The Life of David Annis

By Shawn Perron, Visitor Host

It may be the case that discrepancies exist in every area of historical research. Events, dates, and even the images of some Oshawa Victorians can cause some confusion. The latter is the situation I have stumbled upon while reading into the life of David Annis.

There are two main sources which discuss the life of David: the Annis Annals and Upper Canada Sketches. They tell us that he was born in 1786 to quite a wealthy, large family, having eight siblings. His father, Charles, was one of the first owners of the 200 acres which made up the broken front concession (today’s Lake View Park in Oshawa). Raised in Oshawa David lacked the education of his brothers and never learned to write or sign his name. However, he quickly developed a strong relationship with the Conant family, and specifically Daniel Conant. Amongst several business enterprises the two opened a Saw Mill together and when David inherited the entirety of the broken front concession from his family he subsequently passed it on to Daniel. It is possible that David was somewhat of a father figure for Daniel being his elder, especially after Daniel’s father was assassinated in 1838. David worked with Daniel through the rest of life, fathering no children of his own and today the two are buried under the same marker in Union Cemetery.

However, while these two accounts agree on the above, they are divided in regard to David’s physical appearance. The Annis Annals – a genealogy of the Annis family from 1638 to 1931 – pictures David in a family photograph. Here David is quite distinct from his brothers, sitting on the far right he has dark hair and a short beard, wearing a rather severe expression.

The Annis Family
The Annis Family

This does not match David’s picture featured in Thomas Conant’s Upper Canada Sketches – an account of the author’s life in, and stories from, Upper Canada. This actually appears to be a cropped section of Levi Annis, David’s older brother, from the same family portrait.

David Annis
David Annis

One might logically deduct that Upper Canada Sketches provides a more accurate source because Thomas was the son of Daniel and possibly encountered David on a regular basis. However, there is always room for error. Indeed, to add another layer of confusion, the Sketches portrait inaccurately refers to David as Thomas’s uncle. While this does not hold true for David, Levi could be considered Thomas’ great-uncle, having married his grandfather’s sister, Rhoda Conant. But for now, the true appearance of David Annis shall remain a mystery and one has the freedom to imagine him either as a stern-looking dark-haired man, or a jolly Santa Claus-like fellow.

Victorian Humour from the Oshawa Vindicator

These are a few jokes which were published in the Oshawa Vindicator during the year of 1867. They were found as a collection in a newspaper article published around the 1960s. The section was titled: “Victorian Wit: 1867 Humor Found in Paper.”

 

1.  “When I am in pecuniary difficulties,” said a pensive bankrupt, “my garden, my flowers, all fresh and sparkling in the morning, console my heart.”

“Indeed,” responded his sympathetic friend. “I should have thought they would remind you of your pecuniary troubles, for like your bills, they are all dew.”

 

2. “Now,” said the judge, “suppose you and I were turned into a horse and an ass, which would you prefer to be?”

“The ass, to be sure,” replied the lawyer. “Why?”, asked the judge.

“Because I have heard of an ass being a judge but a horse, never!”

 

3.  “A plain spoken women recently visited a married woman and asked her how she amused herself all day. ‘Amuse,’ said the other, starting. ‘Do you not know that I have my housework to do?’

‘Yes, I see you have it to do but as it is never done, I conclude you must have some other way of passing your time.’”

Oshawa’s Union Cemetery

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.

Oshawa's Union Cemetery
Oshawa’s Union Cemetery

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 Mausoleum
The Mausoleum

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

Memories of Mr. Joseph Wood

By Melissa Cole, Curator

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. 

The Commercial Hotel, from the Oshawa Community Archives
The Commercial Hotel, from the Oshawa Community Archives

 

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.  

Student Museum ‘Musings’ – Shawn

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.

Thomas Conant, esq.  Author of 'Life in Canada' and 'Upper Canada Sketches'
Thomas Conant, esq. Author of ‘Life in Canada’ and ‘Upper Canada Sketches’

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 the tone 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.

"Think of the Children!"
“Think of the Children!”
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