The Month That Was – April 1872

All articles originally appeared in the Ontario Reformer

April 5, 1872

Barnum wants him – the man with the big cheek, who wants the Joseph Hall Works moved from Oshawa – the man who wrote to Mr. Glen offering him a “free water privilege, a liberal bonus, and freedom from taxation if he would remove to Hall Words to that town” – the town where the man lived. Oh no; the Halls Works is a big part of Oshawa, and it would spoil the looks of the town to have it removed.  It is very nicely situated, and pays well.

 

Lacrosse

A meeting of the Oshawa Lacrosse club will be held at Black’s hotel on Tuesday evening next, at 8 o’clock. All persons interested in out door sports, are invited to attend.  The Lacrosse boys have never been beaten, and intend to “go in strong” this year.  It is of the utmost importance that every member of the club should attend, and they are requested to bring along as many friends as possible.

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Earthquake

California last week experienced a most terrible earthquake.  The volcanic district in which it occurred is about four hundred miles southeast from San Francisco.  Only a slight shock was felt at the time in Northern and Central California.  The town of Low Pine, however, appears to be immediate over the centre of disturbance.  The first shock resembled the roar of artillery, fired immediately under the town. Nearly the whole population were buried beneath the ruins of the houses, and the air was filled with the cries and shrieks of the maimed and wounded, who were unable to extricate themselves, and who were calling for help.  The first shock was followed in rapid succession by three others of equal severity.  Over three hundred distinct shocks were felt between half-past two o’clock in the morning and sunrise. The fact is, the earth was in almost constant tremble and vibration for over three hours…  Over thirty persons have been killed, and more than one hundred were wounded.  Smoke and lava have issued from several of the mountain peaks in the same region of the country.

 

April 12, 1872

Clean Up

Now is the time for every householder to see that his premises are thoroughly cleaned, and disinfectants properly applied.  Tuesday afternoon last being quite warm, the stench arising from several yards we had occasion to pass, was fairly sickening; and if no remedy is applied the result can easily be foreseen.  Filth and disease go together; and if we are to escape the latter, we must set scavengers at work, and be in nowise chary in our use of disinfectants.  The work should be done now before the weather becomes warmer; and we how that our Health Inspector will at once proceed on his rounds, and make sure that the law in regard to filthy premises is fulfilled to the very letter.

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For Sale

The property on Selina St., consisting of a story and a half Frame dwelling, with stone foundation.  There is a stable and driving shed attached, and a good garden with a number of choice Fruit Trees on it: also, a never-failing well of excellent water.  For terms and other particulars apply on the premises, to Walter Fogg.

 

April 19

On Monday evening last, the members of the Oshawa fire brigade, with a few of their friends, assembled at the Town Hall to present Mr. Scott and Mr. Crockhart – who were about leaving this town for Scotland – the following address, as a token of esteem for these two gentlemen:

To David J Scott lieut. and James Crockhart ,sec’y Oshawa “Dreadnaught Hook and Ladder Company”

Dear comrades, -As you are soon to leave us on a visit to your native Scotland, we, the members of the Oshawa fire brigade, do you know that we cannot allow you to depart without an expression of the regret we feel at a temporary sundering of the connection between us.

We address you conjointly because we believe it will be agreeable to you both, who have been marked for your strong friendly attachment to each other, and because the sentiments we shall utter are equally applicable to you both.

For over two years either as private or officers, you have been members of the brigade. As private you were obedient to those in authority, and prompt and untiring in the performance of every duty and as officers you proved yourself skillful, kind and considerate.

In your private life your characters have been irreproachable, and you have ever manifested a readiness to assist in every good work.

In the illness, which is the cause of his leaving us, we deeply sympathize with Mr. James Crockhart, and pray that the breezes of his native land may restore him to vigorous health.

We also pray that Divine Providence me overrule the winds and waves that you may have a safe and pleasant Atlantic voyage, a speedy reunion with relatives and friends, and in their lovely company realize all anticipated joy.

Hoping that you may be spared to return to Oshawa to rejoin our ranks and participate in the honors and dangers of our association whose aim and ambition it is to save, we bid you an affectionate farewell.

Signed on behalf of the brigade, PH Thornton, Chief Engineer, H Barkell, Secretary

 

April 26, 1872

A big clock – the large clock at the English Parliament House is the largest in the world. The four dials of this clock are 22 feet in diameter. Every half minute the point of the minute hand moves nearly 7 inches. The clock will go eight and a half days, but it only strikes for seven and a half, thus indicating any neglect and winding it up. The mere winding up of the striking mechanism takes two hours. The pendulum is 15 feet long; the wheels are of cast iron; the hour bell is 8 feet high, and 9 feet in diameter, weighing nearly 15 tons, and the hammer alone weighs more than 400 pounds. This clock strikes the quarter hours, and by its strokes the short hand reporters in the parliament chambers regulate their labors. At every stroke a new reporter takes the place of the old one, whilst the first retires to write out the notes that he has taken during the previous 15 minutes.

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Two weeks have passed since the assembling of parliament at Ottawa, and very little has been done yet, beyond the answering of several questions by members of the government. Ministerial measures foreshadowed in the address, few as they were, are not yet ready for presentation to the house; and as a consequence the daily sittings generally last about an hour or two. The cabinet sessions are doubtless more occupied with plotting how to retain office then and maturing measures for the public weal.

 

The Williams Piano Company

Richard Williams began The Williams Piano Co. operations in Toronto in 1849.  In 1888 the Williams firm purchased the former home of the Joseph Hall Works in Oshawa and began renovating the building for the manufacture of pianos and organs.

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The building was originally constructed in 1852 and was initially used by the Oshawa Manufacturing Company.  The factory, a three storey brick building, occupied an entire town block on Richmond Street.  Williams spent more than $40,000 adapting the facilities for the production of pianos.  To this end, the buildings were re-roofed with slate, new hardwood floors were laid and new buildings built.  All of this retrofitting and new construction turned the former Hall Works into a building with enough floor space for what was the largest piano works in Canada.  The company’s total floor space was approximately 100,000 square feet.  In 1890, the new Williams Piano Factory began producing pianos and organs.  The company was also located at other locations such as the lumber yard and some other smaller buildings in Oshawa. Only this part of the business moved to Oshawa, as the centre of the business remained in Toronto.  Smaller instruments such as guitars and banjos continued to be manufactured in Toronto.

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The Town of Oshawa granted Williams $20 000 in ten annual installments as an inducement to move the plant to Oshawa.  The Town also granted the new firm a fixed taxation rate of $250 per year for a number of years.  Once in Oshawa, the newly acquired space allowed the firm to manufacture its first large church organ.  This first organ was constructed for a church in Brighton and consisted of more than 100 pipes.

The company was reorganized in 1902, and the piano was revised.  The piano was adjusted in scale, touch, case-design, acoustic, and tone. It took ten weeks to three months to make one piano.  The company constructed its pianos to “the highest degree of excellence in every detail of workmanship” and the quality of its product determined its success.  The ‘New Scale Williams Piano’ and ‘Player Piano’ soon became one of the world’s most demanded products.

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In 1903 after much hard work, Mr. R.S. Williams became ill and sold his business.  The company was renamed “Williams Piano Company”.  The president of the company was Fredrick Bull and the vice-president was E.C. Scythes.  The factory was huge and prosperous by the year 1911, and employed 250 skilled workers.  The company produced approximately 3,000 pianos/player pianos annually.

After the creation of the victrola in 1926, many people found records to be more convenient and popular than pianos.  The Williams factory was forced into the radio business.  Eventually, after three years the company became the seventh largest manufacturer.  The Williams Piano Factory even widened its horizons in order to build canoes and row boats.  The company was branching out and business was great.  People from foreign countries wanted a Williams Piano and the company exported their product on a regular basis.  The Williams piano was well known all over Canada, from coast to coast, and overseas.

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The company prospered and began to construct 4,000 pianos per annum.  The company was shipping pianos to seven different countries.  The Williams Piano was also displayed in an exhibit at the Wembley Exhibition in London, England in 1926.  In 1927, one hundred and thirty-five men worked for the company and payroll hit a high of $200,000 a year.  At this time, the company was prosperous, but it did not last forever.

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The successful company that was known to so many individuals all over the world was required to change with the times.  Unfortunately, both the depression and mass production of the neutrodyne radio contributed to the demise of the company.  After the closure of this company many other businesses occupied the premises including: Cole of California; Sklar Furniture; and Coulter Manufacturing Company.  The building even acted as a barracks during the war years.

The building was torn down in 1970 in order to make room for the Durham Region Police Headquarters and the Oshawa Times.


References:

Cselenyi-Granch.  Under the Sign of the Big Fiddle:  The R.S. Williams Family, Manufacturers and Collectors of Musical Instruments.  Winnipeg:  Hignell Printing Limited, 1996.

The Oshawa Daily Reformer, October 25, 1926.

The Oshawa Daily Reformer, June 20, 1927.

Oshawa Daily Times, December 8, 1930.

Oshawa Daily Times, September 19, 1930.

Kaiser, M.D., T.E.  Historic Sketches of Oshawa.  The Reforming Printing & Publishing Co., 1921.

 

The Month That Was – March 1863

All articles originally appeared in The Oshawa Vindicator

March 11, 1863
The Oshawa Volunteers
Yesterday being a holiday, the Oshawa Volunteer Force was out for exercise.  This branch of the service consists of two companies- one of Rifles, under command of Capt. John Warren and the other of Infantry, under command of Major S.B. Fairbanks. It must be admitted that the members of these companies, though under drill but a short time, began to assume the all manner and bearing of real soldiers. They have recently provided themselves at their own expense, with neat capes, which add very much to the effect of their uniform.

 

Mare Astray
Came into the premises of the subscriber, Lot No. 8, 3rd Con. of East Whitby, about the 1st of January last, A BROWN MARE rising three. The owner is requested to prove property, pay charges and take her away. James Ross, East Whitby, March 3rd, 1863. 390-w

 

Mar 63 1

March 18, 1863
Oshawa Grammar School
We are glad to learn that this Institution is now FULL of pupils, every desk being fully occupied. This speaks well for ability and test of Professor Lumsden to whose zeal and preservation the possession of a Grammar School by our village is almost wholly attributable.

 

B.C.S.S Anniversary
We are happy to learn that the second anniversary of the Bible Christian Sabbath School.

Oshawa was a complete success in every respect. The attendance was very large, the preparations and performance were good, and the income, after paying the expenses, something like $50. The provision of eatables was abundant, so much that notwithstanding the large company fed, a considerable quantity was disposed of by auction at the close of the proceedings. This will no doubt prove a welcome addition of the funds of the school, and evinces on the part of the members with which the school is connected, a lively interest in the welfare of their “nursery”—one worthy of imitation elsewhere.

Mar 63 2

March 25, 1863
Save Your Teeth – How to do it
Mr. Beccher, who is something of a physiologist, as well as a theologist, farmer, editor, author, lecturer and reformer generally, says, “Our teeth decay. Hence unseemly mouths, bad breath, imperfect mastication. Everybody regrets it. What is the cause? It is a want of cleanliness. A clean tooth never decays. The mouth is a warm place—98 degrees. Particles of meat between the teeth decompose. Gums and teeth must suffer. Cleanliness will preserve the teeth to old age….

Sugar, acids, salertus are nothing compared to food left in the teeth. Mercury may loosen the teeth, use may wear them out, but keep them clean and they will never decay. This advice is worth more than a thousand dollars to each boy and girl. Books have been written on this subject. This brief article contains all that is essential.

 

LOST
In Oshawa, on Friday the 27th, a BLACK WOOL VEIL with lilac flowers on it. Any person leaving the same at the Vindicator office, will confer a favor upon the owner. March 4th, 1863.

 

“Shall I Learn to Dance?”
Certainly, by all means. Commence with the ‘quickstep’ out of bed in the morning and keep it up until the ‘chores’ are all finished. The boys of course will have a ‘cow drill’, while the girls are engaged in a ‘country dance’, in the kitchen. After this, all hands ‘change’, and ‘promenade’ to school, keeping step to the music of merry laughter. Repeat the same of the way home at night, with an occasional variation by ‘tripping the toe’, and having a ‘break down’ in the snow bank. A ‘reel’ now and then will be quite in place for the girls who have learned to spin, but the boys should never think of it. If these and kindred dances are thoroughly [practiced] they will leave little time and no necessity for the polkas, schottisches, rnd (sic) other immodest fooleries of the ball-room.

The Alger Press

Ora M. Alger began the Alger Press after making a dramatic career change in the early 1900s.  A schoolteacher by trade, Alger began publishing a weekly newspaper after purchasing the Embro Courier in Oxford County.  The change in careers seemed to agree with Alger, as he sold the Embro Courier after seven years and purchased the Tweed News, a larger newspaper.

While in Tweed, Alger expanded his focus to include commercial printing, as well as running another weekly newspaper, the Pembroke Standard.  During this time, Alger’s two sons Ewart and Stewart joined the family printing business.  Although the business flourished, in 1919 Alger decided to sell his holdings in Tweed and Pembroke and move to Oshawa to begin a new printing business.

Alger purchased a small parcel of land across from the Oshawa Post Office and constructed a two-story plant.  This new business focused on commercial printing.  However, Alger soon returned to newspaper publishing and began the Oshawa Telegram.  The newspaper was a success, switching from a weekly to a daily newspaper, Oshawa’s first daily newspaper.  In 1926 however, the commercial business was so successful that Alger decided to sell the newspaper holdings to Charles Mundy and Arthur Alloway, partners in The Ontario Reformer and focus solely on commercial printing.

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37 King Street

The company faced its first major setback when a fire destroyed the building.  The company quickly built a new single story building on a location approximately a block away.  A four-story office building, the Alger Building, was then constructed on the old site.

In 1936, the Algers began to feel as though they were falling behind other printing presses, as they had no lithographic equipment.  After a research tour of various sites throughout Canada and the U.S., the Alger Press Limited entered into the lithographic field.

The outbreak of World War II saw business rapidly expand and it became necessary to enlarge the bindery and finishing departments.  Space was rented in the old Williams Piano Building, but this was only temporary.  In 1946, the company happily accepted the opportunity to purchase a building at 61 Charles Street. For many decades, this was known as the Alger Press Building. 

Spring Axel and Oriental

This building had a long history beginning in 1903 when the T. Eaton Company of Toronto began the manufacturing of textiles in the three-story brick facility, built by noted builder John Stacey. In the late 1910s, the Oriental Textile Company operated out of this building for approximately 18 years, producing fabrics for General Motors prior to the depression; they closed their doors in 1934. During the war years, it had been home to the General Motors War Parts plant.

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61 Charles Street, the Alger Press Building, now UOIT Campus building

The Alger PRess remained a successful entity in commercial printing and bookbinding and is known in Oshawa for printing the very popular Pictorial Oshawa series.  However, this success was not ongoing, and in 1993 the company declared bankruptcy.

In 2010, the building was renovated and refurbished for the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (now Ontario Tech University), and students started using the building, now known simply by its address as 61 Charles Street, as another downtown campus building in 2011.


References:

“61 Charles Street,” Ontario Tech University website.  Accessed from: https://ontariotechu.ca/about/campus-buildings/downtown-oshawa/61-charles-street.php

Cole, Melissa. Alger Press Building, 61 Charles Street. 2006.  Accessed from: https://www.oshawa.ca/city-hall/resources/Heritage-Research-Rpt_Charles-St-61.pdf

Doole, William E. The Alger Story, Canadian Printer and Publisher. Offset Lithographic Section, November 1948. 36-56.

Follert, Jillian. “Durham students go to school in old underwear factory,” Oshawa This Week, February 24, 2011.  Accessed from: https://www.durhamregion.com/community-story/3515510-durham-students-go-to-school-in-old-underwear-factory/

Hood, McIntyre. Oshawa: The Crossing Between Waters, A History of “Canada’s Motor City” and Oshawa Public Library.  Oshawa: Alger Press, 1978.

McClyment, John.  “90 Jobs Are Lost as Alger Press Goes Bankrupt,” The Oshawa Times, June 8, 1993.

Oshawa Museum Archival Collection: Oshawa Telegram file.

 

You Asked, We Answered: Where are the Henrys Buried?

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

While on tour, our Visitor Hosts are often asked questions that they may not be able to answer in that moment. However, we take note of the questions and try to find the answers afterwards. Here is one such question asked during a tour.

Where are the Henrys buried?

A large number of the Henry Family are buried in the cemetery which has become known as the Port Oshawa Pioneer Cemetery.  This cemetery may be one of the oldest in our community with an interesting history.

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The earliest known burial, based on headstones, is that of Nancy Henry, the mother of Thomas, who died in 1816.  As described in Thomas’s memoirs:

Autumn came and wreathed its many colored drapery around the mighty forests’ head, but the bright tints faded, the red leaves fell, and when the heavy frosts came down on the bare brown earth, a great affliction fell on the little household in their lonely, forest home. The wife and mother died.  Almost without precursor or warning she went, and left anguish and desolation behind her. Far from sympathizing friends, far from religious comforters, with none but her own little family around her, she bowed her head, and closed her eyes in death… [S]he was buried with Christian rites, on a little hill beside the lake… (The Annotated Memoirs of Rev. Thomas Henry, page 27).

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It is likely this cemetery had been used for burials before the death of Nancy, but there are no burial records existing from that time.

Thomas is laid to rest at this cemetery, as are both his wives, his father John, five of his children, and three grandchildren.

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Headstone for Thomas Henry & family; left photo dates to 1947 and shows original topper for headstone.  It is no longer there (right photo)

Originally, this cemetery was located to the east of the harbour, on an area known as Gifford’s Hill, however, the cemetery was moved to Bonnie Brae Point in 1975 to accommodate harbour expansion.  There were 195 individuals removed to the point, and an additional ten burials have taken place since then.