Where The Streets Get Their Names – Simcoe Street

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Maps fascinate me.  I remember road trips with my grandparents, and in one of the pockets behind the front seats, there would be a Map Art atlas for the Greater Toronto Area; while they drove from Point A to Point B, I would study the maps.  I found the Oshawa maps particularly interesting, partly because it was my hometown, but also because the subdivisions had themes.  I could search and find the authors, the Arthurian Legend Streets, the birds, the flowers!  Once I started working with Oshawa’s history, I began to appreciate the meanings and the stories behind some of our more well travelled arteries.

Simcoe Street
Simcoe Street

Simcoe Street is one such roadway.  It is not only a major north-south road for Oshawa, but as a Regional Road, it also traverses through Scugog Township (Port Perry) and Brock Township, measuring almost 62 kilometres in length!  I drive along Simcoe Street on a daily basis (save the odd weekend) because the Museum is located right at the foot of Simcoe Street, at its southern terminus at Lake Ontario.

The southern terminus to Simcoe Street, which ends at Lake Ontario.  Side note, it's a pretty view when the snow isn't grey and melty.
The southern terminus to Simcoe Street, which ends at Lake Ontario. Side note, it’s a pretty view when the snow isn’t grey and melty.

Simcoe Street is not the best example to start with if I am looking to share the local histories behind Oshawa’s street names, but rather I will start with Simcoe because its story is one that is shared with other ‘Simcoe’ places in Ontario.  It received its name from the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada from 1791 to 1796, John Graves Simcoe. Simcoe was responsible for a number of improvements to the newly created province, including the first Act Against Slavery in all of the British Empire, the founding of York (Toronto) and laying the foundation for their road system, including the foundation of two major roads, Yonge Street and Dundas Street, and began the policy of granting land to settlers leaving the US after the Revolutionary War.

John Graves Simcoe, from Library & Archives Canada
John Graves Simcoe, from Library & Archives Canada

Basically, Simcoe was kinda a big deal.

Locally, Simcoe Street has been in use for almost 200 years.  Samuel Pedlar makes note in his papers about a settler named George Hinkson who, “in the year 1828… underbrushed and blazed the Reach Road from the settlement on the 2d concession (now Oshawa) to the Widdifield Creek in the 4th concession.”   Historically, Simcoe Street has also gone by the name Reach Road, perhaps because it eventually travelled north to Reach Township.  Pedlar also talks of others in the 1820s who worked to clear the road from Oshawa to Prince Albert.

It feels like a very modern concern, to take issue with road conditions and road improvements, but it appears that in 1840s, a number of concerned citizens were writing to Robert Baldwin, Premier from 1843-46, about local road improvements.  The main bone of contention was where to put improvements, with Oshawa citizens wanting to see Simcoe Street developed, which in turn would facilitate business from the Sydenham Harbour through the village of Oshawa and then to the northern townships; Peter Perry,of Whitby on the other side of the argument, advocated funds going towards a road leading north from Windsor Bay (Whitby).  Ultimately money was given to both projects, but not before passionate letters from both sides were sent to Baldwin throughout the mid-1840s. I’m rather amused that road improvements were fought about over 150 years ago, and it still is today.  It’s reassuring, perhaps, that somethings never change.

Simcoe Street was one of the the first paved streets in Oshawa, with the Asphalt Paving Co. of Windsor being awarded the contract in 1911.  It was paved from the south side of Richmond and Dukes Streets (the story of these two streets could be told another day), to the south side of Athol Street.  Also paved were Athol Street and King Street.  This paving process did not impede businesses, and it drew crowds of by-standers to watch the modernization take place.

Paving the streets at the Four Corners, from the Oshawa Archives Collection
Paving the streets at the Four Corners, from the Oshawa Archives Collection

Simcoe Street is a major road for Oshawa and Durham Region, and it has been host to parades, celebrations, shops, restaurants, education,and culture; along Simcoe Street, one can find the Oshawa Community Museum, the Canadian Automotive Museum, and Parkwood (with the Robert McLaughlin Gallery being just off Simcoe).  Simcoe and King form the Four Corners, the dividing line for north/south/east/west, but it is at the Four Corners that our community truly grew together, expanded, and flourished.

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Oshawa Ablaze

By Jillian Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

The Oshawa Fire Department has a long history. As early as December 16 1866, the Oshawa Village Council noted that some insurance companies in Quebec were refusing to insure municipalities without fire protection services.

Council passed a by-law that required every owner or occupant of a building to supply “ a good substantial ladder leading from the ground to the roof and that every owner or occupant shall cause the chimneys and stovepipes thereof to be properly cleaned at least once a month”. They also passed a by-law that required every citizen to assist at the scene of a fire. Those who refused assistance would be fined $5. This is the first recorded occasion of fire prevention in Oshawa.

Oshawa’s first department, which was organized in 1856, was made up entirely of volunteers under Chief Engineer Mr. P. Thornton by order of By-law 33.

On July 20, 1868, the Oshawa Fire Department was incorporated as a full time department by By-law 142. The first full time Chief was Patrick Thornton. He was responsible for 50 men with the Fire Company and a further 15 men with the Hook and Ladder Company, plus 1 engine, some ladders and numerous hose lines.

Thankfully, the Department was growing. Within the next 100 years there would be some major fires in Oshawa’s downtown core alone.

Oshawa Fire Department, 1905; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
Oshawa Fire Department, 1905; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

On Sunday December 8, 1872, a fire originated in George Hodder’s clothing and hat store on Simcoe Street. It was the worst fire in Oshawa up until that time. Wind, wooden buildings and lack of available water were very frustrating for the firefighters at that time.

The fire began at 7pm in Oshawa’s downtown area. When the fire began to spread and seriously threaten other surrounding businesses, firemen from Whitby came to the rescue.

A man named CW Smith jumped on a horse and raced to Whitby for the Merryweather steam fire engine, which was a new acquisition at the time.  Running on one cylinder it was made by Merryweather and Sons of London England. It was frost proof and considered to be the pioneer engine of Canada.  Fire stations in Whitby and Kingston had tested it the Merryweather, but Oshawa put it to the real test during the fire of 1872.

The Gibbs block, a large building on the south side of King Street was destroyed by flames. 19 buildings were damaged or destroyed. Spray from the hoses caused ice to form on the fire fighters clothes and bodies; citizens assisted by provided dry and warm clothing to them.

The Merryweather that saved downtown Oshawa in 1872, on display at the Whitby Public Library
The Merryweather that saved downtown Oshawa in 1872, on display at the Whitby Public Library

The cause of the fire was determined to be arson. It originated in a partition between the Fitzmaurice, a druggist and veterinarian, and the Hodder store. After a trial, it was the opinion of a jury that Fitzmaurice intentionally set the building on fire.  He was sentenced to three years in jail for instigating the fire for insurance purposes.

Oshawa would go on to purchase its own Merryweather machine at a cost of $5600 in 1875.

Oshawa's Merryweather Fire Engine, c. 1900, corner of Simcoe and Richmond; Oshawa Community Archives Collection
Oshawa’s Merryweather Fire Engine, c. 1900, corner of Simcoe and Richmond; Oshawa Community Archives Collection

Nearby was the McLaughlin Carriage Works. By 1877, the McLaughlins had outgrown their facilities in Enniskillen. The need for banking facilities, more skilled labour, and a railroad for shipping led to the company’s relocation to Oshawa.

Though the competing businesses expected McLaughlin’s business to fail, it was they who folded and due to increased business, McLaughlin was once again in need of expansion.

Robert McLaughlin made a deal with the town enabled him to trade locations and move into the old Gibbs furniture factory at Richmond and Mary Streets.

There he employed 600 people. In 1893 he took on two of his sons, George and Sam, as partners.

In December 1899, McLaughlin suffered a serious setback when his entire factory was destroyed by fire. He lost carriages in production, all materials, tools and equipment.

McLaughlin Carriage Fire, 1899; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
McLaughlin Carriage Fire, 1899; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

The town offered him a $50,000 interest free loan and, while the factory was rebuilt, he set up a temporary plant in Gananoque for a year. This factory produced 3,000 vehicles and the company was able to stay in the market. Prior to selecting Gananoque as their temporary factory, fifteen communities offered to help the McLaughlin’s re-establish their factory.

Richmond Street fire company, c. 1922; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
Richmond Street fire company, c. 1922; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

To learn more about other fires that have occurred in Oshawa, feel free to make an appointment with the Archivist or book the “Fire: A Photographic Tour of Fires in Oshawa” PowerPoint presentation for your special interest group. Please contact the programming department for more options.

The Month That Was – March 1950

Oshawa Daily Times
C.R.A Annual Meeting Tonight
March 1, 1950

The fourth Annual Meeting of the Oshawa and District Community Recreation Association will be held at the Oshawa Recreation Centre tonight at 8 p.m., with retiring President Lloyd Smith in the chair.

 

Oshawa Daily Times
Refuse To Raise Rate to Oshawa Hospital
March 1, 1950

County council yesterday refused to increase the indigent rate to Oshawa General Hospital from $2.50 to $5.00 as requested by the hospital.

 

Canadian Statesmen
Bantam Basketball, By Don Stutt
March 2, 1950

Last Wednesday BHS Bantams played basketball against OCVI at Oshawa.  This was the deciding game of the season.  The final score was 50-11 in favour of Oshawa.  The deciding factor in the tremendous score piled up by Oshawa was that Bowmanville could not get used to the much larger floor.

 

Oshawa Daily Times
Cold Snap Ends Tonight
March 3, 1950

There’s good new today for shivering Ontario: The cold snap ends tonight. Coal short, snuggle clad householders can go right on worrying. But by midnight there won’t be much sting left in winter’s latest haymaker, the weather man says.

 

Oshawa Daily Times
Big Issues face U.N
March 3, 1950

Lake Success, N.Y, March 3 (CP) – The critical issues of the Red China and the atomic bomb appeared headed today for a special session of the U.N general assembly in New York in mid-May. But U.N leaders privately expressed little belief that such a meeting would entice the Russians back the fold unless on unexpected break comes.

 

Oshawa Daily Times
Coal Strike Over
March 7, 1950

Once president Truman had asked for authority to take over the coal mines and operate them, in order to end the prolonged coal miners’ strike, it did not take the mine operators long to come to terms with John L. Lewis. Within twenty four hours, a basis of agreement had been reached, and in another day a new contract had been signed, so that miners could return to work.

 

From the Canadian Statesman, March 9, 1950
From the Canadian Statesman, March 9, 1950

 

Canadian Statesmen
Chrysanthemum Tea
March 16, 1950

The name McLaughlin is a byword in the homes of Oshawa and Bowmanville residents.  Their imposing residence, “Parkwood,” has long been one of the show places of the Motor City.

Not only has Col. RS McLaughlin gained fame as a pioneer in the automobile industry, but he is widely known as a collector of art and a successful racer of thoroughbred horses.  Mrs. McLaughlin is keenly interested in numerous projects and especially the unusual variety of flowers maintained in the “Parkwood” greenhouses.  Like the rest of us, she admires them for their beauty and fragrance, but unlike most of us she has a remarkable knowledge of their habits and ancestry.

It was Mrs. McLaughlin’s interest in flowers which brought about the first Chrysanthemum Tea almost 30 years ago.  Since then, the ‘Tea’ has become an annual event of social importance.  The 800 invited guests who attended the ‘Tea’ constituted a veritable who’s who of Toronto, Oshawa and the surrounding district.

 

Canadian Statesmen
Unemployment Turnover in Oshawa One of the Lowest in the Dominion
March 30, 1950

Encouraging reports from the National Employment Service in Oshawa indicate that unemployment this winter has noticeably decreased from the figure of last winter.  Last March found approximately 1,400 unemployed males in the Oshawa area.  This March has seen a reduction of about 400.

Student Museum Musings – Nadia

By Nadia, Social Media Co-op Student

If I could summarize my first couple week at the Oshawa Community Museum in one word, it would be “welcoming.” The atmosphere is very friendly and the staff members made me feel like a part of the team.

Although my first day was primarily accessibility training, I enjoyed being in the workplace rather than school. The tour my supervisor, Lisa Terech, gave me was both intriguing and informative. In just a short period of time, I learned a lot about Oshawa that I would not have known otherwise. I love working in such a historically significant site.

My favourite aspect of my time so far was reading through Oshawa’s old newspapers starting from the 1960s. On the contrary, anything old and vintage fascinates me, however; the style of writing and the information given diverge from modern day journalism. When I was reading through old hockey articles, I found out about Bobby Orr’s origins with the OHL. It was truly amazing to find the roots of his success from the newspapers. When I searched through photographs of Oshawa, I found many of him in his old uniform. My favourite place in the museum is the closet full of old cameras. Yes, a closet. Since I do photography on my recreational time, the abundance of cameras mesmerized me.

Currently, I am into my third week at the Oshawa Community Museum. I am beginning to get used to the routine here. I am also honored to have big responsibilities, such as creating a logo for the Mourning After: The Victorian Celebration of Death (Spring 2015 exhibit). From my co-operative experience, I hope to discover if a career in media or journalism is the right path for me. I believe the Oshawa Community Museum is the best place for me to figure this out.

Below are photographs from around the Museum that Nadia has taken with her captions! Enjoy!

Robinson House, c. 1856
Robinson House, c. 1856
Reflections of Oshawa exhibit in Robinson House
Reflections of Oshawa exhibit in Robinson House
Before the Canadian national anthem was created, students started the day by singing “God Save the Queen”
Before the Canadian national anthem was created, students started the day by singing “God Save the Queen”
Hand-dyed wool
Hand-dyed wool
Henry House exterior
Henry House exterior

“Yesterday They All Went Gathering Maple Leaves” – The National Flag Turns 50

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Today, it is so synonymous with Canadian identity – wearing a maple leaf immediately identifies you as a Canadian.  It flies from sea to sea on flag poles, from masts, even on the sides of cars, and it has been sewn, adorned, and even tattooed.  It flies proudly in celebration, and is respectfully lowered in mourning.

From the Oshawa Times, February 15, 1965, page 1
From the Oshawa Times, February 15, 1965, page 1

The implementation of the Maple Leaf as the National Flag was not without controversy.  Canada had been a country for almost a century before we officially had a unique emblem of our own.  The flag was inaugurated on February 15, 1965, after years of heated and passionate debates.  Talks of a distinctive flag for Canada had been taking place for decades before Prime Minister Lester Pearson made it a priority, promising in the 1963 election to have a new flag for Canada within two years.  This promise placed a certain urgency on the issue, as no one before had placed a timeline on establishing a new flag.  John Diefenbaker, ousted as Prime Minister by Pearson in the ’63 election, was adamantly against the issue and proved to be the chief opponent throughout the Flag Debate.

PM Lester B. Pearson at a press conference for the flag, December 1964; from Library & Archives Canada
PM Lester B. Pearson at a press conference for the flag, December 1964; from Library & Archives Canada

Prominence was placed on the issue in mid-1964, and by that autumn, a committee was established to debate the issue and ultimately decide on a course of action.  There were thousands of opinions on what should or should not be included in the design, and several options were put forth.  Ultimately, it came down to two options: the ‘Pearson Pendant’ featuring three red maple leaves on white, bordered by two bars of blue, and a design by historian George Stanley.  Stanley’s design featured a single maple leaf centred in a white square, with two bars of red on either side.  It was Stanley’s design that was chosen by the committee, and on December 15, 1964, Parliament voted 163 to 78 in favour of adopting the red and white flag.  After Official Royal Proclamation on January 28, the new flag was raised for the first time at the Peace Tower at noon, February 15, 1965.

The Union Jack (above), and the Canadian Red Ensign, 1957-1965 (below), from Library & Archives Canada
The Union Jack (above), and the Canadian Red Ensign, 1957-1965 (below); from Library & Archives Canada

The Royal Proclamation described the new flag as such:

 “a red flag of proportions two by length and one by width, containing in its centre a white square the width of the flag bearing a single red maple leaf, or, in heraldic terms described as gules on a Canadian pale argent a maple leaf of the first”

As would be expected, the flag debate saw many come out in favour of the new design, and others were opposed to the change.  One of the strongest opponents, besides Diefenbaker, was the Royal Canadian Legion, who placed high regard on the traditions that were established with the Red Ensign design.

In Ottawa, at the official inauguration, Prime Minister Pearson expressed the following sentiments about the new flag, saying, “Under this flag may our youth find new inspiration for loyalty to Canada; for a patriotism based not on any mean or narrow nationalism but on the deep and equal pride that all Canadians will feel for every part of this good land.”

The first raising of the Canadian Flag at Parliament Hill, from Library & Archives Canada
The first raising of the Canadian Flag at Parliament Hill; from Library & Archives Canada

On February 15, while the new flag was being raised with the proper pomp and circumstance in Ottawa, similar ceremonies took place at provincial parliaments and local governments, Oshawa not excluded.  However, the ceremony at Oshawa did not go smoothly; it was unclear if there would even be a new flag to raise!  Due to high demand and low stock from suppliers, Oshawa did not receive its flag until 17 minutes before it was supposed to be raised!  In fact, due to the rush and uncertainty, two councillors were unintentionally uninvited to this ceremony.  Alderman Hayward Murdoch, Property Committee Chairman, took responsibility for this oversight, saying councillors were not notified on the Friday before because the flags had not arrived, and if there were not flags, there would not be a ceremony.  Ultimately, the flags arrived and were unfurled at noon.

Many schools and businesses may have been flying the Ensign or Union Jack on February 15 simply because the Maple Leaf flag was so difficult to attain because demand was so high.  Many banks commented that they were simply waiting for their flag to arrive and were flying the Ensign/Union Jack or leaving their poles bare until it did.  The Oshawa Times reported on who was flying what, and they remarked at the end of the article that the Oshawa Yacht Club at the lake had no flag flying, “nor did the Henry House Museum just up the street.”

The Union Jack flying in Memorial Park on February 15, 1965.  From the Oshawa Times, February 16, 1965
The Union Jack flying in Memorial Park on February 15, 1965. From the Oshawa Times, February 16, 1965

Perhaps the most endearing local story from February 15, 1965 came from Donovan Collegiate.  The art department ‘hastily put together’ a maple leaf flag that was proudly hoisted on the school’s flag pole; the following day, they were again hard at work, manufacturing a more sturdy flag that could replace the ‘rather flimsy original.’  Flimsy or not, instead of flying the Union Jack or flying nothing at all, Donovan students displayed the national spirit that Prime Minister Pearson hoped this new symbol would bring about.

Students at Donovan Collegiate raising their handmade flag, from the Oshawa Times, February 16, 1965
Students at Donovan Collegiate raising their handmade flag, from the Oshawa Times, February 16, 1965

As our flag turns fifty years young, it has given Canadians a chance to reflect on our country and what being Canadian means and represents.  The Maple Leaf is symbolic of so many things, including our history and heritage. Happy birthday National Flag!

Within my heart, above my home,
The Maple Leaf forever!