Oshawa’s Educational History

By Quinn J., Summer Student

In 1894, The Globe (which would go on to merge with The Mail and Empire into the Globe and Mail) did a profile on Oshawa. At the time, Oshawa was only a village of “4,000 souls,” but already it was noted for two things: its prominence as a manufacturing centre, a reputation Oshawa would hold on to up until the present day, and for its high quality educational institutions.

The Globe article not only mentions the high quality public schools but also the Bishop Bethune and Demill Ladies’ Colleges, both of which were renowned institutions outside of the province, and they attracted students from across the country. But today, this past as a centre for education is rarely remembered. I only learned about the two ladies colleges and the early Canadian public school system when I began working for the Oshawa Museum last month. My question is, why this is the case? If the Globe felt it was important enough to mention Oshawa’s status as an educational leader in its profile, why has it been so easy for us in the modern day to forget?

One possible explanation is that the signs of the educational institutions of the past haven’t been preserved as well, through no fault of the town or anyone in it. Bishop Bethune College was located in the house of former mayor T.N. Gibbs, but when the school closed in 1932 amid financial troubles, the land was sold to the city and a new school, the Central Collegiate Institute, was founded on the spot (it has since been home to Village Union School and currently Durham Alternative Secondary School). The Demill college was destroyed by a fire just two years after the publishing of the Globe article, and the college eventually moved to St. Catharines. This lack of standing physical evidence that could tie the city to its educational past could present an answer as to why that aspect is much better remembered, especially when contrasted with the large number of not only buildings that were built around Oshawa’s manufacturing, but the amount of people still alive who were there to witness the city’s manufacturing based economic boom.

In the same vein, education in the past was very much shaped around the industrial revolution that all of Ontario was experiencing in the mid to late 19th century. Public schooling during this period heavily focused on preparing children for their new roles in industrial society, as both labourers and citizens of the British Empire and Dominion of Canada. The close ties created between industry and education could provide a further example of why Oshawa’s educational past was not as common in the collective memory of the city; when creating new workers for manufacturing was the end goal of education, it could have become a lot easier to forget what got workers to their positions in the first place.

The history of Education in Oshawa is something that surprised me personally with how deep it went and how much history there was in something that I, and many others, take for granted in today’s age. It’s caught my attention, and I hope to dive even further into it as I continue my research with the museum over the summer.


Sources

“Oshawa: A Manufacturing Centre R. S. Williams & Son F. L. Fowke D. Cinnamon The Queen’s Hotel Eli. S. Edmonson Mrs. M. E. May The Joseph Hall Machine Works Demill College Ed. E. Rogers Bishop Bethune College Provan’s Patent Car, Fork And Sling The McLaughlin Carriage Company.” The Globe (1844-1936), Oct 27, 1894.

French, Olive. “DeMill (1871-1920)”, The Olive French Manuscript, https://olivefrench.wordpress.com/2011/08/05/demill-1871-1920/.

Hood, M. MacIntyre. “Bishop Bethune College Recalled,” Daily Times Gazette, Nov. 17th, 1955.

Houston, Susan E. Schooling and Scholars in Nineteenth Century Ontario. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988.

The Month That Was – July 1864

All articles originally appeared in The Oshawa Vindicator

July 6, 1864, Page 1

Great Improvement in Canadian Politics and Politicians
There are some things occurring in Parliament which we notice with great satisfaction. 1st. The very magnanimous and dignified positioned assumed throughout the present extraordinary crisis by the late Lower Canada Premier, Mr. Dorion.-That gentlemen fully conceded the right of Mr. Brown or any other to act as he thought best for the country, entirely irrespective of past political or party relations, or of individual claims. This is high and patriotic ground. The country first; parties and individuals afterwards. Such a course will not hurt Mr. Dorion, who may be truly called the Bayard of Canadian politics, – the chevalier sans peur et sans reprochee.

Page 2

From Sherman’s Army
New York, July 1. The Herald’s correspondent with Sherman, under date 22nd ult. Says of the battle of Kenesse on the 17th: Heavy skirmishing opened, and towards night the rebels commenced firing fiercely. Bradley’s and Bridges’ batteries were brought to bear upon them with considerable effect, and Logan and Blair’s batteries also fiercely shelled their weeks. Hooker having repulsed them, was pressing forward while Schofield was swinging around their left, capturing many prisoners. Soon heavy musketry firing was heard, and the rebels made repeated onslaughts upon the position our troops had taken from them, but were repulsed each time.

Closing Taverns
Section 44 of Mrs. Dunkin’ Temperance Act provides that no sale of liquor, except for medicinal purposes or to travellers or boarders, shall take place at any hotel between the hours of nine o’clock on Saturday evening and six o’clock on Monday morning. This is not so stringent a provision as war formerly the law, but if it is carried out strictly, will be productive of some good at least, while the law, as it has herefore stood, has been very generally violated. We are informed that it is the intention of our Village Constable to see that the new law, with reference to sales after nine o-clock, is strictly enforced.

Oshawa School Board
On Wednesday, of last week, and adjourned special meeting of the school board took place, for the purpose of deciding upon the tender out in by Messrs. George Edwards and William T. Dingle for the erection of the addition to the school house.

July 6, 1864, Page 3

Page 4

Idle Girls
The number of idle, useless girls in all of our large cities seems to be steadily increasing. They lounge or sleep through the morning, parade the streets during the afternoons and assemble in frivolous companies of their own and the other sex to pass away their evenings. What a store of unhappiness for themselves and others are they laying up for the coming time, when real duties and high responsibilities shall be thoughtlessly assumed. They are skilled in no domestic duty-may they despise them; have no habits of industry, not taste for the useful. What will they be as wives and mothers? – Alas, for the husbands and children, and alas for themselves! Who can wonder if domestic unhappiness or domestic ruin follow! It is one of the world’s oldest maxims, that idleness is the nursing mother of all evil and wretchedness. How sadly strange is it that so many parents – mothers especially – forget this, and bring up their children in dainty idleness. They are but sowing the wind to reap the whirlwind.

July 13, 1864, Page 2

Bridge Broke Down
On Friday evening last, as Mr. John Bone was crossing the bridge near the tannery, just below the dam of Grans’ mill-pond, with a load of flour, one of the braces of the bridge gave way at the tenon, causing the bridge to break in two at the centre and precipitate Mr. Bone, with his team, wagon and flour into the stream beneath. The way was not deep, but horses, flour and driver were considerably injured by the fall. Very fortunately Mr. Bone escaped without broken bones, but got his leg sprained, and came very near being crushed under the weight of the barrels, two of them falling one on each side of him.

Unfortunate Children
On Thursday evening last, three of Mr. John Clifford’s children, two boys and a girl, were convicted of stealing iron from Mr. Arkland’s premises, and sent to Jail at Whitby, to await their trials at the next […]. Subsequently some of their friends entered bail for their appearance at court, and they were allowed to return home. It would be a mercy if they were sent off, after trial, to the Reformatory for a year or two, to give them time to overcome the propensity to which they have repeatedly shewn such a remarkable partiality.

Letter from a Canadian in the War
About a year ago the youngest brother of the editor of this journal, a lad of about 17 years, crossed the lake to Rochester to visit some friends, and finally, attracted by the $700 bounty, enlisted in an artillery regiment and went to Elmira. Here he was transferred to the 1st N.Y. Veteran Cavalry, and received the appointment of the Corporal in Co. C. As soon as the regiment- an old one- had fully recruited and drilled its raw reinforcements, it was sent to join Gen. Sigel’s command, at Martinsburg, Va., some twenty miles north west of Harper’s Ferry. Since that time he has been in all the battles under Sigel and Hunter.

July 20, 1864, Page 1

Another Great Display of Falling Stars Expected
The writer of this was among the fortunate few who witnessed the wonderful shower of meteors in the night of Nov. 13, 1833. Being at a large boarding-school, it enhanced that some of the boys caught sight of the fiery rain, and the around the whole school. For an hour to two we sat watching the sublime spectacle with mingled interest and awe. The sky was constantly lighted with hundreds of stars, shooting forth from the neighbourhood of the senith, and streaming across the heavens; each leaving a bright streak in its track that has gradually faded away.

Page 2

The War
The rebel raid into Maryland has come to an end, and is now found to have consisted of only about 15,000 troops. If its object was to capture Washington by a surprise, the involvement was a failure. But if it was merely a foraging expedition, it was exceedingly successful, for while we have accounts of an immense quantity of plunder going towards Richmond, we have not the first word of either rebels or plunder being captured by the […] of Hunter and Sigel, who are supposed to be in pursuit of the retreating columns.

The New Temperance Act
Through the kindness of Mr. Dunkins, M.P.P. we have been enabled to public, in full, in advance of all our contemporaries, the temperance act of 1864, generally known as Mr. Dunkin’s Bill. The Act is two distinct parts. The portion which we published last week, is that which provides for complete prohibition of the retail traffic in intoxicating liquor in any municipality wherein a majority of the electors are in favor of such prohibition, and furnishes the machinery for carrying out the prohibition and rendering it effectual.

July 20, 1864, Page 3

July 27, 1864, Page 2

Physical Exercise
The position of children in school is most unfavorable to sounds lungs, healthful bodies, and grateful forms. Stewart says – “A variety of exercises is necessary to preserve the animal frame is vigor and beauty.” Spursheim appropriately remarks, that “Children are shut up, forced to sit quiet, and to breathe a confined air.” This error is the greater, the more delicate the children, and the more premature their mental powers; and a premature death is frequently the consequence of such a violation of nature. Bodily deformities, curved spines, and unfitness for various occupations and the fulfillment of future duties, frequently result from such mismanagement of children.

A Public Park
A respectably signed requisition- embracing forty tolerably influential names- has been presented to the Reeve asking him to call a public meeting for the purpose of considering the propriety of securing a plot of ground, by the issue of debentures, to be used as a public park for the village, for all time to come. In response, the Reeve has called a meeting for the purpose, to be held at the town hall on Saturday evening next, commencing at half past seven o’clock.

Do Not Kill the Frogs
All night long these musical little fellows are busy singing; a few moments, and they stop to eat the larvae of insects so rabidly bred in stagnant waters. Frogs are clean animals, and love clean water, but they subsist mainly on insects. Would you kill a frog when he sings for you part of the time and spends the rest of the night in destroying mosquitoes, gnats, flies, or the eggs, are resting or deposited in the plants by the water pools? Toads in the garden are estimated as worth five dollars even to the gardener for they are constantly, night and day.

July 27, 1864, Page 3

Pandemic Reflections

By Melissa Cole, Curator

I recently joined my fellow Gen Xers and received my first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.  When my age category was announced, I was eager to get my name on a list and get my vaccine appointment booked.  I admit to feeling a bit of anxiety, mainly due to the media.  There is a lot of controversy about the vaccine and that 1 out of 100,000 people may experience a blood clot.  Yes, I could be that one person, and many friends also expressed the same concerns.  Fortunately, I received my vaccine early and was able to share my experience with them after receiving my first dose.  Hopefully this helped them with their decision.  I did feel a bit sluggish the next day and had a slight headache for a few days. 

My decision came down to doing my part, outweighing the risks and protecting my family, especially my 13-year-old daughter who is not currently eligible for the vaccine.  I also spoke with my family doctor as that is who I booked my vaccine appointment with at the Oshawa Clinic.

This makes my wonder about the experiences of individuals that lived through past pandemics in our community such as the 1918 Flu and smallpox.  What decisions did they have to make to contribute to limiting the spread of a virus in their community? 

Vaccines were not available for the 1918 flu pandemic. Control efforts worldwide were limited to isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings.  Vaccines were available for small pox, and when a mild strain of smallpox hit Oshawa in early November 1919, the Board of Health ordered all should be vaccinated. Provincial Chief Officer of Health John McCullough ordered all civil servants to receive shots.1  

Canadian Statesman, November 13, 1919

This information is what we know from researching local newspapers and provincial/county health records.  But these records do not always tell you what the average person was experiencing during the 1918 flu and smallpox pandemic.  How did people feel about the vaccination for small pox in 1919?  

COVID-19 has reinforced my perspective on impactful historical events and how they are told in the historical record.  Living through this pandemic reinforces that the history of the individuals involved in a large event are just as important as the history of the event itself.  Although we are all living through this pandemic together, how we are dealing with it and the challenges that we face changes from person to person.  These are the stories that allow for connections that contribute to a better understanding of our history. 

If you are interested in sharing your COVID-19 experience with us and ensuring history reflects those individuals living through this pandemic in Oshawa, you can learn more about our project here:

https://covid19oshawa.com/


The Globe, November 8, 1919. Editorial.

Street Name Stories – Streets in 1868

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

This is a slight departure for this regular blog series, but as it pertains to street history, I’ve lumped it with other blog posts about street histories.

As one does (or, perhaps, as one with a huge interest in local history does), I was going through Oshawa’s historical newspapers, and an article from the Oshawa Vindicator on October 14, 1868 caught my eye. An article entitled ‘Our Taxes and Where they Go,’ makes note that the labour costs were estimated at $1400, which “includes all that spent on opening new streets, new drains, repairing and constructing sidewalks, etc.”

The article continues,

The amount of work in this department (labour) has been very large. It includes the opening of Lloyd, Monck, and McGregor and the continuation of Centre streets on the McGregor property; the opening of Maple, Elm, and Pine, between Simcoe and Celina Streets, Elgin, Louisa, Brock East and West, Colborne West, and a large amount of work on Princess street in the north half of the village. Also the grading, filling up and gravelling of Simcoe street, and the work done on the sidewalks.

When researching the origins of street names in our city, I’ll try to, if possible, find a best estimate for when the street would have been created and/or lived on. City directories from the 20th century can be very helpful for that – one year there is no street, but then the next year, the street has inhabitants. Many of the streets in downtown, however, can be trickier to ballpark. This article was an interesting read as it confirms that many of the above streets, like Monck, McGregor, Brock, and Louisa, can be dated to the late 1860s.

Portion of 1877 County of Ontario Atlas, and circled are the streets mentioned in the 1868 article

While the above is simply an expansion on how village funds and taxpayer’s money was being spent, it is of note that it also demonstrates the village’s growth with infrastructure like new streets, sidewalks, and drains. Oshawa’s population was recorded in 1852 as 1142, in 1861 as 2002, and in 1871 as 3,185; this represents increases of 75% from 1852 to 1861, and 59% from 1861-1871. By the end of the 1870s, our population grew enough to become a Town, rather than a Village. Population increases means increased infrastructure was needed, and as we can read above, that was certainly happening in the late 1860s with all the new streets being created.

Many of these streets remain core streets within the central core of our community. Louisa, noted above, is no longer named as such, but was realigned with Alice in the 1950s and became Adelaide Avenue. Pine STREET may have been renamed at some point to Hemlock (but there remains a Pine AVENUE south of King, west of Park); and, more research is needed to confirm if Princess was ever a street name in Oshawa, but there still is Prince Street today.


The 1852 and 1861 census information came from the York Herald, 8 Mar 1861, 3; accessed from https://history.rhpl.richmondhill.on.ca/3210658/page/4

The 1871 census information came from the Whitby Chronicle, 7 Dec 1871, 2; accessed from: https://vitacollections.ca/whitbynews/2449812/page/3?q=oshawa&docid=OOI.2449812

Please note, there is a discrepancy between the 1861 population as noted in the York Herald (2002) and the Whitby Chronicle (2009). The difference of seven people does not affect the overall assertion that the population did steadily increase through the decades.

The Month That Was – February 1872

All articles originally appeared in the Ontario Reformer

February 2, 1872
Page 2
The Prosperity of Oshawa.
On every side we are seeing our town advancing. Really costly, sightly and substantial buildings of brick are being erected. The new brick hotel of Mr. Hobbs will compare favourably with almost any hotel in the Province, as to size, appearance and thoroughness. Mr. Quigley is preparing to erect a large hotel, early in the spring, on the Fuller lot, which is to be surmounted by an ornamental French roof. Let us hope that as good entertainment for travellers may be found within their walls as their exterior would seem to indicate.

In stores we have the [tasty] and commodious ones lately erected by Messrs. Cowan and Fowke. Mr. John Wilson is preparing to erect a number of stores on the ground of the late fire on King Street, which, as viewed from the drawings thereof, promises to be excelled by a few such structures in our cities. Mr. James B. Keddie, also, proposes to continue the block to the east by a structure similar in style for his own use.

Passing down Simcoe Street, we observe the compact and well-built new brick residences of Messrs. Dickie, and Thornton – both of which have ornamental roofs covered with slate. The palatial residence of TN Gibbs, Esq., is said to rivals that of the Lieutenant Governor at Toronto; and is one of which our town may be justly proud. Mr. Chas. A Mallory is already preparing to erect, early in the spring, the first-class brick dwelling upon a portion of the McGregor property. This property is thought some of the best sites for residences now available. We hope to see many residences erected during the summer on this property, as we understand the present owner, (Thomas Conant,) is about to put the whole of it on the market. This will afford sites for buildings according to the means of purchasers, as to front or back lots relatively.

Centre Street will then be opened out nearly all the way to South Oshawa, and will make one of our prettiest streets, especially for driving.

Many other residences have been erected and are in process of erection north and west of the cabinet factory.

One is almost constrained to say, that in order to keep pace with the improvements in the various parts of our town we should frequently pass through its various wards as new streets are being opened up, and new houses are being erected; we almost lose our reckoning after a few months absence. It is estimated that at least one hundred houses were erected in Oshawa last season. This is probably within the mark. Let us hope for a similar result in 1872.

Prosperity to our various manufactories, and a healthful, steady growth to Oshawa.

There is one thing we might observe, this: that as a rule houses erected are paid for by the proprietors, without incurring and incubus of debt. This fact argues volumes for a steady growth, without any such sudden inflation and corresponding depression as we have seen exemplified in some of our neighbouring towns.

One more word as we close. We have many public spirited men of means in our midst who are intimately concerned with the welfare of Oshawa, and whom, we feel sure, gladly assist new industries, which would add to the growth and wealth of the place.

Let manufacturers come along, and let us make Oshawa doubly noted throughout our Dominion for the excellence of its manufactured articles. In manufacturers alone we look for our continued prosperity.

Feb 2, 1872, p3

February 9, 1872
Page 2
The assembly in Mr. Cowan’s new store on Wednesday evening was a decided success. About seventy couples, from Toronto, Whitby, Bowmanville, Oshawa, and other places, were present, Dancing commenced at about nine o’clock and continued till between three and four in the morning.  The arrangements were complete, and all enjoyed themselves thoro’ly. The music of Davis’ quadrillo band, from  Toronto, was pronounced the best ever heard in the place. The supper was first-class; furnished by Mr. Cullen of Whitby.

The Town Hall Question – A public meeting to consider the above question will be held on Tuesday evening next, 13th inst., and not Monday, as previously announced. A full attendance of ratepayers is requested.

Feb 9, 1872, p3

February 16, 1872
Page 2
Fire – about 3:00 o’clock, on Sunday morning last, the Boot and Shoe store of H. Wilkinson was discovered to be on fire. The alarm was given, and the fire brigade soon on the spot; but, owing to the engine being frozen, it could render but little assistance. The fire quickly spread to adjoining buildings, and was only arrested in its course by the exertions of the Hook and Ladder Company, who worked well. After a little exertion on the part of the fireman, the engine was got to work, and soon all danger of the fire spreading to the Commercial Hotel, which was thought it would at one time, was past . The losses by the fire are Messrs. Wilkinson, Brennan, and Hobbs, on stock and furniture, partly covered by insurance; And Mrs. Woon and Mr. Cherry, owners of buildings.

Mr. Thomas Conant believes in encouraging manufacturers to come amongst us. He has given an acre of land to the hat manufacturing company, and yesterday instructed Mr. English to draw up a deed for the same. We believe the above company intend building a large factory, where they will give employment to 200 hands, men and women. We like to see these things going on, it is healthy for the town. Do it some more somebody else.

Page 3
For Sale
On Colborne St East, two lots and orchard, with one and one-half story frame building. Also two lots and two houses with orchard, on Brock St East, the whole contained in one block. Terms- $500 cash. Balance in yearly installments. Present rental, $250
William Deans
Oshawa, Feb 9, 1872

Feb 16, 1872, p4

February 23, 1872
Page 2
Opening of the new Baptist Church
The church was opened for divine service on Sunday last. Three sermons were preached; In the morning by the Rev. Dr. Fyfe, afternoon by the Rev. W. Stewart, and in the evening by the Rev. Dr. Davidson. At each of those services the church was filled to its utmost capacity.

On Monday evening a team meeting was held in the church, which was again crowded. After tea, TN Gibbs , Esquire, was called to the chair; And after a few introductory remarks, called on the Rev. Mr. Patterson, pastor of the church, to read the report of the building committee. …

Short speeches were then made by the chairman, the Rev. Messrs. Myers, Scott, Stewart and Davidson, each of the speakers congratulating the pastor and members of the church on the beautiful building which they had erected; and hoped that the balance yet required to pay off the debt on the church would be subscribed before the meeting closed. …

The church is a very handsome [edifice]- inside and out, built of white brick, and is of the Romanesque style of architecture, 36 x 30. The tower on the east corner of the building is not yet finished; but when completed will add greatly to the appearance of the building. The entrance is on King Street, by to doors, one on each corner; and from the one on the east corner access to the gallery is obtained, which runs across the front of the church. The pulpit is American style- a platform with a small movable desk, and is fitted up very neatly. Mr. Langley, was the architect; May brothers, masons; Gay, & J. & R.B. Dickie, carpenters ; and J. Brewer, painter and glazier.

Feb 23, 1872, p3