While on tour, our Visitor Hosts are often asked questions that they may not be able to answer in that moment. However, we take note of the questions and try to find the answers afterwards. Here are a few of the questions that we were asked throughout 2022
Is John Henry, former Oshawa Mayor and current Durham Regional Chair, related to the Henry family?
We asked His Worship this question upon his first election as Mayor in 2010, and he claimed that there was no connection.
What year is the Fire Insurance Map from?
In Robinson House, in the Leaving Home, Finding Home in Oshawa exhibit, there is a large map showcasing a neighbourhood in Oshawa with many landmarks of significance to the eastern European community. That map dates to 1948, and you can read more about it in a previous blog post!
Did the Henry family know how to speak French?
As far as we know, it doesn’t seem to be a language that was spoken at home. The 1891 Census has a column for ‘French Canadian,’ 1901 has a column for ‘Mother Tongue’ and 1911 has a column for ‘Language Commonly Spoken;’ the Henry siblings all indicate English in these columns.
In 1960, Thomas’s Granddaughter, Arlie DeGuerre, shared family history in The Life and Times of Thomas Henry. When recalling Thomas’s War of 1812 involvement, she stated,
“Thomas Henry… was employed to attend this new Judge on an official trip to Montreal. He remained in Montreal a month and learned something of the French language” (page 2).
A grain of salt is always taken when using this source as there are some inaccuracies within.
Did the Henry family have a cat/have pets?
This was one I was also asked on a tour this fall. The 1851 Agricultural Return tells us that, for livestock, they had:
4 bulls, oxen or steers
4 milch cows (a cow in milk or kept for her milk)
27 sheep (with 100 lbs of wool)
There is no apparently mention to pets in the Memoir of Thomas Henry, nor any mention in Arlie DeGuerre’s writings.
The last Henry family member to live in Henry House was William. He lived there until the 1910s. Between 1917 and into the early 1920s, the Mackie family called the house home. It was used for a time as a ‘rest room’ for mothers, a place to rest while their children were playing in the park. It was home to Nasion and Emelline (Ned & Lina) Smith from the 1930s to 1942, and Harry Smith, a Parks Board of Management employee and in charge of Lakeview Park maintenance, lived in the home into the 1950s.
In 1959, the Oshawa Historical Society received word that they could use Henry House as a local museum. Doors opened in 1960, and we’ve welcomed thousands of visitors every year since.
While on tour, our Visitor Hosts are often asked questions that they may not be able to answer in that moment. However, we take note of the questions and try to find the answers afterwards. Here are a few questions we’ve been asked this summer and their answers.
What is the roof of Henry House made of?
The roof at Henry House is made from cedar shingles. It was last replaced in 2013, and the lifespan of these shingles is at least 25 years (according to my Google skills). Here is a side by side comparison from 2011 and then November 2013, not long after it was replaced.
Beams of drive shed – where are they from?
The Drive Shed! The Drive Shed was a 50th anniversary project for the Oshawa Historical Society. The idea for an additional exhibition area was launched in 2007 during the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Oshawa Historical Society. The Board of Directors wished to commemorate this milestone with a permanent, tangible addition to the museum complex and the City’s lakefront property. The Drive Shed is a timber frame structure, built by students from Fleming College, Haliburton Campus. The opening for the Drive Shed was celebrated in September 2009.
What was style of the sash in the community room?
In A Carrying Place: Oshawa’s Indigenous Story, there is a sash, on loan from the Oshawa-Durham Métis Council.
The origins of the sash reflect the diversity of the Métis experience. The finger-weaving technique used to make the sash was firmly established in Eastern Woodland Indigenous Peoples Traditions. The technique created tumplines, garters and other useful household articles and items of clothing. Plant fibers were used prior to the introduction of wool. Wool and the sash, as an article of clothing, were introduced to the Eastern Woodland peoples by Europeans. The Six Nations Confederacy, Potowatami and other First Nations of the area blended the two traditions into the finger-woven sash.
The French settlers of Québec created the Assomption variation of the woven sash. The sash was a popular trade item manufactured in a cottage industry in the village of L’Assomption, Québec. The Québécois and the Métis of Western Canada were their biggest customers. Sashes were also made by local Métis artisans. Sashes of Indigenous or Métis manufacture tended to be of a softer and loose weave, frequently incorporating beads in the design.
The sash was used by the Métis as a practical item of clothing. It was decorative, warm and could be used to replace a rope to tumpline if none were available. The sash has been the most persistent element of traditional Métis dress, worn long after the capote and the Red River coat were replaced by European styles. The Métis share the sash with two other groups who also claim it as a symbol of nationhood and cultural distinction. It was worn by Eastern Woodland Indigenous Peoples as a sign of office in the 19th century. It was worn by French Canadians during the Lower Canada Rebellion in 1837. It is still considered to be an important part of traditional dress for both of these groups.
Are the three families still around today?
Yes! Every year, we get people coming into the museum and saying that they are descended from either the Henry, Robinson, or Guy families. Because Guy House was a triplex for many years before becoming the Museum’s admin building, we will also have visitors tell us that they, or someone they know, lived in Guy House in the past.
For two weeks, at the end of April and beginning of May, I had given tours almost every day we were open. It was a wonderful return to how Spring at the Museum looked before COVID-19.
In the hallway of Henry House, there is a frame holding six Victorian era photographs, and it felt like on every tour, I was asked, “who was in the photos?” It pained me to say that I didn’t quite know. Two of them looked very Henry like (there is a distinct look to all the siblings), but beyond that, I couldn’t say.
While closing up one day, and with our Curator’s permission, I took the photo off the wall to see who was in the photos.
I was very pleased that the two that I kept identifying as Henrys were, indeed, Henrys. George Henry (top right) was the son of Thomas and his first wife, Elizabeth. His wife was Polly Henry, and we’ve profiled her before on the blog. The couple would live out their lives in nearby Bowmanville.
Also photographed are James O. Henry (bottom left) and his first wife, Adelaide Hall (bottom right). James was Thomas’s eighth child, the second born to Thomas and his second wife, Lurenda. James and Adelaide had four children together before her death, and after her passing, James remarried and had one child with his second wife. He was an enterprising man, a farmer, photographer, and exporter of apples. He was reportedly the first exporter to Britain, his brand remained popular for many years.
There are three more photos depicting four people. Their identities are still, somewhat, a mystery, although, thanks to information in the archival collection and on the back of the frame, it is very likely they are members of the Hall family, Adelaide’s relatives.
I always appreciate it when I’m asked questions on tours that I don’t know the answer to. Even after 11 years of tours, there are still ones that will leave me without an answer, and this means I have the opportunity to learn something new myself.
Information on George and James from If This House Could Talk: The Story of Henry House (Oshawa Historical Society, 2012).
I was inspired to write this blog as I shuffled through seemingly endless negative film images of Oshawa Fire Department staff. The collection, which has now been entirely organized and accessioned, has a large selection of images taken in the field, at the hall, and during events. Not shockingly, the collection sports an enormous variety of absolutely stunning moustaches. Therefore, I thought that it would be MOST appropriate to display some of the beautiful moustaches we, at the Oshawa Museum, have the privilege of enjoying, both within the Oshawa Fire Department Collection and the rest of our historical images.
History of the ‘stache
Fashionably shaped facial hair is not a modern concept, and many individuals have sported a combination of beards, moustaches, goatees, and side burns for most of human history. Most historical and archaeological records indicate that facial hair has been styled since the days of early humans, often with a variety of implements such as sharpened shells or stone tools.
Facial hair has been associated with religious or community groups, but it has also been very important in the identification of military personnel. The BBC history article, The Moustache a Hairy History, details the importance of the differentiation between war and post-war times.
“When the war ended in 1856, returning soldiers were barely recognizable behind their vast crops of facial hair. Deciding that beards were the signs of heroes, British men started once again to grow their own. Beards were everywhere and moustaches were lost amongst the general “face fungus” (as Edwardian novelist Frank Richardson termed it). It was a dark time for the moustache.”
Some leadership even took it into their hands to change the entire face of a population with facial hair. Peter the Great desired for Russia to present a more modern European nation during his reign. This meant that examples of the style of clothes that he desired for the population to wear were hung outside the city gates, on mannequins, and that a task force was employed to ensure that the people were following new orders. This task force when as far as to rip and cut long beards from men’s faces often against their will, as Peter deemed the look of a long beard to be too stereotypically associated to the old fashioned Russian.
Oshawa Fire Department
According to the website Firefighter Now, a blog written by a Cleveland firefighter/paramedic, the recognizable firefighter moustaches were an early form of smoke filtration, prior to oxygen masks. The firefighters would moisten their moustaches before entering a smoky area to process the air as they breathed.
There are several reasons why firefighters still wear the stylish ‘stache: a sense of identity, fashion, and it’s often their only option for facial hair. The moustache is a symbolic image of firefighters and, as such, both in reality and popular media, provide a sense of identity and inclusion within the community. Some individuals really enjoy the look, and it’s often the only facial hair that firefighters can have! The oxygen masks that are worn in the field cannot create a tight seal when there is facial hair such as a beard, therefore, the old cookie duster is the only option.
Thomas E.B. Henry, a member of our Henry family, was an actor and had a spectacular array of images taken for his acting portfolio from various shows that he performed in. One of my personal favourites is this Western looking garb, complete with a fantastic moustache. Though I cannot be certain that the moustache is real, it can still be appreciated in all of its glory for truly transforming the actor. Some of the other images include a dapper tuxedoed Thomas E.B. Henry, complete with eyeliner, a military uniform, and even a man caught in a fight, including a sword and fake wound on his arm.
Another fantastic example of the cultural significance that moustaches have had through history is this china cup. The white china decorated with pink flowers has been designed with a special shelf. This shelf, that sits on the inside lip of the cup, was an addition meant to protect the drinker’s moustache from being dampened by the liquid that they were consuming.
This is Richard Elwood Hastings Welch, who married Ruth Eunice Robinson and served as the Customs Officer of Port Oshawa. He is buried in the Port Oshawa Cemetery. This image of Mr. Welch with this fantastic example of the “mutton chop” moustache was published in The Oshawa Daily Reformer with the caption,
“Capt. Richard Elwood Hastings Welch, who was in H.M.S. Customs as Landing-Waiter at Port Oshawa at the time of Confederation and was Captain in the Third Battalion of the Durham Militia. He was the father of Miss Welch and Mrs. Samuel J. Babe of this city of the late Vicars H. Welch.”
It was difficult to choose just a few photos from our collection in order to represent the complete variety of moustaches at the Oshawa Museum. If you are interested in exploring more of the content within our archive and collection, please visit the virtual database on the Oshawa Museum’s website.
Baird, Craig. Penny Sized History: Great Moustaches in Canadian History. Canadian History Ehx, 2019.
Hawksley, Lucinda. The moustache: A Hairy History. BBC: Culture, 2014.
Soth, Amelia. Peter the Great’s Beard Tax. JSTOR: Daily, 2021.
Canadian Statesman, 3 Oct 1935, p. 7 Social & Personal
The Statesman join sin tendering congratulations to Mr. JD Storie of Oshawa on the occasion of his 81st birthday on Sept 28. Mr Storie, who is an old Durham boy, was the largest donor toward the erection of the Nurses’ Home at Bowmanville Hospital.
A former Bowmanville boy, Fireman George Salter of Oshawa, has just completed 37 years active service with the Oshawa Fire Brigade. He has served under three fire chiefs, and has fought some of the most stubborn fires that have blazed in Oshawa during the present century. At the present time he is station man on the Oshawa Brigade.
Canadian Statesman, 17 Oct 1935, p. 1 Unique address heard at Rotary on Friday last Col. Frank Chappell discusses the use and misuse of the English language in interesting talk
Both unique and delightfully presented was the address on Friday by Col. Frank Chappell, Public Relations Director of General Motors, Oshawa, at the Rotary Club. Col. Chappell made his address both educational and amusing. He was introduced by Rotarian Ross Strike and he spoke on the subject “Words and Phrases Common in the English Language.”
Most men, the speaker said, had a hobby of some sort, and the subject was something of an unconscious hobby of his own. Language he added, is said to be the clothing of our ideas and words the texture of our speech. The English language contains between 80 and 100 thousand words, and yet many of the greatest men only use a small proportion of this number. Shakespeare, who might be termed as the greatest literary genius of the ages, used no more than 5000 words, and yet with this number he was able to thrill the world with the beauty of his literary contributions. Such public men of today, as RB Bennett or Mackenzie King have vocabularies of probably 10,000 words.
The average working man, oddly enough, gets along with the use of about 200 words. There is nothing highbrow, Col. Chappell said, in using well rounded speech. There is not such so much beauty in human expression as there was in other days, and yet colour and style belonged to all of us for our own use.
Slang was used a great deal to put emphasis on expression, but too much use of slang tended to spoil the language…
The speaker believed there should be a little more originality in speech. He deplored the use of words spelled backwards as names, and two instances of this recited. Canada, spelled backwards, Adanac, was used a great deal as a trade name, but it lacked the beauty and the meaning that is in the word Canada. Recently he came across an apartment house called Rolyat and upon investigation found that it was the owners name, Taylor, spelled backwards.
Practically all names have an origin in a trade or profession or characteristics. Strong men, denotes a characteristic, whereas such names as Bowman, denote art…
Canadian Statesman, 24 Oct 1935, p. 7 In the Dim and Distant Past Twenty-Five Years Ago, from the Bowmanville News, October 21, 1010
Rev. and Mrs. J Garbutt, Mrs FA Haddy, Mrs BM Warnica, Mrs LA Tole, Miss Annie Cryderman are delegates to the Provicincial Sunday School convention in Oshawa
Mr. Percy Piper of this town won 2nd prize for the best costume at the grand masquerade at Oshawa Roller Rink on Thursday.
Oshawa Daily Times, 28 Oct 1935 Aged Resident Died at Harmony Sunday Morning Mrs. JL McGill was born here 83 years ago
Mrs. John L. McGill, a lifetime resident of Oshawa and district, died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. H Willson, Harmony, yesterday morning. Mrs. McGill had been in ill health for the past three months, but had only been confined to bed for the past few weeks.
Mrs. McGill, whose maiden name was Jennie Lorenda Henry, was born in the old Henry homestead, Oshawa-on-the-Lake, 83 years ago. After her marriage to Mr. McGill they moved to the McGill homestead in East Whitby, where they lived for a number of years. For more than 25 years, Mrs. McGill had been living at 102 Agnes St.
Mrs. McGill was a member of Centre Street United Church, formerly the Christian Church. It was largely through the efforts of her father, Elder Thomas Henry, that the Christian Church was established in Oshawa. She was a member of the Women’s Association of that church, and had been an active member and convener of a group until the past year prevented her from taking a very active part.
Predeceased by her husband 12 years ago and by her only son, Orvill McGill of St. Catharines, 11 years ago, two daughters, Mrs. H Willson Ann Mrs. CI DeGuerre, remain. There are ten grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. Mrs. McGill was the last member of her family, the last of 16 children.
The funeral will be held from the home of her daughter, Mrs. H Willson, Harmony at 2:30 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon. Rev. WP Fletcher, former pastor of Centre Street Church, will officiate assisted by Rev. GCR McQuade. Interment will be made in the Union Cemetery.
Oshawa Daily Times, 28 Oct 1935 Relief Lists Continue to Grow Smaller in Oshawa Number on Relief Reached the Lowest Point Here Today Since 1930 – Board Hopes to Complete Year Without and Overdraft
The reduction in the number of families on relief in the city of Oshawa continues at a very gratifying rate, and the figures issued this morning by Relief Administrator J. C. McGill, indicate that the situation is more satisfactory than it has been at any time since relief on a large scale became necessary in this city. This morning, the number of families on relief had dropped to 662, this being the lowest figure recorded at this date since the year 1930. Since the meeting of the Public Welfare Board on October 9, the number of families on relief has decreased by 79, the figure on that date being 741 families. This reduction is entirely due to families becoming self-supporting by reason of the wage earner going back to work.
A year ago, on the same date there were 813 families on relief, and the number was increasing rapidly, in contrast to the present condition of almost daily reductions. In 1933, there were almost 1,202 families on relief on October 28, and the number was also increasing steadily in that year.
These figures show the very satisfactory position of the relief situation today, as compared with previous years, and Mr. McGill is very hopeful that the present decreases will continue, and will effect a very considerable reduction in relief costs for the balance of this year and the early months of next year. It is just possible that, by reason of the fewer families on relief, the welfare board will be able to finish the year without an overdraft on the budget set aside for it for the year of 1935, which would be a considerable reduction from the total costs in 1934.
Oshawa Daily Times, 28 Oct 1935, p. 6 Harbor Deserted
Oshawa Harbor at the present time presents rather a sererted appearabce. All the small pleasure craft, that during the summer season swung at their moorings, have been removed to winter quarters. The only craft remaining is the crusier “Harry H.” which is moored at the north side of the turning basin.
Canadian Statesman, 31 Oct 1935, p. 7 Holy Trinity AYPA of Oshawa were guests on Monday night of St. John’s AYPA at a Hollowe’en masquerade in the Parish Hall. Eric Colwell won the prize for the most original costume, Russel Hatherly of Oshawa for the comic, and an Oshawa girl for the prettiest costime. The hall was gaily decorated for the event, and about 75 young people attended.
Whitby Gazette and Chronicle, 31 Oct 1935, p. 7 Raglan
Plans are being made for a Hallowe’en masquerade in the hall on Thursday evening. The school children are preparing entertainment and are inviting the ladies to help provide. Everyone is cordially invited.