Profiling: James Odgers Guy

The Oshawa Museum is comprised of three historic homes: Henry House, Robinson House, and Guy House.  Guy House’s namesake is James Odgers Guy, who purchased the house and quarter-acre lot in 1861.

James Odgers Guy

James was born in Cornwall, England in 1828, the second son born to Thomas Guy Sr. and his wife Margery.  The family stayed in England until 1842 when Thomas, Margery and James immigrated to Canada.  Thomas Jr. joined them in Canada four years later when he immigrated with his wife Harriett and mother-in-law and two young children.

After their long Atlantic voyage (aboard the first-class sailing vessel the “Clio”), the Guys settled on a farm in Columbus, Ontario.  They remained there for four years before moving for a short time to Woodstock.  Finally, they moved to Bonnie Brae Point (a.k.a. “Guy’s Point”), where they settled in 1854.

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James did not stay on the family farm.  He married Rachel Luke, also a Cornwall native, in 1852, and together the couple had seven children.  The family moved into Guy House in 1861, when James purchased the ¼ acre on which the frame home was built, paying £250 for the home.  All but one of their children lived with them in Guy House; sadly, their son William Arthur Guy died just five months after his first birthday on March 26, 1854.

Maternity Home

On 9 June 1883, James began plans to move once again.  He purchased a half-acre lot on King Street East (between Division St. and Mary St.).  In 1884 James sold his property at the Lake and had a house built on his new King Street lot.  He named the house Llewellyn Hall, likely after his fifth child, who died in 1882.

James & grain

Funds for the construction of Llewellyn Hall were made available through James’ widespread business success.  Some of his business interests were closely related to those of his brother.  The siblings shared a family business, dealing in coal and grain.  The Guys were involved in a coal dealership in Oshawa and grain elevators in Brooklin and Myrtle.  James ran his grain business from 16 Celina Street.

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In addition to his business enterprises, James Odgers Guy held a diverse collection of important community posts.  He was Harbour Master of the Port Oshawa Co., Deputy of East Whitby, Reeve of East Whitby, Ontario County Warden, and Secretary of the Edmondson Electric Light Co.   He was also a Grammar School Trustee and a Trustee of Oshawa High Schools.  James’ extensive involvement with the Oshawa area prompted the Oshawa Vindicator to call this prominent citizen “Oshawa’s Grand Old Man” (Feb 21, 1908).

James Odgers Guy died on April 5, 1909.  His obituary ran as follows:

The Death of Mr. James O. Guy
A Highly-respected Business Man of Oshawa – Ex-Warden.
(Special Dispatch to The Globe)

Oshawa, April 5. — James O. Guy, an old and highly respected resident of this town, passed away to-day at the ripe age of eighty-one years. During his residence here he held almost every gift the people had to bestow municipally from Reeve to Warden. Politically he was a Liberal, and, above all, a kindly Christian gentle-man, for many years being a member of the official board of the Simcoe Street Methodist Church. Mr. Guy was a grain merchant for years, and was held in the greatest respect. His wife, three sons and two daughters survive. They are: F.A. Guy of Fort William, Arthur of Winnipeg, Edgar J. of Toronto, Mrs. E. M. Jewell of Toronto and Miss Ida at home.

He and his wife Rachel (who died on July 4, 1914) were both buried in the Oshawa’s Union Cemetery.

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