In the mid 1950s The Daily Times Gazette from
Oshawa and Whitby, Canada, re-printed The History of Oshawa by M
McIntyre Hood, who was the author of several books about Oshhaw. The following
text was scanned from this re-print.
Thomas Conant, who was a great grandson of the
original settler, Roger, is mentioned as a traveller in this history and on one
of his journeys he visited, in 1894, the Conants at Lyndon Hall, Rutland. The
text of his article To the Conants of America is
HOW ROGER CONANT CAME TO DARLINGTON
At this stage In the history of Oshawa the Conant
family, because of a constant association of over 160 years with the
development of the community comes very largely into the picture. This period
has covered six generations of Conants who have lived in and around Oshawa. For
much of their story we are indebted to the late Thomas Conant, father of the
late Hon. G D. Conant , former Premier of Ontario. Thomas Conant, in his two
excellent books on the early history of Ontario. ''Upper Canada Sketches'' and
''Life in Canada'' has preserved the early records of his family and from them
much pertinent information is available.
The Conant family has had a long and
distinguished history. It is a matter of record that one of its ancestors came
originally from Normandy with William the Conqueror in 1066, and later some of
them settled in England. In Rutland county and in Devonshire. The Oshawa
Conants are descended from the Devonshire branch of the family. In the parish
register of East Budleigh, in Devon, are entries of the birth of John Conant in
1520 and his son, Richard Conant in 1548. The farm lands on which they lived
joined to those of Sir Walter Raleigh, famed in history, Richard Conant was the
father of the Roger Conant who sailed from England in the year 1623 as one of
the Pilgrim Fathers, and settled in what is now Massachusetts.
GOVERNOR OF HIS STATE
Roger Conant did not remain long with the
settlement at Plymouth Rock. He moved to Natucket, and for a time lived on the
island in Boston harbour now known as Governors Island, but for many years
given the name of Conant's Island. He became associated with the Dorchester
Company of traders, and in 1624 was made governor of the companys post at
Cape Ann. In 1626 he built the first house in city of Salem, Massachusetts, and
founded that city. For three years he was governor of the state - the first of
its governors - and was the head of affairs for the colony. In 1668, a section
of what is now Salem was incorporated as the Village of Beverley, Roger Conant
made an effort to have it named Budleigh, after his birthplace, but his
petition, still preserved in the Massachusetts archives, was not granted. He
died on November 19, 1678 in his 88th year.
At the time of the American Revolution, about 100
years later there were three brothers, Conants of the sixth generation from
Roger the Pilgrim, in Massachusetts. Two of them joined George Washington's
army and one of them, Daniel Conant. was wounded at the Battle of Lexington on
April 19, 1775. The third brother, Roger, however refused to join the patriot
army, and remained loyal to King George III. After the war and the declaration
of independence, Roger Conant resolved to flee to Canada. He owned some 13,000
acres of land and disposed of his large holdings for $5,000 in gold. In 1777 he
set out with his family from Boston in a covered wagon drawn by two horses,
followed by an ox cart laden with household goods and farm implements. He
stopped for a time at the Hudson River, and then went on to Geneva, New York.
FIRST HERE IN 1778
Leaving his family there. Roger Conant came
on to Canada, and in October, 1778 he arrived in Darlington township of Durham
County, just east of Oshawa. The first crown grant of land was made to him on
December 31, 1778. It consisted of lots 28, 29, 30 and 31. Broken Front,
Darlington, and the south halves of lots 28, 29 30 and 31, on the first
concession of Darlington. In all, these amounted to about 1,200 acres. Roger
Conant, however, did not settle there at that time. He made a small clearing
and built a house, and then returned to his family at Geneva.
Roger Conants first home
in Darlington township.
It was not until four years later that Roger
Conant, with his family came to settle near Oshawa. On October 5, 1792. he
arrived at the mouth of the Niagara River, and crossed on a flat, bottomed scow
to Newark. then the capital of upper Canada. He and his family were met there
by Governor Sir John Graves Simcoe. The governor tried to persuade him to go
north to the Lake Simcoe area, but he was determined to go to the Darlington
area. Governor Simcoe told him to blaze the limits of the land he wanted
promising he would be granted this land when he did so.
GRANTED 800 ACRES
Following the lake shore, camping at night.
fording many streams, the party reached the site of York now Toronto, then a
cluster of Indian wigwams with a few houses in process m erection. The river
Don being too deep to ford, they hired Indians to take them over in canoes. The
wagons were taken apart, ferried across in sections, and put together again,
after which the little family proceeded along the broken shores of the lake.
Finally they reached their destination and proceeded by blaze the area he
wished. He blazed some 800 acres of land and, true to his promise. Governor
Simcoe duly made out the patents for this land east of the Oshawa Creek.
It was late in the year, but the family lived in
tents, on a location with Barber's Creek, later known as Arnall's creek and the
lake as two sides of triangle for defence from the wolves, leaving only one
side to be protected. Quickly the house which had been built in 1778 was made
ready for habitation, and there the family spent its first winter in Canada.
INTO FUR TRADING
Roger Conant had brought his $5000 in gold with
him from the sale of his Massachusetts property. But there were no neighbours
or travellers with whom to do business. He therefore decided that only in the
fur trade could he make money. So be made his way to Montreal by canoe and had
three Durham boats built. These were broad-beamed open flat boats strongly
built for rowing and towing these he filled with blankets, traps, knives, guns,
flints, ammunition, tomahawks and beads bought in Montreal to trade with the
Indians for furs.
Mr. Conant pursued his trade with the Indians
vigorously. Disposing of the goods he had brought from Montreal by bartering
them for large quantities of firs. He took these to Montreal and there sold
them for gold. In a remarkably short time he accumulated a considerable
fortune. Much of this he invested in increasing his considerable holdings of
land along the north shore of Lake Ontario.
In his fur business be came into keen competition
with the Hudsons Bay Company. but so successful was he and other settlers
and fur traders that the company gradually gave up trading in the Oshawa
district. and confined itself to regions farther north. At this time, about
1798. the HBC had its trading station at Bluff point, just east of Oshawa
It was an arduous and pleasant life in these
pioneer days. There was excellent hunting and fishing and a comfortable home
with a well-stocked library. Salmon were so plentiful that one day in 1805,
while paddling his canoe to where the harbour now is, the salmon partly raised
the canoe out of water and were so close together that it was difficult for him
to get his paddle into the water. He then went into the packing business and
shipped salmon in barrels to the United States for an excellent price, with the
proceeds of one these ventures he bought another farm of 150 acres on the Lake
WAR OF 1812 CALLS PIONEERS TO ACTION
Roger Conant and his family were well established
in the settlement that is now Oshawa when the war of 1812 to 1814, between
Great Britain and the United States sent the country into a turmoil. The
peaceably disposed and struggling settlers, trying to subdue the forest and to
procure livelihood were horrified to have a war on their hands. They could ill
afford to leave their small clearings to go and fight but Canada was their home
and they were determined to defend it. All those of adult age in the district
were loyal and obeyed the summons to join the militia and begin active service.
Roger Conant, like the others although he was
over 60 years old, joined the militia. But he early ran foul of the intolerance
of the Family Compact. One day he was requisitioned to take an ox cart load of
war material along the lake Ontario shore to Oshawa. While in York, in
conversation with some friends, he expressed the view that Britain should
arrange its affairs with the United States and not drag Canada into war. He
also was critical of some of the actions of the British authorities in their
conduct of the war. In spite of the fact that he had proved his loyalty by
joining the militia. he was brought before a court-martial and fined 80 pounds.
About $320 in present day money. He continued to serve, however. with the rest
of the settlers, who made their way to York in a motley throng. There was no
pretence at uniforms. Few had boats or canoes in which to make the trip.
Roger Conant, a stable of fleet saddle-horses,
was employed by the commanding officers as a dispatch rider. Thus in the
militia and as dispatch rider, his time was fully occupied at the business of
war. He was 62 years of age, but so pressed were the authorities for men that
age did not debar them from service.
On the outbreak of war. Roger Conant had
considerable wealth in both land and gold. Fearing for the safety of his gold,
he rode from his home to that of his brother in law, Levi Annis, at
Scarborough, to hide his money. Removing a large pine knot from one of the logs
in the wall of the house, he placed his gold and silver in the hole re-inserted
the knot and made it smooth. No one ever suspected its presence there. Three
years later, when the war was over, he again visited Levi Annis at Scarborough.
The pine knot was removed, and the treasure - about $16,000 in value was drawn
On another occasion in 1812 he was visited by
three Indians, who asked permission to rest before the open fireplace for the
night. Permission was granted when Mr. Conant noticed knives hidden in their
sleeves. He had no doubt as to their purpose, robbing and possibly murder.
Seizing an axe and a rifle hanging on the wall, he shouted to the Indians.
''None you stir. If you do, I'll kill the first one who gets up. Stay just
where you are until daylight.'' Then a squaw entered and pleaded for release of
the Indians. But Mr Conant was obdurate and after an all-night vigil, he
allowed them to go one at a time. Never again during the war was Roger Conant
molested by the Indians.
After the capture of Detroit, many prisoners of
war were brought through the district on their way to Quebec. On the way, they
were fed either at Moode Farewell's tavern, where Harmony now is or at the
Several of the settlers of the Oshawa district
took part in the fighting when the Americans landed at York on April 26, 1813.
After landing they advanced on Fort York. Roger Conant was one of the garrison
within the fort. When it was seen that the defenders were so hopelessly
outnumbered that further defence was impossible, the word was passed around
that the fort was to be blown up. With others, Roger Conant dropped over the
wall of the fort just as it blew up and killed a great number of Americans.
Thirty three miles away at his homestead, his family heard the great explosion
that marked the blowing up of the fort.
Peace at last came on January 24, 1814, with the signing of
the Treaty of Ghent. Roger Conant went back to his trading, his farming,
hunting and fishing and lived on his homestead until his death in 1821. He left
five sons and two daughters.
Of the eldest son. Eliphalet, all trace has been
lost and there are no known descendants of him today.
Abel, another son, had an immense tract of land
in Scarborough township, on the Danforth Road. Abel's son, Roger left a most
respectable and interesting family in the State of Michigan.
Barnabas, another son of Roger, disappeared, and
all trace of him is lost. Jeremiah, another son, died about 1854 in Michigan
and nothing is known of his family. The youngest son , Thomas, remained with
his father and continued living on the old homestead until he came to an
untimely end 1838, during the rebellion of that time. He, however, provided the
direct on of descent of the Oshawa Conants as be was the grandfather of the
late Hon. G. D. Conant.
Roger Conants, daughter, Rhoda, became the wife of Levi
Annis. From this union there came a numerous and most progressive family of
which many members still in Ontario and Durham Counties.
Polly, another daughter, married John Pickell,
member of one of the other pioneer families mentioned previously. They left a
small family, descendants of which still live in Darlington township.
Roger Conant died a very large real estate
owner. His land stretched east and west of the site of Oshawa. But in his will,
no mention was made of his hoard of gold. It was reported at various times
after his death that he had buried it. But in spite of all the searches made
for it, no one has ever unearthed it.
Roger Conant was an outstanding figure in
the early days of what is now the City of Oshawa. He did much to open up the
district and bring it under cultivation. He left to Oshawa a line of
descendants who have done great things for their community. And the present
home of Mrs. G. D. Conant stands on part of the land he left when he died 134
homestead, Port Oshawa, built in 1811
Having come this far with the Conant family
story, it seems appropriate to continue that story and follow it through its
varied paths up to the present day. So the sad tale of Thomas Conant, the
colourful careers of his son Daniel, his grandson, Thomas, and his great
grandson Gordon Daniel, will now be unfolded.
CAREER OF THOMAS CONANT CUT SHORT BY MURDER
The line of the Conant family in Oshawa came down
to the present day from the original settler, Roger Conant, through his
youngest son Thomas Conant. As was shown previously, all his other sons left
the district, and mostly went to the United States. Thomas Conant was but a
young boy when his father settled in Darlington township east of the Oshawa
Creek. What would have been a career of great usefulness to the young community
was rudely cut short when in 1838, at the time of the rebellion of that period,
he was ruthlessly murdered by a drunken dragoon.
ADVENTURE WITH WOLVES
Some stories of Thomas Conant have come down to
the present day. In the fall of 1806, he went on a walk through the woods, to
the home, three miles north, of the young woman who later became his wife. Snow
had not yet fallen, but the ground was frozen. It was midnight when he started
his walk back through the woods. When about halfway home, he heard the baying
of wolves. Knowing he could not travel faster than the wolves, he hurried on
quietly, watching for a tree he could climb.
In a very few minutes, the wolves were upon him,
in full cry, eyes protruding, tongues lolling and ready to devour him. A near
by beech tree. which his arms could encircle, furnished his means of escape. He
climbed and climbed, while the wolves surrounded him and watched his every
motion, never ceasing their dismal howls all through the night. Thus he kept
his lonely vigil. To lose his hold meant certain death. Morning came at last,
and with its first peep of daylight the wolves left and were seen no more. When
they were gone, he looked around and found that with all his climbing he had
ascended a very few feet from the ground, but just out of reach of the
wolves jaws as they made frantic jumps to reach him. He climbed down, and
hurried home. The next spring, in March 1807, he married the girl that he had
been visiting on the night he escaped from the wolves.
Thomas Conant followed in the footsteps of his
father as a fur and general trader. He became a man of great physique. six feet
two inches in height and of commanding talents. He was an industrious and
generous citizen, and because of what his father had left him, and his own
success in his business undertakings, he was a man of great wealth for his time
and was the owner of large tracts of land both in the present boundaries of
Oshawa and west, as far as Whitby, as well as to the east of the Harbour. He
possessed great ability, and was in the prime of life when cut down on February
15, 1838. His grandson, Thomas Conant, tells the story of his assassination in
his book, ''Upper Canada Sketches.''
On the day of his murder, Thomas Conant was
walking alone on the Kingston Road, between Oshawa and Bowmanville, as was
quite common in these days. He was unarmed, and was proceeding on his business.
As he went eastward, he saw a man named Cummings sitting on his horse in front
of a tavern on the south side of the road. Mr. Conant had not quite reached the
hotel, but saw Cummings partake of two large drinks of liquor, and then start
to ride towards Oshawa. Coming up to him Mr. Conant, who knew him well, spoke
to him and said, ''Good day, Cummings, drunk again, as usual'.
Cummings, who was a dragoon and a dispatch
bearer, dreaded above all things to be reported drunk while carrying
dispatches, and lost his temper in an instant. Putting spurs to his horse, he
attempted to ride Mr. Conant down. Mr Conant was too quick for him and caught
the horse by its bridle as he approached. Cummings then raised his sword, and
without a word of warning, struck Mr. Conant on the head, fracturing his skull.
Death followed a few hours later.
An informal inquest was held. Because the three
witnesses of the murder were looking out of the tavern window, through the
glass of the window, the evidence was not admitted, and Cummings went
unpunished. He did, however, reach an unhappy end. He lived for a few years as
a hopeless drunkard, until one day, in Port Hope, he fell under the wheels of a
loaded wagon and was crushed to death.
Next in line of succession of the Conant family
was his son, Daniel Conant. By the time he grew up as a young man, surveyors
were at work plotting out the townships which later became part of Darlington,
East Whitby and Whitby township. Settlers were coming very rapidly to occupy
the lands as they were surveyed. The settlements at this time were for the most
part close to the lake, although the building of the Kingston Road had opened
up new land for settlement along that road. Thus in what later became the
village, town and city of Oshawa there were at first two distinct settlements.
There were the homes in the clearings east and west of the Oshawa Creek. Then
farther north on what is now King Street, there was another area of
In the earliest days the Indians had had a trail
which led north from the mouth of the creek through the woods, to Lake Scugog
where Port Perry now stands. Gradually this trail became a wagon road. As
clearing of the forest progressed, it was widened and improved, until in due
course it became a broad road extending from the lake to what are now referred
to as the Four Corners. This later became the present day Simcoe Street and the
main road north to Port Perry.
The lives of these early settlers were simple.
They lived in log houses. There were no stoves in those early days. All
cooking, as well as heating, was done by a large fireplace. A crane on hinges
hung there and could be swung over the fireplace at leisure, attached to it was
a rod from which could be suspended large pots, baking irons and other
utensils, thus the first cooking was done, and the first corn and wheaten cakes
baked, in what is now Oshawa.
Some built ovens of stones out of doors. They
were conical in shape and open in the centre. An immense fire would be built in
this outdoor oven, and when burnt down to real live coals, would be drawn out,
leaving the stones thoroughly heated. Into the cavity in which the fire had
been, the bread would be inserted and the door closed up. Enough heat would
remain in the stones to bake at least two batches of bread. This seems like a
great waste of firewood, but wood was of little account at that time. Today
with all the modern heating and cooking appliances, a fireplace with log fires
is more a luxury than a necessity.
Daniel Conant inherited all the ambition
and energy of his grandfather. As a young man he acquired a fleet of ships
which sailed the Great Lakes. He was a lumber producer and one of the
outstanding lumber dealers of his day. His education was meagre by todays
standards, but it was sufficient to enable him to do an enormous business. He
amassed wealth, extended the family holdings of land, and did a great deal for
his community and province. His lumber was used very largely for building the
homes of the settlers coming into Oshawa district. He along with David Annis,
another early settler, and a kinsman, built the first lumber mill in the
district. It was located on the bank of the present Creek just north of Thomas
Street. Parts ofthe old mill dam site can still be seen at that point. The mill
had a capacity of 4,000 feet of lumber per day.
Conant and Annis Lumber Mill
REBELLION OF 1837
Daniel Conant had some adventurous escapes at the time of the
rebellion of 1837. His son, Thomas, in his books, speaks of the rebels as
''patriots'' indicating the side on which the family sympathies lay. Many 0f
the United Empire Loyalists, who resented the domineering and high-handed
actions of the authorities, were suspected of being rebels, even if they took
no part in the uprising.
An officer named Colonel Ferguson, in command of the militia
at Whitby, was excessively zealous in his loyalty. He felt it his duty to
search the district for rebels and rebel sympathizers. One winter night, at
midnight, he came with a party of troops, surrounded the home of Daniel Conant
and ransacked it thoroughly. He turned all its inmates out into the snow while
he searched it. Several times during that winter he raided the Conant home, but
never found anything to incriminate Daniel Conant.
One farmer of the district, son of a United Empire Loyalist
from Massachusetts, was also a victim f Colonel Ferguson's raids. He was not a
rebel, but he was suspected just because of his origin. In order to avoid being
captured and lodged in jail, he changed his quarters every few days and never
slept in a house. Usually he slept in the grain-bin of a farm. But because of
this life or a fugitive through the winter, he died in the early spring of
PERILOUS BOAT TRIP
At this time Daniel Conant was a very large vessel owner. At
the earnest request, entreaties and tears of some 70 patriots, who were being
hounded by the authorities, and whose lives were in danger, he took them in
mid-winter across Lake Ontario to Oswego, N.Y., in his ship, "Industry". After
picking up patriots who came out from the shore in canoes, and with a fine
sailing breeze, it headed across the lake to the haven of refuge 60 miles away.
When the ship reached the other side, it was
found that the north wind had driven floating ice before it, and for three
miles out from the land there was a solid ice mass. They sailed along its outer
edge, seeking a passage to shore, but in vain. Finally, a sailor climbed out on
the bowsprit and by hanging from it, and pushing ice blocks out of the way with
his feet cleared a passage for the vessel. At night, the cold became intense,
and the ship was frozen hard in the midst of the ice. There was firm footing on
it, and the patriots clambered ashore, some fell through gaps in the ice, and
had to be hauled to safety, but finally they all reached shore and were
welcomed by hundreds of people who had watched their struggles. However, a
south wind sprang up, and the ship was carried away and it finally became a
wreck, and was stranded on the shore of Oak Orchard, N.Y.
WALKED BACK HOME
Daniel Conant, John Pickell , the mate of the ship. and the
other officers had another perilous trip home. They walked back to Niagara in
the spring of 1838 and crossed the Niagara River at its mouth, a point closely
guarded. By noisy protestations of loyalty, John Pickell got the party through
the guards, and it disappeared into the thickness of the forests. Hamilton was
reached in due time, but a detour was made around the north of Toronto.
Finally, proud of having saved the lives and fortunes of 70 patriots, Daniel
Conant arrived back at his home in Oshawa.
It is of interest to note two things here. Many of' the rebels
were exiled to Van Diemen's Land, 91 in all going there. Only 13 of them ever
returned to Canada.
Another is that Benedict Arnold, who has gone down into
history as a traitor, was given a grant of18,000 acres near Oshawa, and a gift
of 10,000 pounds by the British government, but he never came here to settle on
BUILDING WHITBY HARBOR
To Daniel Conant goes the credit for giving Whitby a deep
water harbour. As a vessel owner, using the port of Whitby, he knew the
need for this. So when an engineer named Smith made a contract to build docks
there on deep water. Daniel Conant became security for Smith' s bonds to the
amount of $4,400, a large sum in those days. Smith, however, disappeared and Mr
Conant had to make good his bond. He sold some of his ships liquidated his
wheat crop from 150 acres of land. and also sold 1,200 acres of land in Whitby
at $2.00 an acre to make up the amounts. But Whitby got its first deep water
Daniel Conant continued to be trader with great success until
he died in 1879. He was a great benefactor to his community. The poor came to
him as a friend, and never came in vain. It is recorded that at his funeral,
hundreds of poor men, as well as their more fortunate neighbours, followed his
bier to the grave, a striking tribute to the regard in which he was held by the
community he had helped to build.
Next in the line of successions which brings us down to the
Conant family at the present day was Thomas Conant, son of Daniel Conant.
Thomas Conant was the father of the Hon. G. D. Conant, so well and favourably
known to the Oshawa of the present generation. and who was the fifth generation
from the original pioneer, Roger Conant.
CONANT FAMILY STORY BROUGHT UP TO TODAY
With this article we will bring the story of the
Conant family up-to-date, so as to complete the record of its contribution to
Oshawa. We do so because this is one of the few Oshawa families in which it has
been possible to trace a direct line of descent for six generations from its
original settler, Roger Conant, who first set foot in this district in October,
1792. We have followed the careers of this Roger Conant, his son Thomas and his
grandson, Daniel. We have not attempted to trace the other members of the
family whose careers were lived out elsewhere. The Conants, however, by
marriage, have knit connections with other families notable in the district
since its earliest days, such as the Annis family and the Gifford family, which
became closely related with the Conants.
ANOTHER THOMAS CONANT
Next In the line of succession after Daniel Conant, to whose
experiences our last article was deeded was his son, Thomas Conant, a great
grandson of the original settler, Roger. This Thomas Conant has left behind him
a splendid record of early life in the Oshawa district and indeed through
Ontario as a young province, in the two books to which we have already made
mention, his ''Upper Canada Sketches'' and ''Life in Canada,'' books which are
very interesting reading today.
Thomas Conant made a name for himself as a traveller and as an
author. Records of some of his journeys are contained in his books, and also in
articles which he contributed to the Ontario Reformer, the forerunner of The
Times-Gazette. In his lifetime, methods of transportation for extensive travel
were not what they are today, so it is quite noteworthy that Thomas Conant made
two trips around the world, visiting Europe, Asia, Africa, seeing the countries
of the far east. From first-hand knowledge and experience, he learned much of
how people lived in these lands which, from the standpoint of the time required
to reach them, were far more distant than they are today.
AMERICAN CIVIL WAR
One great world event in which Thomas Conant became involved
was the American civil war of 1861 to 1865. It is recorded that during this war
some 80,000 young men went from Ontario and Quebec, south to the United States
and joined the army of the North. Many went from Oshawa and the surrounding
district, attracted by their love of adventure, and by the bounties, ranging
from $800 to $1600 which they received on enlisting.
When the war was at its height Thomas Conant went to the
United States and visited the Northern armies. His father, Daniel had sensed
the golden opportunities for trade, and as a young man fresh from college,
Thomas Conant went south to look into them. Leaving home on June 18, 1864, he
went to New York, and on to Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington.
SUFFERING IN HOSPITALS
In Washington he visited the hospitals filled
with wounded, and he was filled with horror at their sufferings, and the
terrible conditions under which they were being given such care as was
possible. While there, Mr. Conant was offered $800 to enlist, but the idea did
not appeal to him.
VISITED WITH LINCOLN
One of the high lights of this trip was a visit
to President Abraham Lincoln in the White House at Washington . On being
ushered into the President's office, his first thought was ''What a tall
awkward man , and how badly his clothes fit.'' In his record of the visit,
Thomas Conant does not reveal the business he discussed with President Lincoln.
But he was granted a pass to go wherever he chose in Virginia and about the
vicinity of Washington. He visited the Army of the Potomac, in which there were
90,000 men. He had the impression of walking along miles of streets of canvas
houses. He was caught in the mad scramble to the defence of Washington when the
Southern army crossed the Potomac at Williamsburg, and after some exciting
experiences returned home to Oshawa.
In association with his father in business Thomas Conant lived
quietly until his zest for travel took him on his trips around the world. He
completed his days quietly with his books and his voluminous writing in the
Conant home at 1050 Simcoe Street South.
GORDON DANIEL CONANT In that house, on January 11, 1885,
Gordon Daniel Conant, fated to become the most outstanding of his line was
born. This fifth generation son of the family became outstanding because he
devoted himself to public services to a greater extent than any of his Oshawa
Educated at the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall, Gordon
D Conant began the practice of law in Oshawa about the year 1912. Soon,
however, this flair for public life became apparent, and in 1914 he was elected
deputy-reeve of the town of Oshawa. The following year he became reeve of the
town of Oshawa. In the midst of the first world war, in 1916 and 1917 he served
Oshawa as its mayor. He was a member of the old Water Commission from 1920 to
1927. In 1928 he returned to the city council as an alderman. When thee first
Public Utilities Commission was elected in 1930. Mr. Conant was one of its
original members, and served on it for two years.
MANY FIELDS OF SERVICE
In many fields of public endeavour in
Oshawa. Mr. Conant gave of his talents and time to the community. He helped to
organise the Chamber Commerce, was its vice-president in 1928 and 1929. And its
president in 1930 and 1931. He was for many years a member of the Board of
directors of the General Hospital, and its president from 1926 to 1932. He was
president of the Oshawa Rotary Club in the year 1928-1929. In the legal
profession he had a brilliant career. In 1933 he was appointed as King's
Counsel. In 1934, he became Crown attorney for Ontario County, a position he
held until in 1937, he became Liberal candidate for the Ontario Legislature.
NAMED TO CABINET
Mr Conant had been active in politics even in his
student days. On opening practice in Oshawa in1912, he became secretary of the
South Ontario Liberal Association, and held that office for 25 years. In the
general election of October 6, 1937, he was elected member of the Ontario
Legislature for Ontario Ridings A few days later, his appointment to the
cabinet as Attorney-General for Ontario was announced. He filled that important
office with distinction. On October 15, 1942. Mr. Conant became Prime Minister
of Ontario and held that office jointly until May of the following year. He
then retired from political life, and became Master of the Supreme Court of
Hon G. D.
Conant, Premier of Ontario
Mr Conant was the central figure in many important
matters. When the second world war came he had already organized the security
forces which guarded Ontario's electrical stations. He made the first tax
agreement with the federal government, as a war measure. He piloted through the
Ontario Legislature the first Ontario Labour Relations Act. He made the first
agreement with Quebec for the development of jointly owned electric power sites
on the Ottawa River, later making possible the Des Joachims and Cave Rapids
power plants. He was a great Canadian and has left his mark on the life of
In 1952, Mr. Conant retired from his official post and
returned to his practice of law in Oshawa, taking into partnership with him his
son Roger, who following the family tradition, is now deputy-reeve of the town
of Ajax. Mr. Conant died on January 2, 1953. in the house in which he was born
67 years before, a house built on land which had passed down through the family
from generation to generation. The family name and traditions are being carried
on by his two sons. Douglas and Roger, and their children.
This completes for the present the story of the Conant
family from its beginnings down to the present day. From time to time, through
its history, references will be made to it. It is a story which covers the life
of Oshawa from 1792 down to 1955.