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.
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.
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.