Doors Open Oshawa: Behind the Scenes of Henry House

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

I love the Doors Open weekend.  It is a great program that gives people in their community, or those visiting town, to visit buildings that might not otherwise be open, or it may give them a fresh perspective on a familiar site.  A number of years back, I visited Doors Open Toronto and visited a number of churches, museums, and archives in Toronto’s downtown core, and it was wonderful to see the history amongst the tall office buildings.  This year, I am able to be a visitor for Doors Open Oshawa; in years past, I’ve always greeted visitors at the Oshawa Community Museum, playing a different role for the event.  I cannot wait to visit these heritage sites in the community that I love.

Historic Henry House, open from 12-4 as part of Doors Open Oshawa
Historic Henry House, open from 12-4 as part of Doors Open Oshawa

At the Oshawa Community Museum, we are opening up the doors to Henry House, the oldest building of our Museum complex.  It is estimated that Rev. Thomas Henry has his stone house built c. 1840.  He lived in the home with his second wife, Lurenda, and there was typically 8 or 9 of his 15 children living in the home with them.  The second storey, a wooden addition, was added sometime after 1861.  We know this because Census records from 1852 and 1861 record a single storey brick home being owned by Thomas Henry, and Henry House today is very distinctly two storeys high.

The door that leads to the second storey of Henry House.  The needlepoint to the right of the door was created by a Henry family member.
The door that leads to the second storey of Henry House. The needlepoint to the right of the door was created by a Henry family member.

Often on tours, Visitor Hosts are asked what lies behind the door in the hallway, and the answer is storage.  If you ever visit a historic house museum and you see a closed door, chances are very strong that there are items being carefully stored behind them.  This is very true with Henry House.  Behind the door is a set of stairs which leads to the second floor storage areas.  There are three rooms: two of them are used for storing our textile collection, including clothing, hats, shoes, and quilts, while the third room is used as a digitization studio, used for photographing artifacts in the collection.

The upper level digitization studio in Henry House.
The upper level digitization studio in Henry House.

If you visit Henry House for Doors Open Oshawa, you will have the opportunity to learn about the family from costumed guides, tour through a Victorian home, one of the oldest in the City, and you will have the chance to view letters from the recently acquired Thomas Henry Correspondence Collection, a fascinating collection of papers and letters written by or written to Thomas Henry by family or associates in the community.  We will also have our tablet in Henry House and guests can view our Behind the Scenes of Henry House video.  Can’t make it to Doors Open Oshawa? View the video here: Behind the Scenes of Henry House 

Henry House is open for Doors Open Oshawa for FREE, Saturday, September 27, 2014 from 12-4PM.

Symbols on the Stones in Union Cemetery

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

This Sunday, the Oshawa Community Museum is excited to offer our Annual Union Cemetery Tour.  Oshawa largest cemetery is also the final resting place to a great number of its early settlers and community leaders.  The stones are varied, as are the stories that accompany them.  On Sunday, we will discover the secrets behind the symbols on the stones, and learn about the societies, organizations, and affiliations denoted by the symbols. What can be learned by reading a stone, and what secrets are still to be discovered?

There are many symbols and iconography that are easily identifiable, and there were others that required research as to their history.

The following are some of the symbols you might see on a gravestone in Union Cemetery.

Be sure to join OCM Staff at 2pm for our annual tour, on Sunday September 7, 2014.

George Chapman's gravestone, featuring the Masonic square and compass
George Chapman’s gravestone, featuring the Masonic square and compass
Menagh-Kennedy stone, featuring a cross, indicative that the person was a Christian
Menagh-Kennedy stone, featuring a cross, indicative that the person was a Christian
Monument for the Corinthian Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.  On the top sphere are the three linked chains, interwoven with the initials IOOF.
Monument for the Corinthian Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. On the top sphere are the three linked chains, interwoven with the initials IOOF.
Detail of William Strickland's headstone, featuring the Woodmen of the World crest.
Detail of William Strickland’s headstone, featuring the Woodmen of the World crest.

Oshawa’s Union Cemetery

From Historical Oshawa, Vol I-III, by the Oshawa Community Museum

The Oshawa Union Cemetery was established in 1875 by the Oshawa Union Cemetery Company.  Prior to 1875, there was a burial ground located in this same vicinity, but as the community grew, the cemetery’s size became inadequate. It was to remedy this condition that the Oshawa Union Cemetery Company was instituted.

Oshawa's Union Cemetery
Oshawa’s Union Cemetery

The land lying to the west of Hwy. 2 entrance is the original Presbyterian Cemetery, which in 1848 was given by Robert and Euphemia Spears to the Presbyterian congregation of Whitby.  It was used by the communities of both towns as a burying ground until 1875 when it came under the ownership of the holding company.

The Oshawa Union Cemetery Company decided that the needs of the community would be best served by leaving the cemetery in the same location and purchasing the property around it.  Due to the location of the new property, it was felt that the new cemetery should still be made available to both Oshawa and Whitby as a union burial ground.  The plan for the laying out of this “new” cemetery was prepared by landscape architect H.A. Englehardt.

It wasn’t until 1922 that the cemetery became the property of the town through the generosity of George W. McLaughlin, who purchased the shares held by the Ontario Loan & Savings Co., and William H. Thomas.  He then presented the property as a gift to Oshawa.  He also secured the title deeds to the adjacent Presbyterian Cemetery.  The land comprised about 30 acres.  In addition, Mr. McLaughlin gave $500.00 which was to be used to administer the bodies of deceased W.W.I soldiers to the Veterans’ Plots.

The Mausoleum
The Mausoleum

The large Mausoleum which can be seen from Hwy. 2 was constructed by Canada Mausoleums Ltd., and granted to the City of Oshawa on the 26th January, 1926.  The cemetery office located at the front gates was built in 1934 and was originally used as a funeral chapel.

Today, Union Cemetery appears as a serene stretch of land shaded by pine and cedar trees.  People can be found using the cemetery grounds for walks, bike rides, and as a resource for tracing ones family roots.  A booklet titled By-Laws, Rules and Regulations of the Union Cemetery Company, 1875 describes the cemetery as “. . . 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 . . . “.

Please join the Oshawa Community Museum as we tour through this historic cemetery.  Our Union Cemetery Tour is becoming an anticipated annual event.

2013 tour: Sunday  September 8, at 2PM; meet staff at the front gates

12 Reasons Why Drinking Tea is Wonderful

As our summer tea season is quickly approaching here at the Oshawa Community Museum, I thought I would take some time and share why I think tea drinking is just so wonderful. Whether you like Earl Grey or English Breakfast or prefer Peppermint or Green, tea is full of health, social and delicious benefits. Here are 12 reasons why drinking tea is wonderful:


1)      Tea, when consumed in moderation could have positive health results. According to Time Magazine, along with helping protect against cardiovascular and degenerative diseases, research suggests that the antioxidants in tea might also help ward off certain types of cancer.


2)      Tea comes in all sorts of flavours and types. Real tea is derived from the plant Camellia Sinensis and includes only four varieties: black, white, green and oolong. Anything else that is herbal, isn’t technically considered a tea because it’s infused with different plants. Nevertheless, when you visit a tea shop (whether technically tea or not) you are presented with all sorts of flavours, colours and types and there is bound to be one that will suit any taste bud.


3)      Tea has little to no calories, but tons of flavour. You can still brew a robust, full flavoured tea without having to consume a lot of calories. What this means? Tea is ideal for those trying to watch their waist line or trying to lose a few pounds.


4)      Tea is popular. Now, normally popularity isn’t a good deciding factor on whether or not something is awesome, but the facts about tea’s popularity shouldn’t be ignored. According to the Tea Association of Canada, Canadians drink almost 9 billion cups of tea each year, which in 2012 equals out to about 380 million dollars in hot tea sales. On a global scale, tea is considered the most consumed drink sitting behind water. Why is this important? Simply put, it means you can buy tea almost anywhere. Its popularity means you don’t have to go searching too far to find a cup of tea.


5)      You can individualize tea. Whether you take it with sugar and milk, or just milk or just lemon or you prefer iced tea. If you like dishwater tea or prefer a strong tea, one of the reasons tea is so great is that it can cater to your own unique taste.


6)      Tea has a long and interesting history. How many beverages can say they have been part of large political protests? Tea is a drink that has been so intertwined into the social and political fabric of many countries that its history makes for an exciting and interesting tale.


7)      Tea has procedure, tradition and proper etiquette. For example, it is inappropriate to lift the saucer when drinking tea, this is considered rude and not proper behaviour for a tea. Furthermore, there is a whole meal dedicated to tea, whether it is low-tea or high-tea.


8)      Drinking tea means cleaning fewer dishes. Regular tea drinkers will tell you that are never suppose to wash a tea pot. Apparently the tannins in tea stick to the pot and over time will make your tea better and better.


9)      It’s cheap! Yes, specialty teas can be disastrous on your wallet, but if you choose to stay with a traditional Orange Pekoe, each cup will cost you literally cents to make.


10)  Drinking tea is the perfect social drink. Doctors recommend letting tea cool before consuming, because drinking extremely hot beverages could have negative effects on your oesophagus. This means that you have to let your tea sit before consuming, giving you time to converse, shoot the breeze, and gossip.


11)  You can grow your own tea. Here at the Oshawa Museum we take advantage of the space we have behind Henry House and grow our own tea. This allows you to know how fresh the tea is and pick the flavours that you like best.


12)  Finally, tea is wonderful because you can enjoy it here in the Oshawa Community Museum’s Victorian gardens during our summer teas!

Quite picturesque!
Quite picturesque!

There you have it 12 reasons why tea is just wonderful. Why do you think tea is a wonderful?


Come visit us and enjoy your cup of tea on July 25 or August 8 or August 22 for our summer Victorian Teas in the garden. Cost is $10 for OHS members and $15 for non-members. Or join us on July 21 for a tea + talk, where Joyce O’Connell will be discussing how quilting has changed since the 1900s. Cost for tea + talk is $20 a person. Please note reservations are required for all teas, call museum for details.

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