Street Name Stories: Building a Nation Pt. III, Plaines d’Abraham

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

With the plethora of 150 commemorations taking place this year, I thought I could use my usual Street Name Stories blog series to throw another hat in the ring.  Looking at a map of Oshawa, there are a number of streets whose names are commonplace in the history of Canada.  Over the next five Street Name Stories Posts, I will look at street(s) whose namesakes helped contribute to the growth of Canada.  In Part I, we looked at Oshawa’s Indigenous People who have called the our country home for thousands of years, and Part II looked at the early European Explorers.

There are many moments one can look at in the history of Canada which are clearly a defining moment, a turning point. September 13, 1759 is one such moment: the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

First, context. In the mid-1700s, North America was home to many different European colonies; New France was well and successful, while to its south, England’s Thirteen Colonies were also thriving, not quite yet feeling the sentiments of discontent that would lead to the American Revolution. Those were coming. An ocean away, the colonizers, England and France, were none to pleased with each other.  Everything came to a head in 1854, the start of what would become the Seven Years War.  Its name is derived from the seven primary years of conflict, from 1856 to 1863, and it would result in conflicts in Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines, five continents in all. The Seven Years War could be considered one of the first global conflicts, a world war.

In North America, the English were at war with the French and First Nations.  After a series of skirmishes, including the capture of  Louisbourg on Île Royale (Cape Breton Island) and other French possessions in the Atlantic, the British forces continued their campaign further into New France, eventually reaching Quebec City.

Through the summer of 1759, the French were secure in their fortified city.  The British, led by General James Wolfe, tried to deplete stock and supplies and also tried a few strategic maneuvers to ‘lure’ the French to attack, but Marquis de Montcalm, the French officer leading the troops, held firm.

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Photographs from around the Plains of Abraham

Wolfe saw opportunity on the morning of September 13; in the very wee hours, the British force managed to secure their position.  As described by the Canadian Encyclopedia:

…By 8 a.m. the entire force of 4,500 men had assembled. The British force stretched across the Plains of Abraham (named for 17th-century fisherman Abraham Martin) in a shallow horseshoe formation about 1 km long and two ranks deep.

I would imagine this was quite the sight for Montcalm and the French forces. Montcalm had a force of roughly the same size; where they differ is in experience.  The French forces were comprised of soldiers, militia, and First Nations; the British forces were regular soldiers, highly experienced and well trained.  Montcalm decided to attack immediately, hoping to catch the British unprepared.

Here’s where hindsight comes in handy: many historians believe that if Montcalm waited for reinforcements rather than act right away, the result of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham may have turned out differently.  The battle resulted in a retreat from the French forces, and both Wolfe and Montcalm died due to wounds.

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“The Death of General Wolfe,” by Benjamin West, oil on canvas. The Royal Ontario Museum has this portrait in their collection, an ‘Iconic’ artefact. This Video has a great analysis of its importance and symbolism.

The Plains of Abraham wasn’t the final battle of the conflict, but it represents the turning point in the North American theatre. By September 1760, British forces manage to capture Montreal, and the Treaty of Paris in 1763 brings an end to the Seven Years War. This treaty results in New France being ceded to the British, the start of British rule of what would become Canada.

 

Wolfe Street is found off Simcoe Street, south of Bloor; Oshawa’s Harmon Park Arena is located on Wolfe Street.  Montcalm is located one street south of King Street between Waverly and Stevenson.


References

Official website for the Plains of Abraham, National Battlesite Commission: http://www.ccbn-nbc.gc.ca/en/

The Canadian Encyclopedia: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/battle-of-the-plains-of-abraham/

Street Name Stories: Building a Nation Pt. II, The Explorers

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

With the plethora of 150 commemorations taking place this year, I thought I could use my usual Street Name Stories blog series to throw another hat in the ring.  Looking at a map of Oshawa, there are a number of streets whose names are commonplace in the history of Canada.  Over the next five Street Name Stories Post, I will look at street(s) whose namesakes helped contribute to the growth of Canada.  In Part I, we looked at Oshawa’s Indigenous People who have called the our country home for thousands of years.

The earliest Europeans to arrive at North America were the Norse who settled for a time at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland; their stay was brief and did not make an overall impact in the settling of Canada.  Their story is an interesting footnote, but it is generally regarded as just that rather than the next chapter of our story. That chapter begins in the late 1400s.  At the turn of the 16th Century, a slew of European explorers began to take to the high seas and ‘discover the new world.’  In 1497, John Cabot arrived at Canada’s Atlantic coast and claimed it for England, and less than 40 years later, the French explorer Jacques Cartier sailed the St. Lawrence and in turn claimed it for France. Several attempts to colonize and settle in this ‘newly discovered country’ were made and generally unsuccessful; the climates were harsh and disease was prevalent. Nevertheless, trading posts and companies were also established, and in 1608, Quebec City was founded by Samuel de Champlain.

Champlain is an interesting figure in our history.  He was an explorer and cartographer who created many early maps of what is today Quebec and Ontario.  He established good relationships with the Huron (Wendat) peoples, relationships that helped the French settlers survive the Canadian winters.  In turn, hostile relationships with the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) were forged as the Wendat and Haudenosaunee were already opponents.  Champlain would travel back and forth across the Atlantic a number of times in his life, and he died in Quebec City in 1635.  New France would grow and thrive over the next century until the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.  More on that next month.

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Statue of Samuel de Champlain located on Dufferin Terrace, Quebec City

Cabot Street and Cartier Avenue are found southeast of King and Stevenson; other explorers in that neighbourhood include Frobisher Court (English explorer who sought the northwest passage), Valdez Court (Spanish naval man who first circumnavigated Vancouver Island),  and Vancouver Court and Street (another British explorer who navigated around Canada’s Pacific Coast and namesake for Vancouver Island and the City of Vancouver).  Champlain Avenue is found directly north of Highway 401 between Thickson Road in Whitby and Stevenson Road in Oshawa.


Want to know more about these early explorers? 

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography has in-depth looks at Cabot, Cartier, and Champlain.

For a more ‘readers digest’ version, the Canadian Encyclopedia gives an excellent overview of their lives and expeditions (Cabot, Cartier, and Champlain).

Where The Streets Get Their Name – Vimy Avenue

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

“The whole Empire will rejoice at the news of yesterday’s successful operations. Canada will be proud that the taking of the coveted Vimy Ridge has fallen to the lot of her troops. I heartily congratulate you and all who have taken part in this splendid achievement.”¹

There are many anniversaries being celebrated in 2017.  Canada marks 150 of confederation, which means the Province of Ontario is also 150 years old. Locally, the Oshawa Historical Society is celebrating 60, the Robert McLaughlin Gallery is celebrating 50, and Parkwood National Historic Site is 100, with construction of RS McLaughlin’s mansion completed in 1917.  Another 100 year milestone being commemorated is 100 years since the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a landmark battle in the First World War. which took place from April 7 to 12, 1917.

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The Canadian Vimy Ridge Memorial, located near Vimy, France; photographer: L. Terech, 2012

As our archivist Jennifer Weymark relayed in one of her podcasts about Vimy Ridge:

The battle at Vimy Ridge is considered by many historians to be a defining moment in Canadian history.  It was during this battle that Canadian troops were heralded for their bravery and their strength and for leading a stunning victory. This victory was not without great cost in terms of loss of life as over 10 000 Canadian were killed or wounded in this battle. Vimy Ridge was the first time all four Canadian divisions attached as together.  The battle was considered a turning point in the war and holding the ridge was important to the eventual allied victory.

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Phillip J. Phillips, from the archival collection of the Oshawa Museum

One Oshawa man, Phillip J. Phillips, was part of the 116th Battalion and fought with the 18th Canadian Infantry Battalion during the battle of Vimy Ridge. He survived the initial battle and was relived from the front line by the 24th Battalion.  At this time the 18th Battalion moved back to the divisional reserve on April 13th.  On May 6th, the battalion moved back to the front to relieve the 24th  Battalion.  The front line was under heavy shell fire.  On May 7th, 5 soldiers were killed, 13 wounded, under continuous bombardment of gas-shells by the Germans.  Phillips was one of the five that were killed that day.  He was buried at the Vimy Communal Cemetery, near Lens, France.

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Vimy Avenue was a street that was developed during the 1920s, a period of growth for the City of Oshawa.  It is found in the neighbourhood northeast of Olive and Ritson, and other streets in its vicinity include Verdun Road, Courcellette Avenue, St. Eloi Avenue, and Festhurbert Street, all named in honour of significant World War I battles.  These streets all feature a poppy on the sign.

Lest we forget.


¹ His Majesty the King to Field-Marshall Sir Douglas Haig, April 10, 1917. War Diary, 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade. RG 9, series III, vol. 4881, folders 236-239.  Accessed from https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/firstworldwar/025005-1300-e.html 

 

For further reading about the Battle of Vimy Ridge, please visit the following sites:

Canadian War Museum, The Battle of Vimy Ridge, 9-12 April 1917

Canadian Encyclopedia, The Battle of Vimy Ridge

Veterans Affairs Canada, The Battle of Vimy Ridge

Historica Canada, The Battle of Vimy Ridge (Heritage Minute)

Where The Streets Get Their Name – Ontario Street

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

In case you haven’t heard, 2017 is a big milestone year for Canada, as this year marks the 150th anniversary of the signing of the British North America Act, or to put it very simply, it’s Canada’s 150th birthday. The BNA Act (today known as the Constitution Act) created the Dominion of Canada which today has grown to ten provinces and three territories.  In 1867, our modest country was comprised of only four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.

Our province is also celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Before officially becoming named the Province of Ontario in 1867, Quebec and Ontario were united as the Province of Canada, comprised of Canada West (today Ontario) and Canada East (Quebec).

Why am I rehashing a Canadian History 101 course in this post? Today, we’re looking at the story behind Ontario Street, a street found in the heart of our downtown core.

The name Ontario and its usage is much older than the province itself.  Let’s go back to pre-historical times, pre-history meaning the period of time before written records. Before European arrival, the Indigenous people called this land home for thousands of years.  Prior to 1700, the area was inhabited by the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) First Nations, and their name for the lake they lived by was skanadario, meaning ‘beautiful water.’  Another possible root for the word may be from the Wendat (Huron) word Ontarí:io, meaning ‘great lake.’  When the Province of Ontario was created in 1867, it was named after Lake Ontario.

Usage of the name Ontario in this area pre-dates Confederation.  The County of Ontario was created in 1852 and it was the ‘upper-tier municipality’ in which Oshawa was located.  It was in existence until the mid-1970s when county lines were redrawn and the Regional Municipality of Durham was created.  The County of Ontario was comprised of the following townships:

  • Brock, with communities including Cannington, Vroomanton, Pinedale, Sunderland, Wick.
  • Mara, community centres were: Gamebridge, Brechin, Atherley, Udney and Rathburn.
  • Pickering; Community centres: Pickering, Dunbarton, Green River, Balsam, Claremont, Brougham, Altona.
  • Rama; Community centres: Floral Park, Longford Mills, Cooper’s Falls, Washago.
  • Reach; Community centres: Port Perry, Manchester, Saintfield, Utica.
  • Scott, whose communities included Zephyr, Sandford, Leaskdale, Udora.
  • Thorah, community centers: Beaverton.
  • Uxbridge; Community Centres: Uxbridge, Goodwood.
  • Whitby and East Whitby; Community centres: Oshawa, Whitby, Brooklin, Ashburn and Myrtle.
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Detail of Tackabury Map showing Ontario County, on display in Henry House.

On display in Henry House is a map from 1862.  I’ll often encourage visitors to find Oshawa on this map, and instinctively, they start looking within the limits marked as Durham, because that’s where we are today.  Instead, we can be found on the eastern edge of the County of Ontario. For several reasons, that map may be one of my favourite artifacts in the Museum, but I digress.

To discover the history of Oshawa’s Ontario Street, we turn to documents in our archival holdings, like maps and directories.  The earliest such document in the archival holdings is the 1869-70 County of Ontario Directory, and it lists a number of people who made their home on Ontario Street.  It is safe to say that this street is older than 1869, but how much older is hard to say without the historical evidence.

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Corner of King and Ontario Streets in 1920 (left) and 1995 (right)

Where the Streets Get Their Names – Shakespeare in Oshawa

By Gabby C., co-op student

William Shakespeare was an English playwright who wrote his way into the hearts of many, while breaking those of his famous characters. Majority of schools make kids learn the names of these characters in English class, sitting and waiting for something to make sense. Yet, Shakespeare survives not just in the classrooms, but out and about Oshawa as well. The question is how did he manage to make it to Oshawa from across the pond? The answer is simple: street names.

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This portrait is known as the ‘Chandos portrait’ after a previous owner, James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos. It was the first portrait to be acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 1856. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5442977

Shakespeare was born on an undetermined date in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. Within his life, he wrote more than 30 plays as well as poems. Though he is known for writing within the genres of comedy, history and tragedy, the latter is home to his most famous plays. For generations, Shakespeare has surprised, and shocked audiences while exposing humanity’s faults in the process. While there is a Shakespeare Avenue within Oshawa, there are also streets named after some of his famous characters!

Macbeth is Shakespeare’s shortest play, but that does not make it any less action packed or dramatic than the others. Macbeth centres around the title character while he dives head first into madness as a consequence of playing with fate. When a group of witches predict that Macbeth will become king, he takes their prophecy to the next level. In an attempt to go from Thane of Glamis and Cawdor, he kills King Duncan and takes the throne. However, this course of action throws the world into chaos and it is up to one not of woman born to defeat Macbeth and return order.

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By Théodore Chassériau – Musée d’Orsay, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=684950

As stated, Macbeth is Thane of Glamis. In reality, Glamis is a small town in Scotland;you can find Glamis Court southwest of the Rossland/Thornton intersection in Oshawa, along with other streets named after places in Scotland!

However, Macbeth is not Shakespeare’s only plays with ties in Oshawa.  King Lear also has a couple of streets named after its characters.

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By John Gilbert – Bridgeman Art library (painting in Towneley Hall Art Gallery and Museum), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19793496

King Lear is another one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. It follows an old king, Lear, as he struggles with the consequences of believing lies told to him by his two oldest daughters, and banishing those – including his third daughter – who tried to help him see through the fog. The play watches as Lear descends into misery while struggling to reassume power. His three daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia, are all married. Goneril to the Duke of Albany. Duke of Albany is a real title that was bestowed to the youngest sons of the Scottish and eventually British royal family. In Oshawa, however, it is name to Albany Drive!

So, next time you’re driving around Oshawa, keep an eye out for the above-mentioned roads or any others with Shakespeare related names! There is bound to be more out there!


This blog series is typically written by Lisa Terech, Community Engagement co-ordinator, but we were excited when our co-op student offered to guest author this post!

For further reading on William Shakespeare, visit the following sites:

http://www.biography.com/people/william-shakespeare-9480323

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Macbeth-by-Shakespeare

https://www.britannica.com/topic/King-Lear