Henry Grandkids – William James Henry

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Coordinator

William James Henry was the first-born son of Thomas Simon Henry and his wife Christine. He only lived to be 31 years old before succumbing to typhoid fever just before Christmas in 1882.

William married Cora Atkins in Watson, Michigan on December 25, 1879. According to the marriage register, William lived in Ashana, New York at the time, which upon examining the document closer, looks like a misspelling of Oshawa. It is unsure where the ‘New York’ came from. Maybe William said, ‘it’s near New York.’ The document lists William’s occupation as an accountant.

It is interesting that William and Cora chose to get married on Christmas Day. Similar to the correlation of certain professions running in the family (photographers and fruit growers), there also seems to be an affinity for members of the family to get married within a week or two of Christmas. Three of William’s aunts and one uncle are among them, with Eliza Henry married January 1, 1852; Clarissa Henry married December 23, 1868; Jennie Henry married January 1, 1873 and William Henry married December 25, 1878.

The newlyweds returned to Oshawa where they lived with William’s father, Thomas S. Henry, and William’s siblings. They lived very close to the family homestead, Henry House. William and Cora’s son, Glen Atkins Henry, was born in 1881. The enumerator recorded him as being only three months old at the time of the 1881 Census. The same Census lists William as a ‘book keeper,’ though it is unknown where he might have worked. Thomas Simon Henry, William’s father, was not good at managing his money. Perhaps William tried to help him as best he could, or maybe he was just as bad as his father was. We may never know.

Cora was 23 years old when William died and never remarried. His namesake, son, William James, was born five months after his father died. Cora seemingly spent the rest of her life living with her sons in the United States.

A017.20.68: Thomas Simon Henry with his grandsons Glenn & Will Henry

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, typhoid fever is a bacterial infection often spread by contaminated fecal matter. In the 21st century, if someone has not washed their hands after using the restroom and is infected, there is a high likelihood of them transferring the disease through close contact with others or contaminating food and drinking water.  In the 19th century, it was much easier to contract. In the past, typhoid infected water may have come from contaminated wells or even milk the family was drinking. Another likelihood was contaminated ice. Richard Longley describes Ashbridge’s Bay (Toronto) as being “scored like a chocolate bar, and cut into blocks and sold in the city [York/Toronto] clean ice for cooling drinks and making ice-cream, less clean ice for refrigeration. Inevitably there was confusion that contributed to outbreaks of typhoid.” The Don River drained into the Bay at the time (1850s and onwards), causing the contamination.

William and his family lived on the same lot of land that his parents and grandparents lived on; the Oshawa Creek cuts through that lot of land. The closest industry to the Henry land was the A.S. Whiting Manufacturing Co. Upstream were numerous mills and factories all spilling contaminants into the Creek – chemicals, animal manure, and, early on, human waste. Combining this with the reality that people cut ice from the Cedardale Pond, just like Ashbridge’s Bay and it is shocking that there were not more occurrences of Typhoid in the area.

As mentioned previously, William died on December 22, 1882 and is buried in the Port Oshawa Pioneer Cemetery with many other members of his family.

William Henry’s headstone in the Port Oshawa Pioneer Cemetery, 2011.

Sources:

“Typhoid Fever.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/diseases/typhoid.

Rutty, Christopher, et al. This Is Public Health a Canadian History. Canadian Public Health Association, 2010.  P. 15

Longley, Richard. “Toronto Pandemics Past: Typhoid and a Tale of Death in the Water.” NOW Magazine, 3 July 2020, nowtoronto.com/news/toronto-pandemics-typhoid.

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?

Henry Grandkids – Thomas Eben Blake Henry and “The Great Desire”

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

Originally, I intended this blog post to be about the life of Thomas Eben Blake Henry, the next in the planned series about Thomas Henry’s grandchildren. Initial research online confirmed all of the things we already knew from old family group sheets in the Oshawa Museum archival collection, coincidentally prepared by Ina Henry, T.E.B.’s first cousin and third wife. Further research specifically conducted on newspapers.com opened my eyes to a life that could never have been conveyed in census records and other information on Ancestry.com.

We knew that T.E.B. had been an actor based on the 1901 Census. He is listed as living at the family homestead in Darlington (today Clarington) with his parents, George and Polly, wife Mabel and daughter Lola. So presumably, he would be acting locally. But where? How do we find records from local theatres – there aren’t any in the OM collection? How do you identify actors in photos when most are in costume and makeup?

Knowing that T.E.B. ended up living in California near a number of other Henry cousins, I started a search on the newspapers.com, a large newspaper database, instead of communitydigitalarchives.com, which hosts our newspaper collection and a small number of other Ontario archival collections. Now, another problem cropped up. Under what name do I search? Fully, Thomas Eben Blake Henry is a unique name; but, without anecdotal evidence of a nickname or shortened name, researchers are usually at a loss and must come to the sad realization that you will have to explore every option of someone’s name – depending on how bad you want the information.

I did a lot of this research at home, during my out-of-office days, during this time of COVID-19. With internet connections not being good at the best of times, dialing in to access our work computers can be a bit of a nightmare. Remember the old dial-up days of the internet, with lagging conversations, getting frustrated and hitting buttons ten times only to have everything catch up and go crazy on your screen? It’s like that sometimes. So when I hit the jackpot with my T.E.B. research, I don’t remember exactly what it was that I had in my search options besides T.E.B. Henry. Like most discoveries though, I came about it somewhat accidentally. What I learned led me down a rabbit hole I wasn’t expecting.

The Atlanta Constitution wrote on June 27, 1910, “T.E.B. Henry has written a very promising play…will make good in stock or in the high-priced houses.” Set to open at the Bijou Theater in Knoxville, Tennessee in early September 1910, reviews poured in throughout major Tennessee newspapers.

Bijou Theater, c. 2010; ©Brian Stansberry, from wikipedia.com

“No expense spared for the elaborate scenic equipment,” “equal in this respect to any Broadway production,” and “the dialogue is crisp, pointed and direct in its natural simplicity,” claimed the Knoxville Sentinel.

The Chattanooga Daily Times said, “strong, vital play, full of realism, action and gripping situations,” and “it is said that every heart full of a deep purpose and desire will find a note of sympathy wrung from it by the direct personal appeal of the drama.” Meanwhile, the Chattanooga News wrote, “devoid of all lurid, clap-trap sensationalism…deep, absorbing heart interest and intense dramatic strength,” and “story is told vividly, directly and forcibly, carrying the audience through every scene with such realism as to make the pictures a living memory to all who see them.” Later, they also said, “the story is one in which pathos and humor are properly blended,” and “the scenery and effects have been especially prepared by Scenic Artist Charles DeFlesh, who declares that it is one of the best with which his name has ever been linked.”

The Bijou was hoping to draw in more people to see the play, having it open during the 1910 Appalachian Exposition, which ran from September 12 – October 12. The Exposition demonstrated progress in Southern industry and commerce and promoted conservation of natural resources. Former President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, spoke at the Exposition, though it is unknown if he saw a performance of T.E.B’s The Great Desire.

The Chattanooga News, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Tue, Sep 06, 1910, Page 5.

A preview of the play attracted 3000 people on Monday, September 5, 1910. The play takes place in the Selkirk Mountains and “is symbolic of the eventual supremacy of the innate good or mankind over the lower and baser elements of its nature, attained through the intervention of a good man.”1 The Great Desire and its characters is actually based on T.E.B’s time spent in the Rocky Mountains at a mining camp sometime in the late 1880s or early 1890s. A synopsis provided by The Chattanooga News follows:

Roger McLeod, a frontier parson, a very similar parsonage to Ralph Conner’s creation, “The Sky Pilot,” visits an obscure hamlet in the Selkirk mountains in behalf of the propagation of Christianity. While engaged in his duties he falls in love with Lorraine LaRue, the daughter of Barton LaRue, over whom considerable mystery hangs, and who because of his silence upon [t]he subject enjoys the sobriquet of “Silent Barton.” The parson in the pursuit of his love-making incurs the wrath of Dan Boreland, a frontier suitor of Lorraine’s, and forces him before the latter’s eye to retract a statement he made in disparagement of Lorraine’s crippled sister Nellie.

After Boreland’s true character is shown, Lorraine repudiates him, and the interest in the plot is centered upon the outcome of a three-handed love affair between the parson and the two sisters, both of whom wish to renounce him for the other. In the last scene the crippled sister is killed by her own father in a wild frenzy occasioned by fear and superstition caused by the howling of a wolf before the door.

Upon her deathbed the girl unites the hearts of the parson and her sister, and her father and her mother. The latter had long existed in the woods as a witch, though supposed to be dead by LaRue, he having struck her in a fit similar to the one in which he killed his daughter.

An ad from the (Louisville, KY) Courier-Journal on September 18, 1910 described the play as “a thrilling tale of life in the northwest.” Evening performances cost – 15¢, 25¢, 50¢, and 75¢, while matinees on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday were 25¢.

It’s unknown at this time if the play toured and was shown at any other theatres.


  1. The Chattanooga News (Chattanooga, Tennessee), 06 Sep 1910, 5.

Henry Grandkids – Rollin, Channing & George Henry

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Coordinator

Rollin, Channing, and George Henry were the three oldest sons of George and Polly Ann Henry. They seem to have been very close and were the first to continue with family trends of working in photography and fruit cultivation/agriculture.

Rollin, Channing, and George

The three boys were born in East Whitby when the family was still living at the lakefront. George and Polly Ann lived on the west side of what is now Lakeview Park on Guy’s Point (Bonnie Brae Point) with neighbours and family friends, Thomas and Margery Guy.

Rollin Hayward Henry was born in 1848 and died in 1949, living to be 101 years old. He was the only grandchild to live this long. He married Almira (Myra) Simpson on June 23, 1875 in Lincoln, Ontario. Myra’s parents were from Oakville, which may account for their marriage here; there is only 60 kilometres between Oakville and Lincoln around the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. In April 1876, Rollin’s namesake was born. In 1878, their daughter Pauline was born. When Rollin Junior was five years old, the family travelled to Leavenworth, Kansas to visit his Uncle Eben. Prior to marrying Myra, Rollin had a photography studio in Oshawa. Perhaps Rollin took his family to Leavenworth because of this shared interest. The family ended up living there for a few years because the 1880 U.S. Federal Census enumerates them here. By 1885, the family had returned to Oshawa where Rollin continued to work as a photographer on King Street. In 1900, the family spent a few years in South Bend, Indiana before settling in Pasadena, California in 1904, a town and area along State Route 210 that would become the point of convergence for many of the Henry cousins.

When Channing Ellery Henry was born on February 1, 1850, in East Whitby, his father, George, was 25 and his mother, Polly, was 24. In the 1851 Census, the family is listed as living on 200 acres of their ancestral farmland – BF, Lot 7, the same land on which Henry House still stands.

By 1861, the family, which now included a baby sister for the boys, lived in Darlington Township on Lot 11 of Concession 3. Today this is on Liberty Road and Concession 3, south of the Bowmanville Golf and Country Club.

Channing married Bertha Eliza Gamsby on June 30, 1884. In retrospect, we know that the Gamsby family came to have many close ties to the Henry family. Channing and Bertha had only one child during their marriage, Roy Lyman Henry. Through the 1890s, the family lived in Tillsonburg, Ontario, where Channing works as an apple merchant. At some point, Channing experienced an injury that resulted in a “medical deformity – left hand. Affecting ability to earn living,” as listed in his Detroit Border Crossing documentation in 1910. Ten years after his brother settled in California, Channing and Bertha made their way there as well. Channing didn’t work in California, according to the 1920 and 1930 U.S. Federal Censuses; this must have been due to his injury. Bertha taught music lessons. Channing received his naturalization just one and a half years before he died of heart disease in September 1936 at the age of 86. He is buried where many of the Californian branch of the family are – Mt. View Mortuary & Cemetery in San Bernadino.

George’s life took a very similar path as his older brothers. He was born on January 10, 1856 in East Whitby, before the family moved to Darlington. In his early twenties, the 1881 Census of Canada lists him as being a student, though it is unknown what he studied or where this took place. On June 28, 1883, in Toronto, George married Edith Grace Codd in a Christian ceremony. He was 27 and she was 19. The marriage record lists George as a Fruit Merchant. Throughout the 1800s, they went on to have two children, a boy and a girl, and moved to British Columbia and Seattle, Washington. It was while living in Maple Ridge, British Columbia that George was working as a ‘Nurseryman,’ according to Henderson’s British Columbia Gazetteer and Directory, 1891. This was only 35 minutes away from Hatzic, British Columbia, where his Uncle Jesse would later settle. Edith passed away in 1894. George remarried and had one more child, a daughter. They moved around, getting married in Detroit, living with Polly Ann in Kingsville, Ontario before she died, and then returning to Detroit before settling in Pasadena near his brothers. George passed away in 1921 and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, California. This is a different location from where Channing is buried (Mt. View Mortuary & Cemetery in San Bernadino).

The Henry Grandkids – Ambrose Henry

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

Ambrose Henry was the first child born to John Henry and Elizabeth Hait; he was the first grandchild.  At the time of his birth, November 3, 1847, his father and mother were living in a 1 ½ storey frame home in Darlington Township.

Ambrose married Sarah Anne Tuer on January 14, 1869 in Bowmanville.  In 1871, John and Sarah lived in Darlington Township and John farmed.  They had two children during their marriage, Hortense, born in 1871, and Martia.  It seems Martia was born in 1872 and possibly died in the same year.

By 1881, his father John is living with Ambrose and Sarah and acting as a land agent.  Mary Tuer, Sarah’s mother, is also living with them and their daughter Hortense. 

The 1891 Census lists them as being Methodist instead of Christian and living in East Whitby.  Thomas Henry raised all of his children as Christians/Disciples of Christ, and Ambrose’s father, John continued this.  It is unknown how they came about the decision to change denominations.

By 1901, Ambrose and Sarah’s parents who were living with them had both passed away.  A woman named Edna Drinkle was listed as their servant and Ambrose was a merchant.  In 1906, Ambrose was elected as Warden for Ontario Country.

In 1911, he worked at a local grocery; in 1921 he is recorded living at 66 Drew Street, Oshawa with his daughter Hortense and her husband John Herancourt.

Ambrose Henry died on May 26, 1929 of myocardia failure due to arteriosclerosis at the age of 81; he is buried in Union Cemetery near his parents.  The following is Ambrose’s obituary from the Toronto Daily Star:

Pioneer is Dead

The death took place early to-day of Ambrose E. Henry, one of the most prominent citizens and pioneers of this district, at his home on Drew St.  Mr. Henry was in his 82nd year and for more than half a century was connected with the Masonic order.  He was born in 1848 on the Henry homestead at Oshawa-on-the-Lake, the son of Mr. and Mrs. John Henry, and saw Oshawa grow from obscurity to its present position.  He entered the grocery business, retiring twenty years ago to enter the employ of General Motors as foreman of stockrooms, and retired from that five years later.

To Mr. Henry is given credit for the building of the Masonic Temple here, and during his illness his suffering was mitigated by many tributes from local Masons.  He was a grand steward of the Grand Lodge of Canada and in the Royal Arch Masons he was past grand superintendent of district number 10.  Funeral service will be held on Wednesday, Rev. Ernest Harston officiating.  Mrs. John Herancourt, a daughter, survives.

Toronto Daily Star, May 28, 1929
Henry Headstone, Union Cemetery