By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement
Throughout the pandemic, volunteers were assisting the Oshawa Museum with our Audio Transcription Project. They listened to hundreds of hours of audio interviews and recordings and created transcriptions of what is being said in the audios. This not only makes the audios easier for researchers to use, but, more importantly, it makes the audio collection accessible to the deaf community and to people with hearing loss.
Of the many different community interviews, one was conducted with a man named Ward Pankhurst, which likely took place at his family home on Cedar Street. His family has become a research focus for the museum, as his mother’s family were among the first Black settlers in the area, who arrived in the 1840s.
Ward Delayfayette Pankhurst was born in 1888, the second of three children born to Henry and Margaret (nee Dunbar). Ward lived his life in Oshawa, the Cedar Dale community specifically, however, it appears he lived for some time in the US, as he was drafted into the US army in 1917.
Ward’s interview may not provide researchers with much information about his maternal family and their history, but it has given us glimses into Oshawa in the 20th century.
When remarked that he’s lived in Oshawa his whole life, Ward responded:
Oh! Yes, I have lived in this house, this will be, I’m going on 83rd year I’ve lived in this house. My sister was born right up here where I -where I sleep now. I’ll be 84 this year.
Ward touched on his family briefly, saying:
Incidentally my father he’d come out from England in 19- 1872 just be 100 years this May when he came out here, now my mother and father -or my mother came out -well my mother was born here but here people came up from Lower Canada in 1840 I think it was. You know it was just Lower Canada and Upper Canada.
Q: And they settled here?
A: Oh settled right here. Yeah, yeah.
(Other voice): She lived in Lower Canada?
A: Not my mother, no no no her people.
(Other voice): she was born here in Cedar Dale?
(Other voice): So a real Cedar Dale (multiple people talking at once)
A: Oh yes there, I’m the last f the -I’m the last -I got a brother down in California, he’s 87, but he’s not -he hasn’t been here -Oh he hadn’t been here to live since the first war. No no he left in early 20s, but I’ve been here.
About schooling around the turn of the century, Ward remembered:
Oh we paid to try the entrance. Oh yes for the entrance exam. And the reason they’d said about that, they said “well that paid for your foolscap you know and your -” I don’t know what else, the ink and the pen I suppose, but you paid a dollar anyways, you know. A dollar incidentally wasn’t so easy.
Of note, he attended Cedar Dale school, a 150+ year old building which still stands today.
A prominent family in this area were the Conants. As told by Ward:
You see this here was just farmland the whole thing was just farmland, and it was owned by -I wish my sister could find that there picture. Lovely picture of Mr. Tom Conant. But you wouldn’t see a nicer picture, and he was a stately sight of a man. He used to write for the old Globe, and he travelled around the world about four times, and this was the last time he came back. Incidentally he didn’t live no length of time. I think he was only in his early 60s when he died.
Ward also remembered different hotels in the community:
Now we had six hotels in the town here. There was the Queen’s, the Oshawa House, the Central, there was the American House, and the Brook House, and Mallet’s Hotel. Well, Mallet’s was right back in the station over here. Every station, that’s the funny thing, but at every station on the Grand Trunk there always was a hotel.
Ward also shared stories about sports and teams associated with different local industries:
We had a ball team and they started in ’13 -we started the town league. There was the Piano Works, McLaughlins, – no. The Piano Works, the Fittings, the Town Team, and Cedar Dale, and the Steel Range, and we had a town league you know. Well that was interesting, really interesting.
Q: Where did you play?
A: Play? Right where Sam McLaughlin’s is. That was theProspect Park you know. That’s where we played, right at the back end of his place, that was beautiful. That was owned by Eli Edmondson and we had that there, and afterwards -well, we were only there two or three years and he bought that off of Eli I think in ’17 – ’16 or ’17. Well then they moved up to the Alexandra Park you see, but of course then they got into the big league they got into the central league.
Ward’s interview, in its entirety, is over 1 hour and 36 minutes long. We are grateful to the volunteers who assisted with this project, helping us open access to our collections.
You can listen to Ward, in his own words, by listening to our video podcast, available on our YouTube channel: