Hard to believe, but the 6 letter Mississauga Indian word “Oshawa” literally translates as "the point at the crossing of the stream where the canoe was exchanged for the trail". This was the name given in 1842 to the first post office established in what was originally a small fur trading post set-up by the French around 1750. Aided by a harbour on Lake Ontario, and the Grand Trunk Railway between Toronto and Montréal, Oshawa grew as an industrial hub, attracting the likes of Robert McLaughlin and his carriage works company in 1876.
By the turn of the century the McLaughlin Carriage Company had become the largest carriage works in the British Empire. With the advent of the automobile McLaughlin began building cars, eventually merging with Chevrolet’s Canadian division in 1918 to create General Motors of Canada Limited. Other local institutions such as the Ontario Malleable Iron Company, and the Pedlar Metal Roofing Company enjoyed similar success. Oshawa was now a major manufacturing centre and as such expanded to City status by 1924.
The World War era only served to bolster Oshawa’s industrial economy, but the post-war era saw the beginning of a gradual decline in its manufacturing sector. General Motors, however, has managed to weather the storm and as a result Oshawa remains a business force and key port of call on the Great Lakes shipping network. The large amount of families who made their millions on Oshawa’s industrial past has also left a legacy of rich architecture and stately homes around the city’s older core.