Oshawa in 1867

What was our community like 150 years ago?


In 1867, the people of Canada were participating in the growth of a new country.  They were concerned with the Confederation Bill, Fenian Raids, as well as George Brown representing reform.  Oshawa was still a village in 1867, and the people in it had a strong interest in the politics and events which happened outside of the community as evidenced by the news stories found in the Oshawa Vindicator.  The newspaper always reported what was happening within the community so that everyone could remain informed about upcoming and past events or notes of interest.


Many of the villagers of Oshawa played an active role in the January 7th council election in the community.  During Election Day there were a number of close calls for electors who were voting for either S.B. Fairbanks or W.D. Michael, the two candidates for the Reeveship.  A number of electors had to climb over fences and through windows in order to cast their votes for either candidate before the polling booth closed and votes were counted.  Silas Fairbanks won his campaign for Reeve with 175 votes while W.D. Michael became Deputy Reeve with 172 votes.  E.B. Wilcox, J.W. Fowke and D.F Burk were elected as councillors.  D.F. Burk withdrew after being elected and Mr. Wall took his place.


Within the community, people were close knit and participated in numerous socials and activities that were planned by various groups and organizations.  For instance, the Mechanics Cornet Band secured the services of an instructor and leader and then canvassed the village for funds and encouraged honorary members to join for 30 cents per month.  The money would help pay for music, uniforms and instruments.  Not only did the Mechanic Cornet Band begin in 1867, but the Young Men’s Christian Association was also started.  A meeting was called for September 6th, for young men of Protestant denomination to get together for the purpose of organizing the new YMCA in Oshawa.  On one occasion there were so many people at the social held at Mr. Pake’s home that the floor gave way.  Luckily a cellar did not exist below the floor so that it only dropped by a foot.  There were few injuries.  On other occasions there were musical evenings planned.  One such evening was held at the Son’s Hall where solos, duets and quartets were performed.  Vocal and instrumental demonstrations were also performed by Oshawa’s best amateurs.  The highlight of that particular evening was an account of his life given by P. Benson Sr. through the use of illustrated panoramic views.  It must also be noted that throughout the numerous socials and other events held in Oshawa, the 34th Battalion and the volunteer militia were constantly kept ready for active service against the threat of an attack by Fenians.

On August 15, 1867 citizens were able to participate in the excursion of the season.  A boat ride aboard the Corinthian which started in Colborne, picked up passengers in Oshawa at 7:15 a.m., and arrived in Niagara Town at 10:00 a.m.  At this stop the passengers boarded a train to take them to Niagara Falls.  Passengers then had a number of hours to pursue the many entertainments available at the Falls.  At 4:15 p.m. they reboarded the train and were steaming towards Charlotte by 5:00 p.m.  They arrived in Charlotte at 10:00 p.m. and eventually arrived back in Whitby by 5:00 a.m.  This trip was advertised as a moonlight sail on Lake Ontario.  Single tickets were $1.50 and double tickets were $2.50.

Joseph Hall Works, Archival Collection of the Oshawa Museum (A987.25.3)

Oshawa also became renown through the industriousness of members of its manufacturing community.  W.H. Pellow and A.M. Walton, who opened a general hardware business in 1867, also manufactured a cheese vat which won a special prize at the Provincial Exhibition.  The Joseph Hall Works manufactured the Gordon Printing Press, which by the end of 1867 was winning admirers from various community printers outside of Oshawa.  As part of the early closing movement merchants entered into an agreement to close places of business at 7:00 p.m. throughout the year except in June, July and August when the businesses would remain open until 7:30 p.m.

There were a few fires and other accidents in the village.  In December slight tremors were felt from an earthquake that affected the eastern portion of the Dominion and New York.  There was a heavy snow storm at the end of April as well as a lightning storm which destroyed the chimney, stove and some windows in the home of John Sykes.  Mr. Atkinson, the druggist, reported the temperatures everyday from outside his store.  On Saturday August 18, it was 88 degrees Fahrenheit.

Simcoe Street Methodist (United) Church, from the Archival Collection of the Oshawa Museum

New businesses such as the general hardware business of W.H. Pellow and A.M. Walton opened.  Buildings such as the new Methodist Church, on Simcoe Street, were built to accommodate the growing population of Oshawa, which in 1867 was 3 500.

Dominion Day in 1867 was a relatively quiet affair in Oshawa, even though it had been designated as a celebration of Confederation for the country.  The day started with the firing of guns and ringing of bells and many houses flew flags.  A picnic was held later in the day at Cedar Dale for those people of the community who did not go elsewhere to places such as the town of Whitby to celebrate.

Above taken from Historical Oshawa Information Sheet

The Oshawa Vindicator, January 2, 1867.  Vol. XII, No. 18 to December 25, 1867.  Vol. XIII, No. 17.


The Month That Was – January 1967

All news items taken from The Oshawa Times, various dates

Pearson Lights Flame

OTTAWA (CP)- Prime Minister Pearson lit a commemorative flame on  Parliament Hill Saturday night to mark the opening of Confederation Centennial Celebrations while hundreds of Ottawans stood in deep snow, craning their necks to see.

A cheer went up from the crowd when, after a moment’s hesitation, the flame caught fire in a low round foundation featuring the coats of arms of the provinces and northern territories.

The Queen, in an address filmed and recorded several weeks earlier, said the 100th anniversary of the union of the original provinces     by the British North America Act of 1867 should mark the beginning of another century as creative and inspiring as Canada’s first.

In this address, Mr. Pearson said the start of the centennial year is “a time of measure, with grateful hearts, the achievements of our past.”

Pearson Lights Flame.png

The First 100 Years

Fireworks burst in a spectacular display over the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald, one of the Fathers of Confederation. A crowd estimated at 12,000 gathered in Queen’s Park in front of the Ontario legislative building New Year’s Eve as Toronto marked the start of the Centennial year.

Lighting of the flame - fireworks.png

Oshawa To Share Fully In Centennial Highlights

Oshawa citizens will have the opportunity of sharing in many of the national extravaganzas of the Centennial celebrations. Late in February the famous Canadian folk ensembles, Les Feux Follets, will perform here. In April the colorful National Military Tatto will be a major attraction at the Civic Auditorium. The National Ballet Company is a Centennial highlight in May. The Confederation Caravan will roll into Oshawa for 10 days in August.

These are but some of the “spectaculars” which will bring home to Canadians the significance of the Centenary and of the achievements of our country in the first 100 years. Locally and throughout the country, a virtual limitless list of programs and projects are taking shape to spotlight the past accomplishments and present the talent of our citizens of this important region in the development of Canada.

The national activity and the speeches of the first few days of Centennial Year have certainly served to spark excitement in even the most conservative of Canadians that this year is something special, indeed extraordinary, in our country. It will be impossible not to become caught up in the enthusiasm of the events.

In the national observance, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, is already showing praise worthy inclination of serving the purpose for which its founders planned. In its coverage of Centennial events, in the opportunity it is giving all Canadians a listen to their leaders and catch the thrill and sentiment of their words, the corporation can be a wonderful force for unity and national awareness in this auspicious year.

Unfortunately, the CBC still manages somehow to seek out those Canadians who can’t identify, who continue to ask “who are we?” the best rejoinder cam the other night from a youngster who had spent the day watching Centennial Celebrations and listening to Centennial speeches. He also listened for a moment to a commentator bewailed “our lack of identity”

“What’s the matter with that fellow?” the youngster asked. “Doesn’t he know Canadians are the greatest!”

This is the spirit the Centenary should foster- and show every indication of accomplishing – in Canadians in Oshawa, in Gaspe, in Duke Land and on Vancouver Island.


“Pat Too,” druggist Cliff Cross’ beagle puppy didn’t take long before learning that her master’s soda fountain at Rockland, Maine, was the proper place to get a drink. The pup, which was a Christmas gift replacing another “Pat” manages a straw nicely.


U.K. Press Urges Repeal Of Royal Marriages Act
LONDON (AP) – Three London newspapers today urged Parliament to repeal George III’s royal marriage law so Queen Elizabeth won’t have to decide whether her first cousin can marry the mother of his illegitimate son.

The Royal Marriages Act of 1722 was denounced on all sides as a museum piece of royal spite. It was brought to public attention again by the Earl of Harewood’s announcement Monday that he is being divorced for adultery and wants to marry a former model who bore him a son 2 ½ years ago.

The 43-year-old earl is 18th in line of succession to the throne. His 40-year-old wife is expected to bring her divorce petition before the courts next month.

Under the ancient act, all members of the Royal Family descended from George III must have the monarch’s permission to wed. This means that, technically at least, Harewood must seek the Queen’s consent before marrying Patricia Tuckwell, a 39-year-old divorcee from Australia.

IT IS NOT an ordinary New Year for Canada and a Whitby couple decided to ring in the Centennial year in singular fashion. Mr. and Mrs. Leslie McFarlane invited about 70 persons to a party Sunday which had the atmosphere of the 1800’s. Even the punch was concocted from a 100- year- old recipe and the party was carried on in flickering candlelight to heighted the flavor of the past. The guests had an option to arrive in either costume in the cloths of the past century or to come garbed in the suits of the present Gathered before the Centennial emblem are some quests. (Seated, left) Mrs. Brian McFarlane and Mrs. Leslie McFarlane; (standing left to right) Brian McFarlane, Mr. and Mrs. Desmond Newman, Mrs. Michael Starr and Mr. Starr and host Leslie McFarlane, author of The Hardy Boys books.            -Oshawa Times Photo

Auto Museum Attendance Exceeds 16,000 For Year

More than 16,000 persons visited the Canadian Automotive Museum during 1966.

“There was a big increase of visitors from November of this year over November of last year, which is generally considerably lower,” said assistant manager of the Chamber of Commerce, Herb Brennan.

“From Nov 23 to Dec 23, which is also considered a quiet period, we had around 1,100 persons visit the museum – mostly out-of-towners.”

“There were eight groups touring the cards, four from 26 classes of grade four students and four other tours.” he said.

Coming attractions at the museum for 1967 will include a complete history of ball bearings and a display of spark plugs – sponsored by Champion Spark Plug Co.

“We also have a custom 1932 Chevrolet which was built by the Oshawa Car Club and loaned to us by one of its members,” said Mr. Brennan.

On Dec 31, a film of the museum was shown on Channel 11 television.

Pentalpha Chapter Masons Install New Officers: The annual installation of officers was held last night at the Center Street Masonic Temple for members of Pentalpha Chapter 28, Grand Registry of Canada. Gathered for this picture, left to right, bottom, are: Excellent Companion, Harold Powless, second principal; Russell Flutter, first principle, E.C. Henry Bickle, third principal, left to right, top, George Pidduck, senior sojourner; Robert Temperton, immediate past first principle, E.C. Hack Magee, instilling principle sojourner. -Oshawa Times Photo

Where The Streets Get Their Names – Courcelette Avenue

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Last November, in honour of Remembrance Day, I shared why Oshawa has poppies on certain street signs.  If you’re driving in Central Oshawa, streets like Verdun Road, Vimy Avenue, and St. Julien Street are marked with a red poppy on the corner.  Similar signs are also predominant in north Oshawa, where many streets have been named after Oshawa soldiers.

Courcelette Avenue at Ritson Road

Found east off Ritson, between Olive and Eulalie, is Courcelette Avenue. Like Vimy and Verdun, Courcelette Avenue has been named in recognition of a World War I battle, and September 15 marked the 100th anniversary of its start.  This week long engagement was a part of the large Battle of the Somme.

"The Battle for Courcelette, 1918" by soldier and war artist Louis Weirter CWM 19710261-0788; Beverbrook Collection of War Art; Canadian War Museum. Accessed from the Canadian Encyclopedia
“The Battle for Courcelette, 1918” by
soldier and war artist Louis Weirter
CWM 19710261-0788; Beverbrook Collection of War Art; Canadian War Museum.

While the Battle for Courcelette didn’t have the decisive victory the Allies were hoping for, there were two major outcomes which forever changed warfare.   First, the ‘creeping barrage.’  Trench warfare had caused several stalemates during WWI; soldiers were careful to avoid the aptly-named No Mans Land.  With the creeping barrage, the soldiers walked behind the artillary barrage at a pace of 100 yards, or 91 metres, per lift.  As explained by the Canadian War Museum:

This barrage was not meant to destroy the enemy trench systems, although this sometimes happened, but to drive defenders into their protective dugouts. The infantry would closely follow the barrage, called ‘leaning on the barrage’, in order to cross No Man’s Land before enemy troops could emerge from cover to fire at them.

The other point of significant about this battle is that saw the use of tanks.  Only 1 of 6 of the tanks achieved its objective, and as described by the War Museum, the tanks were “mechanically unreliable and as slow as a walking person,” however, the impact of these machines were profound.  The psychological impact of tanks alone forever changed warfare.  Large, imposing and, fearsome, many German soldiers reportedly surrendered at the sight of them.

The Battle of Courcelette was the first battle of the Somme that saw Canadian participation, and in the end it saw 29,376 casualties.

Courcelette Canadian Memorial; image from Veterans Affairs Canada

Courcelette Avenue first appears in Oshawa City Directories in 1923.

For more information on the Battle of Courcelette, please visit:

The Canadian War Museum

The Canadian Encyclopedia

Veterans Affairs Canada

Displaced Persons and Oshawa: A Memory Book Project

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

This summer the Oshawa Museum is undertaking a new and very important, oral history project.  The focus of the project is to collect the memories of those who arrived in Oshawa as Displaced Person after the Second World War.

The conclusion of World War II saw mass movements of people like the world had never seen before.  Canada opened its borders to help find homes for those who had no home to go back to.  Oshawa was considered an enticing place for many from the Ukraine and Poland as there was already a large, established community from these countries in the city.  It is these stories, memories and experiences of those who arrived in Oshawa that we at the Museum are working to collect and share.


While Oshawa is known for its industrial past, it has a rich cultural history that should not be overlooked.   The people who arrived in Oshawa after the Second World War helped to create the Oshawa of today.  They brought with them traditions, celebrations and of course food that are have become a part of Oshawa.

The aim is to learn about what life was like in Oshawa for those who came as refugees of World War II. Where did they live before the war?  How was the boat ride over? Why did they settle in Oshawa? What were their experiences once they arrived in Oshawa?  The answers to these questions and more, will help us to learn more about Oshawa during this pivotal time in history and to learn about the impact of the war on a more personal level.

The information collected will become a part of the archival record and will be the basis of a museum exhibit.  If you came to Oshawa as a refugee after World War II or you know someone who did, please consider taking part in this project.  We have developed a workbook to collect the memories and it is available to download.  If you don’t wish to download the booklet, please contact the Museum and we will happily send one out to you.  Museum staff is more than willing to come out and speak to people or groups about the project and to work together to collect these important memories.

Download the Displaced persons in Oshawa Memory Booklet.

William Smith and the Conservative Demonstration of 1911

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

In 1911, Canada was a much different place.  Our Prime Minister was Wilfrid Laurier, a PM who when faced with large national issues, attempted to find middle ground between the expectations of English Canada and French Canada.  Often, the end result was displeasure by both sides.  Laurier faced many issues during his 15 years as Prime Minister that found him trying to maintain peace between the two passionate groups, including participation in the Boer War, the Manitoba Schools Question, and the Naval Service Bill, and ultimately it was the issue of reciprocity with the US that saw a change in government, bringing the Conservatives to power in 1911.

William Smith, From the Parliament of Canada's Website
William Smith, From the Parliament of Canada’s Website

For the riding of Ontario South, William Smith was elected as a Conservative Member of Parliament.  William, or Billy, Smith was a Columbus native who worked as a breeder, farmer, and importer.  His farm in Columbus was 267 acres, and Smith was regarded as a progressive and prosperous agriculturalist, not afraid to engage with the ‘improved methods’ of farming.  The south wing of the main house was originally an old inn known as the ‘West Country Inn’ and was a halfway house for farmers and traders.

When he was elected in 1911, he was no novice when it came to politics.  Smith was first elected as an MP in 1887 and was re-elected in a by-election 1892.  In the 1911 election, the main issue was reciprocity, or free trade with the United States.  The Conservative Party, led by Robert Borden, was staunchly against this, and fear of American influence and/or annexation was one argument they used against the Liberals.  The Conservatives won the election with a majority government, and a Conservative Smith won the local riding of Ontario South.  As reported in the Whitby Chronicle, the election of Smith and the Conservatives was indicative that “so far as this riding was concerned reciprocity had received a knock-out blow.”

The Conservative Demonstration, 1911; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
The Conservative Demonstration, 1911; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

The Conservative victory was celebrated throughout the riding.  Election night saw celebrations in Whitby, and the following day, “an automobile procession left Oshawa for Pickering, Brougham, Claremont, Ashburn and Port Perry.”  The parade in Oshawa was complete with the motorcade, men on horses, and bands, and the event was photographed as it made its way eastbound along King Street.  A number of the images were in turn made into postcards, five of which are part of the Oshawa Community Archives’ Postcard Collection.

The Conservative Demonstration, 1911; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
The Conservative Demonstration, 1911; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
The Conservative Demonstration, 1911; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
The Conservative Demonstration, 1911; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
The Conservative Demonstration, 1911; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
The Conservative Demonstration, 1911; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

Interestingly enough, the Oshawa Community Museum has an artifact in its holdings related to WIlliam Smith: this butter paddle, engraved with “John Smith’s Print, 1808,” owned by William’s grandfather.

960.54.2 - Butter Press owned by John Smith, dated 1808
960.54.2 – Butter Press owned by John Smith, dated 1808

The Conservative Demonstration postcard, and other postcards from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection will be on display in Guy House in April 2015 in celebration of Archives Awareness.  Be sure to visit!