What was our community like 150 years ago?
In 1867, the people of Canada were participating in the growth of a new country. They were concerned with the Confederation Bill, Fenian Raids, as well as George Brown representing reform. Oshawa was still a village in 1867, and the people in it had a strong interest in the politics and events which happened outside of the community as evidenced by the news stories found in the Oshawa Vindicator. The newspaper always reported what was happening within the community so that everyone could remain informed about upcoming and past events or notes of interest.
Many of the villagers of Oshawa played an active role in the January 7th council election in the community. During Election Day there were a number of close calls for electors who were voting for either S.B. Fairbanks or W.D. Michael, the two candidates for the Reeveship. A number of electors had to climb over fences and through windows in order to cast their votes for either candidate before the polling booth closed and votes were counted. Silas Fairbanks won his campaign for Reeve with 175 votes while W.D. Michael became Deputy Reeve with 172 votes. E.B. Wilcox, J.W. Fowke and D.F Burk were elected as councillors. D.F. Burk withdrew after being elected and Mr. Wall took his place.
Within the community, people were close knit and participated in numerous socials and activities that were planned by various groups and organizations. For instance, the Mechanics Cornet Band secured the services of an instructor and leader and then canvassed the village for funds and encouraged honorary members to join for 30 cents per month. The money would help pay for music, uniforms and instruments. Not only did the Mechanic Cornet Band begin in 1867, but the Young Men’s Christian Association was also started. A meeting was called for September 6th, for young men of Protestant denomination to get together for the purpose of organizing the new YMCA in Oshawa. On one occasion there were so many people at the social held at Mr. Pake’s home that the floor gave way. Luckily a cellar did not exist below the floor so that it only dropped by a foot. There were few injuries. On other occasions there were musical evenings planned. One such evening was held at the Son’s Hall where solos, duets and quartets were performed. Vocal and instrumental demonstrations were also performed by Oshawa’s best amateurs. The highlight of that particular evening was an account of his life given by P. Benson Sr. through the use of illustrated panoramic views. It must also be noted that throughout the numerous socials and other events held in Oshawa, the 34th Battalion and the volunteer militia were constantly kept ready for active service against the threat of an attack by Fenians.
On August 15, 1867 citizens were able to participate in the excursion of the season. A boat ride aboard the Corinthian which started in Colborne, picked up passengers in Oshawa at 7:15 a.m., and arrived in Niagara Town at 10:00 a.m. At this stop the passengers boarded a train to take them to Niagara Falls. Passengers then had a number of hours to pursue the many entertainments available at the Falls. At 4:15 p.m. they reboarded the train and were steaming towards Charlotte by 5:00 p.m. They arrived in Charlotte at 10:00 p.m. and eventually arrived back in Whitby by 5:00 a.m. This trip was advertised as a moonlight sail on Lake Ontario. Single tickets were $1.50 and double tickets were $2.50.
Joseph Hall Works, Archival Collection of the Oshawa Museum (A987.25.3)
Oshawa also became renown through the industriousness of members of its manufacturing community. W.H. Pellow and A.M. Walton, who opened a general hardware business in 1867, also manufactured a cheese vat which won a special prize at the Provincial Exhibition. The Joseph Hall Works manufactured the Gordon Printing Press, which by the end of 1867 was winning admirers from various community printers outside of Oshawa. As part of the early closing movement merchants entered into an agreement to close places of business at 7:00 p.m. throughout the year except in June, July and August when the businesses would remain open until 7:30 p.m.
There were a few fires and other accidents in the village. In December slight tremors were felt from an earthquake that affected the eastern portion of the Dominion and New York. There was a heavy snow storm at the end of April as well as a lightning storm which destroyed the chimney, stove and some windows in the home of John Sykes. Mr. Atkinson, the druggist, reported the temperatures everyday from outside his store. On Saturday August 18, it was 88 degrees Fahrenheit.
Simcoe Street Methodist (United) Church, from the Archival Collection of the Oshawa Museum
New businesses such as the general hardware business of W.H. Pellow and A.M. Walton opened. Buildings such as the new Methodist Church, on Simcoe Street, were built to accommodate the growing population of Oshawa, which in 1867 was 3 500.
Dominion Day in 1867 was a relatively quiet affair in Oshawa, even though it had been designated as a celebration of Confederation for the country. The day started with the firing of guns and ringing of bells and many houses flew flags. A picnic was held later in the day at Cedar Dale for those people of the community who did not go elsewhere to places such as the town of Whitby to celebrate.
Above taken from Historical Oshawa Information Sheet
The Oshawa Vindicator, January 2, 1867. Vol. XII, No. 18 to December 25, 1867. Vol. XIII, No. 17.