Museum Resiliency

By Melissa Cole, Curator

As I write this month’s blog post, staff from the Oshawa Museum continue to work from home.  I reflect back to the date of March 13, 2020, the date when museums in our city, and across the province, shut their doors as a public health precaution due to COVID-19.  This measure resulted in a loss of self-generated revenue.

Throughout the last year I have seen and heard the impact that COVID-19 has had on museums throughout the province at Regional Museum Network virtual meetings, held with the Ontario Museum Association (OMA).  During the pandemic, museums were affected directly; for instance, there are museums where staff worked remotely and were able to re-open for a short period of time in the summer/fall of 2020, while other sites remain closed, and some museums faced staff redeployment.

Recently, the Ontario Museum Association invited museum networks across the province to meet with local Members of Provincial Parliament.  I was fortunate to represent the York-Durham Association of Museums and Archives at one of these meetings hosted by the OMA.  On March 11, the OMA and YDAMA, including colleagues from Markham and Oshawa, met with MPP Billy Pang (Markham—Unionville) in his roles as MPP and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries and Dr. Michael Bonner to discuss the impacts of the pandemic and the recommendations put forth by the OMA for support to assist museums to participate in the province’s recovery. Museum representatives from the Oshawa Museum, Markham Museum and Canadian Automotive Museum spoke to our museums’ challenges, potential, and resiliency. 

Museums thought of unique ways to assist their communities to both survive and thrive in this new world of uncertainty and physical isolation.  Museums, that had the means to do so, in the YDAMA network continued to engage the public virtually, providing a safe space away from the pandemic, through the creation of digital content.  For some sites this was the first time producing digital programs and virtual activities.  I thought I would highlight a few examples of the unique programing offered by museums across York and Durham:

When students returned to school in the fall of 2020, once again museums adapted their curriculum school-based programs for virtual delivery.  At the Oshawa Museum, staff created three new virtual programs utilizing our collections and resources. 

The pandemic has shown that museums have an important role to play as integral members of their communities, as places for well-being and connection.  As each of the examples above demonstrates, in their own way, museums can serve their communities by providing a supportive and engaging space, even when our physical spaces are closed.

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ArteFACTS – St. Patrick’s Day Postcards

Our archival collection features a number of postcards of a variety of topics and themes. Below are a sampling of some of the St. Patrick’s Day postcards in our collection, in honour of St. Patrick’s Day next week!

Henry Grandkids – Edwin and Marshall Henry

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

Edwin, the first son of James O. Henry and his wife Adelaide, pursued a law degree through Osgoode Hall in 1881. He is listed as studying law in the 1881 Census as well as “matriculant of university,” or enrolled, in the Canadian Law Journal on March 15, 1881.

Adelaide Hall Henry (wife of James Orin) and sons Edwin, Marshall, and Frank; From the Elliott Grey Henry Family Album Digital Collection

It is unknown whether Edwin fully saw this through, because ten years later in the 1891 Census, he is living with his father and cousin working as a fruit shipper.

Coincidentally 8 out of the 55 grandkids’/cousins’ occupations had something to do with growing apples or citrus, selling them as grocers or tending to them in a nursery. This must run in the family since some of their fathers also kept this occupation (14.5%).

Edwin married Mabel Mackie on January 7, 1899. There was a 17 year age difference between them. They had three children. The two boys lived long healthy lives, while their daughter, Miriam, passed away at the age of three.

In 1921, the family was living at 130 King Street East, in Oshawa. Currently this is a parking lot between Armstrong Funeral Home and the Beth Zion Congregation.

Edwin’s brother Marshall was only 20 years old when he passed away.

Marshall Henry, from the Oshawa Museum Archival Collection

While studying to become a dentist in Toronto, he developed Typhoid Fever. Typhoid is a bacterial infection that is contracted by drinking or eating food contaminated with feces. It is unknown where he contracted the infection, but it was not kind to him in his last days. Marshall succumbed to the illness after suffering a bowel hemorrhage.

There was no vaccination or antibiotics to treat him.

In a recent online discovery, I learned that the two young men lived very close together while studying law and dentistry. They lived at 12 and 42 Rose Avenue, a street in Toronto’s Cabbagetown neighbourbood, near Wellesley and Parliament. Today, both of these homes are the location of a public school.

I’m now curious as to their relationship while Marshall was sick. Did Edwin stay by his side?

The Month That Was – March 1868

All articles originally appeared in the Oshawa Vindicator

March 4, 1868, page 2
Toll Cask – On Monday, Messrs. GH Grierson and W Karr were brought before the Reeve, charged by WH Thomas, with not closing up their fences and thus allowing persons to pass over their property in order to avoid paying toll. The case was adjourned until Saturday next.

Village Council
The council held a special meeting on Saturday evening for the purpose of passing a license by law, and granting licenses for 1868….

Mr. Gibbs, seconded by Mr. Wilcox, introduced a license by-law. The by-law limited the number of Tavern licenses to five, and shop licenses to two. It required Tavern keepers and applicants for a shop license to give a bond with two sureties in the sum of $200 for the proper observances of the provisions of the license act. The village fee is placed at $70, and a shop license at $65. In addition a stamp fee must be paid of $5 each, making the total $75 for Tavern and $65 for shop license. The bar room is to be closed and lights out at seven o’clock on Saturday evenings, and not later than eleven on other evenings. No liquor is to be sold to a person whilst in a state of intoxication, or to any person under eight years of age.— No quarreling, fighting, obscene, or profane language is to be allowed, about the present premise, as also no gambling or raffle. No liquor shall be sold to any person addicted to liquor, after having been requested not to do so by the wife of such person, or by the license inspector. No shopkeeper holding a shop license shall sell less than a quart, and this must not be drank on the premises. No liquor is to be sold after 7:00 o’clock on Saturday evening period of fine of $20 is levied for an infraction of the bylaws.

Mr. Gibbs, seconded by Mr. Glenn, moved that certificates for Tavern licenses be granted to Malachi Quigley, Michael Brooks, DH Merritt and Alphonso Hinds, on production to the Reeve, of the treasurers certificate for the payment of the sum of seventy dollars, and the required bond as set forth in the bylaw.

Mr. Quigley, who was present, complained of the large amount of the license, and still more strongly of the provisions requiring two sureties. He however took out the license.

The Snow Storm
The oldest inhabitant has declared that the snowstorm of Monday and Tuesday, the 23rd and 24th ult., was, unmistakably, the severest ever remembered. Although it extended all over that part of the province west of Toronto, and its eastern limits scarcely reached beyond Belleville, Toronto in its neighborhood seemed to be its centre. In some other places more snow may have fallen, yet here the drifts were higher and more numerous. The drifts in our own neighborhood range from an occasional giant of 14 or 15 feet downwards. The roads north and south were completely blocked. Some of them still remain so; the only outlet being through the woods and fields. Simcoe Street seemed to suffer worse than most others. In many places, the snow extended for a considerable length of perfect level from fence to fence, and in some cases burying the topmost rails. On Wednesday, the stage started for the north, and after five hours driving through woods and fields, managed to reach Columbus, but then had to return to Oshawa again. North of Prince Albert, the drifts were not so bad; The Manilla stage on Wednesday making its regular trip. On the next day, Simcoe Street was dug out, and it now presents, for this part of the Dominion, a curious spectacle, the road consisting of a narrow canal, in some places 6 feet deep with occasional switches excavated in the high snowbanks to enable teams to pass each other. The mail routes from the north were in an equally impassable state.

No council –  the East Whitby Council had no session on Monday. – On account of the storm, the Reeve was unable to get even to Oshawa. He got stuck in a drift, and it was with difficulty he got out. A meeting of the council will be held on Monday next. Pathmasters and others will please take notice.

March 4, 1868, p1

March 11, 1868, page 2
Valuable Property – In another column will be found the advertisement of Mr. M. Luke, offering his residence and adjoining land for sale. Lying on the street between the town and the railway station, and midway between both, it is one of the small number of pieces of property left for sale on this, the most growing street in the town. – Mr. Luke will, we believe, sell very cheaply.

34th Battalion – The following appointments have been gazetted for No. 8 Columbus Company: Lieu. JE Farewell to be Captain, and Ensign Scurrah to be Lieutenant.

Page 3
Union Burying Ground

Near the Residence of Rev. Dr. Thornton, Main Road

As these grounds are very desireabe for location and beauty, parties wishing to purchase lots are respectfully informed that they may have an opportunity by applying to the undersigned or to the care taker, James Carruthers, on the premises.

Alex. Burnet
Chairman of the Committee
Oshawa, March 2nd, 1868

Dr. Clarke
Begs to announce to his friends that he has resumed the practice of his profession, and may be found, as heretofore, at his own Cottage, corner of Athol and Centre Streets, Oshawa
Nov. 25th, 1867

March 11, 1868, p2

March 18, 1868, page 2
St. Patrick’s Day – Yesterday was the festival of Ireland’s Patron Saint. The only speciality here was the holding of a service in the Catholic Church. Everything was quiet; a great contrast to former years, when the day was certain to be celeb rated by a general fight. Yesterday’s celebrations throughout the country were marked by an unusual good feeling and unanimity amongst Irishmen. At Ottawa, Mr. McGee was feted by a union party of Irish Protestants and Catholics; and in Montreal, besides the usual ceremonies in the Church and in the street, there was a social dinner of Irish friends at the St. Lawrence Hall, at which all differences were to be forgotten.

Snow Cases – On Friday last, indefatigable Constable Gurley, at the instigation of the Reeve, summoned some 30 or 40 ratepayers to come to court and be fined for neglecting to clear the snow from the sidewalks in front of certain premises owned or occupied by them. The list was a most respectable one –  being headed by TN Gibbs, Esq, MP, and Dr. McGill, MPP. The majority duly made their appearance at 9:00 o’clock on Saturday morning , and as it was their first appearance, the Reeve allowed them to go provided the sidewalks were cleared that day. As the number of rods to be cleared was many, and the laborers just then a few, some had no resource but to take off their coats and do it themselves. The sidewalks were cleared, but from the bent manner in which several walked, and the agonized way in which the dexter arm was placed on the small of the back, they had evidently become acquainted with manual labour for the first time.

March 18, 1868, p3

March 25, 1868, page 2
Board of School Trustees
Still meeting of the Board of School Trustees was held on Wednesday evening. Present: the Chairman and Messrs. Carmichael, Gibbs, Hodder, Boyd, Fairbanks, Glen and Edwards.

The chairman read some very favorable testimonials in favor of Miss Victoria Halton, now teaching at Prescott. After hearing from Mr. McCabe, who had visited several applicants, Mr. Fairbanks, seconded by Mr. Glen, moved that the secretary be empowered to offer the situation of assistant teacher to Miss Victoria Halton, at a salary of $425 per annum.

The selection of a teacher to fill the vacancy in the second division was left in the hands of the Committee of School Management, in Connection with the Chairman of the Board and the Principal of the School.

March 25, 1868, p3

Remembering the Lives Lost from the 1918 Flu Pandemic

By Laura Suchan, Executive Director

Recently one of my colleagues shared news of a project she was involved in to honour the more than 700 people who succumbed to influenza in the Wellington Region of New Zealand. The 1918 Influenza Kaori Cemetery Project was a two year project to remember those who died in the pandemic by cleaning their headstones, tidying burial plots and researching the family histories.  This project prompted me to think about Oshawa’s Union Cemetery and how many Influenza victims from the 1918 pandemic were buried in the cemetery.

In an earlier blog post about the Spanish Influenza, Curator Melissa Cole noted how the pandemic affected Oshawa.  The Spanish Flu reached the United States in March 1918 and soon after Canada, through troop, hospital and civilian ships sailing from England to Grosse Île.  The Ports of Montreal and Halifax soon became the main routes of infection into Canada, however by late June/early July the Flu spread across the country via the railway.   It came in multiple waves. The first wave took place in the spring of 1918, then in the fall of 1918, a mutation of the influenza virus produced an extremely contagious, virulent, and deadly form of the disease. This second wave caused 90% of the deaths that occurred during the pandemic. Subsequent waves took place in the spring of 1919 and the spring of 1920.  Between 1917 and 1918 the deaths recorded in Oshawa increased by 67 to 213 as compared to 146 in the earlier year.  Still, the situation in Oshawa was better than for many communities.  At the height of the pandemic, beds where placed in the armouries to treat the sick, and all churches and schools were closed to prevent it from spreading. 

To see just how devastating the Flu pandemic was in Oshawa, I turned to the Ontario, Canada, Deaths and Deaths Overseas 1869-1948 database for the Town of Oshawa, for the months starting October 1, 1918 until March 31, 1919. Within this database I was able to search for any cause of death listed as “Influenza,” “Spanish Flu,” and “Flu.” I also looked for any case where the secondary cause of death was listed as influenza. In some cases, the coroner listed the cause of death as “Pneumonia” following a case of “Influenza.” If influenza was mentioned, I included the death. This was not in any means a scientific review of the data, however there were a few observations I was able to make.

Observations

  • 50 – number of people who died as a result of the flu or an illness following the flu during the 6 month period
  • 23 – deaths were reported in those 25 years of age or younger
  • 2 months – the age of the youngest victim – Robert Starie
  • 70 years – age of the oldest victim – Alvin Terry
  • 30 – number of those buried in Union Cemetery
  • Week of October 27-November 2 – the deadliest week in the 6 month period with 16 deaths. The previous week saw 15 deaths due to influenza.  These 2 weeks accounted for more than half the deaths reported in the 6 month period.
  • October 1918 – the deadliest month with 35 deaths, followed by November 1918 with 7 deaths, February 1919 – 4 deaths, December 1918 with 3 deaths. January 1919 reported only 1 death and 0 deaths were reported in March 1919.

Remembering some of the victims of the pandemic

Hattie Hewson

Image from FindAGrave.com

Hattie Maud (Ham) Hewson lived on Ontario Street with her husband William when she passed away at the age of 39. Her official death record lists miscarriage and influenza as her causes of death. William passed away in 1960.

Alex Swankie

Image from FindAGrave.com

Alex Swankie was a Private with the 37th Battalion and fought in France with the 60th Battalion C.E.F. He was born in Scotland, November 11, 1891 and was a machinist by trade. According to his Attestation Papers, he signed up for the military in Niagara, June 10, 1915.  He was discharged from the 60th Battalion in early 1917 as the result of a knee injury and was in outpatient treatment in Toronto until October 31, 1918. Alex died February 16, 1919 at the age of 27 of pneumonia and influenza.

Melville and Rose Babcock

Melville and Rose (Darlington) Babcock were married in 1900 and both died within one week of each other from the Flu.  Melville was the first to pass away on October 21 1918 at the Oshawa Hospital after suffering from the Flu for one week and pneumonia for 3 days.  Rose is listed as the informant for Melville’s death. Six days later, on October 27, 1918, Rose also succumbed to the flu at Oshawa Hospital. Rose is buried in Union Cemetery as noted in the death registry however there was no burial location noted.  There is a good possibility he is also in Union Cemetery.

Marjorie Lander

Influenza also touched the lives of two well known Oshawa families. Marjorie Gibson Hoig Lander was a young mother of at least 3 children when she passed away from influenza on November 7, 1918.  Marjorie was the daughter of Oshawa’s Dr. Hoig, and she married coal merchant Elgin Vesta Lander in 1910.  Lander was a successful coal and wood merchant, and the couple lived at 221 Simcoe Street North, just south of Parkwood.  Daughters Alice and Virginia were born in 1913 and 1915 followed by son David in 1917. Marjorie was only 31 years old when she died.  Her husband Elgin remarried in 1927 and died in 1976.  Both are buried in Union Cemetery.

Advertisement for Elgin Lander’s coal and wood business, 1911 Oshawa Business Directory, OPL Collection

Gladys McGregor

The year 1919 was not kind to the McGregor family.  Daughter Gladys Mae died in February of the flu, aged 13.  Her father Robert McGregor, a harness maker, died in June 1919 from Tuberculosis and mother Lucy Parish McGregor died in November 1919 of nephritis (swelling of the kidney). All three are buried in Union Cemetery.  Robert and Lucy had other children who would have been left orphans by their parents’ deaths.  

To find out more about the 1918 Influenza Kaori Cemetery Project please visit https://1918influenzakarori.weebly.com/home.html


To view Laura’s research of people in the Town of Oshawa who died of Influenza between October 1918-March 1919, view this document: