Oshawa Historicist: The Pioneers of Ritson Road

Reminders of Oshawa’s pioneer past go largely unnoticed, but many are hidden in plain sight.  Lisa Terech, Community Engagement at the Oshawa Community Museum, explored the history behind one of Oshawa’s busiest roads, and found the story of how bad luck lead to love between Oshawa’s first school teacher and a teenage pioneer.      

Mary (Stone) Ritson, from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

Mary (Stone) Ritson, from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

Mary Catherine Stone was born on September 18, 1803, the eldest daughter of Benjamin Stone and Catherine Kendall. Benjamin and Catherine originally lived in Massachusetts, but moved to Canada shortly after their marriage in 1802. They settled in the township of Ascott, in what is now Quebec, which is where their first child, Mary, was born in 1803. Benjamin purchased a large farm, but a cold season destroyed his crops. In 1807, he and his family came to East Whitby, what is now the eastern part of Oshawa. He bought 400 acres of land, and eventually built a school house.

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John Ritson, from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

The first teacher at the school was John Ritson. He was born in Allendale, Northumberland, England, in March of 1790. He arrived in Oshawa in 1820, from Ottawa, where he had been refused payment for work he had done. He refused to accept land in lieu of cash, but eventually accepted a horse, wagon, harness, and one hundred dollars. He was travelling when his wagon broke down at Benjamin Stone’s, on Kingston Road. He decided to stay in Oshawa when he heard of the need for teachers, and so became Oshawa’s first school teacher.

Love blossomed, and John married Mary Stone on December 29, 1822, when he was 32 and she was 19. John purchased land in Concession One, where present day Ritson Road is located, and went on to have seven children – six daughters and one son.

And today, Ritson Road runs through what was once the farm of Oshawa’s early pioneers, John & Mary Ritson.


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About the Author: 

Lisa Terech started with the Oshawa Community Museum in 2007 as a volunteer and joined the staff in October 2010. In the role of Community Engagement, Lisa participates with the Museum team in developing and delivering creative, engaging and consistent public programs. A lifelong resident of the Oshawa area, Lisa truly enjoys going out in the community and being a champion for Oshawa’s history and its future.

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