The Pedlar Papers in the Classrooms

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Coordinator

The Pedlar Papers are an amazing resource, and we are lucky to have them at the Museum. Samuel Pedlar was an early historian who personally interviewed descendants of our earliest European settlers in Oshawa. His unpublished manuscript tells countless anecdotes, contains vital statistics and is a who’s who of Oshawa’s past.

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Recently, I have embarked on a teaching partnership with Attersley Public School. I visit the school biweekly to bring local history into the classrooms there. After discussing why the ancestral Wendat and Mississauga First Nations chose to settle here, we move on to early settlers – a key component to the Grade Three Ontario Curriculum.

Using the Pedlar Papers, I created and index of businesses mentioned in the manuscript. The index includes the name of the businesses, years of operation, location, associated names, what they produced and any notes that I had during my research.

From here, we were able to discuss the types of businesses that were in Oshawa in its earliest years and move through nineteenth century. For example, the earliest business mentioned is Beagle & Conklin, purveyors of spinning wheels and handlooms in 1793. We talked about why this business would have been important to early settlers and why they would have settled at the lakefront. Later we discussed the relationship between the Hollow and the Oshawa Creek, the businesses (mills and distilleries) located there. Of the first ten businesses Pedlar lists, three are distilleries and one is a tavern. The kids got a kick out of that! The others are Beagle & Conklin, the Farewell’s pearl and potashery, the Annis Saw Mill, the Mail Stage Company, the Robson-Lauchland tannery, and the fuller furniture factory.

1911 FI Map

Following this, the students examined copies of the 1911 Fire Insurance Map and education artefacts. They looked to see if the artefacts they had might have been produced at a business located on their map. Some managed to match their straight pens to schools and a nurse’s cap to the hospital, which is listed as the Oshawa Public Hospital on this map (circled).

This kind of learning, without using a textbook, is imperative for the current generation of students. Teaching them to extrapolate information and use critical thinking skills will take them into the next decade of their education.

For more information on booking education programming from the Oshawa Museum, please call Jill at 905-436-7624 ext. 106 or email programming[at]oshawamuseum[dot]org

Profiling Sam Pedlar

By Melissa Cole, Curator

Samuel Pedlar was born in St. Blazey, Cornwall England.  He sailed on the timber vessel, the barque “Clio” with his parents, his brother and three sisters on April 5, 1841.   They arrived in Quebec on May 21, 1841, reaching Skae’s Corners and travelled north up Simcoe Street to Concession 5 where they stayed with Richard Luke and his family for three weeks.

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Samuel Pedlar was Oshawa’s earliest historian.  He recognized the fragile wealth of the human memory and spent thousands of hours preserving it through his manuscript known as, The Pedlar PapersHe devoted many years of his life talking to members of the community and interviewing first and second generations that had sprung from Oshawa’s earliest settlers.

He chronicled the social and economic development of Skae’s Corners to the community that grew to be Oshawa, he wrote every detail down he knew about Oshawa’s early settlers including businesses, schools and churches.  He even wrote about, what he called “ancient, minor industries” such as the Moscrip’s Foundry, Spaulding’s Brewery and Nichols Grist Mill as well as Demill Ladies College.  Established in 1875 and flourishing 20 years later this school was one of Oshawa’s first institutions of higher learning.  In this manuscript he mentions almost everyone that lived in the area at the time except for himself.

Little is actually known about Samuel Pedlar.  He played no part in the family business, The Pedlar People Ltd.  His brother George Henry Pedlar assumed control of the business when their father Henry Pedlar passed away.

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Pedlar headstone in Union Cemetery; Photo by Melissa Cole

Five years before his death at the age of 77, feeling unable to keep up with the work, Pedlar donated his manuscript to the Ontario Archives where it remains today.  The Oshawa Museum has a copy of the complete Pedlar Papers.  Samuel Pedlar was determined that the memory of the Oshawa’s early settlers would live on through his manuscript – he has brought many of our early settlers to life!


Discover more about the life of Samual Pedlar and other early Oshawa settlers who are buried in Union Cemetery in our latest publication, Until Day Dawns: Stories from Oshawa’s Union Cemetery, available online or at the Oshawa Museum Shop.

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