February is Black History Month

Two photographs side by side of a man dressed in army clothes and a woman wearing a blue dress. There are words to the left of the pictures, reading 'Black History Month'

Every February is celebrated as Black History Month. In Canada, the first Black History Month was celebrated in 1988 in Nova Scotia. The Ontario Black History Society petitioned the Ontario government in 1993 to proclaim February as Black History Month.

In December 1995, after an idea by Rosemary Sadlier, president of the OBHS, the Canadian House of Commons recognized Black History Month in Canada, following a motion introduced by the Honourable Jean Augustine, the first Black Canadian woman elected to Parliament.

In 2008, a motion was introduced by Senator Donald Oliver, the first Black man appointed to the Senate, to “Recognize Contributions of Black Canadians and February as Black History Month,” receiving unanimous approval.

To learn more about Oshawa’s Black history, we invite you to visit our Black History Month Resource page. Here, we have rounded up blog posts written about Oshawa’s Black history and people of note, videos sharing these stories, as well as included links to other organizations and resources.

Visit


Information about Black History Month in Canada from: https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/black-history-month/about.html

The Month That Was – February 1863

All articles originally appeared in the Oshawa Vindicator
Content Warning: one article discusses a suicide

February 4, 1863
Page 2
Another Suicide

…It is our most painful task to record the death of Thos. Bartlett, Esq., by his own hands, on Monday last, between the hours of eight and nine o’clock in the morning. The deceased was a brother of the late Wm. Bartlett, Esq., who hung himself… on the 4th September last, and lived on the opposite side of the road, only a few rods distant from the last residence of the former. Soon after his brother’s sad end, the subject of the present notice was taken ill, his difficulty being a nervous affection which prevented his obtaining sleep, the consequence of which was that he began to fail in flesh. As a remedy he resorted to opium, of which he took repeated and large doses with a view only of procuring sleep as was then supposed, but when it took effect it acted powerfully as an emetic, rather than as a narcotic, otherwise the quantity would most probably have proved fatal. For some time afterwards he lay in a very critical condition…

Newspaper ad for WH Tregear, French teacher
4 Feb 1863, page 4

February 11, 1863
Page 2

The Emancipation Proclamation to be Photographed – Benjamin J Lossing has obtained permission from the president to take a photograph of the Emancipation Proclamation, which is entirely in Mr. Lincoln’s handwriting. The photograph is to form one of the illustrations in Mr. Lossing’s historical work.

Oshawa Central School
At the last meeting of the Board of School Trustees, applications were received from twelve different young ladies willing to accept one or the other of the two situations open in the staff of teachers of the Central School. Only one of them – a daughter of the Rev. Mr. Cantlon – had ever taught before, and after due consideration of the claims of others, she received the appointment as teacher of the second grade at a salary of $240 per annum. A daughter of Mr. Hurd, of Raglan, was appointed teacher of the first grade, at a salary of $150 per annum. Miss Stone was, at the same time, promoted to the third grade, without increase of salary. The Central School is now better provided with teachers than it has ever been, having two male and three female teachers. Their united salaries amount to $1550. The obnoxious “monitor system” has been dismissed from the school, and teachers are paid for their services and expected to work for the interest and benefit of the school accordingly. The attendance of pupils is very large, notwithstanding the prevalence of disease, giving the five teachers plenty to do, to attend to their proper instruction.

Skirt Lifters – This new and useful invention is becoming very popular with the ladies, and promises to form nearly as important a branch of manufacture ad trade as the hoop skirt business has become. It will be seen on reference to our advertising columns that the original article is to be had at al of our Dry Goods Stores. We see by the Toronto papers that another article designed to serve the same purpose is in the market. It is a Canadian invention called the Patent Canadian Skirt Lifter.

February 18, 1863
Page 2
Oshawa Wheat Market

Last week was one of excellent sleighing and persons having wheat to dispose of, took advantage of the good travelling to pour in the golden grain and get, in return for it, the golden coin or the equally prized green colored Ontario Bank note. At Warren’s Mill, from half a dozen to twenty loads of grain were to be seen every day, standing about, wait8ing for their turn at the door to unload, and a similar scene might be witness at that of Messrs. Gibbs & Bros., in South Oshawa. The amount of wheat purchased by the latter firm, and delivered, during the week, was 22,834 bushels; 1[  ],830 were delivered on the last 3 days of the week. The amount purchased by John Warren, Esq., and delivered at his mill, was something over 18,000 bushels during the week.

In another column we give both the Oshawa and Toronto market prices.

Page 3
Oshawa Markets
Fall Wheat: 90  95
Spring Wheat:  80  85
*note, this represents a price range per bushel

Newspaper ad for George Gurley, Tailor
18 Feb 1863, page 3

February 25, 1863
Page 2

An ice-bridge, says the St. Catharine’s Journal, has formed at the junction of the Niagara River with Lake Ontario, for the third time in the history of Canada. The cause is the prevalence of south winds for a few days and then a sudden change to the north, the first forcing the ice down the upper lakes into the river, which is prevented by the north winds from getting into Lake Ontario.

Alarm of Fire – On Saturday evening last an alarm was rung out on the fire-bell, and many ran to and fro, looking for the fire. It was at last discovered, by some, in an unoccupied house belonging to Mr. L. Butterfield, on Water Street, opposite Messrs. Warren & Co.’s Tannery. A woman was engaged in cleaning out the house, and the partitions caught fire from an improperly put up stove pipe. It was soon extinguished, before doing much damage.

Page 3
Scarcely a day (says an English paper) passes on which the journals do not record deaths from wearing Crinoline. A young woman at Dalston, for instance, was making a pudding at a table five feet from the fire, when a draught from an open window blew her extended dress into the grate, and not long afterwards she was dead. Verdict of the jury, “Died from fire while wearing crinoline.”

Newspaper ad for Seed Barley
25 Feb 1863, page 3

Prehistoric Oshawa: Glacial Lake Iroquois

By Melissa Cole, Curator

Colour photograph of a lake shoreline. There is sky, water, waves, and sand visible
This image of Lake Ontario was taken looking south from Lakeview East Beach. Melissa Cole, 2022

Did you know that Lake Ontario started as a small stream that gradually opened up through the erosion of soft Silurian rocks over thousands of years?

Lake Ontario is one of the five Great Lakes of North America. Surrounded on the north, west, and southwest by the province of Ontario, and on the south and east by the state of New York, its water boundaries, along the international border, meet in the middle of the lake.

Colour drawing of a map, showing the outline of a lake surrounded by land
Drawing of Lake Iroquois from 1904, showing the original shoreline in green and the present-day Lake Ontario. Source: University Of Toronto, A.P. Coleman Fonds, G 3501 C5 1891 13C

Oshawa lies on a glacial geological feature called the Lake Iroquois shoreline. We know it today as a fairly level band of land ringing Lake Ontario, bordered by the ridge of the prehistoric Lake Iroquois shoreline.  

Lake Iroquois was a proglacial lake, meaning that the lake was situated between rock deposits and an ice sheet. The northern shore of this lake was the southern edge of the retreating glacier. Lake Iroquois was formed by melting glacial ice in the Lake Ontario basin.

Colour drawing of a map showing lake locations in blue and surrounding land in green
General Outline of Lake Iroquois about 12 000 years ago in southern Ontario. Image: Royal Ontario Museum

At that time, the St. Lawrence River Valley was blocked with ice, and the lake level rose 30 m (~100 ft) above present day Lake Ontario. The lake drained to the southeast, through a channel passing near present day Rome, New York.  The lake was fed by Early Lake Erie, as well as Lake Algonquin, an early partial manifestation of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay that drained directly to Lake Iroquois across southern Ontario.

The stream turned into a river that was widened and sculpted by the powerful movement of the continental glaciers. The current level, shape, and direction of flow of Lake Ontario was established over 12,000 years ago.

As it retreated, the glacier left behind Lake Iroquois, a larger version of present-day Lake Ontario. As it retreated, the glacier left behind Lake Iroquois, a larger version of present-day Lake Ontario.

The old shoreline runs west-east, running roughly parallel to today’s King Street in Oshawa. The shoreline is typified by washed sand and gravel bluffs. It is located well away from the present shore of Lake Ontario.  Remnants of this shoreline can still be seen in various communities today along the north shore of Lake Ontario. The ridges of the old shoreline are evident in Oshawa, where the banks of the old Lake Iroquois shoreline can be seen looking north of Highway 401.  Iroquois Shoreline Park, located on the hills of Grandview Street North and the appropriately named Ridgemount Blvd.,  is the approximate location of the original shoreline of Lake Iroquois.  Further west, the Scarborough Bluffs also formed part of the shoreline of the original lake.  Further east, remnants of the shoreline are visible at Stephen’s Gulch in Clarington and Highway 401, near Cobourg.

This land was valued by Indigenous communities and later by settlers for farming and settlement.  Archaeological reports show that from 1400 – 1450CE, ancestral Wendat communities were utilizing the land around the area of Grandview and Taunton.

The next time you are taking a drive, I would recommend a drive to the top of the hill of Grandview Street North near Ridgemount Blvd. in Oshawa.  If you stand looking south from that ridge, all that land would have been water.

Colour photograph of a skyline, with grey clouds in the sky. There are houses in the landscape as well as trees without leaves and yellow/brown grass
This photo taken from the top of the hill near Grandview Street North and Ridgemount Blvd. Looking south towards Lake Ontario. Image: Jillian Passmore, January 2023

Sources:

http://www.lostrivers.ca/points/Lake_Iroquois.htm

Richard Foster Flint, Glacial Geology and the Pleistocene Epoch. 2008

Grahame Larson and Randall Schaetzl, Review: Origin and Evolution of the Great Lakes. 2001

https://ontarionature.org/greenbelt-eastern-expansion/

Blog Look Back – Top 5 Posts of 2022

Happy New Year! Throughout 2022, we shared 61 articles on the Oshawa Museum Blog, showcasing many different stories from our city’s past. 

We’re planning our new and dynamic posts for 2023, but to start the year, let’s look back at our top 5 posts of 2022:

Black and white photograph of a brick house. There is an orange banner overlaying the photo, with text reading "Top 5 blog posts 2022"

Oshawa’s Newspapers, Past and Present

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement Preparing for our latest Sunday FUNday event at the Oshawa Museum, our first in person event since February 2020, brought me down the rabbit hole of newspapers. To celebrate Archives Awareness Week, I wanted the Sunday FUNday to be archives related, so newspapers were a good theme. We were able…

Profiling: George Kenneth Lancaster

By Sara H., Summer Student As my summer at the museum is wrapping up, it has been the perfect time to reflect on my time at the museum and how much I have learned about museums and Oshawa’s history.  My last blog post talked about past industries in Oshawa that were featured on the  Discover…

The Ocean Wave

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Coordinator In the early years of the twentieth century, a man named Jack O’Leary owned the New Lunch/O’Leary’s Restaurant at 37 King Street West in Oshawa – between the Commercial Hotel and the coal yards at Centre Street. Behind this small restaurant, a semi-permanent, Trabant/wipeout style of carnival ride existed, a…

Street Name Stories – the ‘Knitting’ Streets

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement Those who know me know that I’m an avid knitter. In fact, in the past I’ve written a blog post about a WWI Sock knitting pattern, I’ve examined some of Oshawa’s early woolen industries, and I’ve done a deep dive into one of those industries, the Empire Woolen Mills, available…

These were our top 5 posts written in 2022, however, for the FIFTH year, our top viewed post was once again Keeping Warm: The Ways The Victorians Did! This post was originally written in 2016 and has been the top blog post every year since 2018. The desire to know about foot warmers and window coverings must be strong with our readers!

Thank you all for reading, thank you to the OM staff, students, and guest authors who helped create content for the blog, and we hope to see you again through 2023!

Happy Hogmanay

This post was originally published on the Oshawa Museum Holiday Blog, December 31, 2018

Happy Hogmanay!

Hogmanay is the Scottish word for the last day of the year, or New Year’s Eve. Customs vary throughout Scotland, however, they traditionally include giving of gifts and visiting the homes of friends and neighbours.  Special attention is given to the first-foot, a Scottish and Northern English custom, established in folklore. The first-foot is the first person to cross the threshold of a home on New Year’s Day, regarded as a bringer of good fortune for the coming year. The first-foot usually brings several gifts, perhaps a coin, bread, salt, coal, or a drink (usually whisky), which respectively represent financial prosperity, food, flavour, warmth, and good cheer.

Another custom which is prevalent in Scottish celebrations and others is the singing of Auld Lang Syne, a poem by Scottish poet Robbie Burns, written in 1788.  The tune to which it is traditionally sung is an old Scottish folk tune.

From all of us at the Oshawa Museum, Happy Hogmanay and Happy New Year!

Black and white picture of two men, dressed in Victorian clothing, standing by a table and sharing a drink. Under the photo is the text to the poem Auld Lang Syne
Postcard from the Oshawa Museum archival collection
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