Where The Streets Get Their Names – Fairbanks Street

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

In less than one month, our 2016 feature exhibition will open.  We’re excited to host Freemasonry: A History Hidden in Plain Sight, travelling from Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre, and with all exhibits, we supplement with local content, so Oshawa’s Masonic history will be featured! In advance of the exhibit opening, I thought sharing the story of Fairbanks Street would be a nice complement!

Detail of Fairbanks Street, from 1921 Fire Insurance Map

Who was Fairbanks?

Silas Fairbanks was born in York (now Toronto) on January 1st, 1821, the eldest son of Levi Fairbanks. He attended Upper Canada College (then located at King and Simcoe Streets) and later studied law under Mr. John Bell. On January 26, 1850, he was elected to the council at the first meeting held by the Village of Oshawa. He remained a member of the council until 1856 when he was elected Reeve of Oshawa.

In 1851 he married Hannah Arkland, daughter of Charles Arkland, and together they had two daughters and a son.

Silas Fairbanks

In 1857, he was elected a Grammar School Trustee and served in that capacity until 1871. It was during this time that his parish church (St. George’s) moved to the corner of Centre and John Streets. Fairbanks was a great influence in this move and was also one of the founders of the Sunday School at St. George’s.

Silas Fairbanks was a Freemason. He was initiated into St. John’s Lodge #75 (Toronto) on June 6th, 1859, passed July 11, 1859 and raised August 8, 1859. On July 20, 1860, dispensation was received for Lebanon Lodge, and Silas Fairbanks was named its first Worshipful Master U.D. In 1861, Lebanon Lodge #139 received its warrant of Constitution with Silas B. Fairbanks as Worshipful Master. In the following year (1862) he was re-elected Reeve of Oshawa. In 1864 he was installed as Worshipful Master for third term and the Lodge recorded its first initiation, Mr. Patrick Duffy.

In 1866 he was appointed to command the 34th Provisional Battalion when it was formed, a command he held until his death. This was also the year that Silas Fairbanks and William McCabe, both members of Lebanon formed Pentalpha Chapter Lodge.

Silas Fairbank’s tunic, on display at the Ontario Regiment Museum

Fairbanks received his appointment to Grand Lodge in 1866 and on Feb. 12, 1867 he was presented with his Grand Lodge Regalia in Lebanon Lodge. Early in 1871, Silas presented Lebanon Lodge with its Secretary’s desk.

Silas died on August 15, 1871, at the age of 50. The Town of Oshawa closed down for the day of his funeral; recorded as the largest ever held in the Town.  The Ontario Reformer reported on his funeral:

Friday afternoon last will long be remembered by the citizens of Oshawa, and the date of the most imposing funeral that has ever taken place in Oshawa – that of the late Lt. Col. SB Fairbanks.  The village wore a mournful look – business suspended, shops closed… and the streets lined with a mass of sad spectators.  The funeral procession was formed… in the following order: No 1 company of volunteers, battalion band, No 2 company, two lodges of Odd Fellows, representatives from various lodges of Free Masons, the horse, drawn by four black horses led by volunteers… then followed by members of parliament, village and county councillors and a long procession of mourners and sympathizers.

Fairbanks’s tombstone in St. Georges Cemetery

It is interesting to note that Fairbanks, a man of importance in the Masonic history of Oshawa, does not have any symbolism on his tomb.  This is likely because Freemasonry was regarded as a secret society, and it wasn’t until years later that Masonic symbols were used with frequency on gravestones.

Fairbanks Street
Fairbanks Street

Fairbanks is a fairly established street in our City; one of the earliest maps we have is from 1877, and Fairbanks is seen, an east-west street between Simcoe and Centre.  Today, the street extends slightly west of Centre, and it is the street that connects southbound Centre and northbound Simcoe, where the one-way streets join up again to become two-way.


Freemasonry: A History Hidden in Plain Sight will be on display at the Oshawa Museum from May to September 2016.

Freemasonry Poster

National Volunteer Week: The Roots of our Community

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement & Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

April 11-15 is National Volunteer Week, and during this week, the Oshawa Museum celebrates Canada’s 12.7 million volunteers!

Our volunteers, their thoughtfulness, generosity, kindness towards staff, visitors and respect for their volunteer positions knows no bounds. This year volunteers have tended to the gardens around Henry House and Guy House, helped with collections and archival management, delivered tours and assisted with programs and special events, and so much more.  In addition, we are thankful for the support from co-op students and interns who become a wonderful complement to the staff.

Our high school volunteers are part of a group known as OMY: The Oshawa Museum Youth.  In 2015, the OMY Volunteers helped with our special events and with our Four Corners: One Story project.  What is Four Corners: One Story? Oshawa’s downtown is full of history, and this project helped to raise awareness of it.  In early Spring, OMY volunteers toured through Oshawa’s Downtown, learning about the history with Oshawa Museum staff guiding them.  Volunteers went back to the Museum, found historic photos, and on a further tour, we tried to recreate those photos today.  Five buildings were chosen, a co-op student designed the template, and over the summer, five posters were created with historic information, photos, and current images.  These posters are not only on display at the Museum, but also at Oshawa City facilities, and around Downtown Oshawa.

Throughout 2015 staff at the Museum have worked with 45 youth and adult volunteers who volunteered 886 hours, and our 11 students contributed 743 hours!   We can’t do what we do without the support and enthusiasm from our volunteers. Thank you.

Vol for Insta

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at the Oshawa Museum, please visit our website, or call 905-436-7624 x 106.


Archives Awareness Week 2016

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

Did you know that the first week of April is Archives Awareness Week in Ontario?  It’s true.  In 2005 Bill 34 was passed by the Ontario Legislature proclaiming the celebration of archives throughout Ontario.

The wording of the bill states that “Ontario has a rich and colourful recorded history. Archives play an essential role in the preservation and use of that history. By acquiring, preserving and making available documentary materials from all aspects of society, archives promote the heritage of Ontario and safeguard the collective memory and rights of its citizens.” Archives preserve the historical record of our communities and help to share that history.

The Oshawa Archives
The Oshawa Archives

Within our archival collection we have land deeds that date back to 1815, maps that show how Oshawa has changed and photographs that have documented that change.  We have minute books from the local Sons of Temperance group that highlight a fascinating time in North American history.  There are newspapers that date back to before Canada was a country and provide us with such a unique look at Oshawa during that time.

Here at the Oshawa Museum, we not only collect the history of our community but we work to share it through a variety of mediums.  One of the most popular ways to share what we have in our holdings is through the creation of online exhibits.  These exhibits allow us to examine items in a manner similar to museum exhibits but we can reach a global audience.  This format also allows us to exhibit items that are perhaps too fragile to be out on display in the museum.  For example, we have our Letters from the Trenches exhibit that examines World War I using the letters of an Oshawa soldier.  The online exhibit allows us to showcase these fragile letters without concern for their preservation as it a digital format.

We also head out into the public to share the history of our items and our community.  In fact, I was on Talk Durham on Thursday, April 7th to talk about some of the fascinating items in the archival collection.  I was joined by members of the Durham Region Area Archives as we celebrate local archives in throughout our Region.

This article was written for, and first appeared in the Oshawa Express.

Student Museum Musings – Nicole

Hello my name is Nicole. I am doing my placement here at the museum and love it. I was here once before and loved it so I decided to come back. I get so see all these amazing old photographs and it tells me the history of Oshawa, in a fun and interesting way. I get to work with these photos a lot because there are so many and they are fantastic.

There is one of a house that was donated to the fire department and is on fire so that the firefighters could practice putting out fires. The image is black and white, so the house is black and the flames coming out are white, it looks amazing. The photos are amazing!!!



The Month That Was – April 1929

Thousands dying from starvation
April 1st, 1929

London, Apr.1. – The “Daily Express”, in a dispatch from Nairobi, Kenya today described “terrible famine conditions” in the Ruando district of the eigian Congo. The account was credited to Dr. J.E. Church, British Missionary working there.

Owing to the successive failure of crops during two or three rainy seasons, the backward state of communication thousands are dead and lying of starvation, according to the minister.


Astride Saddle Ridding Banned
April 2, 1929

London April 2 –Women horse riders are forsaking the modern astride seat for the old-fashioned side saddle. The return of the old fashioned is encouraged actively by prominent organizers of horse fairs. The authorities of the Richmond Royal Horse Show, one of the most popular events of the kind in the kingdom, have ruled that for the meeting in June women must not ride astride at the parades or in the classes of hunters and hacks.

Canadian Statesman, April 4, 1929, page 4
Canadian Statesman, April 4, 1929, page 4

Life Insurance Agents of Oshawa Form Association
April 3, 1929

At a meeting of life insurance agents of the city in the Y.M.C.A. yesterday afternoon, it was decided to form a local branch of the Life Underwriters Association. Officers were elected as follows:

President, W. O. Bennett, of the Prudential Life; executive committee, Alex Ross of the Sun Life, E. L Whitely of Canada Life, and H. J McComb, Metropolitan Life.

The objects of the association are to promote the mutual interests of the local insurance men and to keep the profession on the highest plane. Meetings will be held monthly.


Oshawa is Still Isolated by Rail
April 8, 1929

The total suspension of railway traffic that has existed in Oshawa since midnight on Friday night, and which still exists, may be lifted to some extent late this afternoon or tonight, it was expected by Canadian officials at noon today. Canadian Pacific agents here saw no hope of having trains run on the C.P.R. line in and out of Oshawa before some time tomorrow.


New “Sea Flea” Lauched (sic) Here
Whitby Gazette & Chronicle
April 11, 1929

The “Speed-boy,” new sea flea being manufactured in Oshawa by the Williams Piano Co., was officially launched in Whitby harbor Saturday afternoon.  A large crowd, including a number from Whitby, had gathered on the dock to witness the ceremony and cheer the little vessel as it dipped into the waters of Lake Ontario.

Mrs. D.B. Carlyle, wife of the vice-president of the company, performed the ceremony and broke a bottle of ginger ale over the prow of the boat.  A minute later the “Speed Boy” was resting on the calm bosom of the harbor, prepared to compete against all corners in the matter of aquatic speed.  The only untoward incident was the upsetting of one of the “Fleas” when a young man and his lady were thrown in the water.  Neither, however,  were any the worse of their experience.

Fair weather favored the launching of the boat and the harbor presented a gala appearance with men, women and children lining its piers.  Some adventurous youths even climbed to the roof of the coal shed in order to get grandstand seats.  Mayor T.B. Mitchell, of Oshawa, was present for the occasion and in a few brief remarks he referred to the manufacture of sea-fleas as a new departure for Oshawa industry.  He was certain that a bright future lay before this business and only regretted that because Oshawa was without a harbor the launching had to be performed in Whitby.  He hoped, however, that Oshawa would presently have its own harbor.

Canadian Statesman, April 18, 1929, page 4
Canadian Statesman, April 18, 1929, page 4
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