Where the Streets Get Their Names: Carswell Avenue

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Off Simcoe Street, north of Taunton, there is a small street named Carswell Avenue. This street bears the same name as an early Oshawa family, one member of which rose to great notoriety outside of the Oshawa area.

Edward Carswell - Kaiser
Edward Carswell, as depicted in TE Kaiser’s Historic Sketches of Oshawa

Edward Carswell was born on February 19, 1829 in Ware, England.  He came to Canada with his family in 1832, first settling in Reach Township (today Scugog Township), and eventually moved to Oshawa, settling in what would be known as the Carswell home at the corner of Simcoe and Fairbanks Streets (314 Simcoe St. S.).

In May 1856, Edward married Rebecca Thomas of Bowmanville, and together they had 6 children.

The Canada Directory of 1857 lists Carswell as an artist, bookseller and stationer.  His ads appear throughout The Oshawa Vindicator during the 1860s where he offers his services as a “House, Sign, Banner and Ornamental Painter, Paper Hanger & Gilder”.  He was also known as something of an artist.  He worked as a sketch artist and illustrated the books he wrote for children.  One of the books, Temperance Stories and Sketches (1879), is a collection of temperance essays for children illustrated with pen and pencil.  Another book, Pen and Pencil; or Pictures, Puzzles, and Short Stories for Boys and Girls (1890) further highlights his ability as an artist.

Food not drink apples
Illustration by Carswell, depicting the evils of alcohol; originally appeared in Pen and Pencil; or Pictures, Puzzles, and Short Stories for Boys and Girls (1890)

Mr. Carswell’s greatest achievements and fame, however, came from his career as a temperance lecturer.  Purported to be a captivating speaker, several newspaper accounts describe Carswell’s abilities as a speaker as second to none.  He was popular throughout the eastern seaboard of the United States speaking in such diverse places as Baltimore and Cambridge.  A newspaper description of his speaking in Cambridge was as follows, “The speaker [Carswell] has a very musical voice and a great power of imitation, which enabled him to hold the interest without the least apparent effort.”  Not only was he in demand in the United States, but Carswell was also a popular choice for speaking in Oshawa.  He was often called upon to chair socials or provide entertainment at the Sons of Temperance meetings in the Oshawa area.

File2244-A979.43.3
Oshawa’s Sons of Temperance Hall

The Sons of Temperance, a temperance organization of the period, benefited greatly from Carswell’s participation.  On May 17, 1865 The Oshawa Vindicator indicates that Carswell was a charter member of a new division of the Sons of Temperance at Butterffield’s Settlement (the area now known as Taunton).  At that time seventeen new members were initiated.

In addition to his participation in the local organization, Carswell became involved at the national and international level.  He attended the World’s Temperance Congress of 1893 in Chicago as both a speaker and a delegate.  Moreover, he was the Vice President of the National Temperance Society and Publication House in New York.

When he was in Oshawa, Carswell was a devoted member of St. George’s Anglican Church.  His daughter and son-in-law Mr. and Mrs. Edgar and Alice Houston donated a carillon of chimes (a set of bells usually hung in a tower and played by a set of keys) in memory of both Edward and his wife Rebecca.  The donation, given in 1922, was meant to honour the lengthy devotion the elder Carswell’s had to the parish.  They had both joined the church at its inception in 1843, making Edward a sixty-six year member upon his death and his wife a seventy-five year member at her death on February 15, 1919.

Mr. Carswell died at the age of 81 on June 13, 1910 and was buried in Union Cemetery.

Carswell
Carswell headstone, in the South Presbyterian section of Union Cemetery

Information on Edward Carswell provided by Historical Oshawa Information Sheet, ‘Edward Carswell.’

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