Profiling Sam Pedlar

By Melissa Cole, Curator

Samuel Pedlar was born in St. Blazey, Cornwall England.  He sailed on the timber vessel, the barque “Clio” with his parents, his brother and three sisters on April 5, 1841.   They arrived in Quebec on May 21, 1841, reaching Skae’s Corners and travelled north up Simcoe Street to Concession 5 where they stayed with Richard Luke and his family for three weeks.

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Samuel Pedlar was Oshawa’s earliest historian.  He recognized the fragile wealth of the human memory and spent thousands of hours preserving it through his manuscript known as, The Pedlar PapersHe devoted many years of his life talking to members of the community and interviewing first and second generations that had sprung from Oshawa’s earliest settlers.

He chronicled the social and economic development of Skae’s Corners to the community that grew to be Oshawa, he wrote every detail down he knew about Oshawa’s early settlers including businesses, schools and churches.  He even wrote about, what he called “ancient, minor industries” such as the Moscrip’s Foundry, Spaulding’s Brewery and Nichols Grist Mill as well as Demill Ladies College.  Established in 1875 and flourishing 20 years later this school was one of Oshawa’s first institutions of higher learning.  In this manuscript he mentions almost everyone that lived in the area at the time except for himself.

Little is actually known about Samuel Pedlar.  He played no part in the family business, The Pedlar People Ltd.  His brother George Henry Pedlar assumed control of the business when their father Henry Pedlar passed away.

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Pedlar headstone in Union Cemetery; Photo by Melissa Cole

Five years before his death at the age of 77, feeling unable to keep up with the work, Pedlar donated his manuscript to the Ontario Archives where it remains today.  The Oshawa Museum has a copy of the complete Pedlar Papers.  Samuel Pedlar was determined that the memory of the Oshawa’s early settlers would live on through his manuscript – he has brought many of our early settlers to life!


Discover more about the life of Samual Pedlar and other early Oshawa settlers who are buried in Union Cemetery in our latest publication, Until Day Dawns: Stories from Oshawa’s Union Cemetery, available online or at the Oshawa Museum Shop.

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