By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist
One of the most popular reasons people have for contacting the archives is looking for help with researching the history of their home. This type of research can be tricky in that there may not be a lot of early information on that lot that survives today.
Once a researcher has determined the lot number of the land they are researching a county atlas can help shed some light on the early land owners. In Canada, approximately 40 county atlases were published between 1874 and 1881. Of these 40 or so different atlases, 32 focused on counties within Ontario.
When trying to research land located in what is now Oshawa, the 1877 atlas of the County of Ontario is a great place to start. Within the atlas is a detailed map of all of the lots that made up East Whitby Township the area that is now Oshawa. The names of the owners of the lots are provided, as well as information such as locations of schools, churches, cemeteries and railroad lines. The 1877 atlas also contains a detailed map of the Village of Oshawa. While the owners of smaller lots are not indicated, those owning larger parcels of land are. The map of the village shows many of the larger businesses from that time period, as well as how the streets were positioned and even now the creek impacted village growth.
The atlas also provides the reader with short histories of the towns, townships and villages, along with a variety of other information such as the locations of harbours, roads and railways.
The archives has several original prints of the 1877 County of Ontario atlas, as well as a couple of the reprinted ones that were published in 1972. The County of Ontario atlas was published by J.H. Beers & Co. Beers & Company. Interestingly, this atlas was actually simultaneously published by both J.H. Beers & Company and H. Beldon & Company. The atlases produced were identical with the exception of the title pages. It is unclear why both companies chose to publish the atlas in this manner.
Prior to publishing the books, subscriptions were sold for those who wished to be included in the patron’s directory. Subscriptions were also sold to those who wished to have a lithograph of their portrait, home or business included in the publication. The 1877 County of Ontario atlas contains numerous lithographs that may interest a person researching Oshawa. For example, there are two images side-by-side of Ellesmere Hall, the former home of Hon. T.N. Gibbs and Prospect Park, the former home of W.H. Gibbs. Today, Ellesmere Hall is where Village Union Public School is located and Prospect Park is where Parkwood Estate stands today.
This article originally appeared in the Oshawa Express, 2015.