The Life of David Annis

By Shawn Perron, Visitor Host

It may be the case that discrepancies exist in every area of historical research. Events, dates, and even the images of some Oshawa Victorians can cause some confusion. The latter is the situation I have stumbled upon while reading into the life of David Annis.

There are two main sources which discuss the life of David: the Annis Annals and Upper Canada Sketches. They tell us that he was born in 1786 to quite a wealthy, large family, having eight siblings. His father, Charles, was one of the first owners of the 200 acres which made up the broken front concession (today’s Lake View Park in Oshawa). Raised in Oshawa David lacked the education of his brothers and never learned to write or sign his name. However, he quickly developed a strong relationship with the Conant family, and specifically Daniel Conant. Amongst several business enterprises the two opened a Saw Mill together and when David inherited the entirety of the broken front concession from his family he subsequently passed it on to Daniel. It is possible that David was somewhat of a father figure for Daniel being his elder, especially after Daniel’s father was assassinated in 1838. David worked with Daniel through the rest of life, fathering no children of his own and today the two are buried under the same marker in Union Cemetery.

However, while these two accounts agree on the above, they are divided in regard to David’s physical appearance. The Annis Annals – a genealogy of the Annis family from 1638 to 1931 – pictures David in a family photograph. Here David is quite distinct from his brothers, sitting on the far right he has dark hair and a short beard, wearing a rather severe expression.

The Annis Family
The Annis Family

This does not match David’s picture featured in Thomas Conant’s Upper Canada Sketches – an account of the author’s life in, and stories from, Upper Canada. This actually appears to be a cropped section of Levi Annis, David’s older brother, from the same family portrait.

David Annis
David Annis

One might logically deduct that Upper Canada Sketches provides a more accurate source because Thomas was the son of Daniel and possibly encountered David on a regular basis. However, there is always room for error. Indeed, to add another layer of confusion, the Sketches portrait inaccurately refers to David as Thomas’s uncle. While this does not hold true for David, Levi could be considered Thomas’ great-uncle, having married his grandfather’s sister, Rhoda Conant. But for now, the true appearance of David Annis shall remain a mystery and one has the freedom to imagine him either as a stern-looking dark-haired man, or a jolly Santa Claus-like fellow.

3 thoughts on “The Life of David Annis”

  1. We received the following comment on this article. It has been moved to the corresponding article to keep the comment and our response in context

    Michael James Annis on October 26, 2013 at 3:31 pm said:
    Concerning the article on David Annis. You are confusing two different David’s in the same family. The portrait of David Annis labeled the author’s uncle is that of David Annis 1786-1861, son of Charles Annis. The David Annis with his brothers and sister is David Annis 1827-1903, son of Levi Annis, another son of the aforesaid Charles Annis. The younger David was therefore a nephew of the elder David Annis.
    Thank you
    Michael James Annis
    Annis Family Association

    1. Thank you very much, Mr. Annis, for your comment.

      This post was intended for historical thinking. It is interesting that we two photos of what appears to be the same person, but they are labelled differently.

      We have revisited both books that these photos were published in, in Conant’s Upper Canada Sketches and Annis Annals. The smaller photo of ‘David Annis’ from Conant’s book was cropped from the larger photo in Annals, labelled as ‘Levi Annis,’ taken in 1890. As the ‘Author’s Uncle, David Annis’ passed away in the 1860s, the image that appeared in Annals CANNOT be David Sr.

      It is very likely that Thomas Conant’s label is incorrect, although this is interesting as he referred to David Annis as his Uncle, his father Daniel had a close working relationship with him, and he was disinterred and reburied beside Daniel Conant at Oshawa’s Union Cemetery. Clearly, Thomas Conant knew David Annis; Thomas was in his 20s when David passed away.

      Why did Thomas Conant include a photograph taken from after David Annis passed away, of a man who was not his ‘Uncle’? We cannot answer this, but it is of interest and is one of the many challenges that faces people when doing historical and genealogical research.

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