Oshawa’s Black History: One Family’s Story, Part II

By Lisa Terech, Youth Engagement / Programs

Last week, we introduced you to the Dunbar family, its matriarch Wealthy Ann, and provided a little background into why we started researching this particular family.  We continue the story, looking particularly at her daughter, Mary Augusta.

Mary Augusta Dunbar (nee Andrews), 1835-1887

Mary Augusta Dunbar (nee Andrews), 1835-1887

By the time the 1852 Census of Canada West was taken, Wealthy Ann Andrews had just become widowed, her husband Peter dying in 1851.  Wealthy is recorded as living with her daughter Mary, son Freeman, and granddaughter Frances.  Daughters Sarah and Elizabeth are recorded as living with other families, likely in their employment.  All members of Wealthy’s family have been recorded as ‘coloured.’  They comprise 6 of the 17 Black persons living in East Whitby Township, as per the census.

Portion of marriage license between George Dunbar and Mary Andrews

Portion of marriage license between George Dunbar and Mary Andrews

It was a wonderful surprise in 2013 when an archival donation of Thomas Henry papers contained a marriage certificate of one Mary Augusta Andrews to Samuel George Dunbar.  The marriage was witnessed by Wealthy and by Thomas Henry himself!  One lingering question we have of the marriage is whether or not it was inter-racial?  It is very likely that George is of Scottish descent, but we can only confirm three records about him: his marriage license, the 1861 Census, and his headstone in the Port Oshawa Pioneer Cemetery.  It is interesting that Mary Augusta married a man with the same surname as her mother’s maiden name; for now, we simply chalk it up to a coincidence.

George arrived in Upper Canada (Ontario) sometime between 1851 and 1855, and on December 10, 1855 he married Mary A. Andrews.  They had five children together: Margaret, Marquis de Lafayette (known as Lafayette), Albert, and twins Jennie and Marietta.  Only Margaret lived to old age; her story will play out in next week’s post.

MD Lafayette Dunbar, 1858 – 1886, left, and Albert Dunbar, 1861 – 1881, right

MD Lafayette Dunbar, 1858 – 1886, left, and Albert Dunbar, 1861 – 1881, right

Family history states that George was a barrel maker when he lived in Lower Canada and he moved to Cedar Dale to work at Alexander Small’s grist and flour mill. Sons Lafayette and Albert were later photographed as employees of the Cedar Dale Works.  Lafayette was not only a labourer in Oshawa, but before he died was a landowner and a lawyer.

Tracing the family through the Censuses proved to be an interesting exercise.  Due to poor quality of the 1861 Census, it is unclear what the family listed their background as, however, we do not believe they were recorded in the ‘Colored Persons, Mulatto or Indian’ column which appeared on the census.  In 1871, after the death of George in 1866, the census notes that the family is of African origin.  The 1881 census states that Mary is English and the children, much like their father George, are Scottish.  What is the reason for the discrepancy in background, we cannot say for certain.

George, Mary, Lafayette, Albert and Jennie all lie in the Port Oshawa Pioneer Cemetery, one headstone commemorating their grave.  Marietta is buried along with her son, Alfred.  Wealthy and her daughter Elizabeth are also laid to rest in the cemetery, although they do not have a marker.

Dunbar headstone Side 1: M.D. Lafayette / Dunbar / died June 3 / 1886 / aged 28 years 3 mo’s 23 days / Mary A. / wife of George Dunbar / died Oct. 31, 1887 / aged 52 years / 4 months / & 24 days / Side 2: S.G. Dunbar / died May 30, 1866 / aged 35 years 7 mo / Dunbar / Side 3: Albert E. Dunbar / died Nov’r 8 / 1881 / aged 20 years / 9 mo’s 23 days / Side 4: Jennie E. Dunbar / died / April 27 1880 / aged 15 years 9 days

Dunbar headstone
Side 1: M.D. Lafayette / Dunbar / died June 3 / 1886 / aged 28 years 3 mo’s 23 days / Mary A. / wife of George Dunbar / died Oct. 31, 1887 / aged 52 years / 4 months / & 24 days / Side 2: S.G. Dunbar / died May 30, 1866 / aged 35 years 7 mo / Dunbar / Side 3: Albert E. Dunbar / died Nov’r 8 / 1881 / aged 20 years / 9 mo’s 23 days / Side 4: Jennie E. Dunbar / died / April 27 1880 / aged 15 years 9 days

Annis Headstone In / memory of / Marietta Dunbar / beloved wife of / Alfred T. Annis / died May 13, 1911 / aged 46 y’s 27 d’s / Alfred Ernest / Annis / died Feb 28, 1913 / in his 23rd year

Annis Headstone
In / memory of / Marietta Dunbar / beloved wife of / Alfred T. Annis / died May 13, 1911 / aged 46 y’s 27 d’s / Alfred Ernest / Annis / died Feb 28, 1913 / in his 23rd year

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