Canada 150: Oshawa’s Story Part 2

To celebrate Canada’s 150th year, we asked the Oshawa Museum to share their favourites stories or artifacts from Oshawa’s past.  Read the latest from Lisa Terech, Community Engagement:

In 1837, the people in Upper and Lower Canada were unhappy. There were great feelings of discontent with the government, which was not a democracy like we know today. Instead, a powerful few were in charge and wielded a great deal of influence. The everyday people wanted more say in their government, and in Lower Canada (Quebec), add on the grievances of French language rights, and the setting was right for rebellion.

Between December 5 and 8, 1837, a group of about 1,000 rebels gathered at Montgomery’s Tavern in Toronto, and although this Loyalist militia quickly won initial small skirmishes in the city, the British forces were ultimately successful. As a result, hundreds of men were arrested, some were sent to Australia as punishment, and two men, Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews, were executed as a result of their involvement in the Rebellion.

The aftermath of the Upper Canada Rebellion, as well as a rebellion in Lower Canada, also in 1837, resulted in Lord Durham investigating the situations. In 1840, he issued his report, recommending the establishment of responsible government for the colonies, the merging of Upper and Lower Canada into a single political unit, which became the nucleus for modern-day Canada

While imprisoned in the Toronto Jail, facing charges of high treason, many men crafted small, wooden boxes and inscribed messages to loved ones. The messages carried many tones, be it political, religious or sentimental, many lamenting the deaths of Lount and Matthews. The boxes range in size, were made by skilled craftsmen, and the majority are made of a hard wood and are dated.

In the Oshawa Museum collection, there are two prisoner boxes related to an Oshawa man named John Dickie. There are only 100 or so such artefacts in existence, and they are remarkable objects which speak on many levels to this landmark event.

In this 150th anniversary year, you cannot discount the history before 1867, because they are often the steps which brought us there. Come visit the Oshawa Museum and see these prisoner boxes on display as part of our Celebrating 60: Sixty Years of Collecting exhibit (April-November 2017).

The Oshawa Museum can be found in Lakeview Park, Oshawa. 

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