By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement
Located north of the recently opened 407 East Extension is the Village of Columbus and Columbus Road. As one might imagine, this east-west artery in north Oshawa takes its name from the Village of Columbus, however, this hasn’t always been its name. The 1877 Atlas of Ontario County refers to this street as Church Street (a name still in use through the 1980s) and the Concession between 6 & 7, and for many years, it was simply known locally as Concession 7.
Understanding the history of this street name and its changes requires an understanding of municipal changes through the years, namely the fact that in 1974, the Township of East Whitby was annexed by the City of Oshawa. In the 1980s, the City was undertaking a review of street names, prompted by the expansion of emergency and 911 services. During this process, a number of streets were found repeated in the former East Whitby Township and City of Oshawa. It’s a wee bit problematic when emergency services are needed, and it is unclear if they are needed at Alma Street by the hospital or Alma Street in Raglan. At this time, the City of Oshawa decided to name previously unnamed concession roads, and it was recommended that these names are consistent with surrounding municipalities (if applicable). The Town of Whitby was already calling this road Columbus Road, and in the late 1980s, the City of Oshawa officially adopted this name as well.
Here is a history of the village through which Columbus Road traverses.
In the early 1830s, European settlement began in this area. Because a large number of these settlers originated from England, the first name for the hamlet was English Corners. In 1850, when applying for a post office, the community’s name changed to Columbus. Despite knowing the when, we do not know why the name Columbus was chosen.
Columbus was a thriving and busy rural centre throughout the 1850s, boasting four stores, three blacksmiths shops, two carpenter shops, four shoe shops, two tailor shops, two dressmaking shops, a harness shop, and two cooperages. Industry was also in the area with a tannery located a quarter mile north of village, a flour mill, two asheries, and the Empire woolen mill, which employed 45 people. Finally those passing through could find respite at one of the village’s four inns.
With the creation of the County of Ontario in the 1850s, Columbus was named the seat of East Whitby Township. The first council of the Township was established in 1853, and the town hall was constructed in 1859. Between 1850 and 1870 the population of the Village of Columbus grew from 300 inhabitants to 500.
Like many other rural hamlets, Columbus was home to four churches, Presbyterian, Bible Christian, Methodist and Anglican, and they were overflowing their doors on Sundays. The Columbus Presbyterian Church became the Columbus United Church in the mid 1920s, and the building which was constructed in 1873, still stands today. Children of Columbus were at School Section no. 6, or the Columbus school. It was first built built in 1878, and in 1930, a new school was built in its place.
In the early 1970s, Columbus was annexed to to the City of Oshawa, and the community has continued to adapt and thrive, although it has faced some adversity as well. In the late 2000s, there was a push by many residents to have boundaries adjusted and become a part of the Town of Whitby, but this ultimately was rejected by both municipalities. There was further fear to how the Highway 407 extension would impact the rural nature of the community, however, over a year after its opening, Columbus is still a vibrant and valued community in our City.
Oshawa Museum Archival Collection: Columbus File (0029 / 0001 / 0004).
Oshawa Museum Archival Collection: Streets File (0024 / 0001 / 0023).
Oshawa Historical Society, Historical Oshawa Information Sheet, ‘Columbus’.
“‘English Corners’ At First Columbus Dates to 1850,” Oshawa Times, June 24, 1967.