As Canada celebrates it’s 150th year, we approached staff at the Oshawa Museum for their favourite stories from Oshawa’s long history. This is what Jennifer Weymark, Archivist, had to say:
When approached about my favourite story or artifact related to Oshawa’s history, I find that I often struggle because there are so many interesting facets to Oshawa’s history that can be found in our collection. My first thoughts tend to turn to the Garrow collection, is a series of letters written home by an Oshawa boy from the trenches during World War I. His story is one of bravery and sacrifice and to learn about his life through his own words is heartbreakingly touching. Then I look at the 1815 land deed that tells the very early history of the lot on which Henry House stands today. It is one of the oldest pieces in the archival collection and it really brings home the lengthy history of European settlement in the area.
Lately, I have found that the piece in the archival collection that I most want to tell the story of is a rather simple looking marriage license. On the surface it is the legal document that recognized the marriage between Samuel George Dunbar and Mary Augusta Andrews on December 10, 1855. The document also states that the marriage was witnessed by Elder Thomas Henry which gives it a unique connection to the Oshawa Museum. When you dig deeper, you will find that this document is far more than just a simple marriage license.
The marriage between Samuel George Dunbar and Mary Augusta Andrews helps to tell a more diverse story of Oshawa. What makes this marriage so important is that it relates directly to our research into early Black history in Oshawa. Mary Augusta Andrews, along with her mother and brothers, was one of 17 people listed as being Black in the 1851 census. This notation in the census record began a research project that traced this family from Vermont in the 1790s to California and Michigan today. This marriage license represents one of three suspected interracial marriages and provides evidence of a more racially diverse community in Oshawa’s early history.
This marriage license helps to give a more complete look at what Canada looked like in 1867, when Confederation occurred.