Oshawa’s Early Postal Service

This was originally written by the Oshawa Historical Society as a Historical Information Sheet

Prior to 1850, it was necessary for settlers to go to the general store for postal services as there were no stand alone post offices.  Stage coaches and sleighs delivered the mail to the store and picked up any outgoing mail.  Trans-Atlantic mail delivery was started in 1840 when Samuel Cunard was contracted with the Admiralty to provide two trips monthly each way between Liverpool and Canada.  Mail reached Quebec from Liverpool in 18 days and from Quebec was sent to the regional centres.  In 1854 the first Post Office on rails was established.  Clerks were on board the trains sorting mail between communities in Southern Ontario.

The first post office in the area was opened in the general store operated by John and William Warren in Hamar’s Corners (now Whitby) in 1824.  Stage coaches would stop to pick up and deliver mail during their run from Kingston to York (Toronto). In 1827 Donald Campbell obtained consent from the Postmaster General to have mail carried between Hamar’s Corners and Beaverton.  Kenneth Campbell was appointed postmaster and made the trip once every two weeks.

Black and white sketch of a one and a half storey building, featuring a black and white checkerboard facade. There is a wooden sidewalk in front of it.
Edward Skae’s checkered store

In 1842 Edward Skae, owner of a general store located on the southeast corner of King and Simcoe Streets, made application to the legislature for a post office. John Hilliard Cameron, representing Skae’s Corners as part of the Home District in parliament, replied that a name other than “Corners” must be chosen for the post office as there were already too many place names containing corners.  Oshawa was chosen and Edward Skae became the first postmaster on October 6, 1842. According to the Ontario Reformer, May 19, 1905, Mr. Glenney opened the first mail bag brought to Oshawa.  It contained 4 letters, 2 British Colonists and one Examiner and from the east, and 2 Montreal Gazettes.  By 1844 Oshawa had post every day. After the opening of the Grand Trunk Railway in 1856, mail was no longer carried by stage coach.  Mr. John Bone drove the last stage coach with mail into Oshawa.

Sepia toned image of a storefront and three women and one man are standing in front of it.
Oshawa Post Office when it was located on King Street East, 1903; OM Thomas Bouckley Collection A985.41.49

In 1907 Oshawa’s first official stand alone post office was opened on the northeast corner of Ontario Street and King Street East.  Custom offices were located on the second floor of the building and the third floor was a flat for the caretaker. The central post office remained at 40 King Street East until a new building was opened at 47 Simcoe Street South in 1954-1955.  The original Romanesque Revival style post office was demolished in 1957.

Colourized image of a three storey, red brick building with prominent central tower

 List of Postmasters in the Nineteenth Century:

NameAppointmentVacancyReason
Edward Skae1842-10-06
*Gavin Burns18531861-01-07Death
David Smith1861-01-011862-04-26Resignation
Fraser Keller1862-05-011866-10-24Resignation
David Smith1867-04-011877-11-07Death
James Carmichael1877-11-01Jun-03Death

* In 1851, authority for postal administration was transferred from the Imperial Government to the Province of Ontario.  Information prior to 1853 is not available through Canada Post Archives.


References:

Post Office file – Oshawa Museum Archival Collection

Details, published by Canada Post, April-June 2001

Postcard Educational Kit – Oshawa Museum

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