Profiling: Frederick L Fowke

This community profile is of Frederick L. Fowke, a turn of the century politician. He is one of the characters included in this year’s Scenes from the Cemetery, taking place Sept 7 & 8 at Union Cemetery. Tickets are still available for this event – for more info, please visit the event website:

Frederick Luther Fowke was born in Harmony Village in East Whitby on May 27, 1857.


FL Fowke, cropped from A982.45.21

The business activities of Mr. Fowke during the years from 1885 to 1915 spread into many fields.  He succeeded to the business enterprises of his father and carried on a general store, a grain business and a coal business, not only in Oshawa but had branches in Bowmanville, Whitby, Newcastle and Port Hope.

From 1898 to 1907, he occupied the position of Mayor of Oshawa.  This was at a time when Oshawa politicians held office for one year terms.  While occupying this position he introduced many progressive reforms such as Granolithic sidewalks, harbour improvements and sewer construction.  He was remembered mostly for his struggle for a public water supply.

On October 28, 1908, he was elected as a Liberal member of South Ontario to the House of Commons under Sir Wilfrid Laurier.  He created many improvements for Ontario County during his term which lasted until 1911.  The major issue of the 1911 election was reciprocity with the US; the Conservatives opposed free trade, and William Smith representing this party was elected, beating Fowke.  As World War I raged on, the election of 1917 became about the war and conscription.  Notably, Fowke split from supporting Laurier and the Liberals, who opposed conscription, and instead, supported Robert Borden and his Union Government.  Locally, William Smith (Unionist) was facing WEN Sinclair (Opposition) in this election, and Smith was again successful.

In 1918, Fowke was appointed one of the three commissioners to restore the section of the City of Halifax which had been destroyed by an explosion, caused by the collision of French Relief Ship, the Mont Blanc, and the Belgium Relief Ship, the Imo on December 6, 1917.  He was the only non-Haligonian to serve in such a role, and it was suggested by Dr. TE Kaiser¹ that his appointment was due to his support of Borden in 1917.

Postcard of Gladstone Villa, AX998.29.1

The Fowkes resided at 114 King St. East, now the offices of Kelly Greenway Bruce, which he named “Gladstone Villa.”  He also had a summer home in Chester, Nova Scotia, where they enjoyed an active social life.

During his retirement he spent most of his time travelling.  Frederick Luther Fowke died in 1939 and is buried in Oshawa’s Union Cemetery.


Scenes from the Cemetery is taking place Sept 7 & 8 at Union Cemetery; various start times, beginning at 2pm. We recommend buying your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment! To buy your tickets:

  1. TE Kaiser, Historic Sketches of Oshawa (Oshawa: The Reformer Printing and Publishing Co., Ltd., 1921), 146-147.

An Evening of Lamplight

Staff are busy preparing for their favourite event of the year.  The Annual Lamplight Tour takes place on the first Saturday of December, and this year that date is December 3, 2016.  The Oshawa Museum is decorated for the season, and we have activities planned throughout the evening.

Please join us Saturday, December 3, from 6-8pm.  Admission is $5/person or free for members of the Oshawa Historical Society.

Winter 2016.jpg

Oshawa Museum: 1450 Simcoe Street South, Lakeview Park, Oshawa, ON; 905-436-7624 x 106; info[at]oshawamuseum[dot]org

Digging Up The Past – Archaeology Day 2016

This post was originally shared last year, but we thought it was worth sharing again for Archaeology Day 2016!

Archaeology is an important part of the interpretation at the Oshawa Museum.  Our Grandview Gallery in Robinson House helps tell the story of the ancestral Wendat, a group of First Nations who called this area home over 500 years ago. For far too long, the history of Oshawa began with Benjamin Wilson, an American who settled here in 1790 with his family, and so on and so forth.  By saying our history begins with Wilson, we are completely omitting the ancestral Wendat, who were settled with 10-15 longhouses, who hunted, who fished, and who farmed for a period of over 70 years.  Archaeology and the evidence it has given us helps us challenge the ‘traditional story,’ and we do so on every tour, through our interpretation and through the artefacts we have on display that were discovered during the excavation of the Grandview site in 1992.

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Inside the Grandview Discovery Gallery

Fun fact: there were over 11,000 artefacts unearthed during that salvage dig excavation, and all 11,000 are part of our collection at the Oshawa Museum.  Not all 11,000 are on display of course, but you can view exceptional examples when you visit!

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Tools on display from the Grandview Archaeological excavation

There were two Aboriginal villages discovered through archaeological excavations; the MacLeod Site at Rossland and Thornton was discovered in the late 1960s, and the Grandview Site, around Grandview and Taunton, was discovered in 1992.  Both sites provide valuable information about the lives of the ancestral Wendat and have helped us at the Oshawa Museum shift how we tell the history of our City.

When people think about archaeology, ancient ruins, Egypt, Greece, Maya, or early First Nation settlements is what frequently comes to mind.  At the Oshawa Museum, we are fortunate to have two collections from late-historic archaeological sites: the Farewell Cemetery Collection and the Henry House Collection.  These two sites date to the mid to late 1800s and they provide information about Victorian lives and culture. Artefacts from the Henry House excavation will be on display in Henry House.

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Coffin handle found during the removal and excavation of the Farewell Cemetery

Curator Melissa Cole gives information on the Farewell Cemetery excavation in her June 2015 Podcast.

Archaeology is a fascinating field, and Archaeology Day is an event where we get to celebrate and showcase the amazing history that has been unearthed here in Oshawa!

Archaeology Day 2016 is happening on October 15 from 12-3pm.  Proud partners for this year’s event are Trent University Durham and Scugog Shores Museum who will be joining us with interactive displays, engaging activities, lectures, and sharing in their knowledge of and passion for the field of Archaeology.


Dr. D.S. Hoig


By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist; originally written for the Oshawa Express, 2011.

Oshawa’s longest serving medical doctor was born in Rochester, New York, to Scottish parents on October 28, 1853.  He was the youngest child in a large family and the only one not born in Scotland.

When Dr. David Scott Hoig’s parents immigrated to Canada and settled in Toronto, he moved to Oshawa to live with his sister and attended the Centre School as a child. He went on to pursue a medical degree and graduated from the University of Toronto in 1880. Following an internship with the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, Dr. Hoig returned to Oshawa where he set up his private practice, first at 7 Athol Street, then in his home at 245 Simcoe Street North.

In 1885, Dr. Hoig married Alice Loscomb and together they had two daughters, Marjorie and Dorothy.

Oshawa Hospital staff, 1910.  Dr. Hoig is second from left, front row.

Dr. Hoig was not only a dedicated doctor he was also actively involved in community activities. He was an engaged board member for the Board of Education for 20 years and the Library for 15 years. He was instrumental in the founding of the Oshawa General Hospital and served as the medical superintendent there for 25 years. In 1933, following his retirement from private practice after 53 years he  changed gears and held the position of medical examiner for an insurance company.

Dr. Hoig’s interest in literature inspired him to publish many of his observations and experiences in Oshawa in his book Reminiscences and Recollections.  He describes this work as “an interesting pen picture of early days, characters and events in Oshawa.”  Reminiscences and Recollections includes anecdotes on well known prominent citizens of Oshawa and their families, such as the Farewells and the Gibbs. It also outlines brief histories on Oshawa’s industries, including the McLaughlin Carriage Company, R.S Williams Piano Factory, and Joseph Hall Works. His passion for education is reflected in his chapters on the Demille College and Bishop Bethune College.

Dr. D.S. Hoig, from A History of the Medical Profession of the County of Ontario, 1934

Dr. Hoig’s passion for medicine remained steadfast until the day of his death in 1939. He still held the position of Dean of the Ontario County Medical Profession when he passed.

Saturday, October 1 is Doors Open Oshawa! The theme for 2016 is Medical Science and Innovation.  Henry House is open from 12-4pm where we will have a pop-up exhibit on Oshawa’s Medical History!


Curious about History? Join us for Curio: Hands on History!

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

It’s the most common question on tour: What’s that? Guests will point at various artifacts on tour and immediately start asking what it was, what was it used for, how was it made, why on EARTH did it get used, and so on.  We know just how curious you can be on tour, and that’s why Curio has become a Family Day feature event!

Curio OMA1

Getting technical, ‘curio’ is a noun, as defined by Websters: a small and unusual object that is considered interesting or attractive. This is what is celebrated at Curio, the unusual, the interesting, the curiosities.

Curio is your chance to get your hands on history. We go deep into our storage and bring out the most interesting artifacts from our education collection.  Our guests are invited to pick up the artifacts, investigate them, get a good look and try and decipher what these oddities were used for in days gone by.

Visitors enjoying Curio in years past
Visitors enjoying Curio in years past

On Family Day, February 15, we invite you down to the Oshawa Museum for an afternoon of discovery!  Open from 12pm-4pm, there is activities for the whole family.  Satisfy your curiosity and get your hands on history!

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