By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement
A commonly asked question of Museum staff is what does the word Oshawa mean? Early interpretations of Oshawa have varied greatly. Samuel Pedlar, 19th century amateur historian and author, sought to find the origin, and he consulted noted American ethnologist, Horatio Hale, as well as J.C. Bailey (a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers) throughout 1894.
As the story goes, the name Oshawa was selected in 1842, to secure the establishment of a Post Office. Initially the townspeople had thought “Sydenham” was a good choice, to further honour Lord Sydenham and keep in line with the Sydenham Harbour. However, Ackeus Moody Farewell and two First Nations men that had accompanied him to the meeting suggested an Indigenous name. It was them who selected “Oshawa,” and the others present agreed.
According to Pedlar, the exact meaning of the name was not recorded at the time of the meeting. Numerous conclusions were made before it was finally agreed that Oshawa means “that point at the crossing of the stream where the canoe was exchanged for the trail.”
Today, Oshawa Boulevard is a continuous (mostly) north-south street. Its southern terminus is around the CP tracks, south of Olive Avenue, and it continues north; north of Hillcroft, it extends northwest, crosses Ritson, and continues to twist and turn, eventually ending again at Ritson, south of Beatrice Street.
As mentioned in previous blog posts, the 1920s in Oshawa saw a great amount of growth and development. New roads and houses were added to our city, Oshawa Boulevard being one of them. There was only a handful of houses listed in the 1921 City Directory, but by 1929, the number had easily quadrupled.
Take a close look at the map above. This map dates to 1925 and shows Oshawa Boulevard starting at King Street. South of King Street, there are two other streets circled: Yonge Street and St. Julien Street. Both of these streets were new additions in the 1920s, but neither exist today, all consolidated as ‘Oshawa Boulevard.’ It appears that sometime between 1954 and 1956 the City decided to consolidate three consecutive streets into one name, and so Yonge Street and St. Julian St. were renamed.
Where did these other names come from?
Toronto’s Yonge Street was named by Sir John Graves Simcoe after his friend Sir George Yonge who was reportedly an expert on ancient Roman roads. It is likely that Oshawa’s street took its spelling from either Sir Yonge or the street in Toronto.
St. Julien was named for the Battle of St. Julien, part of the larger Battle of Ypres in Belgium. As described by Veterans Affairs Canada:
On April 24 (1915), the Germans attacked in an attempt to obliterate the salient once and for all. Another violent bombardment was followed by another gas attack in the same pattern as before. This time the target was the Canadian line. Here through terrible fighting, withered with shrapnel and machine-gun fire, hampered by rifles that jammed, violently ill and gasping for air through mud-soaked handkerchiefs, they held on until reinforcements arrived.
Thus, in their first appearance on a European battlefield, the Canadians established a reputation as a formidable fighting force. But the cost was high. In these 48 hours, 6,035 Canadians – one man in every three – was lost from Canada’s little force of hastily trained civilians. This was a grim forerunner of what was still to come.