Oshawa Museum Blog – 2017 Top 5 Posts

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


Union Cemetery Mausoleum

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!

Oshawa in 1867

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.

Memories of the Civic

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.

Host Files: History of Dr. FJ Donovan Collegiate

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.

Where the Streets Get Their Names: Ontario Street

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.

Thank you all for reading!


Street Name Stories: Building a Nation Part IV: The War of 1812

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

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?

Part I looked at Oshawa’s Indigenous People
Part II looked at the early European Explorers
Part III looked at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham

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, from the 1908 book “The Story of Isaac Brock” by Walter R. Nursey.

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.


Tecumseh, Shawnee chief, painting by W.B. Turner (courtesy Metropolitan Toronto Library, J. Ross Robertson/T-16600). Image from Canadian Encyclopedia

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.

Profiling: John S. Larke

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

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 Larke, 1893; From the Oshawa Museum’s Archival Collection, A000.1.49

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.

‘John S. Larke, Oshawa,’ Canadian Biographical Dictionary, 1880; accessed from https://archive.org/details/cihm_08545 

Dr. D.S. Hoig, Reminiscences and Recollections, 1933; accessed from http://localhistory.oshawalibrary.ca/pdfportal/pdfskins/hoig/hoig.pdf

M. McIntyre Hood, Oshawa: Canada’s Motor City, 1968, 63-64.

Dr. T.E. Kaiser, Historic Sketches of Oshawa, 1921; accessed from http://localhistory.oshawalibrary.ca/pdfportal/pdfskins/kaiser/kaiser.pdf

‘Other Foundries’, Industry in Oshawa online exhibit, accessed from https://industryinoshawa.wordpress.com/foundries/other-foundries/

Sydney Morning Herald, 9 Jan 1895, page 7; accessed: http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/1367966

Street Name Stories: Building a Nation Pt. III, Plaines d’Abraham

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

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.

PicMonkey Collage

Photographs from around the Plains of Abraham

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 Death of General Wolfe,” by Benjamin West, oil on canvas. The Royal Ontario Museum has this portrait in their collection, an ‘Iconic’ artefact. This Video has a great analysis of its importance and symbolism.

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.


Official website for the Plains of Abraham, National Battlesite Commission: http://www.ccbn-nbc.gc.ca/en/

The Canadian Encyclopedia: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/battle-of-the-plains-of-abraham/

The Month That Was – July 1867

The Oshawa Vindicator
Edition 03 July 1867

THE ANNIVERSARY of the Columbus Bible Christian Sabbath School will (D.V.) be held on Sunday and Monday, the 7th and 8th of July.

On Sabbath two sermons will be delivered, at 2 1.2 and 6 o’clock p.m., and collections taken up.

On Monday the children will meet at 1 ½ and the exercises will commence at 2 o’clock p.m., and continue for two hours. Tea will be served to the children at 4 o’clock, and to the public immediately after. Tickets 25 cents; for children not members of the school, 12 ½ cents. The public are cordially invited. A good time may be expected.


The Oshawa Vindicator
Edition 03 July 1867
Confederation Day

The first morning of the New Dominion was ushered in Oshawa with the ringing of bells and the firing of cannon, including a salute from the guns of the juvenile battery. The chief occupation of all seemed to be to make preparations to leave town. The greater portion of the population went to Whitby, others to Toronto, and a few Eastward. The afternoon here was one of unusual quietness. The numerous flags flying from flagstaffs and private houses was the only mark of the day. Everyone store was closed and every workshop was silent, and Oshawa was literally the deserted village. The few people that had not left in the morning wended their way to Cedardale to a private picnic, where the afternoon was heartily enjoyed. In the evening the Ontario Bank and some other buildings were illuminated. The people of Oshawa having agreed to give way to Whitby and join in the celebration there, strictly kept her faith.


The Oshawa Vindicator
Edition 03 July 1867

Our beloved queen has entrusted the formation of the first cabinet which is to govern the Dominion of Canada to Sir. J. A. McDonald (sic) and we doubt not that. Her advisers were careful before he left England to impress upon him the advisability of having all sections of the country fully represented therein.

We have every reason to believe that Sir John has since the Coalition of 1864 full realized, the importance of the work in which he has taken so active apart, and that he has aimed to bring it to such a conclusion as every true patriot would deserve.

Now, while we cannot endorse his past career, and though we have energetically opposed the Tory party of which he was the leader in the past, we are quite open to believe that he, together with the rest of us, sees in the prospects of the new Dominion a future worthy of a statesman; that he is willing to waine considerations of minor party importance – and taking his stand upon a constitution – itself the outcome of a fusion of party hitherto antagonistic, to devote himself to the … administration of the laws of Canada, for the benefit of the whole country.


The Oshawa Vindicator
Edition 10 July 1867
The Trees

On Saturday night one of the finest and largest trees in Centre street was broken off by the wind. Upon examination, the cause of this was easily discovered, the three having been much injured at the place where it broke off by chafing against the guards. Numbers of others are in the same condition. Some remedy ought at once to be adopted. The most of the trees are now firmly enough rooted to do without the guards, and these ought to be removed. Where this cannot be done with safety, the trees ought to be secured from injury with bandages.

The Road and Bridge Committee are now taking action in the matter. The law, however, give the owners control of the trees opposite their property. It would be well if they exercise their right to look after them. The village has planted and protected the trees thus far, and it is not too much to ask property owners to do the little that remains to be done.

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The Oshawa Vindicator
Edition 10, July, 1867
Mowing Match

One of the largest trials of movers ever held in Canada, was held in the Township of Fullarton, Country of Perth, a few days ago. Nine machines took part in the competitions, five of them being varieties of the Ohio pattern. The machines were tested upon these points: lightness of draught, quality of the work done, and quality of material and style of workmanship upon the machine. After a thorough test and examination of each of these particulars the Ohio Combined Reaper and Mover, manufactured at the Joseph Hall Works here, was awarded the first prize, as being the best made, having the best material, being the lightest draught, and having the closest and neatest work of any machine upon the ground. About a thousand farmers witnessed the contest, and the manner in which they followed the Hall machine whilst at work, and the strong commendations bestowed upon it afterwards showed they heartily agreed with the judges – This adds another to the long list of first prized which these machines have obtained in fairly contested fields.


The Oshawa Vindicator
Edition 24 July 1867
Mr. Gibbs Meeting in Oshawa

Mr. Gibbs held a meeting of his friends on Saturday evening. Nearly three hundred rate payers were present. Several addresses were delivered by the most prominent men of the town. A unanimous vote pledging Mr. Gibbs their support of the meeting, moved by Mr. Cowan and seconded by Mr. Glen, was passed. The most enthusiastic feeling prevailed. It is pretty clear what the result will be in Oshawa.

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The Oshawa Vindicator
July, 1867

In Oshawa, on the 17th last, by the Rev. L. B. Caldwell, Miss Sophia Maria Graham, of Whitby, to Mr. Will Clarke, of Pickering.

At Colbourne, July 16th, BY Rev. Mr. Lomas, Bowmanville, the Rev. D. Simpson, Primitive Methodist Minister, formerly of Oshawa, to Miss Mary Grace Barrett, of Bruse Mines, Algoma District.

By Rev. G. Abbs, of the “Christian Advocate,” at Palermo, June 15, 1867, Rev. W. Pirrette, of the Brooklin M. E. Church, and Grand Worthy Patriarch of the Sons of Temperance of Canada West, to ALvina L. Winehell, of Palermo, formerly of Barringon, Mass, U.S.


The Oshawa Vindicator
Edition 31 July 1867
Devil Worshippers

This singular race, called the devil-worshippers, who dwell among the Koorde, numbers about one hundred thousand, and are from and ancient Persian race. They speak the Koord’s language. Their symbol is the Peacock, an image of which they worship at their sacred shrine. They are largely under the control of their priests, who teach them that it is essential to manhood to lie, steal, murder, and be a dog. To kill someone is necessary to become a man.

To sin on quietly because you do not intend to sin always is to live on a reversion which will probably never be yours.

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The Oshawa Vindicator
Edition 31, July, 1867
United Grammar and Common Schools, Oshawa

Wanted for the above, A FEMALE TEACHER for the Primary Division. Salary $220 per an.

Also, a Female Teacher for the Senior Division of the Female Department; one capable of teaching French and Drawing preferred.

Applications, with testimonials &e., to be forwarded to the undersigned, not later than 10th August.

  1. Carswell,


The Oshawa Vindicator
Edition 31 July 1867
What is Soda Water!
ATKINSON’s Drug Store

Soda water is pure water highly charged with Carbonic Acid Gas. This gas exists in great purity in marble. In extracting it, vessels capable of resisting great pressure, 100 to 200 pounds to the inch are required.

The New York Board of Health says: “we regard Soda Water (Carbonic Acid Gas in water) as the only innocent drink of all the mineral waters in use.

Dr. Maxwell of Ouloutts, remarks: “In the treatment of Cholera I found Soda Water both grateful and beneficial.” This kind of Soda Water you can only obtain in its true purity and strength at ATKINSON’s Drug Store.