By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement
Traversing through Oshawa’s downtown are the streets of William and Mary, fairly common street names, likely found throughout many communities. These are early streets in Oshawa, and while definitively proving their namesakes may be challenging, it has been suggested that they were named for an early family who settled in Lot 10 Concession 2.
One of the earliest European settlers in what became the Village of Oshawa was a man named John Kerr (pronounced ‘car’). According to Samuel Pedlar, John Kerr, originally from New York, arrived in the area in 1816 and purchased 200 acres ‘in the northwest ward,’ or Lot 11 Concession 2. He purchased the land from Jabez Lynde, a name quite familiar in Whitby as his house is still standing as the Lynde House Museum, and several locales around the town still carry his family name. John Kerr built a large frame building on the bank of the Oshawa Creek, which he operated as a tavern for a number of years. Pedlar recorded that the frame building Kerr built was later moved and was the home for the JB Warren family, then JB Hare. For a number of years, the settlement was known as Kerr’s Creek.
John’s brother, William, settled nearby not long after John arrived, purchasing land on Lot 10 Concession 2 from their father, Norris. The land he owned was eventually parcelled up; this was the land located north of King Street and west of Simcoe, right in the heart of what would become the downtown. William (1796-1873) was married to a woman named Mary Turner (1795-1871), and Pedlar claimed they had three sons and two daughters (an interesting note to their family tree, their granddaughter married John Walter Borsberry, who operated the Borsberry Music Hall). They are both buried in Union, although noted that their last name on their headstone is spelt Karr; according to Samuel Pedlar, this is a spelling the family adopted and continued to use.
It is possible that William Street and Mary Street have been named for William Karr and his wife Mary. It fits rather conveniently, especially knowing they owned land around where these streets are located; this assertion was made previously by W. Ford Lindsay in his popular Then and Now column for the Oshawa Times and was repeated in a 1993 article, also in the Oshawa Times. An article in the Daily Times-Gazette in the 1950s seemed to claim these streets were named for children of John Kerr, however, it doesn’t appear that John had a daughter named Mary (although he did have a son named William). That being said, these suggestions do not mean definitive proof; a quick internet search can reveal dozens of other possible namesakes. Whether the streets bear their names or not, the Karrs impact on the downtown core is prevailing, as land northeast of the Four Corners falls under what is known as the Karr Plan, a planning document, detailing land parcels and important to know when researching lot histories.
John Goldwin, “Oshawa street names honor pioneer families,” Oshawa Times, 10 April 1993.
W. Ford Lindsay, “Then And Now: Some Served Long Helped Community,” Oshawa Times, 20 August 1970.
Samuel Pedlar, Samuel Pedlar Manuscript, transcribed from a microfilm of the original by Sharon Stark & Margaret Egerer (July/August 1970), accessed online 27 February 2019 from http://localhistory.oshawalibrary.ca/pdfportal/pdfskins/Pedlar/pedlar.pdf.