Random musings about early Oshawa

Floors were either hard clay or split logs.

Fireplace chimneys had to be built with great care to prevent the cabin from getting a fire from it. Implements around the fireplace [included], hand bellows, tongs, long handled shovel, frying pan and a variety of iron pots.

Houses of logs – [were] mortised at the corners to fit into one another. Roofs were covered with bark overlapped or split hollowed log or half log fitted in such a way as to turn off the water. The green wood warped, many draughty holes in the building were the result.

Doors and window openings were made for these cabins after the building was erected.  Straight grain cedar logs were split for the door or they were laboriously hand sawed. They were fastened together by strips and the locks and hinges were ingeniously made by the jackknife carpenters.

A blanket served as a door sometimes.

Many cases were dens of dirt and misery which would in many instances be shared by an English pig sty.

The early settler’s first task was to prepare a shelter of some description for himself and his family if he had one.

The Kingston Road was called the Post Road.

English currency was used at the time.

Part of the town [was once part] of the J. Lick farm between Oshawa and Whitby. It was said to have been the only one between Toronto and Port Hope.

In the 1850s Whitby was known as Radical Corners. East Whitby and West Whitby were separated 1857. It came under the influence of Oshawa. The southern part of Whitby was settled by (those) from the eastern townships of Lower Canada and the centre by people from England.

Names of southern settlers – Coryell’s, Dearborn’s, Demeray’s, Drew’s, Farewell’s, Groat’s, Hall’s, Moore’s, Henry’s, McGill’s, McGregor’s, Rogers, Terwillagar’s, Annis’s, Hinkson’s, Mothersill’s, Pickle’s.

Centre part – Clarks, Dolittle’s, Hepburn’s, Beath’s, Nick’s, Kar’s, Luke’s, Ashton’s, McKenzie’s, Ormiston’s, Pasove’s, Pringle’s, Gibbs’, Blackwait’s, Howden’s, Smith’s, Wilcoxson, Chanlder, Dr. McMahon, Stabback, Adams, John Ratcliffe, Harper and Adams families. Very few descendants of the ones named above are here in Oshawa today.

A Mr. Joseph Wood[1] kept a store in Oshawa shortly after 1834. He was a harbourmaster at the time of his death. A number of emigrants were put off at Port Oshawa about 1853[2]. Some of them were ill. Mr. Wood and Mr. George A. Mothersill the former harbourmaster, while caring for those cholera stricken people, contracted the disease and died, as did some of the emigrants. This was the starting of the old cemetery on the lakeshore at the harbour. The attitude of the older residents down there was one of dread towards the place.

It is interesting to note that the first frame bridge over the Oshawa creek was built by the Demaray’s of East Whitby. Their name is mentioned among the older settlers.

Oshawa –       Assessment 1907 – $1,984,483

Population – 1850 – 1,200

Population – 1907 – 6,400

(1)  – Early settlement – 1798 – 1822

(2)  – Industrial Foundation – 1822 – 1840

(3)  – Post office Hamlet – 1840 – 1850

(4)  – Incorporated Village – 1850 – 1879

(5)  – Town of Oshawa – 1879 – 1907

John Kerr was the first bona fide settler in Oshawa.[3] He bought a lot in the northwest ward in 1816. He raised a large family; some were born before he came here.

Oshawa does not possess many natural advantages today. The fairly abundant water supply in those early years attracted many manufacturing firms. Many firms started up but after a few years their careers terminated in failure. Larger industries would rise as time went on, but they also terminated in failure. The tendency has always been towards larger and more [                ] taking the place of the ones that had ended in failure.

The following is a list of the industries that have been the foundation of Oshawa’s present economy:

•         1830 – Bartlett’s Tannery

•         1836 – Robson Tannery

•         1838 – Warren Mill

•         1852 – Oshawa Manufacturing Co.

•         1857 – Joseph Hall Works

•         1861 – Pedlar People Ltd.

•         1862 – Cedar Dale Scythe Works

•         1869 – McLaughlin Carriage Co.

•         1872 – Ontario Malleable Iron Co.

•         1882 – Coulthard – Scott Ltd.

•         1885 – Warren Tannery

•         1890 – Williams Piano Co.

•         1892 – Oshawa Railway Co.

•         1892 – Schofield Woolen Mill

•         1902 – Fittings Ltd.

  • 1907 – McLaughlin Motor Car Co.

Building known as Old Christian Church was moved from northeast corner of Metcalfe Street and Centre.

The attendance in the high school was increasing and more space in

[                       ] was having to be allowed then. To overcome the crowded rooms a small white clapboard building [was erected?]. The Old Christian Church was moved to the school premises.  This small church measured 36’ x 44’ and was situated on corner of Metcalfe Street and Centre Street. It was not divided into classrooms and was used for the beginner’s classes.

No luxurious motor buses ran through the city on smooth paved streets.

“A rickety straw carpeted bus, lighted by a tallow dip in a glass enclosure at one end of the conveyances rolled and bumped through snow, slush or through rivers of mud during the winter months.”

[1] Joseph Wood lived in what is now known as Henry House. Upon Wood’s passing, Thomas Henry completed the house and moved his family onto the property. Thomas Henry also took over the position of Harbourmaster.

[2] This occurred in 1849.

[3] Oshawa. McIntyre Hood. P. 26



Filed under Early Oshawa

2 responses to “Random musings about early Oshawa

  1. Dan

    I have a deep interest in old Oshawa it was great to read this & other articles by you.Thanks for sharing.
    Enjoy the day

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