In the year 1842, the place now known as the town of Oshawa was composed of a few scattered houses, two hotels, and three general stores. The principal store was conducted by Edward Skea, a Scotchman from the town of Leith who had entered into partnership with a fellow-countryman by the name of MacDonald, and did a general business since 1835, under the name of Skea and MacDonald. The exact location of this firm was on the brow of the hill immediately opposite the old Oshawa House on the corner of King and Centre Streets. A few years later the South-East corner of King and Simcoe Streets was selected by them as a more advantageous point for this pioneer firm to ply its once prosperous trade. It was on account of the well known reputation of this firm throughout the surrounding country that the early hamlet received its first recognized name, ” Skea’s Corner.” In 1842 the inhabitants of Skea’s Corners experienced their first thrill of ambition. Post Offices were being established throughout the country and the little community whose history we are now about to contemplate caught the fever, and were determined to possess this luxury. Edward Skea took the initiative and made application to the Legislature, by letter, for a Post Office. John Hilliard Cameron, who then represented what was known as the Home District, including Skea’s Corners, in Parliament, answered that before a Post Office could be established it would be necessary for the people of the neighbourhood to decide upon a name for it. Apparently the solution of this little problem gave rise to considerable controversy. Many meetings were called to discuss and to decide this momentous question. We are led to believe, however, that no bitterness nor acrimony marked the prolonged debates. The place of meeting probably had a great deal to do with the good humor of the discussion, and possibly with the fact that many sessions were desirable, if not necessary, before arriving at a conclusion. Before the blaze of a back log in a huge open fireplace of the sitting room in the hotel on the South-West corner of King and Simcoe Streets, night after night, the ambitious and progressive spirits of the time sat, and talked over the prospective Post Office, and speculated as to what would be its name. Gradually and surely public opinion was settling upon “Sydenham” as the suitable name. The wharf at the Lake had been known for some time as “Sydenham Harbor.” What more natural than to further honor Lord Sydenham than by calling the Post ,Office after him also. This certainly would have been done, had it not been for the timely appearance at one of those meetings of Moody Farewell, father of the well known and historic Abraham Farewell of Harmony. Moody Farewell had conducted a thriving business in the fur trade with the Indians round about and had become somewhat intimately associated with them on that account. Two of those Indians accompanied Farewell one night as he entered the hotel, and found the men of the little hamlet busily engaged at the problem under discussion. It was suggested by someone present that the Indians be taken into their confidence, and asked their opinion as to a suitable name for the proposed Post Office. Strange to say, the children of the forest were equal to the occasion, and advised them to call the place ” Oshawa.” When asked as to the meaning of the word, they answered that it had reference to the “crossing of a stream.” For this explanation of the origin of the name we are indebted to Mr. Glenny who was present upon the occasion referred to, and states that by common consent the name was immediately adopted and forwarded to John Hilliard Cameron, and henceforth the people of the district recognized the place by that name. For purposes of convenience one should make the year 1842 the dividing line between what may be called historic and prehistoric Oshawa. This suggestion appears quite natural not only on account of the origin of the name and the date of the Post Office but also from the fact that many of the narrated incidents previous to 1842 are dependent upon traditional stories and documents which, though they cannot be doubted, are nevertheless too disjointed to be regarded as authentic history. Subsequent to the year 1842 we can readily trace the current of events from a municipal standpoint by following downward in a natural channel, whereas previous to that date we will be obliged to trace, in an upward direction, the ramifications of many small family branches which in 1842 united to form that somewhat important stream of humanity now commonly known as the town of Oshawa.
It is evident that many white settlers were to be found in certain districts, Harmony, Thornton’s Corners, and The Harbor, immediately surrounding the present site of Oshawa some years before any were inclined to locate in that black ash swamp which was destined at a later date to become the scene of such wonderful industrial activity. As the Post Office seemed for so many years to stand as central factor in our development we append the following letter, written 1904, which gives the list of Postmasters ever since the establishment of the first mail delivery by stage.
Post Office Department, Canada, Ottawa, 19th May, 1904.
My dear sir :-
With further reference to your letter of the 5th instant, making enquiry in regard to the dates of appointment of the Postmasters of Oshawa since 1842, I beg to say that the Oshawa Post Office was established in 1842, with a Mr. Edward Shea as Postmaster. The management of this Department was in the hands of the British Office until 1851, and the records up to that time are not in the possession of the Department. The Department is unable to say, therefore, what changes took place in the Post-mastership of Oshawa during that early period. It is found that a Mr. Gavin Burns was Postmaster in 1854, and from that time till his death on the 7th January, 1861. A Mr. David Smith was appointed Postmaster on the 29th January, 1861, and resigned on the 26th April, 1862. He was succeeded by Francis Keller, who was appointed on the 26th of April, 1862, and resigned on the 24th October, 1866. Mr. David Smith appears then to have been re-appointed on the 14th March, 1867, holding the office until his death on the 7th November, 1877. Mr. James Carmichael was appointed to succeed him on the 1st November, 1877, and retained the Post-mastership until his death in June of last year. Mr. John Francis Tamblyn, the present Postmaster, was appointed on the 16th June, 1903.
Yours very truly,
R. M. COULTER,
Deputy Postmaster General. T. E. Kaiser, Esq., M. D.,
The Registry Office at Whitby will establish the following records as showing the possessors of the 800 acres of land which constitute the main part of the town of Oshawa, from the time of the first grants by the Crown in 1798 to 1842, the date of the Post Office. It may be a matter of surprise and of some historic interest to know that at least 200 acres of this land, the N. W. Ward, was once the property of an actual slave. It will be observed that the Crown granted this farm in 1798 to Elizabeth Gray, the mother of R. S. D. Gray, Attorney General of Upper Canada, who was drowned on the ill-fated boat ” Speedy ” about 1804. A copy of his will, dated 1803, reads as follows : “I feel it a duty incumbent on me, in consequence of the long and faithful services of Dorinda, my black woman servant, rendered to my family, to release, manumit and discharge her from the state of slavery in which she now is, and to give her and all her children their freedom. My will therefore is that she be released, and I hereby accordingly release, manumit and discharge the said Dorinda, my black woman servant, and all and every one of her said children, both male and female, from slavery, and declare them and every one of them to be free. And in order that provision may be made for the support of the said Dorinda and her children, and that she may not want after my decease, my will is, and I hereby empower my executors out of my real estate to raise the sum, of twelve hundred pounds currency, and place the same in some solvent and secure fund, and the interest accruing from the same, I give and bequeath to the said Dorinda, her heirs and assigns forever, to be paid annually.”
Other black slaves are also freed and to Simon is left 200 acres of land in the township of Whitby, lot No. 11, 2nd Con. (N. W. Ward of Oshawa). To another black servant is left 200 acres, Lot 17, 2nd Concession, Whitby.
ANNUAL RATEPAYERS’ MEETING,
Ratepayers of Oshawa and friends and opponents of Free Schools, do not fail to be on hand at ten o’clock this morning at the Court House, to give your votes and have your say, if you have anything to say, on the subject of Free Schools. Two vacancies in the School Trustee Board are to be filled, the two gentlemen chosen to hold office for two years.
OSHAWA MUNICIPAL ELECTION.
On Monday morning last, at ten o’clock, the electors assembled in the Court House for the purpose of nominating candidates for the Council for 1862. The Returning Officer, Mr. Wm. E. Mark, having taken his position, called for nominations, and in the course of fifteen or twenty minutes, no less than twenty-five gentlemen were proposed by their friends. After the nominations were closed, the Returning Officer called for a show of hands for each of the gentlemen nominated, with the following result :
S. B. Fairbanks, 53. Thos. Eck and D. F. Burk, each 51. T. N. Gibbs, 49. D. Spaulding, 46. E. Dunn, 42. G. H. Grierson, 41. W. W. Brown, 37. J. Hislop and G. Wallace, 26. E. Carswell, 24. John Cade, 22. Jas. Chase and Robert Graham, 20. D. H. Merritt, 18. A. Hackett and J. Carmichael, 16. R. T. Manuel, 15. W. Dickie, 14. A. Thompson, 13. Dr. M’Gill, 12. J. Gilchrist, 10, etc., etc.
According to the show of hands, Messrs. Fairbanks, Eck, Burk, Gibbs and Spaulding were for the time being declared duly elected.
The various gentlemen put in nomination were then called upon for speeches.
Mr. Fairbanks responded first and laid before the people an elaborate statement of the financial transactions of the Council during the past year, and intimated that they all intended presenting themselves for a renewal of that confidence imposed in them a year ago, except Mr. Walter, who had removed to Bowmanville. He showed that the taxes were, this year, but 42 cts in the pound, against 50 cts the previous year, and yet there was a surplus of about $1,000 in the Treasury at the close of the yeara state of things unparalleled in the annals of the corporation. By being in the County Council, too, he had procured a reduction in the rate of County assessment, and in 1861, the sum was $363, against $834.48 in 1860. He also explained, in reference to the “so-called” Temperance houses, that he was not aware that Messrs. Manuel and Leonard intended applying for temperance house licenses until after they had paid the fee into the Treasury, and obtained their receipts, for it was not then in his power, according to the existing bylaw, to refuse them. But, if he was honored with a seat in the Council in 1862, he would see that that portion of the License Bylaw was immediately repealed, and a provision inserted leaving it with the Council to decide upon the merits of each individual application. He said further, that it was the unanimous opinion of himself and his colleagues, that four licensed taverns in the Village and one at the Station, were plenty for this village, and on that understanding they had agreed to come forward for re-election.
Mr. Eck briefly accepted the nomination, and Mr. Burk ditto.
Thos. N. Gibbs, Esq., on coming forward, said it was not his intention to remain a candidate, believing that there were plenty of others nominated from whom to make a good selection for the vacancy caused by Mr. Walter’s absence. He expressed himself much pleased with the statements made by Mr. Fairbanks. There were two or three topics to which he wished to call the attention of the people, and of the Council. One was the advisability of taking steps in relation to the erection, in the course of a few years, of a new and more commodious and respectable Town Hall. Another was the taking of the necessary steps for the incorporation of Oshawa as a town. At the time when this question was brought forward before, nobody had any information upon it, but he had since come into possession of such facts with regard to it as he believed would convince nearly every elector of the advisability of procuring an Act of Incorporation as a Town. The third item was the providing at some early day, for the purchase of a plot of ground for use as a public park. Posterity would Bless the memories of the men who moved in this matter, and handed down to future generations a monument of their prudent foresight.
Mr. Spaulding and Mr. Grierson next came forward, in turn, the former making his annual reference to the mighty Vindicator, and the latter to the positions occupied by Messrs. Gibbs and Fairbanks. Mr. G., however, in criticising Mr. Fairbanks’ financial statement, very correctly remarked that the 42 cts per pound producing more money in 1861 than 50 cts per pound did in 1860 was owing to the fact that the assessment was higher in’61 than in ’60, and not to any superior management on the part of the Council. The reduction in the amount of the County tax was due, also, mainly to the fact that the County did not require so much money in 1861 as in 1860.
Mr. W. W. Brown briefly accepted the nomination, and Mr. Hislop ditto.
Mr. G. Wallace and Mr. E. Carswell each spoke briefly and declined either “standing” or “running.” One sat down and the other leisurely walked away.
Mr. James Chase said he would allow his name to remain for the present. Thought five taverns an abundance for Oshawa.
Mr. J. Carmichael declined running, but made a few remarks. He said that although the rate of taxation was eight cents in the pound less in 1861 than in 1860, yet the Council for the past year had received about $1,200 more from the ratepayers than that of 1860.
Mr. R. T. Manuel next took the stand, immediately after which the audience was entertained with a vivid representation of that ancient and celebrated comedy entitled “Satan Reproving Sin.” Mr. Manuel brazenly remarked that he never denied having sold whiskey, and yet he accused the Reeve and Inspector of partiality because they fined him oftener than some others who did not violate the law so openly.
The other gentlemen nominated were then, in turn, called upon, but all being absent, or not wishing to speak.
Mr. Gibbs briefly replied to some remarks of Mr. Grierson’s, with respect to the fines while he (T. N. G.) was Reeve some years ago. He said that as the statute then stood the fines were payable, mostly to the County treasury, and therefore, of course the amount paid to the Village treasury was small, in comparison to what it was at present.
This ended the speaking. It was then ascertained that all the gentlemen nominated had declined except the four old Councilmen, and Messrs. Dunn, Hislop, Chase and Dickie. Efforts were made to compromise matters and have the election ended for once without a contest, but without success. During the afternoon but one vote was recorded. In the evening, a few of the friends of each candidate assembled to consider the chances. Various very handsome arrangements for the struggle on the succeeding day were doubtless made, but in the morning all parties seemed to feel a little less courageous, and the result was that after a brief consultation among the friends of all four gentlemen, it was finally resolved that all should retire except Mr. Dunn, and that the poll should be closed before noon by letting an hour elapse without a vote being cast. This arrangement was accordingly carried out, and the poll was closed shortly after 11 o’clock.
The members of the Oshawa Council for 1862 are, therefore :
S. B. Fairbanks, Thomas Eck,
D. F. Burk, W. W. Brown, Edward Dunn.
It is understood, as a matter of course, that Mr. Fairbanks will remain in the Reeve’s chair another year.