Discover The Stories in Oshawa’s Union Cemetery

Oshawa’s Union Cemetery was located on the border of East Whitby and Whitby Township today the Town of Whitby and the City of Oshawa. Described in 1875 as having “…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…”, Union Cemetery has a history spanning more than 175 years.

The Oshawa Museum is offering two events which will highlight the history found in Union Cemetery.


On Sunday, September 13, tour through the South Presbyterian and Section C of the cemetery; Oshawa Museum guides will highlight prominent citizens and remarkable gravestones. To complement our 2015 feature exhibition, Mourning After: The Victorian Celebration of Death, guides will also highlight people and industries associated with 19th century death and funeral customs.

The tour will begin at 2pm at the front gates of Union Cemetery. Cost is $5 per person, or free for members of the Oshawa Historical Society.


On Tuesday September 15, join the Oshawa Museum’s Executive Director Laura Suchan and Curator Melissa Cole as they share untold stories from Oshawa’s Union Cemetery, including murder, fraud, success, and clairvoyants.

The Oshawa Historical Society’s September Speaker Series is taking place Tuesday September 15 at 7PM. The meetings are held at the Oshawa Public Library, McLaughlin Branch Auditorium, located at 65 Bagot Street, Oshawa. Admission to the Oshawa Historical Society Speaker Series is $3 or FREE for members of the Oshawa Historical Society.


Grandpa Henry’s Picnic

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

At the Oshawa Museum, we put a great amount of time, energy, thought, and enthusiasm into our events and event planning.  Late in the year is when we start putting thought into the events for the following year, and in late 2014, we knew we wanted to shake up our usual events and try new things!  Accessioned: a behind the scenes tour of the Museum, Tea & Talks, Sunday FUNdays, and Grandpa Henry’s Picnic was what we came up with!

Why Grandpa Henry’s Picnic?  After Thomas Henry passed away in 1879, his daughter-in-law Polly-Ann Henry wrote Memoir Of Rev. Thomas Henry Christian Minister, York Pioneer, And Soldier Of 1812.  For Museum staff or those wanting to research the Henry Family, this book is a fantastic resource as it details Thomas’s early life, his experiences both with the War of 1812 and the 1837 Rebellion, his work with the Christian Church, and his private family life.  Polly-Ann also shared this wonderful passage:

Father Henry was very fond of children, and his grandchildren will carry to their graves pleasant memories of “Grandpa’s parties.” These parties were given on the 24th of May, and the grandchildren were all invited. The children also were welcome if they came, but the grandchildren were the honored guests. We shall always remember the long table, surrounded by children, with grandpa at the head dispensing the good cheer provided for the occasion, with a face scarcely less bright and happy than the children around him.

We wanted to host an event for families, much like Thomas Henry would have done 100 years before us.

Thomas typically held this event on May 24, but we decided to host it in the beginning of July.  Historically speaking, when we host events around the May long weekend, Mother Nature tends to rain on our parade; those who attended Acessioned on May 31 can attest to that!  On July 5, the Henry House Gardens will be taken over by games of croquet, ice cream making, and yoke races!  Costumed guides will be in Henry House to provide information on the history of the house and the Henry Family.

We hope you’ll join us for Grandpa Henry’s Picnic! It’s going to be a fun afternoon!

Gpa Henry Picnic Poster

Stories from the Homefront – Oshawa and WWII

The British author and poet, Joseph Rudyard Kipling, once said “If history was told in the form of stories it would never be forgotten.” 

In 2004, with this wise statement in mind, the Oshawa Historical Society set out to design, develop and implement an oral history project to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the ending of World War II.  We were looking to capture the stories from those who guarded the homefront, those who made an impact here in Oshawa and Durham Region from 1939-1945.

The community shared with us memories of rationing, working as ‘Bomb Girls’, and the ever mysterious Camp X.

On March 29, the Oshawa Museum will be hosting a Tea & Talk, where guests will enjoy tea and scones while Visitor Experience Co-ordinator Jillian shares the Stories from the Homefront.  RSVP is required for this event, please do so by calling 905-436-7624.  It will begin at 1pm, and the cost is $10/person.

March Tea & Talk Poster copy

Some of the stories were incorporated into a video, available on our YouTube Channel: Stories from the Homefront: Oshawa and WWII 

Thank you to Honey & Tea for providing the tea for our Tea & Talk Series.

Memories of Lamplights Past

For over two decades, the signature event at the Oshawa Community Museum has been our Lamplight Tour.  Henry House, our traditional Victorian home, is lit with oil lamps, in Robinson House, the General Store exhibit is ready to party like it’s 1899, Father Christmas makes an appearance, and there is food, drinks, and music to be enjoyed.

OCM Staff took time to reflect on their favourite memories from the Lamplight Tour.

Laura Suchan, Executive Director
My favourite memories of Lamplight are of my children participating in the schoolroom activities.

Dylon, left, in 2004, and Tyler, right, in 2008.
Dylon, left, in 2004, and Tyler, right, in 2008.

Jennifer Weymark, Archivist
My memory of Lamplight was the year that (OHS Member) Don Sloman dressed as Father Christmas.

Don Sloman dressed as Father Christmas, 2000 Lamplight
Don Sloman dressed as Father Christmas, 2000 Lamplight

Melissa Cole, Curator
My favourite memories are the years that Anderson CVI students participated.  In Henry House, they dramatized the Henry Family getting ready for the wedding of Jennie Henry.

Anderson CVI Students, at 2004 Lamplight
Anderson CVI Students, at 2004 Lamplight

Jillian Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator
I don’t necessarily have a favourite memory of Lamplight, but to me, the smells of Henry House, from the greenery, to the cloves, and the lamp oil, help to begin the holiday season.  Lamplight is the beginning of Christmas.

Jillian decorating the tree in Henry House, 2009 Lamplight
Jillian decorating the tree in Henry House, 2009 Lamplight

Lisa Terech, Community Engagement
My favourite memories are of my first Lamplights, my first as a volunteer where I was in the General Store, and the first as a staff in the Henry House Kitchen.  Since 2010, I am the staff member in the Kitchen, and I love talking about preparing the plum pudding!

Preparing plum pudding, 2010 Lamplight
Preparing plum pudding, 2010 Lamplight

We hope that you’ll join us for this year’s Lamplight Tour and make memories of your own!
Saturday, December 6, 2014

Archaeology in Oshawa – the MacLeod Site

The MacLeod archaeological site, located at the corners of Thornton and Rossland Roads in Oshawa, is a Lake Ontario Iroquois village dating from 1450 A.D.   It is one of the first known settlements in the Oshawa area.   It was first discovered in the fall of 1967 on the property of Howard MacLeod.  Several groups excavated in different areas of the site until 1972.

The MacLeod excavation, c. 1969, Rossland and Thornton Roads
The MacLeod excavation, c. 1969, Rossland and Thornton Roads

The village was located on 3-4  acres  and  consisted  of  five  longhouses  surrounded by a high protective  wall  or  palisade.   During the excavation, portions of two of the longhouses were uncovered.  The larger of the two, the Alpha house measured 58 metres in length and 8.2 metres in width.  The interior was arranged to allow several families to live together.  A row of hearths was located down the centre of the house and holes in the roof allowed smoke to escape.  Sleeping benches were located down either side of the longhouse.  A replica of one of the longhouses is on display at the Oshawa Community Museum in the Grandview Site Gallery.

Model longhouse, on display in Robinson House
Model longhouse, on display in Robinson House

The inhabitants of the MacLeod site were agriculturists and did not generally hunt large game.  They subsisted on diet of corn, beans, fish, small game and wild plant foods which were gathered.  Charred remnants of corn and beans were discovered at the site.  The women were responsible for planting, tending and harvesting the crops as well as gathering foodstuffs such as nuts and berries.

EX992.35.1 - Rim Shard found at the MacLeod Archaeological site
EX992.35.1 – Rim Shard found at the MacLeod Archaeological site

Over  18 000  artifacts  were  uncovered at  the  MacLeod  site  of  which  the vast majority were ceramics,  lithics  (stone)  and  worked faunal specimens (bone).  A large number of ceramic pipes were found at the MacLeod site.  Pipes were generally made of clay and shaped around a grass core which burned off once the pipe was baked leaving a hole in the middle.  An interesting specimen from the MacLeod site is the reptile effigy pipe bowl.  Lithics or stone tools were prominent amongst the artifact assemblage.  Projectile points were the major hunting tools of the Lake Ontario Iroquois and were roughed out from pieces of chert or flint by striking them with a large stone.  Most of the stone tools found at the MacLeod site were made of chert found on the north shore of Lake Erie or in the Trent Valley.  The natives used bone to make a number of tools and ornaments including beads, awls (used to pierce skins) and scrapers (used to scrape bits of fat from animal hides).

The MacLeod excavation, c. 1969
The MacLeod excavation, c. 1969

Archaeologists believe that MacLeod site was abandoned after a period of twenty years possibly due to the fact that the fields had lost much of their fertility.  In addition, game and trees from the surrounding forest had probably been depleted as well.  The majority of the artifacts from the MacLeod site are housed at the University of Toronto, Scarborough Campus while some remain a part of the educational collection of the Oshawa Community Museum.


The Oshawa Community Museum is proudly hosting Digging Up The Past: International Archaeology Day on October 18, 12-3PM.  Please Join Us!