Anniversary Years for Two Oshawa Polish Landmarks

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

This year, 2022, marks anniversary years for two of Oshawa’s landmarks of importance to the Polish community. Branch 21 of the Polish Alliance of Canada is celebrating 100 years, while St. Hedwig’s Catholic Church is commemorating its 70th anniversary.

Oshawa’s Polish community grew throughout the early years of the 20th century. In August 1922, 19 Polish residents met at the home of Stanisław Leśniak to discuss establishing a Polish organization in the community; this came to realization in September of that year when the Polish Society of Fraternal Help was established. The first president was Józef Mazurkiewicz.  The group changed their name to the Polish Society in Oshawa in 1924. 

In 1925, the organization decided to build a Polish hall, and construction began shortly afterwards at 219 Olive Avenue.  All members donated $10 towards construction, and an interest-free loan from members was also approved. Fundraising initiatives looked outside the Polish community as well with a door to door collection.  The hall was completed in 1928, and this year, 2022, saw improvements to the façade of the hall.

Red brick building. At the top, it is flying a Canadian flag and a Polish flag, and there is a sign at the top centre reading "Polish Alliance of Canada" and a sign in the right window reading "Poznan"
Polish Alliance Hall on Olive Avenue

A number of community groups began operating out of the hall, including a library, choir, Polish language school, and amateur theatre group. As well, a Polish Veterans group started their base operations from the hall. During the Second World War, the group supported Poland and organized fundraising towards a relief fund. Members of the United Polish Relief fund visited each Polish family in Oshawa, held dances, and organized banquets, raising over $1800 towards the cause.

In April of 1944, the Polish Society of Oshawa decided to join the National Polish Alliance of Canada; they merged with another Branch in Oshawa, Branch 16, and together became Branch 21 of the National Polish Alliance of Canada. Wincenty Kołodziej was the first president of Branch 21.

Building with beige stucco facade and brick detailing around the bottom. It has signs reading 'Polish Alliance of Canada' and 'Poznan,' and there is a Canadian flag and a Polish flag
Polish Alliance of Canada, Branch 21 Hall, 2022; photo taken by OM Staff

Branch 21 has actively participated in Oshawa’s annual Fiesta Week for decades with dancing and traditional food being served. They operate as the “Poznań Pavilion.”

St. Hedwig’s Roman Catholic Church was built in a number of stages. There had been talk in Oshawa’s Polish community of establishing a Polish church since the late 1920s; by the 1950s, the work began. Before the establishment of St. Hedwig’s, Catholics in the community worshipped at St. Gregory’s or Holy Cross (which was built between 1940-1945). In 1952, the first mass for the Polish parish was celebrated, taking place at the Polish Hall at 168 Banting Avenue, and immediately after the mass, St. Hedwig of Silesia was chosen as the patron of the parish. That same year, a plot of land was purchased at Olive Avenue and Central Park Blvd., and fundraising began. The cornerstone was blessed in 1954, which was when the first mass was celebrated in the ‘lower church’ (basement).

A yellow brick church with a tall steeple at the front of the building. There is a large white cross to the left of the building, and there are many stairs and railings going to the front doors. There are many clouds in the sky.
St. Hedwig’s, 2021; taken by OM Staff

Construction of the upper church began in 1960, and the church was blessed by Archbishop Philip Pocock on June 25, 1961. He remarked in his homily, “The new church is now blessed and set aside for divine purposes. This means that you the parish have given it to God. Today He has accepted it. You have put your offerings, sacrifices and prayers into it. I offer my congratulations to the Pastor and parishoners for a job well done, in building this beautiful temple to Almighty God.”  There were approximately 700 people in attendance for this dedication mass.

In the 1970s, Pope John Paul II visited the church; at the time, he was a cardinal and not yet the Pope.

The church offers services seven days a week in Polish and an English mass on Sunday.

Since the early years of the 20th century, Oshawa became a place of settlement for Eastern European settlers. The longevity of several community hubs, including the Polish Alliance and St. Hedwig’s church, is a legacy of the hard work and dedication of the early settlers and of those who continue with them to this day.

To learn more about Oshawa’s Eastern European communities, particularly the stories of the Displaces Persons who arrived after the Second World War, visit the OM and see our exhibit, Leaving Home, Finding Home in Oshawa: Displaced Persons and Stories of Immigration.

Street Name Stories – The Stacey Streets

Adapted from Oshawa Historical Society’s Historical Information Sheet

John Stacey came to Canada, from Devonshire England, in 1872 at the age of 5.  His family settled on a farm in Courtice.  When he was 15 years old his father met with an accident which left him an invalid.  John took over the responsibility of the farm and caring for his 11 siblings. 

A sepia photograph of seven Caucasian men. The four in the front are seated, and three behind are standing. They are all dressed in suits.
The Stacey Brothers, c. 1925. Back row: Henry, Walter, Samuel. Front Row: Edward, William, John & Charles. Oshawa Museum archival collection (A000.2.1)

In 1907 John Stacey entered civic life as an alderman.  Over the next 36 years he was to serve Oshawa as Alderman, Deputy Reeve, Chairman of Public Utilities Commission and Mayor from 1919-22 and again in 1936.  As a politician and property owner he campaigned on a platform of “Straight Business and Fair Play for the Interests of the Town and Taxpayer.”  A frugal man, John Stacey did not believe in unnecessary expenditure.  He was, however able to maintain a balance of thrift and needful spending, for the betterment of Oshawa.  In his position as a civic administrator, he played a major role in many improvements to Oshawa’s parks, roads and sewers, including Oshawa’s first paved surface as Chairman of Public Works in 1909.

In addition to his many years in public service, John Stacey contributed much to Oshawa in a professional capacity as a stonemason and builder, building over 700 homes and manufacturing facilities such as the McLaughlin Carriage Company Building, the Fittings Ltd., and the T. Eaton Company (later Alger Press Building / OnTechU’s 61 Charles St building).

Black and white photograph of several rows of identical houses. Simple, two storey structures with triangular rooves. There are trees and flat land in the distance.
Staceyville, c. 1910. Oshawa Museum archival collection (A980.5.7)

As a builder he worked on the “assembly line” principle.  He employed many men to speed up the process while still maintaining high standards of workmanship.  He claimed to have built 60 houses in 59 days for the Ontario Malleable Iron Co., and indeed many of these houses still stand today in the area of Albert Street and Front Street, a testament to these high standards.  He also built 100 houses in 90 days along the Don River in Toronto.  Perhaps his most well-known buildings are the terraces on Olive Avenue in the area that became known as Staceyville.

John Stacey died on February 18, 1949, aged 82.  In his eulogy the Rev. J.K. Moffatt said of Stacey “he was a man to whom life was a very full and rich experience, who knew in perhaps greater measure than most people the meaning of the words of God when he spoke of Abundant Life.” He is interred inside the Union Cemetery Mausoleum.

A number of engraved crypt stones. There are two columns of four stones each. To the left there are names of the Trick family, and on the right, there are names of the Stacey family.
Stacey family crypt stones, inside the Oshawa Union Cemetery Mausoleum, 2022.

The Stacey family home was at 471 Simcoe Street South, at Elena Ave.  Elena Avenue is just one of the streets named for members of John Stacey’s family.

  • Stacey Avenue takes its name from the family’s surname.
  • The names of his children, Eldon, Elena, and Emma, are all streets in Oshawa, although Eldon Street was later renamed to Banting Avenue.
  • John’s first wife’s maiden name was Hogarth, another street, found just off Albert. There were a few marriages between Staceys and Hogarths.
  • John’s nephew, Howard Stacey, claimed Barrie Avenue’s name was inspired by his mother’s maiden name, Newberry.
  • John had a niece named Olive Christina Isabelle Smith (1907 – 1926), and Olive Avenue was named for her.

References:

Howard Stacey Interview, 1981; Oshawa Museum archival collection, audio collection.

The Vindicator, December 30, 1910.

The Vindicator, April 7, 1911

The Oshawa Times-Gazette, January 31, 1948.

The Oshawa Times-Gazette, February 22, 1949.

The Oshawa Times, May 24, 1961.

The Oshawa Times, September 19, 1967.

A Good Citizen-City of Oshawa Retirement Testimonial Brochure, 1944.

The Month That Was – September 1868

All articles originally appeared in the Oshawa Vindicator

2 Sept 1868, Page 2

Runaway – On Wednesday last, a horse belonging to Mr. King, hitched to a light waggon, ran away. Mr. King was engaged in moving some rubbish preparatory to putting up an addition to his store occupied by Messrs. R. and A. Smith, when the horse walked off and became frightened by the load. Turning down Simcoe street, it tipped load and waggon against the horse and carriage of Mr. Morgan, hitched to a post. The latter was seized and quieted before it could make off, and further damage was saved. The damage to Mr. King’s waggon was slight.

Another Horse Shot – As one of the volunteers was practicing quick loading with a Snider riddle, in the rear of the premises of Messrs. Gibbs, Lobb & Co., the cartridge was exploded. The ball passed through the wood shed of Mr. JO Henry, into the stable of TN Gibbs, MP. It then entered the right shoulder of one of his carriage horses, a valuable blood made. Mr. Smith, of the Toronto Veterinary College, was telegraphed for and came down, but he could not find the ball. The mare is doing as well as can be expected, and may possibly recover.

Patents – The list of patents granted for the year past has been published. It is of unusual length, numbering 379. The following are those to persons in this county. They are all for fourteen years

No 2659, Joseph Dick, the younger, of Oshawa, Machinist, ‘A certain new and useful improvement in the rake, in ordinary use, in connections with the Reaping Machine, for removing the Grain, as cut from the table thereof, to be called ‘Joseph Dick’s Junior, Improved Harvester Rake.’ – (Dated 26th June, 1868.)

Newspaper ad for Hawthorn's Boot and Shoe Manufactory, and there is a picture of a boot on the ad
Oshawa Vindicator, 2 Sept 1868, page 3

Advertisements
Photographs
Mr. JO Henry’s Photograph Gallery Will be opened on Saturday next, with every facility for a first class business. Oshawa, Aug. 26th, 1868.

Page 4
Union Burying Ground
Near the residence of Rev. Dr. Thornton, Main Road
As these grounds are very desireable for location and beauty, parties wishing to purchase lots are respectfully informed that they may have an opportunity by applying to the undersigned or to the care taker, James Carruthers, on the premises.
Alex Burnet
Chairman of the Committee
Oshawa, March 2nd, 1868

September 9, 1868, Page 2
Assault – On Saturday night about twelve o’clock, a stranger coming from Whitby was struck on the back with a large stone thrown by some person secreted near the bridge, over the creek. He was [seriously] injured and was found by constable Gurley lying upon the sidewalk. He recovered soon after and was enabled to walk off. The miscreant who threw the missle is yet unknown, although one or two are suspected, and a sharp eye is kept upon them, Had the man been struck on the head, his life would have been endangered.

Newspaper ad for St Joseph's Select School, Oshawa
Oshawa Vindicator, 9 Sept 1868, page 2

Mammoth Plums – The Vindicator establishment was favored with a basket of mammoth plums, from JO Guy, Esq., Reeve of East Whitby. – Twelve of them weighed nineteen ounces. They are the Duane Purple. We hope Mr. Guy’s trees may never be troubled with worm or robber.

16 Sept 1868, Page 2
Changed the Date – The Fall show of the Whitby and East Whitby Union Agricultural Society, will be held on Thursday the 15th of October, and not the 22nd as announced last week. This change has been made as it has been found that it will not interfere with the fair at Bowmanville, as nothing will be done there other than receiving a few entries, on that day.

Newspaper ad for RC Steele & Co., Grocers
Oshawa Vindicator, 16 Sept 1868, page 3

23 Sept 1868, Page 2
Whalen – Whalen has behaved himself in a less violent manner since the trial than before. It is reported that the reason for the long delay between the sentence and the date of execution, was to give the Local Government an opportunity to introduce and carry a bill to have all prisoners condemned to death executed in private. American papers, as well as Canadian, agree that the verdict of the jury is a righteous one. The American Fenians have indulged in a little threatening, but upon the whole are comparatively mild. The Doctors have examined Buckley, and report that his insanity is feigned. Eagleson and Enright have not yet been admitted to bail.

Note – this article is discussing the verdict of the Thomas D’Arcy McGee murder trial.  McGee was shot and killed in Ottawa in April 1868. He denounced the Fenian Movement, a group dedicated to Irish independence, and was found assassinated outside of his Ottawa home. Patrick James Whelan, a tailor, was arrested. He was found guilty and sentenced to death on September 15, 1868; the public execution took place on 11 Feb 1869. At the time of the initial arrest, 40 others were also arrested, including Buckley, Sir John Alexander Macdonald’s cabman, and Peter Eagleson, a tailor in Ottawa, likely who is being referenced in the article.

House and Lot For Sale
The House and Lot now occupied by Mr. Robinson, South Oshawa. For terms, apply to Mr. John Bone, South Oshawa. E Bone, Oshawa, Sept 16, 1868

Newspaper ad for JO Henry's Boot and Shoe Store
Oshawa Vindicator, 16 Sept 1868, page 1

30 Sept 1868, Page 1
Dr. Clarke begs to announce to his friends that he has resumed the practice of his profession, and may be found, as heretofore, at his own Cottage, corner of Athol and Centre Streets, Oshawa. Nov 25th, 1867.

Oshawa – The Manchester of Canada

By Sara H., Summer Student

Even though I have lived in Oshawa my entire life, there is still so much I have to learn about the city!  Working at Parkwood and the McLaughlin Branch of the Oshawa Public Library has given me a great starting point to learn about some of the significant people and industries that made up our city.  The Oshawa Museum has allowed me to continue this research and given me new ways to discover more about Oshawa. For example, Oshawa was once known as the “Manchester of Canada” due to the many industries that set up shop here and helped Oshawa thrive.  We all know about General Motors Canada and the legacy of the McLaughlin family, but what about the other industries that made up the “Manchester of Canada?”  Well look no further than this blog post as I have rounded up some information on these industries from the museum’s Discover Historic Oshawa site!  

Ontario Malleable Iron was established in 1872 by William and John Cowan.  Both men previously worked at the Ontario Malleable Iron Co., and had a great deal of skill and experience from previously running a variety of small businesses.  John served as the first president of the company until his death in 1915 when William succeeded him.  The company was sold to Grinnel Co. of Canada Ltd in 1929, and unfortunately closed in 1977 after a lengthy labour dispute.  The site was acquired by Knob Hill Farms, a Canadian grocery chain, which operated a store there from 1981 until they closed in 2000. 

Black and white photograph of a large industrial brick building. There is a road in front of it with lots of wooden electrical poles and wires running alongside
Exterior of the Ontario Malleable Iron Co., Buildings No. 5 and 7 from Front St.; Oshawa Museum archival collection (A996.1.7)

Smith Potteries was the largest maker of hand-made pottery in Canada, and operated in Oshawa from 1925 to 1949.  They produced a range of hand-painted products such as vases, bowls, and other souvenirs.  The company was very successful and the quality of their white ware pottery put them in competition with other countries such as China, Japan, and Germany.  Herbert C. Smith owned and operated the business from 1925-1938, and installed a gas station at the front of the store to attract motorists and tourists wanting to purchase souvenirs.  Smith Sporting Goods, another business operated by the Smith family, opened on the property and was in business until 1968. 

Our curator has previously written about Smith Potteries: ArteFACTS – Oshawa’s Smith Potteries

Cooper-Smith Co. was located at 19 Celina Street and changed ownership quite a bit before the company was created.  It was once owned by James Odgers Guy, yes, the same Guy from Guy House at the museum, who ran a “flour and feed” store there.  Elgin Cooper bought the property from James Guy in 1905 and turned it into a larger store that sold grain, as well as seeds, oats, and other types of feed.  The company was known for a specialized seed for homing pigeons that gave them increased stamina, and their garden seeds.  The company was forced into receivership and closed in July 1982, but reopened in August 1982 under new owners who were still a part of the Smith family.  Unfortunately, in January 1988 the property was destroyed by a fire. 

A large iron scale, standing in front of square shelves
Cooper-Smith Scale; Oshawa Museum Collection (011.16.1)

Pedlar People Limited was opened by Henry Pedlar in 1861 as a kitchenware shop.  George Pedlar, his son, inherited the company after his father’s death and established a metal stamping plant.  By 1894 the company was the “largest sheet metal factory in the British Empire.”   During the Second World War, Pedlar People was contracted to make a variety of military munitions and materials such as autocannon and artillery shells, army huts and munition shelters.  The company received high praise from the Canadian government and wartime authorities due to their service and quality of products made.  In 1976, the company was bought by a Toronto firm who opened Pedlar Storage Products in the Stevenson Industrial Park.  The Simcoe Street plant was demolished in 1981 to make way for a new shopping centre, and Pedlar Storage Products closed in 1982. 

Williams Piano Factory was started by Richard Williams in Toronto in 1849.  In 1888, the Williams firm purchased the former factory of Joseph Hall Works in Oshawa and began renovations to the building to make it suitable to manufacture pianos.  In 1890 the factory began producing pianos and organs, and the company constructed their first church organ that was sent to Brighton and consisted of more than 100 pipes!  It took ten weeks to three months to make one piano, but each piano was constructed to the “highest degree of excellence in every detail of workmanship”.  The company was globally known as a manufacturer of quality products, but due to the depression and increased mass production of the radio, they closed due to lack of demand.  However, the factory building remained and many other businesses occupied the premises, and the building was even a barracks during the war years.  The factory was demolished in 1970 to make way for the Durham Region Police Headquarters and the Oshawa Times building.  

A brown upright piano with a three pedals and a stool. There is a sign above the piano that reads 'New Scale Williams Pianos, Oshawa, Canada'
Williams Piano, 1903, in Guy House; Oshawa Museum Collection

If you want to find out more information on any of these sites, or find out more information about what used to be in Oshawa, please feel free to visit either of the museum’s websites in the “For More Information” section, or take a look at the Library’s History Pin site! 


For More Information:

Discover Historic Oshawa – Oshawa Museum

Industry in Oshawa – Oshawa Museum

History Pin: Oshawa Street Scenes – Oshawa Public Library


Sources Consulted:

Ontario Malleable Iron – http://discoverhistoricoshawa.com/listings/ontario-malleable-iron/

Smith Potteries – http://discoverhistoricoshawa.com/listings/smith-potteries/

Cooper Smith Co. – http://discoverhistoricoshawa.com/listings/cooper-smith-co/

Pedlar People Ltd. – http://discoverhistoricoshawa.com/listings/pedlar-people-limited/

Pedlar People Ltd. From Industry in Oshawa – https://industryinoshawa.wordpress.com/foundries/pedlar-people-ltd/

Williams Piano Company – http://discoverhistoricoshawa.com/listings/williams-piano-company/   

July 1 Retrospectives

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Coordinator

When working on specific projects, I always like to see how different events affected the Henry, Guy, and Robinson families. Read on for some trivia and perspective on modern Canada Day celebrations.

Upon taking a closer look at how people in Oshawa celebrated Dominion Day, I wondered who lived in the Museum homes when Confederation occurred.

In 1867, Thomas and Lurenda were married for 37 years. Likely, their children Joseph, Jesse, Clarissa, William, and Jennie were still living at home. Despite being in their early and mid-twenties, Joseph, Jesse, and Clarissa were unmarried. William and Jennie were 18 and 15 years old.

(Ruth) Eunice Robinson and Richard Welch were married for eight years with two young children at home. Connie was 7, Vicars was six, and Hedley would be born in September 1867.

James Guy and Rachel Luke were married for 15 years with six children living at home from 15 – 4 years old.

William and Jennie Henry were probably friends and went to school with Frederick August Guy. I wonder if Jennie babysat for the neighbouring kids or if that was even a thing back then.

A big picnic was held somewhere in Cedardale (up the street from the Henry farm), and Thomas and Lurenda might have took the children there.

Dr. D.S. Hoig attended Centre Street School in 1867 and remembered no recognition of the event. According to him, teachers may have thought it an experiment as there had been rumours of unification many times before, and it took a few years to produce textbooks with new maps.

In 1868 there was a similar picnic just north of Union Cemetery in Morris’s Grove. Games and races included:

  • flat race – 100 yards
  • boys foot race – 100 yards
  • three-legged race – 100 yards
  • short race – 100 yards
  • foot race – 500 yards
  • sack race – 100 yards
  • girls race (under 14 years of age)
  • hurdle race – 6 hurdles, 3 feet high, 1000 yards
  • standing jump
  • running jump
  • running high jump
  • running hop step & jump
  • putting heavy stone – weight 21 pounds
  • putting light stone – 6 pounds
  • tossing the caber
  • pitching quoits

There were so many children near the three OM houses that they might have played similar games and races at the 1867 picnic.

In 1869, a picnic and games started at 10 am, with a reunion and strawberry festival at 7:30 (the newspaper article doesn’t say morning or afternoon, so presumably evening.) The entrance fee was 10 cents per person so that everyone could come. Women served strawberries, ice cream, soda water, and other refreshments, and the musical program consisted of songs (both humorous and pathetic – according to the original article), duets and choruses. Address and a patriotic poem were read by local orator Edward Carswell with fireworks at 10 pm.

In 1870, the festivities began early with morning Reveille at 8 am. The Fire Brigade (in new uniforms) and Regiment Band paraded to the Post Office (area – probably the Armouries) to test various fire engines before the crowds.

At 9 am of the same year, the ‘Grand Union Picnic’ was held at Annis’s Grove (same as 1869.) The Clearwater Quadrille Band provided other music throughout the day; games included a foot race match between Oshawa and Whitby with a $25 prize. Visitors also played croquet and football, with swings provided. Fireworks were purchased in Toronto.

While people in the present still celebrate Canada Day, there is an undertone of quiet embarrassment among some. It feels uncomfortable being as patriotic and observing as I once did, with all of the Indigenous atrocities coming to light over the last few years. However, I am thankful I have my son’s birthday to celebrate, so the focus isn’t entirely on Canada Day.

This year, the Oshawa Museum will have Henry House open for tours, with costumed interpretation. As much as we are Indigenous allies, three of the OM’s most significant artefacts are the houses here in Lakeview Park, and there is no way of ignoring that. So if you decide to celebrate Canada Day this year, we hope to see you at Henry House – our first time in two years, opening on July 1st.


From the blog archives:

Oshawa Celebrates Canada Day

On July 1, 1867, The British North America Act came into effect on July 1, 1867, uniting the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as “One Dominion under the name of Canada. “ In Oshawa, the passing of the BNA Act was a relatively quiet affair, even though it had been designated … Continue reading “Oshawa Celebrates Canada Day”

Canada: 150 Years… or is it?

This blog series comes from our dedicated and awesome Visitor Host staff, and topics range from favourite artifacts, thoughts on our latest exhibits, and anything else in between! By Sarah C., Visitor Host This year is Canada’s 150th birthday!  It has been 150 years since Canada became a Dominion. But oddly enough, we have only … Continue reading “Canada: 150 Years… or is it?”

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