Oshawa’s Educational History

By Quinn J., Summer Student

In 1894, The Globe (which would go on to merge with The Mail and Empire into the Globe and Mail) did a profile on Oshawa. At the time, Oshawa was only a village of “4,000 souls,” but already it was noted for two things: its prominence as a manufacturing centre, a reputation Oshawa would hold on to up until the present day, and for its high quality educational institutions.

The Globe article not only mentions the high quality public schools but also the Bishop Bethune and Demill Ladies’ Colleges, both of which were renowned institutions outside of the province, and they attracted students from across the country. But today, this past as a centre for education is rarely remembered. I only learned about the two ladies colleges and the early Canadian public school system when I began working for the Oshawa Museum last month. My question is, why this is the case? If the Globe felt it was important enough to mention Oshawa’s status as an educational leader in its profile, why has it been so easy for us in the modern day to forget?

One possible explanation is that the signs of the educational institutions of the past haven’t been preserved as well, through no fault of the town or anyone in it. Bishop Bethune College was located in the house of former mayor T.N. Gibbs, but when the school closed in 1932 amid financial troubles, the land was sold to the city and a new school, the Central Collegiate Institute, was founded on the spot (it has since been home to Village Union School and currently Durham Alternative Secondary School). The Demill college was destroyed by a fire just two years after the publishing of the Globe article, and the college eventually moved to St. Catharines. This lack of standing physical evidence that could tie the city to its educational past could present an answer as to why that aspect is much better remembered, especially when contrasted with the large number of not only buildings that were built around Oshawa’s manufacturing, but the amount of people still alive who were there to witness the city’s manufacturing based economic boom.

In the same vein, education in the past was very much shaped around the industrial revolution that all of Ontario was experiencing in the mid to late 19th century. Public schooling during this period heavily focused on preparing children for their new roles in industrial society, as both labourers and citizens of the British Empire and Dominion of Canada. The close ties created between industry and education could provide a further example of why Oshawa’s educational past was not as common in the collective memory of the city; when creating new workers for manufacturing was the end goal of education, it could have become a lot easier to forget what got workers to their positions in the first place.

The history of Education in Oshawa is something that surprised me personally with how deep it went and how much history there was in something that I, and many others, take for granted in today’s age. It’s caught my attention, and I hope to dive even further into it as I continue my research with the museum over the summer.


Sources

“Oshawa: A Manufacturing Centre R. S. Williams & Son F. L. Fowke D. Cinnamon The Queen’s Hotel Eli. S. Edmonson Mrs. M. E. May The Joseph Hall Machine Works Demill College Ed. E. Rogers Bishop Bethune College Provan’s Patent Car, Fork And Sling The McLaughlin Carriage Company.” The Globe (1844-1936), Oct 27, 1894.

French, Olive. “DeMill (1871-1920)”, The Olive French Manuscript, https://olivefrench.wordpress.com/2011/08/05/demill-1871-1920/.

Hood, M. MacIntyre. “Bishop Bethune College Recalled,” Daily Times Gazette, Nov. 17th, 1955.

Houston, Susan E. Schooling and Scholars in Nineteenth Century Ontario. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988.

The Month That Was – July 1864

All articles originally appeared in The Oshawa Vindicator

July 6, 1864, Page 1

Great Improvement in Canadian Politics and Politicians
There are some things occurring in Parliament which we notice with great satisfaction. 1st. The very magnanimous and dignified positioned assumed throughout the present extraordinary crisis by the late Lower Canada Premier, Mr. Dorion.-That gentlemen fully conceded the right of Mr. Brown or any other to act as he thought best for the country, entirely irrespective of past political or party relations, or of individual claims. This is high and patriotic ground. The country first; parties and individuals afterwards. Such a course will not hurt Mr. Dorion, who may be truly called the Bayard of Canadian politics, – the chevalier sans peur et sans reprochee.

Page 2

From Sherman’s Army
New York, July 1. The Herald’s correspondent with Sherman, under date 22nd ult. Says of the battle of Kenesse on the 17th: Heavy skirmishing opened, and towards night the rebels commenced firing fiercely. Bradley’s and Bridges’ batteries were brought to bear upon them with considerable effect, and Logan and Blair’s batteries also fiercely shelled their weeks. Hooker having repulsed them, was pressing forward while Schofield was swinging around their left, capturing many prisoners. Soon heavy musketry firing was heard, and the rebels made repeated onslaughts upon the position our troops had taken from them, but were repulsed each time.

Closing Taverns
Section 44 of Mrs. Dunkin’ Temperance Act provides that no sale of liquor, except for medicinal purposes or to travellers or boarders, shall take place at any hotel between the hours of nine o’clock on Saturday evening and six o’clock on Monday morning. This is not so stringent a provision as war formerly the law, but if it is carried out strictly, will be productive of some good at least, while the law, as it has herefore stood, has been very generally violated. We are informed that it is the intention of our Village Constable to see that the new law, with reference to sales after nine o-clock, is strictly enforced.

Oshawa School Board
On Wednesday, of last week, and adjourned special meeting of the school board took place, for the purpose of deciding upon the tender out in by Messrs. George Edwards and William T. Dingle for the erection of the addition to the school house.

July 6, 1864, Page 3

Page 4

Idle Girls
The number of idle, useless girls in all of our large cities seems to be steadily increasing. They lounge or sleep through the morning, parade the streets during the afternoons and assemble in frivolous companies of their own and the other sex to pass away their evenings. What a store of unhappiness for themselves and others are they laying up for the coming time, when real duties and high responsibilities shall be thoughtlessly assumed. They are skilled in no domestic duty-may they despise them; have no habits of industry, not taste for the useful. What will they be as wives and mothers? – Alas, for the husbands and children, and alas for themselves! Who can wonder if domestic unhappiness or domestic ruin follow! It is one of the world’s oldest maxims, that idleness is the nursing mother of all evil and wretchedness. How sadly strange is it that so many parents – mothers especially – forget this, and bring up their children in dainty idleness. They are but sowing the wind to reap the whirlwind.

July 13, 1864, Page 2

Bridge Broke Down
On Friday evening last, as Mr. John Bone was crossing the bridge near the tannery, just below the dam of Grans’ mill-pond, with a load of flour, one of the braces of the bridge gave way at the tenon, causing the bridge to break in two at the centre and precipitate Mr. Bone, with his team, wagon and flour into the stream beneath. The way was not deep, but horses, flour and driver were considerably injured by the fall. Very fortunately Mr. Bone escaped without broken bones, but got his leg sprained, and came very near being crushed under the weight of the barrels, two of them falling one on each side of him.

Unfortunate Children
On Thursday evening last, three of Mr. John Clifford’s children, two boys and a girl, were convicted of stealing iron from Mr. Arkland’s premises, and sent to Jail at Whitby, to await their trials at the next […]. Subsequently some of their friends entered bail for their appearance at court, and they were allowed to return home. It would be a mercy if they were sent off, after trial, to the Reformatory for a year or two, to give them time to overcome the propensity to which they have repeatedly shewn such a remarkable partiality.

Letter from a Canadian in the War
About a year ago the youngest brother of the editor of this journal, a lad of about 17 years, crossed the lake to Rochester to visit some friends, and finally, attracted by the $700 bounty, enlisted in an artillery regiment and went to Elmira. Here he was transferred to the 1st N.Y. Veteran Cavalry, and received the appointment of the Corporal in Co. C. As soon as the regiment- an old one- had fully recruited and drilled its raw reinforcements, it was sent to join Gen. Sigel’s command, at Martinsburg, Va., some twenty miles north west of Harper’s Ferry. Since that time he has been in all the battles under Sigel and Hunter.

July 20, 1864, Page 1

Another Great Display of Falling Stars Expected
The writer of this was among the fortunate few who witnessed the wonderful shower of meteors in the night of Nov. 13, 1833. Being at a large boarding-school, it enhanced that some of the boys caught sight of the fiery rain, and the around the whole school. For an hour to two we sat watching the sublime spectacle with mingled interest and awe. The sky was constantly lighted with hundreds of stars, shooting forth from the neighbourhood of the senith, and streaming across the heavens; each leaving a bright streak in its track that has gradually faded away.

Page 2

The War
The rebel raid into Maryland has come to an end, and is now found to have consisted of only about 15,000 troops. If its object was to capture Washington by a surprise, the involvement was a failure. But if it was merely a foraging expedition, it was exceedingly successful, for while we have accounts of an immense quantity of plunder going towards Richmond, we have not the first word of either rebels or plunder being captured by the […] of Hunter and Sigel, who are supposed to be in pursuit of the retreating columns.

The New Temperance Act
Through the kindness of Mr. Dunkins, M.P.P. we have been enabled to public, in full, in advance of all our contemporaries, the temperance act of 1864, generally known as Mr. Dunkin’s Bill. The Act is two distinct parts. The portion which we published last week, is that which provides for complete prohibition of the retail traffic in intoxicating liquor in any municipality wherein a majority of the electors are in favor of such prohibition, and furnishes the machinery for carrying out the prohibition and rendering it effectual.

July 20, 1864, Page 3

July 27, 1864, Page 2

Physical Exercise
The position of children in school is most unfavorable to sounds lungs, healthful bodies, and grateful forms. Stewart says – “A variety of exercises is necessary to preserve the animal frame is vigor and beauty.” Spursheim appropriately remarks, that “Children are shut up, forced to sit quiet, and to breathe a confined air.” This error is the greater, the more delicate the children, and the more premature their mental powers; and a premature death is frequently the consequence of such a violation of nature. Bodily deformities, curved spines, and unfitness for various occupations and the fulfillment of future duties, frequently result from such mismanagement of children.

A Public Park
A respectably signed requisition- embracing forty tolerably influential names- has been presented to the Reeve asking him to call a public meeting for the purpose of considering the propriety of securing a plot of ground, by the issue of debentures, to be used as a public park for the village, for all time to come. In response, the Reeve has called a meeting for the purpose, to be held at the town hall on Saturday evening next, commencing at half past seven o’clock.

Do Not Kill the Frogs
All night long these musical little fellows are busy singing; a few moments, and they stop to eat the larvae of insects so rabidly bred in stagnant waters. Frogs are clean animals, and love clean water, but they subsist mainly on insects. Would you kill a frog when he sings for you part of the time and spends the rest of the night in destroying mosquitoes, gnats, flies, or the eggs, are resting or deposited in the plants by the water pools? Toads in the garden are estimated as worth five dollars even to the gardener for they are constantly, night and day.

July 27, 1864, Page 3

What Happened the Night of November 12, 1833?

By Laura Suchan, Executive Director

In Thomas Conant’s book, Upper Canada Sketches, published in 1898, he traces the Conant family’s journey from Devon England, to Massachusetts and eventually to a new life in Canada. The book contains a number of illustrations by artist E.S. Shrapnel, known for his landscape paintings and genre scenes.  This article is about the illustration appearing on page 144 entitled “World to Come to An End: Stars are Falling.” All quotations are from Upper Canada Sketches, unless otherwise noted.

In Upper Canada Sketches, Thomas Conant, recounts a mysterious incident that his father, Daniel Conant, witnessed as a young man.   On the evening of November 12, 1833 while salmon-spearing from a boat at Port Oshawa,  Daniel witnessed an astonishing sight as “globes of fire as big as goose eggs began falling all around his boat.” Unbeknownst to him, he had just witnessed a very intense Leonid Meteor Shower, which occur approximately every 33 years. This particular meteor shower was one of the most prolific of all time, with an estimated 240,000 meteors falling in nine hours.1 The storm was seen everywhere in North America east of the Rocky Mountains. So astonishing was the sight that newspapers in Europe even talked about it.  This particular storm eventually led to a theory on the origins of meteors.

Becoming increasingly frightened as the fire-balls continued to fall from the sky, Daniel decided it was a good time to take his salmon and go home.   As he reached his home (Lot 6, B.F., East Whitby), he found the whole household awake and watching the spectacle, apparently too “aroused and frightened” to be able to sleep.  In time, the meteors appeared to be slowing in intensity, so everyone “went to bed to pass a restless night after the awe-inspiring scene they had witnessed.”

 Rising well before the sun next morning, Daniel was surprised to see the sky was still filled with the shooting stars.  Quickly, “he called his hired help in the lumbering business, to come down the stairs. They needed not a second invitation.”  One man by the name of Shields was so overwhelmed he dropped to his knees and began to pray (you can see him in the illustration).  Daniel went out doors and was surprised to note the balls of fire did not burn or hurt.  Thomas Conant makes note that everyone in the household was frightened,  “Of the grandeur of the unparalleled scene my father said almost nothing, for I am led to think they were all too thoroughly frightened to think of beauty, that being a side issue.” 

Daniel decided to visit a neighbor, “a preacher of some renown in the locality.”2 Arriving at his house, Daniel found “the preacher, already awake, was seated at the table beside a tallow dip reading his Bible, with two other neighbors listening and too frightened, he said, to even bid him good morning. He sat and listened to verse after verse and still the stars fell. The preacher gave no explanation or sign.” Noticing day was about to break, Daniel left the preacher’s home and once more ventured outside. On his walk back home, Daniel searched the ground but could find no evidence that the fire balls caused any damage and “what became of the stars that fell he could not conjecture.”  A sailor, Horace Hutchinson, wrote a verse (or doggerel as Thomas calls it) about the event,

I well remembered what I see,
In eighteen hundred and thirty-three,
When from the affrighted place I stood
The stars forsook their fixed abode.

The next Leonid Meteor Shower happened in 1866-1867 at which time the Comet Tempel-Tuttle was determined to be the source of the meteors. The next occurrence of a prolific Leonid Meteor Shower is expected in 2033. 

About the Illustration

The illustrations E.S. Shrapnel (1847-1920) rendered for Upper Canada Sketches are reminiscent of his work in portraying the landscapes and stories of Canada’s wilderness.  Thomas said Shrapnel painted the picture from an actual photograph of the house. Notice how he inserted the praying figure of the hired man Shields in the doorway.  Sonya Jones, Curator of Collections at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, sums up the whimsical nature of Stars are Falling,

This charming folk art piece by Edward Shrapnel clearly captures the awe and fear that would have accompanied a meteor shower at this time. The smoldering meteors on the foreground, the lit up night sky, the body language of the figures, all add a rich narrative to this otherwise simply executed work. Folk art is often effective in telling stories in simple but clear ways.


  1. https://leonid.arc.nasa.gov/history.html
  2. The preacher referred to in the book could possibly have been Thomas Henry. Henry was ordained as a minister in 1832 and in 1833  was living on an adjacent lot (Lot 7, B.F.) in a house located north of present day Henry House.

Publishing the Thomas Henry Correspondence Collection

By Caitlan M., Research & Publication Co-ordinator

In 2013 the museum received a box of jumbled up letters, receipts, and other pieces of papers which turned out to be a truly amazing donation as these papers were either written by or sent to a Henry family member. This became known as the Thomas Henry Correspondence Collection. Since receiving this collection, the idea of using the collection to help further understand the lives of the Henry family was always there but the time and resources were not available then.

Jump forward to a few months ago, a grant was received to hire a person to go through and create an annotated book. However, this book will only focus on the letters from a family member to family member. The idea is to go through and give the letters context; explaining the other names throughout the letter, the location from where it was sent from, any business ventures and all the other details.

a983415
Thomas Simon (TS) Henry (A983.41.5)

For example there is a letter written from Thomas Simon (T.S.) and John Henry to their father, Thomas Henry. It was written in September of 1879, the sons mention they were not able to attend the Toronto Exhibition and later in the letter make a point of saying Thomas was there “to enjoy the Old Pioneer conflab.” This is all really interesting as the Canadian National Exhibition or CNE was originally called the Toronto Industrial Exhibition and its opening year was in 1879. Although his sons mention that Thomas was only at the exhibition to enjoy a conversation with the York Pioneers; a group of men formed to preserve York County’s early history, a history Thomas would have been a part of since he was a substitute in the War of 1812. The York Pioneers were at the Toronto Exhibition as they were moving a log cabin – the Scadding Cabin (originally known as Simcoe Cabin,) to its now permanent home.

A001_7_6a
A001.7.6; letter to Thomas Henry from his sons George and TS.

I have also been making a point at looking at census records to see how the family continued to move around. Take George Guy, grandson to Thomas Henry, we have two letters written by him – from 1878 and 1879, both are written from Winnipeg. George was born in East Whitby, he headed west to find work sometime around 1878 and was able to purchase land in Morris, Manitoba. What’s interesting about him is two things happen in most of the census records; his location changes and his occupation changes.

  • 1881 Census: Location: Morris, Manitoba. Occupation: Cultivator
  • 1891 Census: Location: Morris, Manitoba. Occupation: Gram Buyer
  • 1905 Census: Location: Buffalo Ward 25, Erie, N.Y. Occupation: Carpenter
  • 1910 Census: Location: Buffalo Ward 17, Erie, N.Y. Occupation: Watchman – public school
  • 1920 Census: Location: Buffalo Ward 12, Erie, N.Y. Occupation: Engineer – public school
  • 1925 Census: Location: Buffalo Ward 12, Erie, N.Y. Occupation: Janitor
  • 1935 George dies, buried in Buffalo.

Although I am unsure why George moved around so much, I can’t help but wonder if it was to move closer to his new occupations.

The book will be published sometime in 2018 with the transcriptions of each of the letters and all of the annotations.


Transcription of above letter:

A001.7.6

Postcard sent to Thomas Henry from T.S.  and J. Henry (punctuation added during transcription)

Georgetown Sept. 8th 79

Dear Father

I am here today with Thomas. We are both well and healthy. We hope you are awe well as could be expected considering your age. I did attend the Toronto exhibition but expected to go to Ottawa the week after next. No doubt you was at Toronto to enjoy the Old Pioneer conflab to see Lawrence and the Princess and you could look ? on the Bay and imaginette great chougesuce(?) 1812 when you was a big boy in tall muddy York as you called it an you have a log cabin in the ? city. Did you see it?  I understood it is well put ?

 

*If you can add to this transcription or note any corrections, please leave a comment.

The Importance of Continued Research

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

For a number of years, I have been undertaking research into early Black history in the Oshawa area. This inquiry is part of a larger shift in our focus here at the Oshawa Museum.

Prior to 2011, there had been minimal research into the history of the Black population in Oshawa. Some initial work had been done examining census information but that was the extent. When we were approached to take part in Trent University’s inaugural Black History event, we realized how little time had been dedicated to this area of Oshawa’s history. The invitation to the event spurred a new project that helps to tell the history of a local family from the 1790s to today. It also helps to tell a more inclusive and, more importantly, a more accurate history of early Oshawa settlers.

1851 Wealthy Census p2.jpg
Portion of 1851 Census of Canada West; lines 40-43 are for Wealthy Andrews and her three children. The enumerator has marked the column for ‘Colored person – Negroes.’  Wealthy and her family were one of two Black families living in East Whitby Township in the 1850s.

This project signaled a shift in where we focus our research, to help fill the gap in our knowledge of our community. A great deal of research has been conducted on the many industries and industrialists who helped shape Oshawa; what was missing was looking into those who worked for the industrialists, those whose labour made the factories so successful, and telling their stories. It is the experiences of the “everyday person” who help to truly understand what the community looked like in the past and how it has evolved today. Currently, we are working to tell the history of women, those who arrived in Oshawa as Displaced Persons post WWII, the Indigenous population who called this area home long before European settlers arrived and those whose names may not be recognizable but who helped shape our community.

PicMonkey Collage
l-r: Albert GD Pankhurst (1885 – 1977), Ward D Pankhurst (1888 – 1978), and Greta Pankhurst (1895 – 1983). They were the great-grandchildren of Wealthy Andrews

I presented a paper on the research into early Black history at the Canadian Historical Association’s annual conference at the end of May. The paper discussed how shifting our research focus not only helps to tell a more accurate history of the community but helps to make the past more relatable the current Oshawa residents, strengthening the sense of community and spurring interest in our past with those who may not have been interested previously.


For more information on the Andrews/Dunbar/Pankhurst family, please read our three part series from Black History Month 2014

Oshawa’s Black History: One Family’s Story, Part 1

Oshawa’s Black History: One Family’s Story, Part II

Oshawa’s Black History: One Family’s Story, Part III