An Introduction to the Henry Grandchildren

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

Father Henry was very fond of children, and his grandchildren will carry to their graves pleasant memories of ‘Grandpa’s Parties.’ These parties were given on the 24th of May, and the grandchildren were all invited. The children were all welcome if they came, but the grandchildren were the honored guests. We shall always remember the long table, surrounded by children, with grandpa at the head dispensing the good cheer provided for the occasion, was a face scarcely less bright and happy than the children around him.

~Polly Ann Henry, Stoney Kudel, and Laura Suchan, The Annotated Memoir of Rev. Thomas Henry (Oshawa Historical Society, 2017), 115-116.

Why them? Why was it important to me to document the lives of Thomas Henry’s grandchildren? This project began a few years ago when we decided to host an event we called Grandpa Henry’s Picnic. After a few years of hosting this event, I realized that we weren’t offering any information to the public about our guests of honour! I quickly printed out some pictures and did a few brief biographical sketches. Later I began to wonder which of the grandkids attended these Grandpa’s Parties. There were so many of them, I began to lose track of who was who.

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My next step was to create an Excel spreadsheet that included columns to denote their names, year born, age at death, occupation, where they lived, did they live while Thomas was alive, who were their parents, are there any photos of them, and did they have any servants. From here I could manipulate the columns to see the grandkids from oldest to youngest, according to who their parents and siblings were, and were they alive while Thomas was.

In total, Thomas and Lurenda had 54 grandchildren. Thomas’s first wife Elizabeth never met any of her grandchildren, dying when her oldest son was only nine years old. For sake of ease, my research has not included any step-grandchildren, nor infants whose information I could not find.

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Bertie Vasbinder,Hazel DeGurre, “Aunt Eliza Henry,” Arlie DeGurre, Elva Lorbeer, Jennie McGill (A017.20.14)

Ambrose Henry, son of John and Elizabeth, was the first grandson born in 1847, and Ida May McGill, was the youngest granddaughter, daughter of John and Jennie, and born in 1890 – 43 years apart. To give you some more perspective, Ambrose was born before his youngest three aunts and uncle were born: Clarissa in 1848, William in 1849 and Jennie in 1852. In another interesting tidbit, the oldest granddaughter Edna, daughter of John and Elizabeth was born in 1855 and Thomas’s youngest daughter Jennie was born in 1852.

Now that you’ve gotten a taste of the information, which I personally find fascinating, I hope you’ll continue reading as I introduce Thomas Henry’s Grandchildren.

Making Butter

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Since mid-March, the Oshawa Museum shifted our visitor engagement online. I had a lot of fun filming a few short videos at the Museum, with the hopes that even if you can’t physically visit the Museum, you can still experience some of our favourite tour features.  Thanks to a suggestion from my best friend, we also created a short video tutorial on how you can make your own butter at home! You can watch that video HERE.

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For many centuries, butter has been a staple in Canadian homes. For a Victorian family of the 19th century, butter making would have been a routine chore. Butter was used in the same way we use it today: as an ingredient in recipes or as a spread for bread, scones and tea biscuits, but it would also be used for barter at the local grocers.

In the video demo, and when we make butter with visitors, we use:

  • whipping cream
  • clean mason jar with tight fitting lid
  • marbles, to help with agitation (optional)
  • Salt (optional)

To make butter like we did in the video, place your cream into your container, filling it about halfway, not all the way.  This is where you can add your optional marbles, which help with agitation, and salt for flavour. Tighten the lid and start shaking.  After some time, the result of all the shaking is your butter and buttermilk.

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Victorians likely would have used churns when making their butter, and we have a few churn examples in our collection. Likely the example that comes to mind first is the churn and dash. By pumping the dasher up and down, the cream inside the churn would be agitated and eventually separation would occur – the fat and protein of the dairy, and the remaining liquid, the buttermilk.

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This churn is another example, where the crank on the outside is turned, and there are paddles on the inside which cause the agitation.

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Perhaps an artefact that is asked about on most tours is the rocker churn.  Our example was made in Fenelon Falls, and at first glance, you likely wouldn’t guess it’s a butter churn.  When the lid is removed, you can see wooden bars on the inside and yes, you guessed it, those bars act like the dash and agitate the cream.  There is even a spout near the bottom where the buttermilk could pour out.

The 1851 agricultural census gives us a snapshot of what crops Thomas Henry had on his farms and what animals were being cared for.  That year, Thomas had 11 cows: 4 bulls, oxen or steers; 3 cows/heifers; and 4 milch cows, which is a cow in milk or kept for her milk. It is likely that among the chores that Thomas’s children would have helped with, his sons would have cared for the animals, and his daughters may have turned that milk into butter.

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Be sure to check out the Museum From Home page for other at home activities to try!

You Asked, We Answered: The Centre Street Church Settee

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

While on tour, our Visitor Hosts are often asked questions that they may not be able to answer in that moment. This wasn’t one such question as I happened to know the answer, but I thought it could make an interesting post for the blog nonetheless.

I was recently on tour in Henry House when I was asked about the story of the settee in the parlour. It has an interesting provenance.

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The museum acquired the settee in 1973; before donation, it was used in the Centre Street Church, the same church that Thomas Henry preached at decades before.

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Centre Street Church’s origins lay with the Christian Church, officially organizing in Darlington in 1821. A decade later in 1831, Elder Thomas Henry organized the Oshawa Christian Church and served as its pastor. Meetings were held in homes and schoolrooms until 1843 when the first church was built in the area of Richmond and Church (later Centre) Streets. This church served the needs of the congregation for 30 years, during most of which time Rev. Thomas Henry was its minister.

The Christian Church soon became too small for the congregation; a section of land was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Cade, and a new church was built in 1874 on Centre Street, just south of King Street. It was reported that more than 400 worshipers were turned away from the opening service due to lack of room, indicative of the interest and support for the new building. Four services were held on the dedication day on September 5, 1875.

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The church, known as the Oshawa Christian Church, was known for its beautiful lofty spire, and it was constructed with white brick with the roof and spire covered with slate.  Installed in the spire was a bell, a ‘crowning touch’ as reported by the Oshawa Times in 1967.

In 1928 the church joined the United Church of Canada and was renamed Centre Street United Church.

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Photo from the Oshawa Times, April 29, 1967

In the 1960s, City Hall was looking to expand, and the church trustees agreed to sell the property to facilitate construction of the Rundle Tower.  The last service at the Centre Street United Church was held on April 30, 1967, conducted by Rev. A.W. Magee.  The congregation merged with the Westmount United, forming Centennial United. Eventually the congregation merged once again with Albert Street United to form Centennial Albert United Church which stands today on the southeast corner of Rosehill Blvd and Bond Street.

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Other vestiges of the Centre Street United Church remain, besides the bench and amalgamated congregation.  The ‘crowning touch’ bell can still be found today outside the Rundle Tower at City Hall, where the church originally sat, and a keystone bearing the date 1874 is a feature of the Henry House Heritage Gardens.

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You Asked, We Answered: Where are the Henrys Buried?

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

While on tour, our Visitor Hosts are often asked questions that they may not be able to answer in that moment. However, we take note of the questions and try to find the answers afterwards. Here is one such question asked during a tour.

Where are the Henrys buried?

A large number of the Henry Family are buried in the cemetery which has become known as the Port Oshawa Pioneer Cemetery.  This cemetery may be one of the oldest in our community with an interesting history.

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The earliest known burial, based on headstones, is that of Nancy Henry, the mother of Thomas, who died in 1816.  As described in Thomas’s memoirs:

Autumn came and wreathed its many colored drapery around the mighty forests’ head, but the bright tints faded, the red leaves fell, and when the heavy frosts came down on the bare brown earth, a great affliction fell on the little household in their lonely, forest home. The wife and mother died.  Almost without precursor or warning she went, and left anguish and desolation behind her. Far from sympathizing friends, far from religious comforters, with none but her own little family around her, she bowed her head, and closed her eyes in death… [S]he was buried with Christian rites, on a little hill beside the lake… (The Annotated Memoirs of Rev. Thomas Henry, page 27).

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It is likely this cemetery had been used for burials before the death of Nancy, but there are no burial records existing from that time.

Thomas is laid to rest at this cemetery, as are both his wives, his father John, five of his children, and three grandchildren.

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Headstone for Thomas Henry & family; left photo dates to 1947 and shows original topper for headstone.  It is no longer there (right photo)

Originally, this cemetery was located to the east of the harbour, on an area known as Gifford’s Hill, however, the cemetery was moved to Bonnie Brae Point in 1975 to accommodate harbour expansion.  There were 195 individuals removed to the point, and an additional ten burials have taken place since then.

Early Woolen Enterprises in Oshawa

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

When I’m not sharing the history of Oshawa or giving tours of the site, I can usually be found with knitting needles and yarn in my hands. A voracious knitter with a dangerous yarn shopping habit, I’m rarely cold as I’m usually covered in wool.  Naturally, my interest is piqued when knitting or wool is mentioned in a historical context, like how I could not resist knitting the pair of socks from a pattern published in the local newspaper in 1916.  In Jill’s post from mid-November, she recounted that in the Sam Pedlar manuscript, the earliest business mentioned is Beagle & Conklin, purveyors of spinning wheels and handlooms in 1793.  Be still, my heart. This got me curious as to how many other woolly industries has Oshawa been home to through the years.

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Knitting at an Culture Squared in 2016; thanks to Carla from the RMG for the photo!

Let’s start with Beagle & Conklin. Pedlar serves as the resource for this industry.  After arriving in Oshawa in the early 1790s, Benjamin Wilson was so taken with the area that he wrote letters to those whom he knew in the States, espousing the greatness of Upper Canada, and Beagle & Conklin arrived as a result of one of Wilson’s letters.  They established their business of making spinning wheels and handlooms around 1793.  As stated by Pedlar: “It has often been asked how came it about that Oshawa is such an industrial centre, in the light of its history it is easily accounted for. So long as shaft and pulley revolves in Oshawa’s busy works, may the names of Beagle and Conklin be kept in mind.”

A number of woolen mills, where wool is processed, have also been located in Oshawa through the years.  Perhaps the largest such industry was Schofield, who were located on Centre Street and in our community from 1892-1951. It is worth noting that woolen mills were often large employers of women, and this was indeed the case with Schofield.

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The Oshawa Creek provided power to many of the early mills in our community, including Gorham’s woolen mill, located at what Pedlar called ‘The Hollow;’ he was referring to the area around what is today Mill Street.  The proprietor was Joseph Gorham, and this woolen mill was established in 1822, in the same vicinity of Dearborn & Cleveland’s grist mill.  Pedlar asserts, “this woolen mill so far as the writer has been able to learn is the third industry which utilized the water power of the Oshawa Creek.”  Before long, the Hollow was the home of E Smith’s distillery and Miles Luke’s tannery.  It is not known how long Gorham’s woolen mill was in business, but Joseph himself died in 1839, aged 50 years, buried at the Pioneer Memorial Gardens Cemetery.

An enterprising man, Samuel Hall was a prolific builder in our community, establishing factories, saw mills, helped with a store house and elevator at Port Oshawa, and a woolen mill north of the town.

The Oshawa Creek also provided power to Ethan Card, another woolen and carding mill established around 1842.  His was located at the ‘raceway,’ along the creek north of King Street, where the creek ‘races’ along. He was also laid to rest at the Pioneer Memorial Gardens, passing away in 1854.

If we look to the northern communities in Oshawa, there was the Empire Woolen Mill in Columbus.  It was located just outside the village, another mill that harnessed the power of the creek.  It was reportedly the largest mill in the area.  It was established in 1835 by Mathewson and Ratcliffe and was sold to the Empire Mills Company in 1850. According to information from Archaeological Services Inc., approximately 50 workers were employed by this business, many of whom were brought to the area from Lancashire and Yorkshire in England, and they resided either in boarding houses or small cottages.  The business moved in 1887, and a flood three years later washed away the mill’s dam.

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Empire Woolen Mills near Columbus, c. 1883 (AX995.169.1)

Finally, we know our own Thomas Henry dabbled with wool. As per the 1851 agricultural census, amongst his other crops and livestock, he had 27 sheep with 100 pounds of wool.  An interesting note in the 1868 Vindicator tells us Thomas had an incident involving his sheep.  As reported:

Returned – Three of the sheep advertised by Mr. Thomas Henry, have returned home without their fleeces, but marked with a hole in the right ear.  If the man who was kind enough to shear them will be kind enough to return the fleeces and the two missing sheep, he will be paid for the shearing, but not for the marking.

Finally, memories shared by one of Thomas’s granddaughters, Arlie DeGuerre, gives a glimpse into how Thomas’s daughters would have passed time inside the house:

One can scarcely imagine the work it was to clothe and feed a family of 14 children, especially when all the yarn was carded and spun from the sheep’s wool and then woven into cloth right at home.  The big loom was in a corner of the kitchen and it seemed to never stop.  On into the later evening one could hear the shuttle go back and forth; one foot peddle go down and then the other as Mother Henry wove the cloth for trousers, shirts, and dresses and all the woolen cloth used in the home.  Elizabeth the second eldest girl became the seamstress.  She sewed nearly all the time.  The girls knit socks and mitts, pieced quilts, mended and darned socks during most of their spare hours.

Oshawa has long been known as a manufacturing community, the creek providing power to the early industries that became established here, many of which were woolen mills, preparing the fibres so that warm clothes could be made.



Addendum: October 2020 – I was looking in our database at the Thomas Henry Correspondence Collection, a donation received in 2013 and has been written about before on the blog. I was very delighted to see this as part of the collection:

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Unfortunately, this slip of paper is undated and has no additional context, but Thomas Henry is named on this receipt for 10lbs (or 1.0lb) of yarn. A surprise like this was worthy of an addendum to this post.