strike involves demands for a 40 hour week, time and a half for overtime, seniority rights, and the right of workers’ stewards to talk over grievances with company officials.

The beginning of the strike was not only peaceful but undramatic.  The workers filed in.  The workers filed out.  There was no attend at a sit-down…

“General Motors,” declared Hugh Thompson, CIO organizer, “will not build another car in Canada until they sign an agreement with the international union.”

 

Toronto Daily Star, 8 April 1937
Sale of Liquor is banned in Oshawa during strike
Beverage rooms and government store ordered closed by Odette, Mayor’s Request

During the Oshawa motor workers’ strike the liquor store, the brewery warehouse and all beverage rooms in that city will be closed.  EG Odette, head of the Ontario Liquor Control Board announced today.

We are going to co-ordinate with the municipal authorities in every way possible to maintain order,”: he said, adding that not until today had he received a request from the mayor of Oshawa, the chief of police and other municipal officials, that all sources of liquor be closed.  A number of workers received their pay cheques late yesterday, he told The Star, stating that it was feared that idleness might result in disorder, should the beverage rooms remain open.

“We are trying to do all we can to do all we can to help clear up the situation,” he said.

In Oshawa, Mayor Hall said his request if idle workers had access to liquor.

“We do not want any drunken pickets on our lines,” Millard said.

 

Lafayette Journal and Courier (Lafayette, Indiana), 13 April 1937
Premier Hurls New Threat in Oshawa Strike
Warns Lewis and his Aides Will Be Jailed Without Bail if They Commit Overt Act in Canada

Oshawa, Ont., April 13 (AP) – A move by Canada’s minister of labor to mediate the Oshawa strike pivoted today upon consent by General Motors of Canada, Ltd.

Meanwhile, other developments added fuel to the already heated controversy of international scope: Hugh Thompson, John L. Lewis’s right-hand man in the Oshawa strike, asserted the US supreme court decision on the Wagner act would cast the United Automobile Workers’ union in the role of sole bargaining agent for the General Motors workers here and the in the United States.

Premier Mitchell Hepburn of Ontario accused Lewis of trying to become “economic and political dictator” of both the United States and Canada and declared that, if he came to Canada and sponsored any overt act, or if any of his aids should do so, they would be jailed “for a good, long time and there wouldn’t be any bail.”

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From the Reno Evening Gazette, 13 April 1937, page 1

The Indianapolis Star 14 Apr 1937
US to Fill GM Foreign Orders
Strike at Canadian Plan Necessitates Move – CIO May Act

Oshawa, Ont., April 13 (AP) – General Motors of Canada decided tonight that emergency orders for shipment abroad must be filled by United States plants because of the Oshawa strike, and an augmented police force was mobilized at nearby Toronto to guard against disorder.

The strike of 3,7000 workers in the local plant began last Thursday. Vice-President Harry Carmichael indicated tonight that the company had “no definite information” when it would end. …

The police force was augmented at the order of Premier Mitchell Hepburn who said the Oshawa situation apparently was becoming “a little more tense” because “Communists from outside were ready and willing to take an increasingly active part.” …

Pickets continued to walk before the Oshawa plant today, but they were peaceful and quiet.

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From the Manhattan Mercury (Manhattan, Kansas) 16 April 1937, page 1

The Daily Clarion, 23 April 1937
Hepburn Backs Down, Recognizes Auto Union; Oshawa Strikers Vote on Agreement Today
Worker’s Demands Accepted As Premier, Reactionaries are Beaten to Standstill

Oshawa General Motors employees’ demand for union recognition was crowned by victory it was reported early this morning.

The complete list of demands as presented by workers to the GM corporation had long been considered gained, with one contentious point of union recognition used by Premier Hepburn to block negotiation.  This morning it was learned that recognition of Oshawa local 222 was achieved.

Although at yesterday evening’s press conference the premier stressed that no amplification of his statement would be made to the press, the Globe and Mail, personal organ of WH Wright, multimillionaire mining operator and friend of Hepburn, and its informant, were evidently not bound by this gentleman’s agreement.  The Globe and Mail carried the full news both in paper and radio.

 

The Daily Clarion, 23 April 1937
An Ontario Scandal

To the Editor:

As a reader of your paper and much interested in your articles regarding the relief situation, I have often wondered why you did not tell something of the conditions under which the recipients of Mothers’ Allowances have to exist.

Budgeted as we are with no allowance made for dental care, for medicines or medical care, not yet for clothing (a large item) nor for the replacement of worn out utensils, bedding, and mattresses, in the Township our dollar has not the value of the voucher in the purchase of bread or of milk.

Take my own case, six children and self allowance $60 per month with rent at $15 per month for four rooms.

Four boys ranging in age from seven to twelve years sleep on a…couch, whilst a child of five – a delicate girl of 13 and myself try to sleep in another bed.

The mattresses covering these beds are worn out beyond repair. The threat of the Attendance Officer (who is a policeman in the Township) has been held over my head all winter by the school because I have been unable to provide the necessary clothing for my children to attend school.

There are many other mothers in the neighborhood in the same condition.

Can’t you take up cudgels on our behalf and through the columns of your paper let the people know under what conditions families such as mine have to exist, conditions which would be condemned by the Children’s Aid Society,

-Oakridge

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From the Daily Clarion, 23 Apr 1937, page 1

The Globe and Mail, 24 Apr 1937
JOYOUS MOOD OVER OSHAWA AT STRIKE END: Auto Workers Celebrate to Tune of Dance, Following Vote to Return THOMPSON IS EXPECTED

There are no picket lines in Oshawa tonight.  The tents of the strikers have been struck.

And this city is celebrating, gaily, jubilantly. It is marking the end of the 16-day strike which paralyzed its major industry, which extended its deadening influence through hundreds of other plants and dealers’ organizations, which took its toll in the town’s merchandising business, and which at one stage threatened to end in CIO domination.

Vote 2205 to 36

Tonight members of the local union, now ex-strikers, danced in the armouries where a few hours before they took a vote.  There at noon they balloted and by a decision of 2205 to 36 ratified the settlement agreement negotiated in the office of Premier Hepburn. They came to this conclusion when Hugh Thompson, CIO organizer, and Homer Martin, Thompson’s boss, were out of the country.  They brought about their settlement when Claud R. Kramer, the CIO agent newly thrust into the scene, was out of the way in his hotel room. …

Mayor Alex Hall was up on the platform making a speech, getting lots of cheers.  He said that Police Chief Owen Friend would tell them that there had been no law-breaking, complete orderliness.  Only arrest in the strike was a vagrant who asked to be locked up. He complimented his hearers for coming through with flying colors, maintaining the city’s good name.

 

Oshawa Daily Times, 30 April 1937
Oshawa Labor to Get Preference in Local Plant; Shop Committee Meets G.M. Management for Discussion

In the face of reports prevalent throughout the city that outside men in the city without work, the at General Motors while there were ment [SIC] in the city without work. The shop committee of General Motors employees met with the management yesterday afternoon for discussion of the matter.

E.E. Bathe, vice-president of Oshawa Local No. 222, U.A.W.A., revealed that the committee was assured by General Motors officials that Oshawa men and former employees would be given the preference when additional help is being taken on at the plant here. He pointed out that in all cases it was not possible to secure men from within the city and it was found necessary to seek elsewhere for men to fill some positions in the shop.

Production is going forward every day since the plant reopened on Monday and practically the same schedule of production which prevailed before the strike was called has been maintained if not bettered during the week. There has been no speeding up the lines and no pressure brought to bear on the employees. The employees hit their former stride in the various operations throughout the plant and it is quite possible that production will continue well on into the summer months.

 

Oshawa Daily Times, 30 April 1937
Belleville Students Stage a Walk Out

Belleville, April 30, – Forty students of the Belleville Collegiate Institute and Vocational School staged a walk-out yesterday after-noon and wended their way to Victoria Park. Approached by a reporter they refused to state the nature of their grievance.

Students who were questioned stated that the grievance had nothing to do with the teaching staff but it was a collective grievance and one which may effect [sic] the whole school.

The Board of Education and the principle of the school was questioned but nobody would talk and those who did say anything stated they had no knowledge of any trouble.

The event was the first walk-out ever to occur in Belleville.

 

Oshawa Daily Times, 30 April 1937
Oshawa Ten Years Ago, April 30, 1927 (The Oshawa Daily Reformer)

At midnight tonight, the time-pieces in Oshawa will be advanced one hour for at that hour, Daylight Saving Time comes into being for the season

Miss Marjorie Hancock of the Toronto Normal School is spending the week-end at her home, Celina Street.

A short meeting of the Oshawa Water Commission was held yesterday afternoon when accounts were passed and other routine business completed.

MH Hudson, 26 Warren avenue, had a spare tire stolen from his car which he left parked on Simcoe Street North yesterday.

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From the Oshawa Daily Times, 30 Apr 1937

Sister Act: The story of Clarissa and Sarah Terwilliger

By Laura Suchan, Executive Director

In almost every town there are those people who are known by their behaviours or actions as eccentrics.  In Oshawa, the Terwilliger sisters were certainly regarded as somewhat unusual, and maybe even eccentric.

For much of its history, Oshawa, Ontario, has been known as an industrial hub and was often referred to as, “the Manchester (England) of Canada.”  However there was a time during the 1840s when the town gained notoriety as one of the centres for the Millerite craze.  During the winter of 1842-1843 many people were captivated by the teachings of William Miller, an American farmer and evangelist, who preached that the Second Advent of Christ would occur shortly.  His followers believed Christ would appear in person to claim his earthly kingdom, and the world would be destroyed by fire.  Stories of Oshawa farmers giving away all their livestock and farm implements were locally reported.  One of the most interesting stories connected with this period concerns the Terwilliger sisters, Sarah and her older sister Clarissa.

Clarissa (sometimes known as Clara) and Sarah were daughters of local farmer Abraham Terwilliger.  They lived in a beautiful brick mansion on the main road in the east end of town.  Their family was among the earliest settlers in the area, arriving from New York State in about the year 1816.  The sisters were said to be clairvoyants and became quite notorious in the Oshawa area for hosting free séances at their father’s home.  Local resident and amateur historian Samuel Pedlar attended one such séance with a party of unbelievers and noted, “that while some (of the party) may have been impressed with startling noises and rappings, others could see nothing in them but something to excite a subdued merriment.”[1]

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An artist’s rendition, ES Shrapnel, of Sarah Terwilliger flying from the porch.  It comes from Upper Canada Sketches by Thomas Conant, published in Toronto in 1898 by William Briggs.

Sarah so fervently believed in Miller’s vision that on February 14, 1843, the evening before the predicted end of the world, she made herself a pair of silk wings and jumped from her father’s porch with the expectation of departing this world ahead of the fire and flying to heaven.  Thomas Conant, in his 1898 book Upper Canada Sketches, gives an account of what reportedly happened next:

…falling to the ground some fifteen feet she was shaken up severely and rendered wholly unfit to attend at all to the fires that were expected…  The wings were made of silk.  Though in the picture, they appear to do their work, they did not prevent the wearer falling to the ground about fifteen feet, and suffering the result in a broken leg.[2]

The incident, as one would expect, garnered quite a lot of excitement in town.

Unfortunately, other than this story of blind faith, the historical record does not tell us much more about the Terwilliger sisters.  While Sarah’s burial place remains unknown, Clarissa was said to be buried in Oshawa’s Union Cemetery.  Often overshadowed by her “flying” sister, I was determined to find out more about Clarissa in order to shed some light on her story.  I always felt sorry for Clarissa, partially because of the family’s notoriety even 175 years later and partly because I believe no one’s story should be lost to history.  After much research, I found Clarissa’s gravestone in the South Presbyterian section of the cemetery, located near one of the old access roads.  The upright stone features a small tympanum with a weathered carving flanked by graceful scrolling to the shoulders.  A floral wreath enclosing a delicate carving of clasping hands adorns the upper part of the memorial.  A few flowers additionally grace the side of the stone.  The stone reads, “In Memory of Clara Terry, Died.”  All in all, it is a fairly typical gravestone of the time, except for two things: the lack of any other information, including a death date (even though there is a spot for one) and the phrase at the bottom of the stone which reads “Erected by Clara Terry.”  Why would someone go to the trouble to make sure everyone knew that she erected her own gravestone?  Perhaps more research would shed some light on the mystery.  It was back to the archives I went to uncover more information.

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Clara Terry headstone in Union Cemetery. Photo by Melissa Cole.

Clarissa’s “attempting to fly” sister, Sarah, died about the year 1869.  Shortly thereafter, Clarissa married the much younger (by as much as 10 years), John Terry, a medicine peddler and farmer of East Whitby. In the 1871 Census of Canada, Clarissa and John lived in East Whitby Township with a young woman (possibly household help) named Harriet Young, then 23 years old.  Sadly, John and Clarissa’s union appears to have ended; by the 1881 census, John Terry is living only with Harriet, and they have a six-month-old boy named Frederick.  Clarissa is still listed as living in East Whitby, but she appears to have moved closer to her parents, Abraham and Alma Terwilliger.  I’ve often wondered if the end of Clarissa’s marriage prompted her to place the inscription about who was responsible for her gravestone, almost as if she was declaring her independence for all eternity.  Unfortunately, unless new information is unearthed, we will probably never know.  We do know that in 1891, Clarissa is living with Chauncy Terwilliger, likely a relative.  The 1901 census lists her as boarding with Alfreda Chatterson.

Clarissa passed away in Oshawa on July 17, 1905 — which begins the second mystery. Although her gravestone is present in Union Cemetery, official cemetery records show Clarissa is not actually buried there.  No birth or death dates are listed on the stone.  It can be surmised that, for whatever reason, Clarissa was buried in a still-unknown location.  She may have ultimately been laid to rest in another local cemetery with her parents.

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Headstone detail – “Erected by Clara Terry.” Photo by Melissa Cole.

Hopefully, this is not the end of Clarissa’s story.  It’s unfortunate that even 175 years after her sister jumped from the porch in a religious frenzy, the Terwilliger sisters are still associated with this eccentric act.  I think it is important to separate Clarissa, the daughter, sister, wife, and friend, from the story of one of Oshawa’s most notorious episodes.  Her gravestone with the “Erected by Clara Terry” inscription is a reminder that she did not always conform to Victorian society’s expectations of women and did things her own way.

An earlier version of this article appeared in The Association for Gravestone Studies Quarterly in Spring 2017


References:

[1] Samuel Pedlar, unpublished manuscript, Oshawa Museum; digitally available through the Oshawa Public Library.

[2] Thomas Conant, Upper Canada Sketches, (Toronto: William Briggs, 1898), 92; digitally available through archive.org.