Earlier in this blog series, we looked at the history of Adelaide Avenue, named after a fairly important woman in Oshawa’s history. Compared to other roads named for citizens, Adelaide McLaughlin could be considered a fairly ‘modern’ woman, as many roads bear the names of early pioneers. One such road is Ritson Road.
Ritson Road runs through what was once the farm of John & Mary Ritson.
Mary Catherine Stone was born on September 18, 1803, the eldest daughter of Benjamin Stone and Catherine Kendall. They lived in Massachusetts, but moved to Canada shortly after their marriage in 1802. They settled in the township of Ascott, in what is now Quebec, which is where Mary was born. Benjamin purchased a large farm, but a cold season destroyed his crops. In 1807, he and his family came to East Whitby, what is now the eastern part of Oshawa. He bought 400 acres of land, and eventually built a school house.
The first teacher at the school was John Ritson. He was born in Allendale, Northumberland, England, in March of 1790. He arrived in Oshawa in 1820, from Ottawa, where he had been refused payment for work he had done. He refused to accept land in lieu of cash, but eventually accepted a horse, wagon, harness, and one hundred dollars. He was travelling when his wagon broke down at Benjamin Stone’s, on Kingston Road. He decided to stay in Oshawa when he heard of the need for teachers, and so became Oshawa’s first school teacher.
John married Mary Stone on December 29, 1822. John purchased land in Concession One, where present day Ritson Road is located. John and Mary had seven children, six daughters and one son.
Those familiar with Oshawa streets may be looking at Mary’s maiden name and wondering if she has any connection to Stone Street, found by the Lake in South Oshawa. Mary is the daughter of an early settler, Benjamin Store, who appeared to settle on Lots 7 & 8, Concession 2; Benjamin’s only son Marshall moved back to the United States. The land around current Stone Street was owned and farmed by William R. Stone, and there does not appear to be a relation between these Stone families.
The other afternoon, I had to stop by the head office for the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority. It is conveniently close to the Museum, a mere two kilometres north along Simcoe Street. Driving to the CLOCA head office, you will pass the intersection of Whiting Avenue (the street where the office is located) and Robson Street. This interesting intersection is a fitting tribute to two industries that had made Cedar Dale their home.
Let’s first look at Whiting Avenue. Whiting is the older of the two businesses, so it seems appropriate to start at the beginning.
We first discussed A.S. Whiting in our post on the History of Cedar Dale, a community which was located along Simcoe Street, south of Bloor Street. In the 1860s, looking to re-establish his manufacturing business after his Oshawa Manufacturing Company floudered, Whiting did not look to the thriving Village of Oshawa, but rather, he chose a location south of the Baseline, and commenced building a factory near the Oshawa Creek. In 1862, the Cedar Dale Works opened; it would be later renamed A.S. Whiting Manufacturing Company. This company ceased operations by the 1890s.
Algernon Sidney (A.S.) Whiting was born on March 7, 1807 in Winsted, Connecticut, an area renowned for its clocks. Before being married in 1832, Whiting worked as a travelling clock salesman. In 1842, Mr. Whiting and his wife Julia moved to Canada and settled in Cobourg where he continued to travel selling clocks. He moved to Oshawa in 1850. Mr. Whiting passed away in March of 1876 and is buried in Union Cemetery; the street named for him affirms his place in Oshawa’s history, and he is also credited with the naming of Cedar Dale. Not a bad legacy to leave behind.
After A.S. Whiting Manufacturing closed, what happened to the buildings of this established factory? Enter James Robson.
The Robson Tannery traces its beginnings back to the Bartletts in the early 1800s who first established a tannery in Oshawa. In 1865, Robson and his partner Laughland bought the South Oshawa Tannery from the Bartletts. Over the years, the business thrived, eventually being passed to Robson’s sons Charles and James, until they were struck with a fire in 1899. The South Oshawa Tannery, which was located on Mill Street, was destroyed. The Whiting Manufacturing buildings were vacant, so Robson relocated. In 1904 they changed their name to the Robson Leather Company, and they were renamed again in 1963 after amalgamating with James Lang Leather Company of Kitchener to become Robson-Lang Leathers Limited.
Robson had been a long standing industry for the City of Oshawa, however, after a lengthy strike in 1977, they closed their doors and ceased operations.
Part of Robson Tannery still exists as the head office for CLOCA. They have historic images around their office of when the building was in use as a manufacturing company and as a tannery.
People who are familiar with Oshawa’s streets might not give a second thought when they approach the intersection of Ritson Road and Adelaide Avenue; to some it may just be a crossing of two major arteries. If you dig a little deeper though, you might be surprised to learn the stories behind these two names, and the names of other streets in our city. Today, we’ll look at the history behind Adelaide Avenue.
Today, Adelaide Avenue is a major east-west road through our city, however the street name itself is just over 50 years old. Before 1959, Alice Street ran east from Mary Street and Louisa Street ran west from Simcoe Street North. If you notice on the above map, the two streets to not meet nor intersect. These names were withdrawn and renamed Adelaide Avenue in honour of Mrs. R.S. McLaughlin. There is a slight jog in Adelaide Avenue at Simcoe Street which resulted from connecting the two streets.
The names Alice and Louisa have not been used since for any roads.
Adelaide Mowbray was born in 1875 and married R.S. McLaughlin in 1898.
The McLaughlin’s were renowned in Oshawa and across the province for their philanthropy and generosity, and Mrs. McLaughlin herself devoted her time and efforts to several causes. Adelaide set out with other women in the community to raise funds for a hospital in Oshawa, and Oshawa General Hospital officially opened in 1910. She founded and served as head of the Hospital Auxiliary for over 50 years. Mrs. McLaughlin also served as Honorary President of the Canadian Home and School and Parent-Teacher Federation, and she was a proud supporter of the YWCA, Girl Guides, the Ontario Historical Society, Women’s Welfare League, St. John’s Ambulance, and the Victorian Order of Nurses, among other causes. Mrs. McLaughlin’s Chrysanthemum Teas at Parkwood Estate were celebrated events, often hosting over 800 people a year.
There is another street in Oshawa named in Adelaide’s honour.
Alma Street, named circa 1910, is an acrostic formed from the names of Mrs. Adelaide Louise(R.S.) McLaughlin and Mrs. Mazo (Robert): A.L.MA.
These women were essential workers in the fund raising campaign to construct a hospital in Oshawa.
Maps fascinate me. I remember road trips with my grandparents, and in one of the pockets behind the front seats, there would be a Map Art atlas for the Greater Toronto Area; while they drove from Point A to Point B, I would study the maps. I found the Oshawa maps particularly interesting, partly because it was my hometown, but also because the subdivisions had themes. I could search and find the authors, the Arthurian Legend Streets, the birds, the flowers! Once I started working with Oshawa’s history, I began to appreciate the meanings and the stories behind some of our more well travelled arteries.
Simcoe Street is one such roadway. It is not only a major north-south road for Oshawa, but as a Regional Road, it also traverses through Scugog Township (Port Perry) and Brock Township, measuring almost 62 kilometres in length! I drive along Simcoe Street on a daily basis (save the odd weekend) because the Museum is located right at the foot of Simcoe Street, at its southern terminus at Lake Ontario.
Simcoe Street is not the best example to start with if I am looking to share the local histories behind Oshawa’s street names, but rather I will start with Simcoe because its story is one that is shared with other ‘Simcoe’ places in Ontario. It received its name from the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada from 1791 to 1796, John Graves Simcoe. Simcoe was responsible for a number of improvements to the newly created province, including the first Act Against Slavery in all of the British Empire, the founding of York (Toronto) and laying the foundation for their road system, including the foundation of two major roads, Yonge Street and Dundas Street, and began the policy of granting land to settlers leaving the US after the Revolutionary War.
Basically, Simcoe was kinda a big deal.
Locally, Simcoe Street has been in use for almost 200 years. Samuel Pedlar makes note in his papers about a settler named George Hinkson who, “in the year 1828… underbrushed and blazed the Reach Road from the settlement on the 2d concession (now Oshawa) to the Widdifield Creek in the 4th concession.” Historically, Simcoe Street has also gone by the name Reach Road, perhaps because it eventually travelled north to Reach Township. Pedlar also talks of others in the 1820s who worked to clear the road from Oshawa to Prince Albert.
It feels like a very modern concern, to take issue with road conditions and road improvements, but it appears that in 1840s, a number of concerned citizens were writing to Robert Baldwin, Premier from 1843-46, about local road improvements. The main bone of contention was where to put improvements, with Oshawa citizens wanting to see Simcoe Street developed, which in turn would facilitate business from the Sydenham Harbour through the village of Oshawa and then to the northern townships; Peter Perry,of Whitby on the other side of the argument, advocated funds going towards a road leading north from Windsor Bay (Whitby). Ultimately money was given to both projects, but not before passionate letters from both sides were sent to Baldwin throughout the mid-1840s. I’m rather amused that road improvements were fought about over 150 years ago, and it still is today. It’s reassuring, perhaps, that somethings never change.
Simcoe Street was one of the the first paved streets in Oshawa, with the Asphalt Paving Co. of Windsor being awarded the contract in 1911. It was paved from the south side of Richmond and Dukes Streets (the story of these two streets could be told another day), to the south side of Athol Street. Also paved were Athol Street and King Street. This paving process did not impede businesses, and it drew crowds of by-standers to watch the modernization take place.
Simcoe Street is a major road for Oshawa and Durham Region, and it has been host to parades, celebrations, shops, restaurants, education,and culture; along Simcoe Street, one can find the Oshawa Community Museum, the Canadian Automotive Museum, and Parkwood (with the Robert McLaughlin Gallery being just off Simcoe). Simcoe and King form the Four Corners, the dividing line for north/south/east/west, but it is at the Four Corners that our community truly grew together, expanded, and flourished.