Oshawa Boundaries: 1900 -1910

In those peaceful years, Oshawa was a pretty little town with about a 5,000 population.  It was hemmed in by the following boundaries – “the Second Concession” on the north (Rossland Road), “The Base Line” on the south (Bloor Street), “The Town Line” on the east (Wilson Road) and “The Crooked Road” on the west (Park Road). Some very nice homes [were] here and for the most part all the folks took pride in keeping up their surroundings.  It could be said that it was the era in which the foundation of our modern industrial life was laid. The trees were allowed to live and flourish. The streets were lined with beautiful elms and maples. The two creeks, the Oshawa and the Harmony were not contaminated as they are now.  Willow trees and various other smaller trees and bushes grew along the banks, arranged in the way that only Mother Nature knows how to do.

Very nice homes with well kept and spacious grounds were occupied by the residents at that time.  Some of them had been taken over from the older families of that past century, to mention two of them, T.M. Cables, W.H. Gibbs[1], who had made their contributions to Oshawa’s progress.

The heavy wooden bridge over the Oshawa Creek was in about the same place on King Street West as it is now, but the hill was somewhat steeper.  Just before one came to the bridge, a quite large canning factory was located[2]. The odours from it were far from being sweet at times.  It earned the name of the “Canning Factory Hollow” for that spot.  However, it gave seasonal employment to many women and girls. The factory was located on the south side of the street.

On the north side, a large grist mill was in operation on the site of the present McLaughlin Coal & Supplies.  It was run by water power and continued to be, until 1916. The huge wheel was not far from the road and it could usually be seen quietly turning and splashing away.  The water in the creek was fast flowing and more plentiful than now.  It was an ideal stream for the purpose.

The building which housed the machinery was on the other side of the street.  It was a barn like structure painted with Coca Cola signs or Fletcher’s Castoria. Companies in those days painted such buildings free for the privilege of posting their advertising on them.

 Can one imagine it, that part of the present Oshawa golf course was then covered by a considerable sized pond or lake?  The water was carried by a long raceway down to the mill from a dam a little north of Louise Street.[3]

There were several industries in Oshawa at the time from which people could gain a living.  By that time the Carriage Company was well established and the [                    ] feeling its way towards the production of motor cars.  The Carriage Company was started in Tyrone by Robert McLaughlin, father of Sam.  The first production was only in fact cutters.  The carriages turned out by the company were well finished and some of them were very swanky vehicles, with rubber tires.  They were famous the world over until the company was forced to take over the motor car industry.  Wages were not high then; older people can recollect when a man was paid $6 a week, what would that kind of money look like today?

The motor cars of those years look queer to us today.  I can recollect riding in one of those when quite a small child.  It seemed so queer to be perched up on that high seat, with seemingly nothing to keep me from going head long.  I was frightened I remember. When automobiles became more plentiful, people seemed to like to brag about how long it took them to come from a certain place or to go there.  There was one car on the road driven by a person called the Flying (?) that everybody respected.  It was frightful, and judging by the noise it made it did not have a muffler.  The driver liked the bottle pretty well so the car careened all over the road.  It was the terror of all the horses and their owners in the whole community.

There were other industries, namely Fittings Limited founded by J.D. Storie and J. Bailes; the [Ontario] Malleable Iron Co., founded by John and W.F Cowan, the Pedlar People [founded by Henry and George Pedlar], which was then situated where Memorial Park is today; Warren Mills [also founded by J.B. Warren] on Centre Street, the T. Eaton Co.[4] on Charles Street. The Woollen Mills on Centre Street which folded up a few years ago also employed girls and women. The Williams Piano Co. On Richmond Street West went out of business during the time of [                  ]. They turned out excellent pianos and organs famous the world over.

Eli Edmondson was a prominent figure in Oshawa in those days.  He owned the property which was the late R.S. McLaughlin Estate[5].  His fine old home was built by W.H. Warren, one of the residents here in the 1850’s. Mr. Edmondson fitted part of his surrounding grounds for a ball ground at the south end and a band shell was built near the house.  He rented the facilities to the public for a small fee.  The ground immediately surrounding the house was landscaped and the lawn was a beautiful green. Owing to the popularity of lacrosse, the field which is now Alexandria Park was bought from the original owner for a mere song.  It was given it name for King Edward VII’s consort Queen Alexandra[6] and was turned into a sport ground and place for public affairs.  The first Oshawa fair was held there in 1906.  Everybody and his brother went to see the horse races and the exhibits which were of no mean quality.  They went in horse drawn conveyances.  There were not many “automobiles” then.

Most people had gardens, varying in size and not a few kept a cow and perhaps chicken.  Cows were pastured in the town; the Oshawa Creek valley was a favourite place.  There were many complaints about young roosters trying out their juvenile voices in the early hours of dawn.  They made quite a chorus as there were many of them.  Most of the population living outside the town were on farms.  They were for the most part self supporting.  They sold their produce to the town folk for a mere pittance.  A few cents could buy quite a respectable amount.  A lot of it was given away.

I am sure the health authorities of today would drop dead on the spot if they could see the condition of the containers and the way the milk was handled when it was peddled in the town.  Anyone could sell it, and no licenses were required.  A few flies were neither here nor there.  Meat that was sold was not much better, or bread.  There was no meat inspection or wrappers or bags for the bread that was sold off the wagons.  However, most people survived it and most lived to a good old age.


[1] W.H. Gibbs served as a School Trustee in the late 1850’s and was also a local miller.

[2] The factory was located on King Street West and consisted of three buildings which were constructed of brick and metal.  There were two warehouses and a processing building.  The warehouses were 80 X 40 feet, 100 X 30 feet and the process building was 100 X 35 feet in dimension.  The company employed an average of seventy five people which enabled an annual output of 75,000 cases of produce. The cans were filled with fruits, vegetables, chicken and turkey which were supplied by the local farmers.

Prior to the arrival of the Canning Company, the property was first owned by Charles Honey, who was the first to build on this site.  He used the building to manufacture fanning mills.  The second owner of the building was W.T. Dingle who continued its sites original business.  Unfortunately, the building was gutted by a fire in 1880 and W.T. Dingle was forced to rebuild his business and repair the building.  It was not until sometime later that the building was finally sold to Mr. Mark F. Smith.

The Canning Company stayed in business for approximately 25 years.  By 1928, Mr. Smith sold the building to the Canadian Canners of Hamilton who surprisingly enough did not continue the canning company, but instead rented out parts of the building to other local companies.

[3] Mr. Charles Knees, who had purchased the Warren tannery in 1893, built the home in the above photograph. On the west side of the mill race, just at the foot of Richmond Street East, now the west side of McMillan Drive, the property was also known as the Wakely home. Mr. Knees was a Danish gentleman, and his home beside the race may have reminded him of his homestead. The house has since been demolished. (Bouckley. Oshawa Revisited. 2010)
*This photograph is intended to show what the creek looks like, and does not show the location mentioned in the paragraph above it.  The description directly above is the description for the photograph; it was included as a representation, and because it is a lovely photograph.

[4] Operated as a shirft factory and supplied the stores in Toronto. It gave employment to a large number of girls and women.

[5] This was known as Prospect Park.

[6] Of Denmark.

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