Student Museum Musings -Transcription Tales

By Adam A., Archives Assistant Student

Hello once more! It has been a little over a month since my last blog post, and I am now overdue to provide an update on my efforts. At this time I am a little over three thousand words into a new transcription project. As my previous transcription project concluded just shy of forty thousand words in length, I am certain that I still have a lot ahead of me.

File545 - Ward Pankhurst

Ward Pankhurst

This time I’m not transcribing a newspaper or any other print medium, rather the subject of my work is a tape recording from 1972. This recording, an interview of Mr. Wardie Pankhurst, has presented some obstacles that have considerably slowed down the project. For one the audio quality of the old tape necessitates multiple hearings of each sentence. Another problem in the nature of the interview, Mr. Pankhurst and the interviewer have the unfortunate habit of talking at the same time meaning that portions of the recording are completely indecipherable.

To expedite the project we have acquired a new devise which reads the tape and produces an MP3 file of it. This will make it easier to move back and forth to rehear segments. Additionally it seems to have also improved the audio quality in some way which will mean that fewer sections will have to be gone over more than once.

Regardless, there is still much to learn from Mr. Pankhurst’s reminisces about his life in Cedar Dale (now part of South Oshawa). As he was born in 1888 and has lived in the area his entire life he has many fascinating stories about Oshawa. Presently I am transcribing his account of the disappearance of the artificial pond he used to swim in. Previously I transcribed his descriptions of his work at the Malleable Iron Company and its role producing parts for Ford. Additionally I learned of the cost to attend high school in the 1890s (a dollar), and that Oshawa was home to a news reporter who had travelled around the globe no less than four times.

File2405-A996.1.7

Ontario Malleable Iron, c. 1929

I greatly look forward to discovering more of the tape’s knowledge and seeing what the remainder of my time working here this summer will yield.

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Ways the Oshawa Museum is Changing the Narrative

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

There is a saying that “history is written by the victor” and this is certainly true when it comes to Canadian history.  So much of our history, on a local, provincial and national level, is written from the perspective of European colonial settlers. This narrow focus has greatly impacted how museum and archival collections have been developed and has created an historical narrative that is not entirely accurate.

Throughout Canada, museums and archives are working to find ways to move beyond the colonial settler focus of our collections and develop collections that more accurately showcase our history.  The Oshawa Museum is working to fill the gaps in our historical narrative, to include more voices and become more inclusive by telling the untold and under researched stories of our community.  In Oshawa, our local history tends to be told through a lens of focusing on the impact of the wealthy industrialists and the companies they ran.  This is certainly an important part of our local history, but it is a very narrow focus and leaves out so many other fascinating stories.

One of the ways we are changing the historical narrative is through our research into early Black history in Oshawa.  Oshawa has had a small Black population since at least 1850, and that population has continued to grow and flourish.  The research has focused on the experiences of one family, the Andrews/Dunbar/Pankhurst family, and examines how their experiences fit into the larger context of the history of Black Canadians.  Research like this widen the lens through which we look at our history and works to tell a local history that better reflects what the community actually looked like in the past.

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Black History Month Display at Hot Roots Festival Launch, 2016

Throughout the month of February, the Museum has been celebrating Black History Month by reaching out to the community to talk about our research.  In fact, over the past month, we have spoken to over 400 members of our community about this research.  It has been truly rewarding to share this research with so many people and help bring focus to the rich and diverse history of Oshawa.

The Importance of Continued Research

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

For a number of years, I have been undertaking research into early Black history in the Oshawa area. This inquiry is part of a larger shift in our focus here at the Oshawa Museum.

Prior to 2011, there had been minimal research into the history of the Black population in Oshawa. Some initial work had been done examining census information but that was the extent. When we were approached to take part in Trent University’s inaugural Black History event, we realized how little time had been dedicated to this area of Oshawa’s history. The invitation to the event spurred a new project that helps to tell the history of a local family from the 1790s to today. It also helps to tell a more inclusive and, more importantly, a more accurate history of early Oshawa settlers.

1851 Wealthy Census p2.jpg

Portion of 1851 Census of Canada West; lines 40-43 are for Wealthy Andrews and her three children. The enumerator has marked the column for ‘Colored person – Negroes.’  Wealthy and her family were one of two Black families living in East Whitby Township in the 1850s.

This project signaled a shift in where we focus our research, to help fill the gap in our knowledge of our community. A great deal of research has been conducted on the many industries and industrialists who helped shape Oshawa; what was missing was looking into those who worked for the industrialists, those whose labour made the factories so successful, and telling their stories. It is the experiences of the “everyday person” who help to truly understand what the community looked like in the past and how it has evolved today. Currently, we are working to tell the history of women, those who arrived in Oshawa as Displaced Persons post WWII, the Indigenous population who called this area home long before European settlers arrived and those whose names may not be recognizable but who helped shape our community.

PicMonkey Collage

l-r: Albert GD Pankhurst (1885 – 1977), Ward D Pankhurst (1888 – 1978), and Greta Pankhurst (1895 – 1983). They were the great-grandchildren of Wealthy Andrews

I presented a paper on the research into early Black history at the Canadian Historical Association’s annual conference at the end of May. The paper discussed how shifting our research focus not only helps to tell a more accurate history of the community but helps to make the past more relatable the current Oshawa residents, strengthening the sense of community and spurring interest in our past with those who may not have been interested previously.


For more information on the Andrews/Dunbar/Pankhurst family, please read our three part series from Black History Month 2014

Oshawa’s Black History: One Family’s Story, Part 1

Oshawa’s Black History: One Family’s Story, Part II

Oshawa’s Black History: One Family’s Story, Part III

Oshawa’s Black History: One Family’s Story, Part III

By Lisa Terech, Youth Engagement / Programs

Welcome back to the third chapter in the story of Oshawa’s Dunbar family.  Last week, I talked about George and Mary Dunbar and their children.  Their eldest daughter, Margaret, was their only child to live to old age.  Today, I would like to share Margaret’s story, as written by her grandson, RB Pankhurst in 1991.  He was researching his origins in Oshawa, and summarized his findings in a narrative which he shared with the Oshawa Community Archives.

 

“George Dunbar, barrel maker, moved from Lower Canada to work at the flour mill located just south of Oshawa and met and married Mary A. Andrews.  The union was to produce 5 children… the oldest being Margaret Serene, born in 1856.  Only Maggie will live to old age…

In 1881, young Henry Pankhurst worked for Tom Conant as a farm laborer, just four doors down the street from Margaret Dunbar’s house.  The proximity offered the opportunity for the two to meet, become acquainted, fall in love and marry.  The marriage met with the deep disapproval of the Pankhurst parents which would result in a permanent rift between son and parents and the animosity of the bride which would last throughout her life.  that branch of the family would not have communication with the remainder for a least two generations…  

'Family Homestead' on Cedar Street, in Oshawa.  This house is still standing today.

‘Family Homestead’ on Cedar Street, in Oshawa. This house is still standing today.

[Henry and Margaret had three children].  The first born, Albert George Dunbar Pankhurst, left the homestead in Cedar Dale heading west.  When World War I erupted he joined the 28th Canadian Infantry Battalion in Winnipeg, was decorated for bravery in action, was captured, escaped and was finally demobilized.  He returned to Cedar Dale, met and married Martha Wiggins in 1920.  His siblings remained unwed and lived to their late 80s in the homestead in which they were born.  Ward Pankhurst was sought after by the local townspeople for his sage advice on all things.  Greta Pankhurst was as genteel, quietly effective lady who supplemented his worldly knowledge with her understanding of the local events and her reliable memory of events.”

l-r: Albert GD Pankhurst (1885 – 1977), Ward D Pankhurst (1888 – 1978), and Greta Pankhurst (1895 – 1983)

l-r: Albert GD Pankhurst (1885 – 1977), Ward D Pankhurst (1888 – 1978), and Greta Pankhurst (1895 – 1983)

As earlier stated, the story of the Andrews/Dunbar/Pankhurst family is one that is important to us, and we are always interested in learning more about this family.  We’ve made research connections in Quebec and in the US for this family, and we are always adding to what we know.  If you have any questions or have information to add about this family, please leave a comment, or email membership@oshawamuseum.org.  We also have an outreach presentation about this family, and we are always happy to tell their story, simply contact the Oshawa Community Museum.

Oshawa’s Black History: One Family’s Story, Part II

By Lisa Terech, Youth Engagement / Programs

Last week, we introduced you to the Dunbar family, its matriarch Wealthy Ann, and provided a little background into why we started researching this particular family.  We continue the story, looking particularly at her daughter, Mary Augusta.

Mary Augusta Dunbar (nee Andrews), 1835-1887

Mary Augusta Dunbar (nee Andrews), 1835-1887

By the time the 1852 Census of Canada West was taken, Wealthy Ann Andrews had just become widowed, her husband Peter dying in 1851.  Wealthy is recorded as living with her daughter Mary, son Freeman, and granddaughter Frances.  Daughters Sarah and Elizabeth are recorded as living with other families, likely in their employment.  All members of Wealthy’s family have been recorded as ‘coloured.’  They comprise 6 of the 17 Black persons living in East Whitby Township, as per the census.

Portion of marriage license between George Dunbar and Mary Andrews

Portion of marriage license between George Dunbar and Mary Andrews

It was a wonderful surprise in 2013 when an archival donation of Thomas Henry papers contained a marriage certificate of one Mary Augusta Andrews to Samuel George Dunbar.  The marriage was witnessed by Wealthy and by Thomas Henry himself!  One lingering question we have of the marriage is whether or not it was inter-racial?  It is very likely that George is of Scottish descent, but we can only confirm three records about him: his marriage license, the 1861 Census, and his headstone in the Port Oshawa Pioneer Cemetery.  It is interesting that Mary Augusta married a man with the same surname as her mother’s maiden name; for now, we simply chalk it up to a coincidence.

George arrived in Upper Canada (Ontario) sometime between 1851 and 1855, and on December 10, 1855 he married Mary A. Andrews.  They had five children together: Margaret, Marquis de Lafayette (known as Lafayette), Albert, and twins Jennie and Marietta.  Only Margaret lived to old age; her story will play out in next week’s post.

MD Lafayette Dunbar, 1858 – 1886, left, and Albert Dunbar, 1861 – 1881, right

MD Lafayette Dunbar, 1858 – 1886, left, and Albert Dunbar, 1861 – 1881, right

Family history states that George was a barrel maker when he lived in Lower Canada and he moved to Cedar Dale to work at Alexander Small’s grist and flour mill. Sons Lafayette and Albert were later photographed as employees of the Cedar Dale Works.  Lafayette was not only a labourer in Oshawa, but before he died was a landowner and a lawyer.

Tracing the family through the Censuses proved to be an interesting exercise.  Due to poor quality of the 1861 Census, it is unclear what the family listed their background as, however, we do not believe they were recorded in the ‘Colored Persons, Mulatto or Indian’ column which appeared on the census.  In 1871, after the death of George in 1866, the census notes that the family is of African origin.  The 1881 census states that Mary is English and the children, much like their father George, are Scottish.  What is the reason for the discrepancy in background, we cannot say for certain.

George, Mary, Lafayette, Albert and Jennie all lie in the Port Oshawa Pioneer Cemetery, one headstone commemorating their grave.  Marietta is buried along with her son, Alfred.  Wealthy and her daughter Elizabeth are also laid to rest in the cemetery, although they do not have a marker.

Dunbar headstone Side 1: M.D. Lafayette / Dunbar / died June 3 / 1886 / aged 28 years 3 mo’s 23 days / Mary A. / wife of George Dunbar / died Oct. 31, 1887 / aged 52 years / 4 months / & 24 days / Side 2: S.G. Dunbar / died May 30, 1866 / aged 35 years 7 mo / Dunbar / Side 3: Albert E. Dunbar / died Nov’r 8 / 1881 / aged 20 years / 9 mo’s 23 days / Side 4: Jennie E. Dunbar / died / April 27 1880 / aged 15 years 9 days

Dunbar headstone
Side 1: M.D. Lafayette / Dunbar / died June 3 / 1886 / aged 28 years 3 mo’s 23 days / Mary A. / wife of George Dunbar / died Oct. 31, 1887 / aged 52 years / 4 months / & 24 days / Side 2: S.G. Dunbar / died May 30, 1866 / aged 35 years 7 mo / Dunbar / Side 3: Albert E. Dunbar / died Nov’r 8 / 1881 / aged 20 years / 9 mo’s 23 days / Side 4: Jennie E. Dunbar / died / April 27 1880 / aged 15 years 9 days

Annis Headstone In / memory of / Marietta Dunbar / beloved wife of / Alfred T. Annis / died May 13, 1911 / aged 46 y’s 27 d’s / Alfred Ernest / Annis / died Feb 28, 1913 / in his 23rd year

Annis Headstone
In / memory of / Marietta Dunbar / beloved wife of / Alfred T. Annis / died May 13, 1911 / aged 46 y’s 27 d’s / Alfred Ernest / Annis / died Feb 28, 1913 / in his 23rd year