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. Lousia, noted above, is no longer named as such, but was realigned with Alice in the 1950s and became Adelaide Avenue. Pine is no longer on Oshawa maps and may have been renamed at some point to Hemlock; 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

The Month That Was – November 1866

All articles originally appeared in the Oshawa Vindicator

November 7, 1866, Page 2
Gold discoveries – gold has been discovered in some quantities in the Township of Madoc, back of Belleville.  St. Wm. Logan does not promise any large quantities but the people do not put much faith in his predictions.  Land upon which gold indications have been discovered has been sold at a tremendous price.

A Narrow Escape – on Monday last, Mr. Wm. Hezzelwood, of East Whitby, bad a narrow esacpe from being shot.  Accompanied by his nephew and son, he went out for the purpose of shooting rabbits.  As the nephew who was in the rear of the others, was crossing a fence, it gave way with him and threw him to the ground.  The concussion discharged the gun.  A portion of the charge grazed the side of the head of Mr. Hezzelwood, whilst his little boy was slightly wounded in the thigh by another portion.

November 7, 1866, page 1

Mr. Carswell in Philadelphia – the following is an extract of a letter from a resident of Philadelphia, dated October 28th. We are glad to see that Mr. Carswell is likely to obtain a reputation in the city of Brotherly Love equal that he enjoys in the other cities of the Union which he has visited: – “Mr. Carswell lectured last Tuesday evening here.  The audience were perfectly delighted, and say he can scarcely be excelled by Gough, who is considered here to be the finest lecturer of the day.  All he wants to be his equal is the reputation.”

November 14, 1866, Page 2
The United States Government is about to advertise for tenders for iron headstones to place over the graves of Federal soldiers who was killed or died of disease during the late war – The number required is a fearful 475,000.

Canadian residents in the States are being served with notices to quit on or before the 5th of December, by order of the Fenian Brotherhood, on pain of death.

Victor Hugo is writing a history of England.  The work, which will contain all the events of the second half of the eighteenth century, is not expected to be ready before the beginning of next year.

November 14, 1866, page 3

Burned – Early on the morning of Friday last, the mill of Mr. Henry Bickle, known as the ‘Old Starr Mills,’ situated in the 6th concession of Whitby, was burned to the ground.  The miller was in the mill until after eleven p.m., and then as far as he could discover all was safe. It is supposed to have originated from the stove pipe. The mill was wholly destroyed.  Mr. Bickle was insured for $4,000, about half the loss.  The wheat in the mill, amounting to six thousand bushels, belonged to Messrs. Gibbs & Brother. They were partially insured, their loss will probably be $4,000.

When is Thanksgiving Day? – It seems very strange that the Governor has not yet proclaimed a Thanksgiving Day for the present year.  There surely never was a year during which we as a people here received greater cause to be thankful. Three times have we been threatened with lawless invasion, and still we are saved from the devastations of war.  The dryness of the spring, the coolness of the summer, and the wet weather of the harvest threatened to destroy our crops, but out barns are filled plenty. Cholera has afflicted nearly every other nation, whilst we have been mercifully spared. Add to these the opening of a market after the abolition of the Reciprocity Treaty, the good prices obtained for our produce, the preservation of the land from internal dissentions, and we have a year which God has marked by a great display of his Providential care and goodness towards us.

November 14, 1866, page 4

Dedication of a New Church – The Ebenezer Bible Christian Church, situated on the 1st Con, Darlington, was dedicated on the Sabbath last.  On Monday a tea meeting was held which was largely attended.  $116 was realized which was placed to the benefit of the building fund. A subscription list was afterwards circulated when, a sufficient amount was obtained to entirely free the Church. The cost of the church was about $2,000.

November 21, 1866, Page 2
The Columbus Rifles – The match for the medal presented to the company by the people of East Whitby, was shot on Saturday last.  The attendance of members was good, although the day “was most unpromising.” The average shooting was very fair. The medal was won by Private G. Greenwell, with a score of twenty four points, and the money prizes, the first was taken by Private Smith, and the second by Corporal Portcous.

Petty Thieving Again – Last week as Mr. [Pake] was lighting the lamps of the Town Hall, for the Drill Association, he left the room for a few minutes, and when he returned he found that some person had entered and made off with two of the lamps. The boards about the Skating Rink have been gradually disappearing for some time past, but not content with this some person last week broke open the house, stole a lamp, all the lamp chimneys and every length of stovepipe.  What with incendiary fires, and petty thieving, the council will have to employ a detective – The rewards which have been offered during the last few weeks would yield a sharp man a good remuneration for this season.

November 21, 1866, page 3

November 28, 1866, Page 2
JH Surratt, the alleged accomplice in the murder of President Lincoln, was discovered serving in the Papal Zouaves, under the name of John Watson.  He was arrested upon a demand of Gen. King, but afterwards ran the guard, leaped over a precipice, and escaped into Italian territory. The Italian authorities are on the alert, and are endeavouring to re-capture him.

Nova Scotia anti-confederation papers point exultingly to the fact that a portion of Liverpool where thieves and other bad characters congregate is called “Upper Canada.”

Birth – In Oshawa, on the 22nd inst., the wife of Cornelius Robinson, of a son.

Student Museum Musings – In My Own Backyard?

By Dylan C., Museum Management & Curatorship Intern

Being a resident of Whitby for the better part of 24 years, I have been encouraged through sport to view Oshawa as my rival, which has led to a rather lackluster attempt to learn what Oshawa has to offer. It wasn’t until recently, that life led me to discover the Oshawa Museum for my internship as part of Fleming College’s Museum Management and Curatorship program (MMC).

After only a couple weeks on site, I have gained a considerable amount of knowledge about Oshawa by exploring the waterfront trail and by learning the history of the harbour and the surrounding structures.

Although I have ventured into Oshawa via the waterfront trail from Whitby, or from riding near Oshawa Ice Sports after hockey, I never knew how extensive the trails were in Oshawa and how they bleed out into the city streets creating a somewhat hidden bike transit system. These trails are so extensive that Oshawa and the Durham region offer Cycle Tours. The Waterfront trail extends all the way to Toronto and easily connects to GO station stops. This network can provide residents of Oshawa with a greener alternative to their daily transit, at least in the warmer months of the year.

Both photos taken at Emma Street looking north to King, 1992 and 2016. The rail line is now the Michael Starr Trail

The museum has provided me with a platform to learn and explore Oshawa, but it also taught me how to explore. Without the direction from the museum I would not have known where to start my discovery of the city.

My Experience to Date

So far, the museum has been able to provide me with a wide range of experiences from photographing and cataloguing an archaeological collection, to providing supplementary research for an education program.  I have also been able to help install a Smith Potteries exhibit in Robinson House.

Smith Potteries Collection; Picture from Dylan C.

The archaeological dig was completed by Trent University Durham students in 2015 and uncovered 19th century waste pits surrounding Henry House. Cataloguing this archaeological collection has given me the opportunity to apply some of the skills I learned in the MMC program such as proper care and handling of artefacts, photographing, and detailed documentation practices. It has also provided me with insight into the life of the early inhabitants of the area by literally examining what was buried in their backyards. I’ve learned what animals they farmed and what items they had in their homes including ceramics, glass, nails and buttons. Handling these objects makes it easier to connect with the residents of the past because I am essentially documenting their garbage. The past owners did not bury these objects hoping that someone would dig them up 165 years later; they did it to simply discard their waste. For some reason this humanizes them more for me than even walking in their perfectly preserved homes. Perhaps, you can tell a lot about a person from their trash after all.

Cataloguing Station; Picture from Dylan C.

In the upcoming weeks I will be familiarizing myself with the museum’s database as I enter the information from the archaeological collection. I will also be working on a research project that explores the topic of audio transcriptions and engaging at-home volunteers. And lastly, I will be continuing my tour guide training as the museum adapts to the current COVID-19 regulations.