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).

Street Name Stories: Building a Nation Pt. I, The Indigenous People

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 telling this story, we’ll start at the beginning, before European contact.

The place we know as Canada has been inhabited by people for thousands of years. There is not one narrative to tell the story, as different regions were settled by different diverse and distinct groups, each with their own names, languages, traditions and cultures.  In the 16th and 17th century, Europeans began their exploration and settlement of the ‘New World;’ the fishing banks off the coast of Newfoundland were of great interest to these explorers, and relations were established with the First Nations of the Atlantic.  The British and French not long after established settlements such as New France and the 13 Colonies; alliances and partnerships with the First Nations were critical for survival.  As the years continued, settlements grew, and tensions between the French and English came to a head in the mid 1750s, resulting in the fall of New France, the Treaty of Paris and the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 is seen as an important landmark moment for relations between First Nations and Europeans.  As described by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada in First Nations in Canada:

The original intent of the Royal Proclamation was to slow the uncontrolled western expansion of the colonies and tightly control the relationship between First Nations and colonists. But crucially, the Proclamation also became the first public recognition of First Nations rights to lands and title.

The Royal Proclamation can also be seen as one of the first of many pieces of legislation that would dictate Indigenous rights, as many treaties and Acts would be passed as the years went on.  What also would follow was a systematic attempt to decimate Aboriginal cultures, languages, and traditions with the creation of Residential Schools, a horribly ugly chapter in our nation’s history; treaties were ignored and rights overlooked.  In the last few decades, an importance has been placed on trying to make amends for what took place; the recent release of the Truth and Reconciliation Report has brought new attention and importance to these issues.

The 2011 census reported that Aboriginal peoples in Canada (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) totaled 1,400,685 people, or 4.3% of the national population.

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Archaeological artefacts recovered from the Grandview excavation, 1992.

Looking locally, we have artefacts in our collection which tells us that ancestral Wendat lived in Oshawa from 1400-1470CE.  Currently undergoing an expansion, we will open our new First Nations Gallery in the summer of 2017, entitled A Carrying Place: Oshawa’s Indigenous Story.

Around Taunton and Simcoe, you can find streets named after Indigenous groups or famous individuals, such as Iroquois (Haudenosaunee), Seneca, Brant (after Joseph Brant) and Sarcee (Tsuut’ina [Tsuu T’ina]).

The name Oshawa is also an Aboriginal word, which translates to: “that point at the crossing of the stream where the canoe was exchanged for the trail.”

 


I do not claim to be an expert in Canada’s Indigenous History, but I would highly recommend reading further about this topic.  Here are a few resources I consulted when preparing this post

Canadian Museum of History’s First Peoples of Canada virtual exhibit
http://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/aborig/fp/fpint01e.shtml

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, First Nations in Canada e-book
https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1307460755710/1307460872523

Truth and Reconsiliation Report
http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=890 

Where The Streets Get Their Names – Thomas Street

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

The community of Cedardale was located in Oshawa along Simcoe Street, south of Bloor Street.  One cannot speak of this village without talking about the Conant family, a long-standing and renowned family in Oshawa’s history.  A number of streets in the Simcoe/Wentworth/Bloor area have been named after this family.  Today, we’ll look at the namesake of Thomas Street, Thomas Conant.

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Thomas Conant was born in Oshawa on April 15, 1842.  His father was Daniel Conant, who built the first mill in the Oshawa area and was also involved in the Rebellion of 1837.  Thomas was the great grandson of Roger Conant, one of the first settlers to arrive in the Oshawa area, in 1792.

Thomas Conant was educated at Eddytown Seminary, near New York.  He returned home to administer his father’s property, but shortly after he became involved in the American Civil War.  His father, Daniel, encouraged him to take advantage of the opportunities that could be found in the United States.  Thomas left for New York on June 18, 1864, and later went on to Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore, visiting Northern Armies.  It is reported that as many as 80 000 Canadian men went to the United States during the Civil War, lured by the prospect of money an adventure.  Thomas was horrified by the suffering he saw in the army hospitals, and when asked if he wanted to enlist he declined.

When in the United States, Thomas Conant met with President Abraham Lincoln.  Thomas’ first impression was that Lincoln was a very awkward man.  Although it is unknown what they spoke about, Thomas was granted a pass to go and where ever he wanted in Virginia and the area of Washington.

Eventually, Thomas returned to Oshawa, where he lived until he began to travel.  He travelled around the world twice, visiting many exotic places. At a time when transportation was still fairly primitive, this was quite an achievement.  He regularly contributed articles to several newspapers, including The Oshawa Vindicator and the Toronto Globe.  These newspapers published letters from him, describing the places he visited.

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“Assassination of Author’s Grandfather. Canadian Rebellion, 1837-38” Print from Thomas Conant’s Upper Canada Sketches, illustration by E.S. Shrapnel

In addition to his newspaper articles, Thomas Conant also wrote books.  His works include Upper Canada Sketches (1898) and Life in Canada (1903).

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The Conant family home, c. 1902

Thomas lived in the Conant family home, known as “Buenavista,”a brick mansion located on the corner of Wentworth and Simcoe Streets in Oshawa.  It was torn down in November 1985 to make way for a 43 unit townhouse development by the Durham Region Non-Profit Housing Corporation.  Thomas was also an avid reader, and his private library, located in his house, consisted of 6000 volumes.

Thomas married Margaret Gifford, and in 1885, a son, Gordon Daniel Conant, was born.  Mr. G. D. Conant was very dedicated to public service and held many prominent positions, including Mayor of Oshawa and Premier of Ontario.  Thomas Conant died in 1905, at the age of 63.  He is still remembered as an outstanding citizen.

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Conant Headstone, Union Cemetery, Section C


Above biographical information on Thomas Conant from Historical Oshawa Information Sheets.

Where the Streets Get Their Names – Shelley Avenue

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Autumn is in full swing.  The leaves are changing brilliant colours and falling faster than rakes can catch up, Thanksgiving was celebrated (here in Canada, at least) a few weeks ago, and in the next few days, Halloween celebrations will commence.  On October 31, the streets will be filled with princesses, ghosts, goblins, and vampires.  Perhaps you know someone who will be dressing up as the monster known as Frankenstein. When someone says Frankenstein, this is the monster that comes to mind:

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Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s creature; By Universal Studios – Dr. Macro, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3558176

Through the years, popular culture has led to the confusion of Frankenstein, the ‘doctor’ and mad scientist, and his creation, with the creation commonly being called Frankenstein.  This misnomer aside, I’m sure there will be many trick-or-treaters who will be donning green face paint and adding assorted scars and neck bolts to complete their costume.  Dr. Frankenstein and his monster were the creation of a 19th century author, Mary Shelley.

The origins of this tale are almost as legendary as the tale itself.  As the story goes, Mary travelled to Lord Byron’s Villa in Switzerland with her partner (and later husband)  Percy Bysshe Shelley (the writer John Polidori was also a part of this group, as well as Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont).  The weather was dark and gloomy, and as the evening went on, Byron suggested that the group write their own ghost stories.  The short story Mary created was later expanded to her novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.  It is a tale of a scientist who brings a corpse back to life and the consequences of this action.  It is written in the Gothic style and is considered by many to be the first ‘science fiction’ book.

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By Richard Rothwell – Scan of a print. Original housed at the National Portrait Gallery: NPG 1235 https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4219463

Who was Mary Shelley?  She was born in 1797 as Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, daughter of feminist philosopher, educator, and writer Mary Wollstonecraft, and philosopher, novelist, and journalist William Godwin.  Her mother died shortly after her birth, and she was raised by her father and later by his second wife.  She first met Percy Bysshe Shelley in the early 1810s; he was married when they first met, however he was estranged from his wife.  She committed suicide in 1816, and Shelley and Mary were married shortly after.  It was earlier in the year of 1816 that the couple famously visited Byron in Switzerland.

Mary Shelley wasn’t the only person to tell a good ghost story that weekend as Polidori would write The Vampyre after that weekend.

Before his death in 1822, Mary & Percy would have one surviving child, a son named Percy Florence Shelley.  Mary passed away on February 1, 1851 at the age of 53.

Shelley Avenue in Oshawa is found in the ‘authors neighbourhood,’ north east of Harmony and the 401.  Other street names in that area are Keates, Shakespeare, Austin, Milton, and Browning.  Was the street named for Mary, her equally noteworthy husband Percy, or for both, I cannot say for sure. Regardless of its namesake, the name Shelley is linked with the tale of a scientist who brought a corpse back to life.


“How dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to be greater than his nature will allow.”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

 

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: STAND BACK, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! HE’S GOT A ROTTEN BRAIN!

Frau Blücher: It’s not rotten! It’s a good brain!

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: IT’S ROTTEN, I TELL YOU! ROTTEN!

The Monster: [lunging at Dr. Frankenstein] RRAAAAAAAA!

Igor: Ixnay on the ottenray.

-Mel Brooks, Young Frankenstein