From Historical Oshawa, Vol I-III, by the Oshawa Community Museum
The Oshawa Union Cemetery was established in 1875 by the Oshawa Union Cemetery Company. Prior to 1875, there was a burial ground located in this same vicinity, but as the community grew, the cemetery’s size became inadequate. It was to remedy this condition that the Oshawa Union Cemetery Company was instituted.
The land lying to the west of Hwy. 2 entrance is the original Presbyterian Cemetery, which in 1848 was given by Robert and Euphemia Spears to the Presbyterian congregation of Whitby. It was used by the communities of both towns as a burying ground until 1875 when it came under the ownership of the holding company.
The Oshawa Union Cemetery Company decided that the needs of the community would be best served by leaving the cemetery in the same location and purchasing the property around it. Due to the location of the new property, it was felt that the new cemetery should still be made available to both Oshawa and Whitby as a union burial ground. The plan for the laying out of this “new” cemetery was prepared by landscape architect H.A. Englehardt.
It wasn’t until 1922 that the cemetery became the property of the town through the generosity of George W. McLaughlin, who purchased the shares held by the Ontario Loan & Savings Co., and William H. Thomas. He then presented the property as a gift to Oshawa. He also secured the title deeds to the adjacent Presbyterian Cemetery. The land comprised about 30 acres. In addition, Mr. McLaughlin gave $500.00 which was to be used to administer the bodies of deceased W.W.I soldiers to the Veterans’ Plots.
The large Mausoleum which can be seen from Hwy. 2 was constructed by Canada Mausoleums Ltd., and granted to the City of Oshawa on the 26th January, 1926. The cemetery office located at the front gates was built in 1934 and was originally used as a funeral chapel.
Today, Union Cemetery appears as a serene stretch of land shaded by pine and cedar trees. People can be found using the cemetery grounds for walks, bike rides, and as a resource for tracing ones family roots. A booklet titled By-Laws, Rules and Regulations of the Union Cemetery Company, 1875 describes the cemetery as “. . . large and handsomely laid out grounds . . . which will not only be a quiet and worthy resting place for the dead, but by the care bestowed upon it, be a credit to the living . . . “.
Please join the Oshawa Community Museum as we tour through this historic cemetery. Our Union Cemetery Tour is becoming an anticipated annual event.
2013 tour: Sunday September 8, at 2PM; meet staff at the front gates
Throughout the summer months the museum has been very busy with research and writing for our latest publication on Robinson House. I was writing a small part about the collection and exhibits at Robinson House throughout the years and I wanted to highlight past exhibits that had been on display from 1970 to today. Summer staff member Caitlin and myself were trying to determine what exhibitions were displayed at Robinson House so we decided to go through the old Oshawa Historical Society newsletters in the archives – we were not only successful at finding out about past exhibitions but we also found other interesting stories such as this one about the Oshawa Street Railway. This little excerpt is from an interview with Mr. Joseph Wood that took place with Norah Herd the archivist at the Oshawa Community Archives in the 1960s.
Mr. Wood retired from the Board of Works in 1964 this interview took place after his retirement.
Before the turn of the century, Oshawa’s main streets were evil-smelling mud holes filled with water after every rain. Simcoe and King Streets were unsafe to drive over because they were full of deep ruts. Large stoned were used to fill them in but traffic would displace them. Driving to the railway station from the centre of town without mishap was almost impossible. A wagon taking a load of trunks to the station might lose one or two of them enroute.
In 1920, the streetcars operated on Simcoe Street from Rossland Road to the Lake, and the fare was five cents. At that time also, the Oshawa Railway tracks ran along King Street for a block each way from Simcoe Street. The motorman would alight and switch the streetcar east on King Street and travel the one block to the Post Office where he would pick up the mail to be taken to the railway station. This was the old Post Office at King and Wellington, which later became known as Ontario Street. Then he would drive to the Commercial Hotel, one block west of Simcoe. This hotel was the biggest and best one at the time. Then the streetcar backed up to the Four Corners, switched again to Simcoe Street and then continued south the C.N.R. Station where passengers and mail were deposited, then south again to the Lake. Quite a ride for a five cent fare.
Maintaining a gentlemanly character was certainly no easy feat for those living in Victorian Oshawa. Of course, one was expected to have discipline and an esteemed manner regardless of the circumstances. Nonetheless even those of high status lost a few battles to their tempers.
One such example involved a conflict between the respectable Thomas Conant Esq. and arithmetic teacher, Mr. D. Black in the fall of 1865. Now, the twenty-three-year-old Thomas certainly did not think of himself as an expert lecturer but he found himself quite unsatisfied with the teaching style utilized by Mr. Black to portray the rudiments of figures to his younger sister, Electa. Thomas, not burdened by timidity, made himself plainly understood. However, Mr. Black quickly took offence to these comments, claiming that he would not “submit” to Thomas’ “interference and dictation.”After a few exchanges things appear to have gotten heated quickly.
After being taken aback by Mr. Black’s non-compliance Thomas pressured further, boldly stating that his behavior seemed to imply…
“…that we should shut our eyes and take no interest in the pupil’s under your charge.
I have neither time nor inclination to continue a discussion – but contend that persons having an interest in the pupils have a right to suggest as I have done and demand a gentlemanly answer.
And in a later response Mr. Black, still having none of Thomas’ intervention, replied with:
“You seem offended at the ‘tone’ of my reply to your note of yesterday and characterize it as ungentlemanly. Perhaps it was. If so, I regret it. But you will understand its tone little perhaps when I tell you that thetone of the letter to which I wrote in reply struck my mind as impertinent and dictatorial.”
It is likely Electa never quite realized the extent of the bold, quoted, and underlined words being exchanged between these two gentlemen over her education. Yet, while the language is quite appalling for these Victorian men I’m sure many can relate to their good intentions. Whether a parent, older sibling, or instructor the method of how to properly up-bring and treat those under out care still exists as a personal and potentially controversial topic. Unfortunately, Helen Lovejoy cannot be everywhere to ensure that “won’t somebody please think of the children?!” rather than their gentlemanliness in many of these times of need.
As the dog days of summer carry on, the long weekend in August comes as a nice break. The Civic Holiday is known by several names across the country; British Columbians enjoy British Columbia Day, Saskatchewaners take in Saskatchewan Day, and New Brunswickers celebrate, you guessed it, New Brunswick Day.
Generally, the holiday is known as the Civic Holiday in Ontario, although different regions have their own names for the day, many of them taking the day as an opportunity to recognize important citizens or founders. Toronto recognizes the day as Simcoe Day, it is Colonel By Day in Ottawa, Joseph Brant Day in Burlington, Peter Robinson Day in Peterborough, and John Galt Day in Guelph.
Oshawa is no exception. We honour one of our favourite citizens every Civic Day, where we proclaim the first Monday of August to be McLaughlin Day after Col. RS McLaughlin. Sam McLaughlin was an automotive pioneer and philanthropist, and he loved this City as much as the City loved him.
McLaughlin Day was first celebrated in 1983, and Oshawans were encouraged to visit the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Parkwood, and the Automotive Museum, and even though it rained, ‘spirits were high,’ and the day ended with fireworks in Lakeview Park! McLaughlin Day was the beginning of a week long celebration known as McLaughlin Celebration Week.
This McLaughlin Day, visit RS McLaughlin’s former home, Parkwood National Historic Site for special basement tours, or come down to the Oshawa Community Museum and regale in the history of the City that Sam so loved. We are offering tours from 12-4 on Monday, August 5.
“I love the old town and am always glad to do anything towards its improvement.” -Col. RS McLaughlin
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 as a celebration of Confederation for the country. The day started with the firing of guns and ringing of bells, and many houses flew flags. There was a parade along King Street and speeches were given in front of Gibb’s Store and Fowke’s. A picnic was held later in the day at Cedar Dale for those people of the community who did not go elsewhere such as the town of Whitby to celebrate. It is estimated that 7,000 were present for the events in Whitby.
On June 20, 1868, a proclamation of Governor General Lord Monck called upon all Canadians to join in the celebration of the anniversary of the formation of Canada on July 1st. The proclamation stated, “Now Know Ye, that I, Charles Stanley Viscount Monck, Governor General of Canada, do hereby proclaim and appoint WEDNESDAY, the FIRST day of JULY next, as the day on which the Anniversary of the formation of the Dominion a Canada be duly celebrated. And I do hereby enjoin and call upon all Her Majesty’s loving subjects throughout Canada to join in the due and proper celebration of the said Anniversary on the said FIRST day of JULY next.”
Oshawa residents observed this proclamation and celebrated the one year anniversary of Confederation. The Oshawa Vindicator reported on July 8, 1868 that the 34th Battalion (later renamed the Ontario Regiment) assembled at 3 o’clock on Dominion Day on the Agricultural grounds in Whitby to receive a flag in the colours of the Queen. The paper reported that “the attendance of spectators was immense, rendering it almost impossible to preserve sufficient space for moving the force.”
There was also a picnic held by the employees of the factories at Morris’s Grove on Dominion Day, and the Vindicator stated it was a success. The picnic itself was slightly overshadowed by the presentation of the Colors, but nonetheless, attendance was still large. There were games and a “friendly rivalry” between Foundry and Factory, and the Freeman family band played music throughout the day. In the evening, the events continued in the drill shed where prizes were distributed, addresses were delivered and cheers given to the Queen, Messrs Miall, Glen, Whiting and Cowan, and to members of the committee. Picnic attendees danced to the “late hour” to the music of the Freeman band.
Although not officially recognized as a holiday (it would be recognized as such in 1879), Oshawa residents celebrated Dominion Day in the years following confederation in similar manners. Picnics were held, games were played, fireworks lit up the sky, and dancing continued into the night. The 34th Battalion typically played a role in Dominion Day celebrations.
Canada’s Diamond Jubilee year was 1927, and both Canada and Oshawa celebrated this landmark. The Oshawa Daily Reformer issued a special edition of their paper for June 30, commemorating 60 years since Confederation, particularly highlighting Oshawa’s achievements through the years. In Lakeview Park, the Jubilee Pavilion was open for business on June 30th, 1927, with the official opening on Dominion Day. The pavilion was named in honour of this landmark year. Jubilee celebrations lasted for two days in Oshawa and included parades, sporting events, picnics, the playing of a speech from King George V, dancing, and fireworks. The Ontario Regiment Band played, along with the Salvation Army Band, the Oshawa Kilties Band and the General Motors 75 member choir. Dominion Day also included a commemorative ceremony for those who died during the Great War. Memorial Park and Alexandra Park served as appropriate locales for Jubilee celebrations on Friday July 1, and on July 2, the party continued at Lakeview Park.
In 1967, the year of Canada’s Centennial, Oshawa appropriately celebrated this milestone. The Oshawa Folk Festival had a Centennial Week celebration with events leading up to and including Dominion Day. On July 1, there was a parade through to Alexandra Park and events through the afternoon, as well as events and fireworks at the Civic Auditorium. Oshawa also took part in the “Wild Bells” program, with all church bells, factory whistles and sirens sounding when July 1 came in. Hayward Murdoch, Oshawa’s Centennial Committee Chairman commented, “This seems like an excellent and appropriate way to usher in Canada’s 100th birthday. We want to have as many bells, whistles and sirens sounding as possible.”
Celebrations for East Whitby Township took place in the Village of Columbus with the unveiling of a centennial plaque, a band concert, school choirs, barbeque and fireworks.
Oshawa also had a centennial house constructed at the corner of King Street and Melrose Street (just east of Harmony Road). The project was coordinated by the Oshawa Builders Association, and profits of the sale of the home went to the Oshawa Retarded Children’s Association (now operating today as Oshawa/Clarington Association for Community Living).
In 1982, the name of the holiday was officially changed from “Dominion Day” to “Canada Day.” Since 1984, Oshawa’s largest Canada Day celebrations have taken place in Lakeview Park. In 1985, the opening of Guy House coincided with Canada Day festivities, and the opening of the new pier also took place on July 1, 1987. In 1988, an elephant from the Bowmanville Zoo was part of the festivities, participating in a tug of war with city aldermen. Canada’s 125th anniversary was in 1992, and the City organized a big party down at lakefront. Every year, fireworks mark the end of the celebrations.
The City run Canada Day celebrations have been very successful over the years, drawing tens of thousands to Oshawa’s lakeshore. They have also attracted a certain level of prestige, making Festivals and Events Ontario’s list of top 50 (later top 100) celebrations in 2004, 2005 and 2009.
Located in Lakeview Park, the Oshawa Community Museum takes part every year in Canada Day celebrations. Over the years, the museum has had historical re-enactors, special displays, woodworking and blacksmithing demonstrations, and a Strawberry Social in the Henry House Gardens. Currently, the Museum offers costumed tours of Henry House on Canada Day, and our Verna Conant Gallery is open in Guy House.
We will be open from 2-5 on July 1, 2013! Please visit!
The Oshawa Vindicator, 1868-1870, various editions Oshawa Daily Reformer, June 30, 1927 Oshawa Daily Times, July 4, 1927
Oshawa Community Archives (Subject 0012, Box 0001, Files 0003-0006, 0011, 0015)