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?

The Way To Go – All About Chamber Pots

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Last fall, we were approached by our longtime partner, CLOCA, to participate in their Durham Children’s Watershed Festival, which shifted to online and virtual due to the pandemic. This festival is designed to for students to engage with “activities that address water conservation, water protection and the preservation of the natural environment in a fun, hands-on and interactive way. Students will learn how many of their everyday needs and choices affect interrelationships within the natural environment and their watershed community.”

When asked about contributing with a historical spin, our minds went to the fact that Victorian homes did not have indoor plumbing. Modern homes have modern bathrooms and toilets, but search as you might, a ‘bathroom’ will not be found inside Henry House. When I give tours, it’s with delight that I share that the Henrys had an ‘ensuite’ – in the corner of the bedroom, we have a washstand, water pitcher, and a chamber pot.

Chamber pots were a portable toilet, meant for nighttime use in the bedroom. Many kids will greet this artefact with a wonderful ‘ewwwww,’ but then I ask them, if it was the middle of the winter, middle of the night, would you want to get all dressed up to use the outhouse outside, or would you rather use your chamber pot? It’s often an ‘aha’ moment as they think about it and realize the convenience that the chamber pot provided.

Chamber pots were common in many cultures before the advent of indoor plumbing and flushing toilets and may still be used in places where there isn’t indoor plumbing.

We have a few examples of chamber pots and commodes in the OM collection. The one which is on display in the bedroom has a crochet cover for the lid, and this helps dampen any noise from the clattering of the porcelain – a wonderful addition if there were any roommates not wishing to be awoken by the lid.

Another interesting example is the commode – it features a lid for discrete chamber pot storage. The top of the lid has a wonderful embroidery, rather decorative when closed, and it lifts for easy access to the chamber pot nestled within.

Thank you again to CLOCA for inviting us to participate in your virtual festival!

Enjoy the video we put together all about the Chamber Pot

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.

Student Museum Musings – In My Own Backyard?

By Dylan C., Museum Management & Curatorship Intern

Being a resident of Whitby for the better part of 24 years, I have been encouraged through sport to view Oshawa as my rival, which has led to a rather lackluster attempt to learn what Oshawa has to offer. It wasn’t until recently, that life led me to discover the Oshawa Museum for my internship as part of Fleming College’s Museum Management and Curatorship program (MMC).

After only a couple weeks on site, I have gained a considerable amount of knowledge about Oshawa by exploring the waterfront trail and by learning the history of the harbour and the surrounding structures.

Although I have ventured into Oshawa via the waterfront trail from Whitby, or from riding near Oshawa Ice Sports after hockey, I never knew how extensive the trails were in Oshawa and how they bleed out into the city streets creating a somewhat hidden bike transit system. These trails are so extensive that Oshawa and the Durham region offer Cycle Tours. The Waterfront trail extends all the way to Toronto and easily connects to GO station stops. This network can provide residents of Oshawa with a greener alternative to their daily transit, at least in the warmer months of the year.

Both photos taken at Emma Street looking north to King, 1992 and 2016. The rail line is now the Michael Starr Trail

The museum has provided me with a platform to learn and explore Oshawa, but it also taught me how to explore. Without the direction from the museum I would not have known where to start my discovery of the city.

My Experience to Date

So far, the museum has been able to provide me with a wide range of experiences from photographing and cataloguing an archaeological collection, to providing supplementary research for an education program.  I have also been able to help install a Smith Potteries exhibit in Robinson House.

Smith Potteries Collection; Picture from Dylan C.

The archaeological dig was completed by Trent University Durham students in 2015 and uncovered 19th century waste pits surrounding Henry House. Cataloguing this archaeological collection has given me the opportunity to apply some of the skills I learned in the MMC program such as proper care and handling of artefacts, photographing, and detailed documentation practices. It has also provided me with insight into the life of the early inhabitants of the area by literally examining what was buried in their backyards. I’ve learned what animals they farmed and what items they had in their homes including ceramics, glass, nails and buttons. Handling these objects makes it easier to connect with the residents of the past because I am essentially documenting their garbage. The past owners did not bury these objects hoping that someone would dig them up 165 years later; they did it to simply discard their waste. For some reason this humanizes them more for me than even walking in their perfectly preserved homes. Perhaps, you can tell a lot about a person from their trash after all.

Cataloguing Station; Picture from Dylan C.

In the upcoming weeks I will be familiarizing myself with the museum’s database as I enter the information from the archaeological collection. I will also be working on a research project that explores the topic of audio transcriptions and engaging at-home volunteers. And lastly, I will be continuing my tour guide training as the museum adapts to the current COVID-19 regulations.