In Canada, December 31 is commemorated as the Levee. It’s a social gathering held by the Governor General, Lieutenant General, and the military in Canada. Levee had been celebrated for years, but it was first tied to New Year’s Eve, in Canada, in 1646. The Governor of New France held the levee in the Chateau St. Louis, and during the levee he informed the guests of what to look forward to in the new year and that they were expected to renew their allegiance to the Crown. The tradition of the levee continued after the Governor Charles Huault de Montmagny was no longer in charge.
Happy New Year! Throughout 2017, we shared over 50 new articles on the Oshawa Museum Blog, showcasing so many different stories from our city’s past. We’re planning our new and dynamic posts for 2018, but to start the year, let’s look back at our top 5 posts of 2017
September was a busy month for programming at Union Cemetery. We have a fantastic partnership with the cemetery and we’re fortunate to use this space to remember citizens of the past. In advance of those engaging events, we shared the history of Union’s Mausoleum.
Did You Know: We are planning on delivering cemetery tours every Wednesday evening in July and August! Stay tuned to our Facebook Page for the dates and tour themes!
This was a milestone year for Canada – the 150th anniversary of the passing of the British North America Act, effectively creating the Dominion of Canada. To start the year, we shared our post Oshawa in 1867, looking at what our humble village looked like 150 years ago.
In this post, our Visitor Experience Co-ordinator shared her memories of Oshawa’s Civic Auditorium, spending her childhood days growing up in the same neighbourhood. The Civic has a long history in our community, and this post stirred up memories for many readers.
Nostalgia seemed to be of great interest on the blog as another popular post was written by Visitor Host Karen about the history of FJ Donovan school. Her post proved timely as the former high school was torn down in late 2017.
While this year was Canada’s sesquicentennial, it was also the 150th anniversary of Ontario’s province-hood. To mark this anniversary, an early Street Name Story looked at Oshawa’s Ontario Street and the meaning behind the name.
These were our top 5 posts written in 2017; the top viewed post for the year was actually written a few years ago, again another street name story. Where the Streets Get Their Names: The Poppies on the Signs was our overall top viewed post for the year, receiving a lot of traction around Remembrance Day in November.
With the plethora of 150 commemorations taking place this year, I thought I could use my usual Street Name Stories blog series to throw another hat in the ring. Looking at a map of Oshawa, there are a number of streets whose names are commonplace in the history of Canada. Over the next five Street Name Stories Posts, I will look at street(s) whose namesakes helped contribute to the growth of Canada. Missed the first three posts?
There are a few streets in Oshawa that have ties to the War of 1812, including Brock Street, Tecumseh Avenue, and (for a local link) Henry Street.
In 1812, the people of Canada found themselves at war when the US, angry with Great Britain, attacked their possessions in North America. This came after years of escalating tensions. The US President at the time was James Madison, who signed the Declaration of War on June 18, 1812, and because we were colonies of Great Britain, Upper and Lower Canada, New Brunswick, PEI, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton and Newfoundland were all swept up into the war. Shortly after the declaration, Thomas Jefferson was quoted as saying:
“The acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching; & will give us experience for the attack of Halifax the next, & the final expulsion of England from the American continent.”Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 4 August 1812
Hindsight tells us that Jefferson was wrong. Not the first time for this founding father. But I digress.
War rhetoric was plentiful on both sides. In response to early attacks by Americans, Major General Isaac Brock proclaimed:
“Every Canadian freeholder is, by deliberate choice, bound by the most solemn oaths to defend the monarchy as well as his own property. To shrink from that engagement is a treason not to be forgiven.”
Isaac Brock (b. 1769) had been stationed in North America since 1802, and knowing a conflict was likely inevitable, when war was declared, Upper Canada was not caught off-guard thanks to Brock. The first initial skirmishes of the war were won by the Canadians, including the capture of Fort Detroit by Brock, along with the First Nations leader Tecumseh, and the Battle of Queenston Heights. Although Queenston was successful, one of the many casualties was General Brock.
In 1813, the Americans launched a successful seaborne attack on the capital of Upper Canada, York (Toronto), after which looting and plundering resulted in the burning of York. In the same year the Americans attacked Niagara and captured Fort George, forcing the British to withdraw from the Niagara Peninsula.
That fall, the Americans undertook their largest offensive of the war by sending an army down the St. Lawrence River and another across the border into Lower Canada (Quebec) to capture Montreal, and they saw defeat twice. The first battle was the Battle of Chateuaguau, successfully defended by French Canadian commander Charles de Salaberry and his group of Canadian Voltigeurs, militiamen and Indigenous warriors, The second defeat took place at Crysler’s Farm. After both of these defeats the Americans gave up on the invasion of Lower Canada.
In 1814, the last year of the war, the British made a successful attack on Washington. We retaliated for the burning of our capital by burning the White House. The Americans made a major effort in the Niagara Peninsula, where several major battles took place including Lundy’s Lane. This campaign ended with the Americans leaving their positions in November.
On December 24, 1814, representatives from Britain and America signed the Treaty of Ghent, which once ratified, officially ended the war in 1815. However, news didn’t travel fast enough in 1815, because the last battle of the War of 1812 was the Battle of New Orleans in January, a defeat for the British.
The War of 1812 is an interesting conflict to study because the British (Canadians) and Americans both claim to be the victors. The Americans assert that because the British stopped impressing American sailors (seizing native-born Americans and put them into service on British ships) and because they won the last battle, they are the winners. Canadians, instead view the war as a victory for us as we successfully repelled the invasion and stopped American expansionism.
If the Americans and British/Canadians were the winners of the War of 1812, there was unfortunately a loser – the First Nations. As stated by the Canadian Encyclopedia:
The First Nations allies of the British and Canadian cause suffered much because of the war; not only had they lost many warriors (including the great Tecumseh), they also lost any hope of halting American expansion in the west, and their contributions were quickly forgotten by their British and Canadian allies.
The Canadian victory would not have been possible had it not been for our First Nation allies, and yet, their story is often overlooked, or ‘forgotten.’ Tecumseh wasn’t fighting for King and Country as many British Regulars would have been; he was fighting for the plight of his people and for the hope of uniting the First Nations. Tecumseh was shot and killed in the Battle of the Thames in 1813.
The War of 1812 is an important reminder that perspective is everything in history.
It never ceases to amaze that one research topic can lead down rather interesting roads. While researching Oshawa’s early Cornish settlers, I first discovered the story of John S. Larke. Larke was born in Cornwall, lived most of his adult life in Oshawa and died in New South Wales, Australia. His life was far from average and was fascinating to learn about.
John Short Larke was born on May 28, 1840 in Launcells, Cornwall, England to Charles and Grace (Yeo) Larke. Four years later, the family immigrated to Oshawa, where Charles worked as a miller. John received his education at Victoria College in Cobourg, graduating in 1861, before he took a position as a school teacher at Section School (S.S.) No. 7, East Whitby Township. His career in education would also include a tenure as principal at an Oshawa school.
From 1865 to 1879, John held an editorial interest in the Oshawa Vindicator, which was formally published under the auspices of “Luke and Larke.” This newspaper was known for its conservative leanings, as described in 1880:
It is an eight column folio, neatly printed and edited with marked ability, being an excellent country journal, a powerful exponent of the tenets of the Conservative party, and the oldest paper in the County of Ontario, being in its 24th volume
~John S. Larke, Canadian Biographical Dictionary, 1880.
In 1870, the Vindicator announced the marriage of John to Miss Elizabeth Bain, daughter of the late Richard Bain, Esq, married at the home of the bride’s brother. Four children would be born to the couple during their years in Oshawa: William, Frederick, Eva, and Percy.
John moved from the world of journalism to manufacturing when he took over as president and general manager of the Oshawa Stove Company in 1879. It was located at the corner of Bruce and Charles Streets, first being established in 1873. When operation of the company began, it had 30 employees, but due to larger competition, it unfortunately did not have great success. In the early 1890s, Larke was bought out by his partner, John Bailes, and the Oshawa Stove Company was eventually sold to William Cowan and the future Fittings Ltd.
While undertaking careers as a journalist and manufacturer, Larke also pursued his interest in politics. Throughout the 1870s and 1880s, Larke had become a fixture of the local Town Council. John served as both Reeve and Warden of Ontario County and in 1887, and he also spend time as Chairman of the Fire and Water Committee. In 1890, John tried his hand in provincial politics when he was the candidate for the Ontario Conservative Party, challenging incumbent Liberal Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) John Dryden to represent the riding of Ontario South. Dryden had been the MLA since 1879, and he would continue to represent Ontario South until 1905, winning the election against Larke in 1890.
By 1893 Larke headed Canada’s exhibit at the World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, Illinois.
In 1894, John was chosen by the Honorable Mackenzie Bowell to represent Canada as the High Commissioner in Australia. The Town of Oshawa, appreciative of John’s service to the community, held a banquet in his honour before he and his family left Canada. In attendance were many of Oshawa’s noted community members, as well as Bowell himself. In November 1894, Bowell was the Minister of Trade & Commerce and acting Prime Minister; he would become the fifth Prime Minister of Canada upon the sudden death of John Thompson less than a month later. Speeches were delivered through the evening, and in his remarks, Larke said,
He could not leave the town of his youth, early labors and friends, which were the dearest ties a man could have, without feeling deep regret. He did not care to dwell upon that side of his leave taking as it was painful. He would rather turn to the more pleasant side; the gratifying pleasure of having the confidence and regard of the citizens of his native town.
~Dr. T.E. Kaiser, Historic Sketches of Oshawa, 1921, p. 127.
By order of the Prime Minister, W.R. Calloway, District Passenger Agent with the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, issued 4 tickets to the Larke family to Sydney N.S.W., at a total amount of $1108.83, and they sailed in January 1895. After arriving in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald reported,
He intended to make his home in Australia, and was here for the sole purpose of furnishing merchants with information in regard to the possibilities of trade between these colonies and Canada. Several leading Canadian merchants proposed visiting these colonies for the purpose of satisfying themselves with regard to the prospects of trade.
~Sydney Morning Herald, January 9, 1895, page 7
John and his family did indeed make their home in Australia, passing away in Summer Hill, a suburb of Sydney, in 1910. He is buried in the Rookwood Cemetery. Thus ended the fascinating and whirlwind career of John S. Larke, a career in which he was able to dip into the discipline of teaching, journalism, manufacturing and finally politics.
Oshawa Museum, Historical Oshawa Information Sheets: John S. Larke.
With the plethora of 150 commemorations taking place this year, I thought I could use my usual Street Name Stories blog series to throw another hat in the ring. Looking at a map of Oshawa, there are a number of streets whose names are commonplace in the history of Canada. Over the next five Street Name Stories Posts, I will look at street(s) whose namesakes helped contribute to the growth of Canada. In Part I, we looked at Oshawa’s Indigenous People who have called the our country home for thousands of years, and Part II looked at the early European Explorers.
There are many moments one can look at in the history of Canada which are clearly a defining moment, a turning point. September 13, 1759 is one such moment: the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.
First, context. In the mid-1700s, North America was home to many different European colonies; New France was well and successful, while to its south, England’s Thirteen Colonies were also thriving, not quite yet feeling the sentiments of discontent that would lead to the American Revolution. Those were coming. An ocean away, the colonizers, England and France, were none to pleased with each other. Everything came to a head in 1854, the start of what would become the Seven Years War. Its name is derived from the seven primary years of conflict, from 1856 to 1863, and it would result in conflicts in Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines, five continents in all. The Seven Years War could be considered one of the first global conflicts, a world war.
In North America, the English were at war with the French and First Nations. After a series of skirmishes, including the capture of Louisbourg on Île Royale (Cape Breton Island) and other French possessions in the Atlantic, the British forces continued their campaign further into New France, eventually reaching Quebec City.
Through the summer of 1759, the French were secure in their fortified city. The British, led by General James Wolfe, tried to deplete stock and supplies and also tried a few strategic maneuvers to ‘lure’ the French to attack, but Marquis de Montcalm, the French officer leading the troops, held firm.
Wolfe saw opportunity on the morning of September 13; in the very wee hours, the British force managed to secure their position. As described by the Canadian Encyclopedia:
…By 8 a.m. the entire force of 4,500 men had assembled. The British force stretched across the Plains of Abraham (named for 17th-century fisherman Abraham Martin) in a shallow horseshoe formation about 1 km long and two ranks deep.
I would imagine this was quite the sight for Montcalm and the French forces. Montcalm had a force of roughly the same size; where they differ is in experience. The French forces were comprised of soldiers, militia, and First Nations; the British forces were regular soldiers, highly experienced and well trained. Montcalm decided to attack immediately, hoping to catch the British unprepared.
Here’s where hindsight comes in handy: many historians believe that if Montcalm waited for reinforcements rather than act right away, the result of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham may have turned out differently. The battle resulted in a retreat from the French forces, and both Wolfe and Montcalm died due to wounds.
The Plains of Abraham wasn’t the final battle of the conflict, but it represents the turning point in the North American theatre. By September 1760, British forces manage to capture Montreal, and the Treaty of Paris in 1763 brings an end to the Seven Years War. This treaty results in New France being ceded to the British, the start of British rule of what would become Canada.
Wolfe Street is found off Simcoe Street, south of Bloor; Oshawa’s Harmon Park Arena is located on Wolfe Street. Montcalm is located one street south of King Street between Waverly and Stevenson.