Where the Streets Get Their Names – Ritson Road

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Earlier in this blog series, we looked at the history of Adelaide Avenue, named after a fairly important woman in Oshawa’s history.  Compared to other roads named for citizens, Adelaide McLaughlin could be considered a fairly ‘modern’ woman, as many roads bear the names of early pioneers.  One such road is Ritson Road.

Ritson Road runs through what was once the farm of John & Mary Ritson.

Detail of the Village of Oshawa, from Ontario County Atlas, 1877 - property of William Ritson is circled
Detail of the Village of Oshawa, from Ontario County Atlas, 1877 – property of William Ritson is circled

Mary Catherine Stone was born on September 18, 1803, the eldest daughter of Benjamin Stone and Catherine Kendall. They lived in Massachusetts, but moved to Canada shortly after their marriage in 1802. They settled in the township of Ascott, in what is now Quebec, which is where Mary was born. Benjamin purchased a large farm, but a cold season destroyed his crops. In 1807, he and his family came to East Whitby, what is now the eastern part of Oshawa. He bought 400 acres of land, and eventually built a school house.

Mary (Stone) Ritson, from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
Mary (Stone) Ritson, from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

The first teacher at the school was John Ritson. He was born in Allendale, Northumberland, England, in March of 1790. He arrived in Oshawa in 1820, from Ottawa, where he had been refused payment for work he had done. He refused to accept land in lieu of cash, but eventually accepted a horse, wagon, harness, and one hundred dollars. He was travelling when his wagon broke down at Benjamin Stone’s, on Kingston Road. He decided to stay in Oshawa when he heard of the need for teachers, and so became Oshawa’s first school teacher.

John Ritson, from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
John Ritson, from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

John married Mary Stone on December 29, 1822. John purchased land in Concession One, where present day Ritson Road is located. John and Mary had seven children, six daughters and one son.

Those familiar with Oshawa streets may be looking at Mary’s maiden name and wondering if she has any connection to Stone Street, found by the Lake in South Oshawa. Mary is the daughter of an early settler, Benjamin Store, who appeared to settle on Lots 7 & 8, Concession 2; Benjamin’s only son Marshall moved back to the United States. The land around current Stone Street was owned and farmed by William R. Stone, and there does not appear to be a relation between these Stone families.

Student Museum Musings – Carey’s Favourite Artifact

By Carey, Archives Assistant Student

When I think about the collection here at the Community Museum, I think about quite a few pieces off the top of my head. The clothing that was worn, the bedding that was made and even the pictures that were taken. The item that always holds my attention, however, would have to be the Spirit Photograph that was sent to Thomas Henry by his son Ebenezer Henry.

EE (Eben) Henry, 1828-1917; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
EE (Eben) Henry, 1828-1917; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

Photography changes and evolves all the time, and it was no different back in the 1800s. Wet plating was one of the first ways to produce pictures in the 1850s and continued for nearly a decade before it was replaced by a process that involved silver-plated copper, mercury vapor and many other steps as well as different types of plating. Near the 1880s, when the spirit photograph currently owned by the museum was created, this had been largely replaced by the use of gelatin dry plates.

The fact that these pictures were taken on these plates is key to knowing where many spirit photographs originated and how many of them were created. These plates had to be cleaned between each use so the previous picture would be removed from them before they could be used again. The improper cleaning of these plates could easily result in a figure, or ‘spirit’ appearing in the photograph that is taken with the plate. This, however, is just one of the ways that a ‘spirit’ could appear in photographs of that time.

A013.4.449, 'Spirit Photograph' taken by EE Henry
A013.4.449, ‘Spirit Photograph’ taken by EE Henry

The photograph available at the museum shows a fairly obvious man sitting behind two other figures within the image. By the position of the man he seems as if he would be sitting behind the two and higher up, or perhaps even floating in the air. He is somewhat transparent and it looks as though his torso below the top of his chest fades out of sight and does not exist afterward. Because this picture was taken by Ebenezer himself, he seems excited and highly interested in how these come to be and shares this with his father in hopes that he will share his passion.

A013.4.37, page one of a letter from Thomas Henry to his son Eben about the spirit photograph
A013.4.37, page one of a letter from Thomas Henry to his son Eben about the spirit photograph

Thomas, however, does not share his enthusiasm for the picture and tells his son quite plainly what he believes. He sees the picture as something of the Devil and that it is connected to ‘falling away from God, and disbelieving his word.’ He continues on and mentions several different sections of the Bible which speak against the idea of spirits (or ‘familiars’ as they are called) and what has happened to those who have put faith in such things. When he receives pamphlets containing more information, again sent by his son in regards to the photograph, he proceeds to take them apart and ‘disprove’ them by citing more scripture.

Personally, I have always had an interest in these sort of items. Ones linked to the paranormal have always caught my attention and something like this is absolutely no exception. It may even be more interesting to me because of the time period in which it was taken. Spirit Photographs were being heavily disproven in this time frame and to see someone who has taken one without knowing how or what could have caused it, and their genuine reaction of interest and intrigue, is refreshing to see.

It’s the history behind this item, the story that comes from it, and the general idea of it being such a novelty to someone when the use of Spirit Photography had been around for some time, since the 1860s according to several sources. Still, this picture was a first for Ebenezer, and possibly a last considering the reaction he received from his father.

All of this, coupled with the idea of the paranormal as well as the quality of the image itself, helps cement this item as being my favorite in the collection.

Student Museum Musings – Nadia

By Nadia, Social Media Assistant Co-op Student

My co-op at the Oshawa Community Museum was bounded. Due to the Durham District School Board strike (April 20th – May 26th) I lost five weeks of work time. Despite the shortened length, I will always remember my time here. I developed so many new skills and learned the historical significance of Oshawa. My favourite project I had throughout the semester was the “Flashback Photo” assignment. I had to integrate an old and new photo together. It took me awhile to become comfortable with the Photoshop software, but I loved showing off my final images!

One of Nadia's Flashback Photos - Lakeview Park of the 1930s meets Lakeview Park of 2015!
One of Nadia’s Flashback Photos – Lakeview Park of the 1930s meets Lakeview Park of 2015!

This museum is the best place in Oshawa to learn about its history. I worked with a film scanner to search through Oshawa’s newspapers from the 1920s and 1940s. It was one of the most fascinating experiences I had with at my placement. In my history class, we learned about the extremes of the 1920s and World War II, but I was never taught about it though primary documents. I had the chance to read about an event that occurred one hundred years ago as if I was present at that time. This is just one example of how much I appreciate my time at the Oshawa Community Museum.

Nadia in the Henry House Study
Nadia in the Henry House Study

In my first journal response, I wrote, “From my co-operative experience, I hope to discover if a career in media or journalism is the right path for me,” and I can now happily say that this is exactly what I want to do. I have to thank the Oshawa Community Museum for guiding me into my prospective career in media and for becoming the roots of my future success, I am very grateful – thank you.

Many, MANY thanks to Nadia for your hard work, creativity and dedication over your semester! You have been such a great complement to our staff, and we were so happy to have you here!  All the best with your future studies.

The Oshawa House

The Oshawa House was an inn and tavern located on the northwest corner of King and Centre Streets.  The building remains on this site today.

File209 copy
The Oshawa House, from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

The Oshawa House was constructed sometime around 1838 in the Italianate architectural style.  The inn, which had been described in 1844 as the best tavern between Toronto and Kingston, was a multi-purpose facility.   A large meeting hall was located on the second floor of the two-story section, just off Centre Street.  This hall served as the meeting place many local groups, as well as a place for public speaking events.  The entrance to the tavern was located at the corner of the building, just off Centre Street.   This entrance has since been filled in.  The entrance to the hotel was located off of King Street, where the entrance to the upper apartments and the businesses is located today.

According to the book Oshawa: The Manchester of Canada, published in 1898, the Oshawa House hotel had 40 well-furnished bedrooms as well as being lighted throughout with electricity.  At this time, the rate for a room was $1.00 but a special rate could be arranged by the week.

Oshawa House with Bishop Bethune Girls, From the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
Oshawa House with Bishop Bethune Girls, From the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

From 1838 until 1850, Richard Woon, the gentleman reported to have built the inn, served as hotelkeeper.  Woon, a native of Cornwall England, settled in Oshawa in 1834 and became a successful merchant.   In 1853, John McElron took over as hotelkeeper although he was never owner of the Oshawa House.   When Mr. A. Lockhart acquired ownership of the property in 1858, McElroy continued on as hotelkeeper.  Throughout the 1870s and 80s John Hobbs acted as proprietor of the Oshawa House.

By the 1920s the hotel gradually declined and the Oshawa House as converted to apartments with stores on the street level.   Today, the Oshawa House continues to serve a variety of tenants.  In August of 2006, the second story, where the hall once was, was removed.

Oshawa House as it stands today; photo taken by Oshawa Museum Youth (OMY) Volunteers
Oshawa House as it stands today; photo taken by Oshawa Museum Youth (OMY) Volunteers

For more about Oshawa’s Downtown Heritage, please join us Sunday, June 7, at 2pm for our Historical Downtown Walking Tour! Departs from McLaughlin Library Branch.

The Month That Was – June 1949

Bonus for G.M. Officers, Employees
June 1st, 1949

Detroit, June 1-(AP)-The Detroit Free Press says today General Motors Corporation has asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to approve a $20,000,000 bonus for certain groups of officers and employees.

In a Washington dispatch, the newspaper reports the bonus will be paid partly in stock, with a market value of $55 a share, and partly in five annual cash payments. The bonus is for 1948. In that year General Motors did $4, 738, 000,000 in gross volume of business and had net income of $440,447,000.


Hey Fellahs!
They’ve found
New Type Fish
June 1st, 1949

A fisherman on the Saddle River here pulled in something out of this world last night.

The beast is about 16 inches long, vaguely resembles an eel, and has a tow of port holes on each side, like a new automobile.

It has a hole on top of its head, too, and spouts water. The mouth is vertical, shaped like a buttonhole, and opens like the pages of a book, to each side.

To prove his fish story, Navy veteran Robert Durrenberger has the things contentedly and phlegmatically swimming around in a tub of water at home.

Local salt and fresh water fishing experts examined the “eel” and declared it genuine, if heretofore unknown to them. Attempts to reach an expert as New York Bronx Zoo were unsuccessful. A perusal of all available books on fishing failed to turn up anything remotely resembling the reptile.

From the Canadian Statesman, June 2, 1949, page 14
From the Canadian Statesman, June 2, 1949, page 14

What Council Did
June 4th, 1949

Decided to refer to the Town Planning Commission the possibility of converting the present zoning status of Park Road South from residential to semi-commercial in view of the fact that the street is an important outlet for Highway 2A.


Heavy Frost Damage to Ont. Crops
June 8th, 1949

Heavy Frost Damage was reported in many parts of Western Ontario today, following the coldest night of the season, adding to the drought worries of thousands of farmers.

There was considerable damage to vegetable and cash crops in the London area, where the mercury dropped to 31.7 degrees, but heaviest hit appeared to be Bruce peninsula where temperatures as low as 23 degrees were recorded.

From the Canadian Statesman, June 9, 1949, page 8.
From the Canadian Statesman, June 9, 1949, page 8.

Dog Thieves Operating in Oshawa
June 13th, 1949

Dog thieves are operating in Oshawa. Lloyd Fowler, Humane Society Inspector, reported today two pets were stolen from the Ritson Road South dog pound over the week-end. The thieves cut wires around the pound to free the pets. Both small dogs, one was a cocker spaniel and the other a collie.


Rotary Work for Crippled Children has Done Wonders
June 13th, 1949

Down through the years the Oshawa Rotary Club has gained recognition throughout the length and breadth of the community for the great humanitarian work it has carried on among the underprivileged not only in Oshawa but in the surrounding districts.

From the Canadian Statesman, June 30, 1949, page 4
From the Canadian Statesman, June 30, 1949, page 4

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