July 1 Retrospectives

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Coordinator

When working on specific projects, I always like to see how different events affected the Henry, Guy, and Robinson families. Read on for some trivia and perspective on modern Canada Day celebrations.

Upon taking a closer look at how people in Oshawa celebrated Dominion Day, I wondered who lived in the Museum homes when Confederation occurred.

In 1867, Thomas and Lurenda were married for 37 years. Likely, their children Joseph, Jesse, Clarissa, William, and Jennie were still living at home. Despite being in their early and mid-twenties, Joseph, Jesse, and Clarissa were unmarried. William and Jennie were 18 and 15 years old.

(Ruth) Eunice Robinson and Richard Welch were married for eight years with two young children at home. Connie was 7, Vicars was six, and Hedley would be born in September 1867.

James Guy and Rachel Luke were married for 15 years with six children living at home from 15 – 4 years old.

William and Jennie Henry were probably friends and went to school with Frederick August Guy. I wonder if Jennie babysat for the neighbouring kids or if that was even a thing back then.

A big picnic was held somewhere in Cedardale (up the street from the Henry farm), and Thomas and Lurenda might have took the children there.

Dr. D.S. Hoig attended Centre Street School in 1867 and remembered no recognition of the event. According to him, teachers may have thought it an experiment as there had been rumours of unification many times before, and it took a few years to produce textbooks with new maps.

In 1868 there was a similar picnic just north of Union Cemetery in Morris’s Grove. Games and races included:

  • flat race – 100 yards
  • boys foot race – 100 yards
  • three-legged race – 100 yards
  • short race – 100 yards
  • foot race – 500 yards
  • sack race – 100 yards
  • girls race (under 14 years of age)
  • hurdle race – 6 hurdles, 3 feet high, 1000 yards
  • standing jump
  • running jump
  • running high jump
  • running hop step & jump
  • putting heavy stone – weight 21 pounds
  • putting light stone – 6 pounds
  • tossing the caber
  • pitching quoits

There were so many children near the three OM houses that they might have played similar games and races at the 1867 picnic.

In 1869, a picnic and games started at 10 am, with a reunion and strawberry festival at 7:30 (the newspaper article doesn’t say morning or afternoon, so presumably evening.) The entrance fee was 10 cents per person so that everyone could come. Women served strawberries, ice cream, soda water, and other refreshments, and the musical program consisted of songs (both humorous and pathetic – according to the original article), duets and choruses. Address and a patriotic poem were read by local orator Edward Carswell with fireworks at 10 pm.

In 1870, the festivities began early with morning Reveille at 8 am. The Fire Brigade (in new uniforms) and Regiment Band paraded to the Post Office (area – probably the Armouries) to test various fire engines before the crowds.

At 9 am of the same year, the ‘Grand Union Picnic’ was held at Annis’s Grove (same as 1869.) The Clearwater Quadrille Band provided other music throughout the day; games included a foot race match between Oshawa and Whitby with a $25 prize. Visitors also played croquet and football, with swings provided. Fireworks were purchased in Toronto.

While people in the present still celebrate Canada Day, there is an undertone of quiet embarrassment among some. It feels uncomfortable being as patriotic and observing as I once did, with all of the Indigenous atrocities coming to light over the last few years. However, I am thankful I have my son’s birthday to celebrate, so the focus isn’t entirely on Canada Day.

This year, the Oshawa Museum will have Henry House open for tours, with costumed interpretation. As much as we are Indigenous allies, three of the OM’s most significant artefacts are the houses here in Lakeview Park, and there is no way of ignoring that. So if you decide to celebrate Canada Day this year, we hope to see you at Henry House – our first time in two years, opening on July 1st.

From the blog archives:

Oshawa Celebrates Canada Day

On July 1, 1867, The British North America Act came into effect on July 1, 1867, uniting the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as “One Dominion under the name of Canada. “ In Oshawa, the passing of the BNA Act was a relatively quiet affair, even though it had been designated…

Canada: 150 Years… or is it?

This blog series comes from our dedicated and awesome Visitor Host staff, and topics range from favourite artifacts, thoughts on our latest exhibits, and anything else in between! By Sarah C., Visitor Host This year is Canada’s 150th birthday!  It has been 150 years since Canada became a Dominion. But oddly enough, we have only…


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