Every February is celebrated as Black History Month. In Canada, the first Black History Month was celebrated in 1988 in Nova Scotia. The Ontario Black History Society petitioned the Ontario government in 1993 to proclaim February as Black History Month.
In December 1995, after an idea by Rosemary Sadlier, president of the OBHS, the Canadian House of Commons recognized Black History Month in Canada, following a motion introduced by the Honourable Jean Augustine, the first Black Canadian woman elected to Parliament.
In 2008, a motion was introduced by Senator Donald Oliver, the first Black man appointed to the Senate, to “Recognize Contributions of Black Canadians and February as Black History Month,” receiving unanimous approval.
To learn more about Oshawa’s Black history, we invite you to visit our Black History Month Resource page. Here, we have rounded up blog posts written about Oshawa’s Black history and people of note, videos sharing these stories, as well as included links to other organizations and resources.
All articles originally appeared in the Oshawa Vindicator Content Warning: one article discusses a suicide
February 4, 1863 Page 2 Another Suicide
…It is our most painful task to record the death of Thos. Bartlett, Esq., by his own hands, on Monday last, between the hours of eight and nine o’clock in the morning. The deceased was a brother of the late Wm. Bartlett, Esq., who hung himself… on the 4th September last, and lived on the opposite side of the road, only a few rods distant from the last residence of the former. Soon after his brother’s sad end, the subject of the present notice was taken ill, his difficulty being a nervous affection which prevented his obtaining sleep, the consequence of which was that he began to fail in flesh. As a remedy he resorted to opium, of which he took repeated and large doses with a view only of procuring sleep as was then supposed, but when it took effect it acted powerfully as an emetic, rather than as a narcotic, otherwise the quantity would most probably have proved fatal. For some time afterwards he lay in a very critical condition…
February 11, 1863 Page 2
The Emancipation Proclamation to be Photographed – Benjamin J Lossing has obtained permission from the president to take a photograph of the Emancipation Proclamation, which is entirely in Mr. Lincoln’s handwriting. The photograph is to form one of the illustrations in Mr. Lossing’s historical work.
Oshawa Central School At the last meeting of the Board of School Trustees, applications were received from twelve different young ladies willing to accept one or the other of the two situations open in the staff of teachers of the Central School. Only one of them – a daughter of the Rev. Mr. Cantlon – had ever taught before, and after due consideration of the claims of others, she received the appointment as teacher of the second grade at a salary of $240 per annum. A daughter of Mr. Hurd, of Raglan, was appointed teacher of the first grade, at a salary of $150 per annum. Miss Stone was, at the same time, promoted to the third grade, without increase of salary. The Central School is now better provided with teachers than it has ever been, having two male and three female teachers. Their united salaries amount to $1550. The obnoxious “monitor system” has been dismissed from the school, and teachers are paid for their services and expected to work for the interest and benefit of the school accordingly. The attendance of pupils is very large, notwithstanding the prevalence of disease, giving the five teachers plenty to do, to attend to their proper instruction.
Skirt Lifters – This new and useful invention is becoming very popular with the ladies, and promises to form nearly as important a branch of manufacture ad trade as the hoop skirt business has become. It will be seen on reference to our advertising columns that the original article is to be had at al of our Dry Goods Stores. We see by the Toronto papers that another article designed to serve the same purpose is in the market. It is a Canadian invention called the Patent Canadian Skirt Lifter.
February 18, 1863 Page 2 Oshawa Wheat Market
Last week was one of excellent sleighing and persons having wheat to dispose of, took advantage of the good travelling to pour in the golden grain and get, in return for it, the golden coin or the equally prized green colored Ontario Bank note. At Warren’s Mill, from half a dozen to twenty loads of grain were to be seen every day, standing about, wait8ing for their turn at the door to unload, and a similar scene might be witness at that of Messrs. Gibbs & Bros., in South Oshawa. The amount of wheat purchased by the latter firm, and delivered, during the week, was 22,834 bushels; 1[ ],830 were delivered on the last 3 days of the week. The amount purchased by John Warren, Esq., and delivered at his mill, was something over 18,000 bushels during the week.
In another column we give both the Oshawa and Toronto market prices.
Page 3 Oshawa Markets Fall Wheat: 90 95 Spring Wheat: 80 85 *note, this represents a price range per bushel
February 25, 1863 Page 2
An ice-bridge, says the St. Catharine’s Journal, has formed at the junction of the Niagara River with Lake Ontario, for the third time in the history of Canada. The cause is the prevalence of south winds for a few days and then a sudden change to the north, the first forcing the ice down the upper lakes into the river, which is prevented by the north winds from getting into Lake Ontario.
Alarm of Fire – On Saturday evening last an alarm was rung out on the fire-bell, and many ran to and fro, looking for the fire. It was at last discovered, by some, in an unoccupied house belonging to Mr. L. Butterfield, on Water Street, opposite Messrs. Warren & Co.’s Tannery. A woman was engaged in cleaning out the house, and the partitions caught fire from an improperly put up stove pipe. It was soon extinguished, before doing much damage.
Page 3 Scarcely a day (says an English paper) passes on which the journals do not record deaths from wearing Crinoline. A young woman at Dalston, for instance, was making a pudding at a table five feet from the fire, when a draught from an open window blew her extended dress into the grate, and not long afterwards she was dead. Verdict of the jury, “Died from fire while wearing crinoline.”
Did you know that Lake Ontario started as a small stream that gradually opened up through the erosion of soft Silurian rocks over thousands of years?
Lake Ontario is one of the five Great Lakes of North America. Surrounded on the north, west, and southwest by the province of Ontario, and on the south and east by the state of New York, its water boundaries, along the international border, meet in the middle of the lake.
Oshawa lies on a glacial geological feature called the Lake Iroquois shoreline. We know it today as a fairly level band of land ringing Lake Ontario, bordered by the ridge of the prehistoric Lake Iroquois shoreline.
Lake Iroquois was a proglacial lake, meaning that the lake was situated between rock deposits and an ice sheet. The northern shore of this lake was the southern edge of the retreating glacier. Lake Iroquois was formed by melting glacial ice in the Lake Ontario basin.
At that time, the St. Lawrence River Valley was blocked with ice, and the lake level rose 30 m (~100 ft) above present day Lake Ontario. The lake drained to the southeast, through a channel passing near present day Rome, New York. The lake was fed by Early Lake Erie, as well as Lake Algonquin, an early partial manifestation of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay that drained directly to Lake Iroquois across southern Ontario.
The stream turned into a river that was widened and sculpted by the powerful movement of the continental glaciers. The current level, shape, and direction of flow of Lake Ontario was established over 12,000 years ago.
As it retreated, the glacier left behind Lake Iroquois, a larger version of present-day Lake Ontario. As it retreated, the glacier left behind Lake Iroquois, a larger version of present-day Lake Ontario.
The old shoreline runs west-east, running roughly parallel to today’s King Street in Oshawa. The shoreline is typified by washed sand and gravel bluffs. It is located well away from the present shore of Lake Ontario. Remnants of this shoreline can still be seen in various communities today along the north shore of Lake Ontario. The ridges of the old shoreline are evident in Oshawa, where the banks of the old Lake Iroquois shoreline can be seen looking north of Highway 401. Iroquois Shoreline Park, located on the hills of Grandview Street North and the appropriately named Ridgemount Blvd., is the approximate location of the original shoreline of Lake Iroquois. Further west, the Scarborough Bluffs also formed part of the shoreline of the original lake. Further east, remnants of the shoreline are visible at Stephen’s Gulch in Clarington and Highway 401, near Cobourg.
This land was valued by Indigenous communities and later by settlers for farming and settlement. Archaeological reports show that from 1400 – 1450CE, ancestral Wendat communities were utilizing the land around the area of Grandview and Taunton.
The next time you are taking a drive, I would recommend a drive to the top of the hill of Grandview Street North near Ridgemount Blvd. in Oshawa. If you stand looking south from that ridge, all that land would have been water.
Working in an archive, you come across some interesting objects. One of the most interesting objects that I’ve come across are panoramic photographs.The archival collection at the Oshawa Museum has a quite a few, ranging from scenery to group photographs. As I am a very curious, I started to wonder about how early panoramic photographs were made…
Early panoramic photographs were tied to the development of the daguerreotype, the earliest form of photography. Multiple daguerreotypes were taken so that the individual images would overlap. After, you simply place the photographs next to one another and you would have a panoramic, although a little broken up. The example from the Library of Congress shows how an early panoramic photograph would look.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the first panoramic cameras were made. In 1897, Multiscope & Film introduced the Al-Vista camera. This camera stayed still as the lens moved 180 degrees. In 1899, Kodak introduced the No. 4 Kodak Panoram camera. This Kodak camera, like the Al-Vista, stayed stationary as the lens moved along a spring. The No. 4 Kodak Panoram had 142 degree angle of view.
In 1904, Kodak manufactured another panoramic camera called the Cirkut. Unlike their previous No. 4 Panoram where only the lens rotated, the Cirkut camera itself rotated, allowing a 360 degree view. This camera became popular with commercial photographers, as it allowed large group photographs.
Although the Cirkut became popular, it produced a distorted view. Since the Cirkut rotated 360 degrees, curved scenes came out looking flat. This is best seen in a panoramic photograph I took of our three houses. If you have been down to visit us, you know that the walkway from Guy House to Robinson House in straight. However, the panoramic I took makes it look like the pathway curves. This is, again, because I had to rotate the camera and thus the photograph becomes misleading.
To correct this distortion, photographers would position groups in a curve, so that the photograph would make the group look like they were standing together. The 116th Ontario County Battalion panoramic photograph example shows how this would look like.
Today, many of us have panoramic camera in our pocket. Our panoramic photograph setting on our phones function the same way as panoramic cameras of the early 20th century, physically rotating the camera along 360 degrees.
Thanks for coming along this panoramic journey with me!
While on tour, our Visitor Hosts are often asked questions that they may not be able to answer in that moment. However, we take note of the questions and try to find the answers afterwards. Here are a few of the questions that we were asked throughout 2022
Is John Henry, former Oshawa Mayor and current Durham Regional Chair, related to the Henry family?
We asked His Worship this question upon his first election as Mayor in 2010, and he claimed that there was no connection.
What year is the Fire Insurance Map from?
In Robinson House, in the Leaving Home, Finding Home in Oshawa exhibit, there is a large map showcasing a neighbourhood in Oshawa with many landmarks of significance to the eastern European community. That map dates to 1948, and you can read more about it in a previous blog post!
Did the Henry family know how to speak French?
As far as we know, it doesn’t seem to be a language that was spoken at home. The 1891 Census has a column for ‘French Canadian,’ 1901 has a column for ‘Mother Tongue’ and 1911 has a column for ‘Language Commonly Spoken;’ the Henry siblings all indicate English in these columns.
In 1960, Thomas’s Granddaughter, Arlie DeGuerre, shared family history in The Life and Times of Thomas Henry. When recalling Thomas’s War of 1812 involvement, she stated,
“Thomas Henry… was employed to attend this new Judge on an official trip to Montreal. He remained in Montreal a month and learned something of the French language” (page 2).
A grain of salt is always taken when using this source as there are some inaccuracies within.
Did the Henry family have a cat/have pets?
This was one I was also asked on a tour this fall. The 1851 Agricultural Return tells us that, for livestock, they had:
4 bulls, oxen or steers
4 milch cows (a cow in milk or kept for her milk)
27 sheep (with 100 lbs of wool)
There is no apparently mention to pets in the Memoir of Thomas Henry, nor any mention in Arlie DeGuerre’s writings.
The last Henry family member to live in Henry House was William. He lived there until the 1910s. Between 1917 and into the early 1920s, the Mackie family called the house home. It was used for a time as a ‘rest room’ for mothers, a place to rest while their children were playing in the park. It was home to Nasion and Emelline (Ned & Lina) Smith from the 1930s to 1942, and Harry Smith, a Parks Board of Management employee and in charge of Lakeview Park maintenance, lived in the home into the 1950s.
In 1959, the Oshawa Historical Society received word that they could use Henry House as a local museum. Doors opened in 1960, and we’ve welcomed thousands of visitors every year since.