Student Museum Musings – Ria

By Ria K., Co-op Student

Hello, my name is Ria, and I am this semester’s co-op student at the Oshawa Museum. I am currently in Grade 11, and attend O’Neill C.V.I. I chose to do my placement at the Oshawa Museum since it is an extremely different learning environment from what I am used to. History class is something I enjoy, as I am constantly learning, however history is much more exciting and engaging when I am experiencing a hands on learning experience, and not just listening to a lecture. Throughout my time as a co-op student, I will have many ongoing projects. One responsibility I find extremely interesting is researching and creating the monthly Month That Was blog posts.  Also, I have been passing a lot of time creating write ups on artefacts and posting them to the Oshawa Museum Tumblr. I hope to gain a lot of knowledge about how museums run, as well as gain new skills in researching, writing, and creating aesthetically pleasing displays. I am looking forward to spending the next four months at the Oshawa Museum!

Here is a selection of photos Ria has taken around the Museum!


Getting Dressed, the Victorian Way!

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordonator

We recently hosted some grade 2/3 students from a local school to participate in our Day in the Life of a Victorian Child program. This allows kids to experience some of the chores and learn some of the rules that applied to kids in the Victorian Era. This time we were able to change up the program with the implementation of three new activities.


Patty lacing Jill into the corset

Now that we have our loom in the Henry house kitchen set up, the students were able to see how Lurenda and the girls turned fleece into yarn and then yarn into cloth. They also had an imaginary $20 to create an outfit from our reproduction 1901 Eaton’s catalogue and saw what it took to dress a Victorian lady.


Pettycoat #2 being tied

Our in-house Costumer was on hand to dress me up in ten different layers of basic clothing – stockings, knickers, chemise, corset, corset cover, petticoat, overskirt, bustle, undersleeves and bodice and skit. If I were getting dressed to go out in the winter weather, there would have been more layers! I had so much fun doing this. It is definitely something we will be incorporating into more programs!


Jill is ready in her Victorian finest

For more information about educational programs at the Oshawa Museum, please check out our Education Catalogue, or give us a call at the Museum (905-436-7624 x 106)!

Student Museum Musings – Nicole and Mary

This semester, we are happy to host two students from Durham College’s Library and Information Technician program who are able to get hands-on experience in the workplace while offering valuable assistance where we need the help.  Read on to meet Nicole and Mary!


Hello, my name is Nicole Bray and I am a second year student in the Library and Information Program at Durham College.  I chose to have a field placement at the Oshawa Museum & Archives after I saw Jennifer’s presentation for one of my classes.  She made working at the archives sound fun and interesting.  And everyone has certainly lived up to my first impression.  At the moment I am working on the Education in Oshawa e-publication.  It’s really interesting to read up about all the different schools that were once in Oshawa.  I look forward to the rest of the time I’ll spend here at the Archives.


Hello all! My name is Mary Sherlock and I am a 2nd year Durham College student in the Library and Information Technician program. This is my last year in the program and I am excited for what the future may bring! I am here as a placement student in the archive and am loving every second of it so far! I have a great love for history, especially Canada’s history, which makes me all the more excited for my time here. This placement will  give me a great opportunity to see if working in an archive or museum setting is something I wish to do after I graduate, also to gather as much educational experience as possible to apply towards school, work, and life.

New Picture

Durham LIT Students on a Fall visit to the Oshawa Museum

Profiling: Polly Ann Henry

By Laura Suchan, Executive Director

Recently Stoney Kudel, President of the Oshawa Historical Society, and I completed a project annotating the memoir of Reverend Thomas Henry. The memoir published in 1880, one year after Thomas’ death, was written by Polly Ann (P.A.) Henry his daughter in law.  As the Oshawa Museum works towards telling a more inclusive view of Oshawa’s history, we thought it was important that information regarding Polly Henry was included in the annotated version of the memoir. Historian David McCullough says, “History is no longer a spotlight. We are turning up the stage lights to show the entire cast.” His quotation emphasizes the reality that history is generally told from the perspective of one sector of society and it is imperative as historians and those entrusted with the stewardship of our community’s history, that we look to tell our story with a broader, more diverse approach.

Polly Ann Henry

Polly Ann Henry

Pauline (Polly) Ann Hayward Henry, was an accomplished photographer and author in her professional life and a loving mother and wife to her family.  Pauline was born to Reverend Joshua and Lydia Barker Hayward in Lowville, New York in 1825. Not much is known about Polly’s early life. Census records indicate she was the second youngest in a large family.  Her father, who Polly states died in 1840 after “twenty-three years of laborious work in the Gospel field” most likely was known to Thomas Henry. The Christian Palladium has several notices of Reverend Hayward  preaching in New York state during the 1830s and it is quite possible he and Thomas were acquainted.  Polly marries the third son of Thomas and his first wife Elizabeth (Betsey) Davis, George Henry in Porter Niagara, New York June 24, 1846. Polly and George settled on a farm by the lakefront in Oshawa and counted as their neighbours members of the Robinson and Guy families.  Soon two sons, Roland and Chauncy, were added to their family . By 1861, the family had moved to Bowmanville and were living in a 1 storey, frame house. They now had 2 more children, daughter Ella Jane and son George.  A fifth child, Thomas Eben Blake, was born in 1868.

Image177 - Polly Ann & George Henry

Polly Ann and George Henry

Polly Ann was, at least for a time,  a professional photographer. Whether she had any formal training is unknown however she had a studio in Bowmanville which she ran for a short time as well as a studio in Oshawa which was sold in 1865 to another portrait photographer. The Pennsylvania State Special Collection Library has in its collection two portraits taken by Polly. [1]

PA Henry Oshawa

The reverse of a photograph taken by PA Henry. Note, her location is Oshawa, CW (Canada West) telling us the photo was taken pre 1867

Most of the details regarding the writing and publishing of Thomas Henry’s memoir are lost to history.  Perhaps Thomas was following in the footsteps of several of his contemporaries, men such as Elder Abner Jones, Joseph Badger and Joseph Ash, who had published memoirs.  Or perhaps it was his daughter in law Polly that suggested to Thomas that he share his stories of spiritual development, plentiful travel and church leadership with family members and his friends in the church.

Just a few short months after Thomas’ death in September 1879, Polly had Thomas’ memoir completed and was researching publishing options. The only reference to the memoirs in the Henry collection comes from a letter written by George Henry to his step-mother Lurenda Abbey. In it George writes, “P.A. (Polly Ann) …. has Fathers history finished and wanted to see you, she had an answer from the [Publisher] – my house in [Dayton] Ohio about publishing Fathers history but not very encouraging.”[2]  The Ohio publisher referenced in the letter was most likely the Christian Publishing Association, headquartered in Dayton which published many of the Christian Church publications including the Herald of Gospel Liberty.  As a frequent contributor to the publication, Thomas Henry was likely known to the publishers. Interestingly enough, it appears they declined to publish the memoirs.  Polly’s next idea was to have family members contribute funds towards the publication costs, as noted by George “ [she] would like that such of the boys invest $20.00 each towards the printing and take books for their pay and for me to pay the [rest] as the fears if will be looseing matters. If you think favourable of it you can speak to them as you see them and what is done should be done at once.”[3] Unfortunately we don’t know if the family members gave any money towards the publication of the memoir or if it was George, as he feared would happen, who paid for the publishing. The Memoir of Thomas Henry was published by Polly in 1880 and printed by Hill & Weir, Steam Printers of Toronto.


Original Thomas Henry Memoir (l) and the recently published annotated memoir

After the memoir was finished we don’t hear much about Polly. She and George continued to live in Bowmanville where he became a successful fruit dealer. George passed away on March 6, 1892 of complications from diabetes. In  the 1901 census Polly is shown as living in Bowmanville with her son Thomas, his wife and three grandchildren.  Polly passed away on January 2, 1913 in Essex County Ontario.

Where those who walk shall sleep no more
The sleep of death. Are they not there?
Prophetic whispers answers, “There!”
Where those who love, their loved ones meet.

~From a poem written by Polly Henry


[1] Rethinking Professionalism: Women and Art in Canada, 1850-1970 Hardcover – Apr 11 2012 by Kristina Huneault pg 164. Photos are part of the William C. Darrah Collection of cartes de vistas.

[2] Letter from George Henry to Lurenda Henry, February 3, 1880, Original in the Archival collection of the Oshawa Museum

[3] Letter from George Henry to Lurenda Henry, February 3, 1880, Original in the Archival collection of the Oshawa Museum

The Prodigal Son: E.E. Henry, 1828 – 1915

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

In 2018, the Oshawa Museum will be publishing a book focusing on the amazing collection of Henry family letters that were donated to the archives in 2013.  One of the more prolific letter writers was Ebenezer Henry.  Who was Ebenezer Henry?

A017_20_1 A

EE Henry (A017.20.1)

Ebenzer Elijah Henry, or E.E., was the youngest of five boys born to Thomas and Betsey Henry.  Sadly for the young family Betsey died on November 12, 1829 when Ebenezer was just one year old.

The death of Betsey left Thomas alone to care for five young boys aged 9 to 1. While a sister of Thomas’s came to help the family in their time of grief, Thomas knew that the boys would need a mother. Through series of letters, Thomas began courting a young woman from Port Hope, Lurenda Abbey.  They were married on November 2, 1830 and Lurenda moved to Port Oshawa becoming mother to five young boys.

By all accounts, Ebenezer had a fairly typical childhood of the time period.  Lurenda took to her new role as mother and raised the five boys as if they were her own. The family grew to include ten more children. They had a farm and a fruit orchard on which the boys would have been expected to work. Thomas and Betsey built a frame home where they started their family.  Sometime around 1840, Thomas and Lurenda had the stone house that stands today, constructed for the family.

Henry House

Along with his siblings, Eben’s education most likely began at the small log cabin school located in School Section #2 Cedardale. The school was located approximately 2.5 kilometres from the family home. It is unclear if Ebenezer attended high school.  We know that Ebenezer attended Starkey Seminary, located in Eddytown, New York. In a letter written to his father, Ebenezer recounts returning to the Seminary and once again seeing his teacher, Professor Edward Chadwick.  Prof. Chadwick became head of the Seminary in 1847, and Ebenezer attended the school sometime between 1847 and 1851.

It appears that during his time in New York State, Ebenezer met Harriet E. Mills. Harriet was living wither mother and step father and is listed as a student in the 1850 US federal census.  While it is not yet clear if Harriet was a student at the Seminary, as it was approximately 23 kilimotres from the family home, it is clear that this is when Ebenezer met Harriet. Sometime between 1850 and 1852, the couple wed and moved back to East Whitby Township and settled in a frame house located close to his father’s home.

In around 1857, the couple left East Whitby Township and headed east to Port Hope, the hometown of his step-mother Lurenda. Once there, Ebenezer opened a photography studio. He not only created ambrotype photographs for his patrons, he could also produce copies of daguerreotypes, engravings, painted portraits and other such art work. The studio moved several times during his time in Port Hope, but it did appear to be a successful business venture.

Ebon Henry Photo Studio

In 1866, Ebenezer and Harriet moved from Port Hope to Leavenworth, Kansas where he once again opened a very successful photography studio.  Even with the distance between them, Ebenezer maintained relationships with his family in Canada.  The letters sent by Ebenezer to his father offer us a unique opportunity to learn more personal details about the family and provide glimpses into family dynamics.  While Ebenezer would return to Canada to visit family, he made Leavenworth this home until his death February 7, 1915.

As the research for the upcoming publication continues, it has been pleasure to learn more the Henry family on a more personal level.