Oshawa’s Black History: One Family’s Story, Part 1

By Lisa Terech, Youth Engagement/Programs

In early 2012, the Oshawa Community Archives was invited to participate in a Black History Month event at Trent University; specifically, we were asked to present on Black History in Oshawa.  A few months prior, while researching the Port Oshawa Pioneer Cemetery and those buried there, I came across the Dunbar family who were laid to rest there.  My initial research showed that this was a family of Black descent, a pleasantly unexpected find for this early pioneer cemetery.  Jennifer Weymark, our archivist, and I saw this Trent project to be a good chance to investigate further the Dunbar family, who they were, what was their story, and what would have brought them to Oshawa.

Black History Month at Trent University Oshawa, 2012
Black History Month at Trent University Oshawa, 2012

Two years later, and this family’s story is one that still intrigues us, and we are continually adding to our knowledge of this early settler family.  As their story can be told through several generations, we will be sharing parts of the story throughout the month of February.


With any story, let’s start at the beginning.  Wealthy Ann Dunbar was born in 1795 in Vermont, a daughter to Samuel Dunbar Sr.  The family would move across the border to Stanstead, Quebec.  Wealthy married a man named Peter Andrews in c. 1821 and together they had 4 known children (Sarah, Freeman, Elizabeth, and Mary) and 1 adopted daughter (Amy Jane).  We do not know for sure when Peter and Wealthy relocated to East Whitby Township, but it likely after the death of Wealthy’s father in 1843.

Given the incredibly small percentage of “coloured” people living in East Whitby, the reasoning behind moving to this area is unclear.  According to the 1852 Census of Canada West, there were 17 people listed as coloured in East Whitby Township.  This means that .2% of the population of 8479 were listed as coloured. Most of those counted were single men but there were a couple of families listed as well.  How did Jennifer find this statistic?  It’s simple.  She counted the column for “Coloured – persons – Negroes,” a statistic the enumerator had to account for.

The reasons why the Andrews moved are not known and neither are the reasons for choosing to settle in East Whitby township.  There was no black settlement in the township at that time.

That being said, we have a theory that there may have been a connection between the Andrews family and the Shipman Family which may have contributed to settling here.  Wealthy is recorded as living with John Shipman in the 1861 Census, and there are several ‘unique’ names appearing in both family trees.

Eliza Conant (nee Shipman)
Eliza Conant (nee Shipman)

As well, according to Robert Pankhurst, great-grandson of Wealthy Andrews, Wealthy and her family resided in a log house on property owned by Thomas Conant, whose wife was Eliza Shipman.  With enough small coincidences like this, we strongly feel that the Shipmans may have been the reason for settling here in Cedar Dale.

What became of the family after they moved to East Whitby?  The story continues next week.

Happy Birthday Sir John A!

January 11 marks the birthday of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John Alexander Macdonald.  He was born in Scotland, raised in Kingston, and made political waves in Ottawa, and throughout the Dominion of Canada.  While Prime Minister, he saw the country grow both in population and in geography.  He was not without scandal, however he remains the second longest serving Prime Minister in Canadian history, second only to William Lyon Mackenzie King.

In honour of his 199th birthday, raise a glass (of whatever your drink of choice might be), to one of our Fathers of Confederation!  Happy Birthday Sir John A!

Sir John Alexander Macdonald, c. 1868, from Library and Archives Canada
Sir John Alexander Macdonald, c. 1868, from Library and Archives Canada
Macdonald's gravesite, Cataraqui Cemetery, Kingston.  The simple stone cross marker for Sir John A.  A historical plaque and Canadian flag have been placed in his honour.
Macdonald’s gravesite, Cataraqui Cemetery, Kingston. The simple stone cross marker for Sir John A. A historical plaque and Canadian flag have been placed in his honour.
A960.19.4 - Letter in the Oshawa Community Archives Collection, from Macdonald to Thomas N. Gibbs, MP from Oshawa.
A960.19 .4 – Letter in the Oshawa Community Archives Collection, from Macdonald to Thomas N. Gibbs, MP from Oshawa.

John Dickie and his Rebellion Boxes

By Lisa Terech, Youth Engagement / Programs

In early 2011, the Oshawa Historical Society welcomed Darryl Withrow as the speaker for their monthly Speaker Series, who conveyed the fascinating story of the 1837 Rebellion Boxes.  He brought along examples of his replicas, and Melissa Cole, OCM Curator, brought to the meeting the two boxes which are a part of our collection.  Both boxes feature inscriptions pertaining to a John Dickie.  During the summer of 2011, I was asked to research John Dickie, learn more about who he was and what he meant, if anything, to Oshawa’s history.

I spent time poking around on various internet sites, on ancestry.ca and in our very own archives, and the small discoveries I made about the Dickie Family and Oshawa’s past were exciting!

First, a short history of the Rebellion of 1837.  The 1837 Rebellion in Upper Canada was, simply put, a result of the discontent between the farmers, labourers and tradesmen against the elitist system of aristocratic Toryism.  This feeling of discontentment came to a head when on December 4, 1837 a premature call to rebel was given.  Between December 5 and 8, a group of about 1,000 rebels gathered at Montgomery’s Tavern in Toronto, and although this Loyalist militia quickly won initial small skirmishes in the city, the British forces were ultimately successful.  As a result, hundreds of men were arrested, some were sent to Australia as punishment, and two men, Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews, were executed as a result of their involvement in the Rebellion.

While imprisoned in the Toronto Jail, facing charges of high treason, many men crafted small, wooden boxes and inscribed messages to loved ones.  The messages carried many tones, be it political, religious or sentimental, many lamenting the deaths of Lount and Matthews.  The boxes range in size, were made by skilled craftsmen, and the majority are made of a hard wood and are dated.

John Dickie, 1787-1872
John Dickie, 1787-1872

Now, how does this relate to John Dickie?  Who was he?  He was born in Scotland on March 15, 1787, and in 1807, he was married to Jean Dick.  If that name rings a bell, especially to anyone familiar with the Henry House parlour, it should; the parlour features a needlepoint created by Jean in 1801 when she was 14.  In 1821, they immigrated to Upper Canada with four children, and another four children were later born in Port Hope and Oshawa.

John Dickie was a farmer and, according to Samuel Pedlar, a silk weaver.  Pedlar claimed that Dickie had land “in the bush on lot 8, third concession of Whitby” in 1821 and later “cleared a portion of lot 8 on the second concession” in 1824.   Jean died September 12, 1846 and John died January 23, 1872.  They are buried in Union Cemetery, Section F, grave 143.

John Dickie's headstone, Union Cemetery, Section F
John Dickie’s headstone, Union Cemetery, Section F

When I delved into Dickie’s family tree, a connection between John Dickie, box maker, and John Dickie, Oshawa pioneer became evident.  John and Jean had a sizable family of eight children.  As described by Pedlar:

“This couple left quite a large family consisting of the late Mrs. Amsberry (Margaret), Mrs. Samuel Dearborn (Mary)…, the late Mrs. J.D. Hoitt (Elizabeth), the late John Dickie Jr., … Mrs. Mark Currie (Agnes)… the Late Mrs. Stephen Hoitt (Helen), Robert Dickie, and William Dickie.”

71-D-327.15ab - Rebellion Box from John Dickie to JD Houtt
71-D-327.15ab – Rebellion Box from John Dickie to JD Houtt

Mrs. J.D. Hoitt was Jean and John’s third daughter, Elizabeth (1816-1867), whose husband was a man named James D. Hoitt.  One of the Rebellion Boxes in the museum’s collection was inscribed “James D. Houtt From John Dickie, August 1, 1838.” Despite the discrepancy with the name spelling (in my research, I’ve seen Hoitt spelled a number of ways) this connection seemed too strong to ignore.  Marriage records show that Elizabeth and James were married on November 26, 1840, but it is very likely that the families knew each other for a time prior to their marriage.

971.7.16ab - Rebellion Box from George Lamb to Mrs. John Dickie
971.7.16ab – Rebellion Box from George Lamb to Mrs. John Dickie

The second box in our collection is engraved: “Presented to Mrs. John Dickie, From George Lamb.”  This box was intended for Jean Dickie (Mrs. John Dickie Sr.), and not the wife of John Dickie Jr.  My research strongly indicates that John Dickie Jr. (1818-1892) was married three times: to Lucinda Wheeler in 1843, Rebecca Fowke after 1851, and Catherine Ryder in 1863.  As there would have been no other Mrs. John Dickie in the late 1830s, this box was indeed intended for Jean Dickie.

I also relied on Chris Raible, John C. Carter and Darryl Withrow’s book, From Hands Now Striving to Be Free: Boxes Crafted By 1837 Rebellion Prisoners, as a source of information on the boxes.  Their inventory included three other boxes attributed to John Dickie, one crafted by Alvaro Ladd to John Dickie, and two made by John Dickie for his children.  The Alvaro Ladd box provided little additional knowledge on Dickie, but the other two were enlightening.

The two other boxes were engraved as follows:

“To Ln Dickie From her father Jn Dickie, June 30th, 1838.  Beauty is a flower that fades, soon it falls in times cold shade.  Virtue is a flower more gay, that never dries nor fades away.  May freedom smile & bring us peace, and all oppression & trouble cease.”

“A present to William Dickie from his father in Toronto Augt. 11, 1838.  May vengeance draw his sword in rath, and justice smile to see it done.  And smite the traitors for the death of Matthews, Lount & Anderson.  Beauty is a flower that fades, soon it falls in times cold shade, virtue is a flower more gay, that never faded nor dies away.”

While I was unable to ascertain who exactly ‘Ln’ (possibly a short form for Elizabeth or Helen?) was referring to, the provenance associated with the William Dickie box helped connect the box to Oshawa’s John Dickie.  Raible et al notes that William Dickie’s box belongs to the Britton’s, descendants of William Dickie’s sister, and that last name is found in Mary Dickie’s (Mrs. Samuel Dearborn) family tree.

What has fascinated me the most about this research project is the fact that these artefacts contain key information about a man’s life, information not seemingly found elsewhere.  Little information was known about Dickie to Raible, Carter and Withrow, and a trip to the Archives of Ontario to review Rebellion of 1837 papers and jail registers was a fruitless effort, finding no information recorded about John Dickie.  His death notice in the Ontario Reformer was short, and his tombstone in Union Cemetery contains only dates.  On the one hand, being in arrested in jail on charges of high treason could be a chapter of someone’s history that they may want downplayed. However, Peter Matthews and Samuel Lount, who executed as punishment for their involvement in the rebellion, were looked at as martyrs, and the contemporary view of the rebels, taking actions to achieve responsible government, has led to their being seen as heroes.  Indeed, Dickie’s boxes to his children speak of justice, virtue, freedom and overcoming oppression, implying he possibly felt his involvement in the Rebellion would have been just.  If he did not create three little boxes and dedicate them to James Houtt, ‘Ln’ Dickie and William Dickie, the fact that John Dickie participated in the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion would have been lost in history.

To view a Podcast about our Rebellion Boxes, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRv5FFz20aw&list=UUl3LYl0oJ9nig5rS-1ghkHw

The making of flash back photographs

By Kelley, Winter Term Co-op Student

In life we recognize the big picture when it comes to change. We know the museums were once lived in by families, but we never realize all of the little things that are changing. People are usually fixated on tasks, things that need to get done, and places where they need to be. While looking through the archive photographs of Oshawa’s past I came across several pictures of people who have contributed to the museum, people who have enjoyed the lake, the houses before renovations and renovations in progress.

Guy House, then and now
Guy House, then and now

My task was essentially to take the old and emerge it with the new. The idea was to take a past photograph and present photograph of the same scenery and show the changes by using a bit of each photo and making it into one photograph using an editing software called Adobe Photoshop. Whether it was construction or a couple canoeing on the lake, my job in a sense was showing what once was and showing that how things are today was not always the way it is, because everything has a beginning.

In order to complete this final photograph I first had to take a look through the historical photos of the museums and close by locations. The old photographs all appeared familiar to me, the locations became apparent right away along with the old features that have now been modified. It was almost ghostly seeing people on the lakeshore in the older photographs. I’m at the lake almost every day but who knows where those people’s lives took them.

Once I had finished collecting pictures of locations I could match, I went to each location of the historical photograph displayed and tried to match the angel and direction of the photographer who took the photo. Doing so involved constant looking back and forth from the photograph and the camera lens.

A day at the lake
A day at the lake

After taking the new photographs of the old photographs I then could start emerging them together on Photoshop.  When I opened Photoshop I placed in the new photograph and put it to the appropriate size, I then placed in the old photograph in a new layer which overlapped the new photograph.  For those who have never used Photoshop, a layer allows you to make changes to the photo in that layer without affecting any other photos that you have opened which are in their own separate layers. You can rearrange layers to bring some layers forward and other layers backward.

Matching the photographs was tricky. I had to constantly resize and rotate until everything lined up.  I then could go in and take away parts of the old photograph using the lasso tool. The lasso tool is used for selecting an area of the photograph in your layer. When I used the lasso tool to select the areas which I did not want showing in my final product, I pressed delete which crops out the selected area allowing the backward layer to show threw.

For most of my photos I deleted areas all around a house leaving only the old house left to then place it into position to fit into the new scenery. Taking that as an example, when the house was the only thing left I would then again resize it to match the size of the present picture house. When resizing it is important to hold down on the shift button on your keyboard and then with your mouse move the corner of your photo to enlarge or to make the photo smaller in size. Doing this will ensure that the photograph stays natural to size and the photograph does not appear stretched or elongated making the quality very poor.

So to recap, the old photograph was placed over the new photograph, the old photographs scenery was taken out using the lasso tool which caused the old photographed house visible and now the new photograph scenery visible, the old photographed house was placed over top of the new photographed house and resized using the shift button to perfectly a line the old photograph and the new photograph.

Henry House, 1960 and 2013
Henry House, 1960 and 2013

Now that everything is in place and the old and new photos are emerged creating a realistic and identical appeal of a unified final piece there are many final options. One of the options is to adjust the brightness, levels, contrast etc of your layers. To adjust your layer, you would click image on the top bar, which will then have a list of other options, from there you will see the option of adjustments, once you click on adjustments there will be yet another list giving the options to change the brightness, levels, contrast etc of your photograph placed in the layer you have currently selected. Changing something such as brightness will make your over all photograph look like one unified photograph. For example, if your 1st layer was very dark and your 2nd layer was very light, then it will look like it’s been copied and pasted. If you change your 1st layer to appear lighter, then both layers will be light so it looks like it fits together a lot better.

Another option is to add a border. One way to make a boarder is to click on your rectangle tool which is on the side bar, and to fill it with a colour of your choice. Once you have customized your options, you will click and drag your rectangle till it fits the width of your layer. After this step, you would then click on rectangle marquee tool, also shown on the side bar, and with that tool select the rectangle that you have just made. Once you have selected your rectangle, right click copy and then right click paste. Doing so will duplicate your rectangle which you can then move to the top width to have an even measurement. Do this 2 more times to get the other 2 sides of your layer.

An option which I selectively chose to do was to add text. To add text, all you have to do is click on the horizontal type tool which is shaped like a T on the side bar and to then click on the area in which you’d like to type. You have many options to change the text, size and placement. If you don’t like the options you chose, all you would have to do is double click what you have typed and then change your options to your liking.

When I had finished my final product and added my last touches of borders, contrast and text I was then ready to click save as, and to select to save my photograph as a JPEG. If I was to save as a Photoshop file, my edited photograph would open in Photoshop every time I would go to view the photo. Saving as a JPEG makes it so that when I double click my photo to view it, it would open in Microsoft Office picture manager so I can view and share it at any time.

Verna Conant; she was originally walking into Robinson House in the mid-1960s, but here she is, walking into Robinson House today
Verna Conant; she was originally walking into Robinson House in the mid-1960s, but here she is, walking into Robinson House today

Making the flash back photos over all was really fun. I was able to use Adobe Photoshop which I really enjoy using to create a way for people to look into the past while also acknowledging the present. I was able to add my own style of a scrapbook feel while also making realistic sceneries. There was a lot of hard work, revising and feedback that went into making the flash back photographs. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them.

St. Andrews United Church Quilt

One of the quilts featured in our exhibition; Common Threads: Stories from the OCM Quilt Collection, is the St. Andrews United Church Quilt.  Recently our curator, Melissa Cole received this lovely poem that goes along with this quilt.

This poem was written by Betty Warnica (nee Moore) who was Christened and married at St. Andrews United Church in Oshawa.

From the Oshawa Community Museum Quilt Collection, 997.2.1
From the Oshawa Community Museum Quilt Collection, 997.2.1

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever;
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness.”
John Keats


So it is with this signature quilt
Lovingly stitched in 1983 by
dedicated Christian hands,
Honouring the sesqui-centennial of
St. Andrew’s United Church,
71 Simcoe St. S. Oshawa, Ontario.
Here is the flag of St. Andrew
The white cross bearing the names
of clergy having served the church
Since its doors were opened to the community
one hundred and fifty years earlier.
The blue background bears the names
Of many members of the congregation
during the years 1833-1983
With the closing of St. Andrew’s
Possibly the oldest church in Oshawa,
In December of 1996, this small piece
of its life was given to the care
of the Oshawa Historical Society.

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