Origin of Place Names in Kent County

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Have you ever wondered how the different places in Kent got their names? They may appear to fall into three general classes, or even a fourth;

lst: Names of Old Country villages, etc. given to the new settlements by pioneers coming from the locality of the originals.

2nd: Family names given by the early settlers and traders or used to identify localities where families were settled or conducting stores. etc.

3rd: Names applied as being appropriate because of situation of place or some unusual features of the neighborhood.

4th: Some other places were named for no apparent or known reason.

OF THE FIRST CLASS WE FIND SUCH PLACES AS

BOTHWELL - This town was named by the late Hon. George Brown of the Toronto Globe. Bothwell was the name of his native village in Scotland, and it was in his honour that this place was named. The streets of the town got their names from members of George Brown's family.

HIGHGATE - Was named by a family "Tolson" who before they came to America lived at Highgate, England, which is a short distance from Old London. Some say it was first called High Ridge from its position on the Kent Ridge.

TILBURY - Early founders gave this name which was the name of the place from which they had come.

MUIRKIRK - The name was given by a Scotch family from the "Kirk Muir" in the Highlands of Scotland.

DUART - Was at one time a thrifty place but it was situated in a position forbidding advance. This place is also of Scotch beginning and the name was borrowed from another Duart in Scotland.

MULL - Was named so its peoples claim from the Mull in Scotland.

DEALTOWN - Situated on the banks of Lake Erie and on the Government HighWay in Raleigh Township was named from Deal in England and was established about 1850.

PALMYRA - This village was named by Mr Jacob Street. The place from which he came in the States was called Palmyra; which is between Rochester and Syracuse.

OF CLASS 2 FAMILY NAMES WE FIND

CHATHAM - Was named by Wm. Pitt who afterwards became Earl of Chatham. Probably you all know that the Hotel built on King Street is called the Wm. Pitt.

BUXTON - The origin of this name is a very interesting one. This village was started by escaped slaves who made their way out of the United States. They gave this name from the Earl of Buxton who was an active Emancipationist.

MCKAY'S CORNERS - It was in 1846 that this place added to the name it had formerly adopted, that of "Corners". McKay was perhaps the most prominent and influential settler at this time and it was from him that this place got the name it now has. The McKay family is still in this community.

MORPETH - This was decided by a popular vote of the people in 1830. Among the first settlers was James Cull who wished his family name perpetuated and suggested the place be called Jamestown. This met with opposition and after much debating agreed to let the vote of the people settle the name. Lord Morpeth, cousin of Col. Talbot, had visited the settlement about this time so Morpeth was the name chosen. This place boasts the honour of being the birthplace of our Canadian poet Archibald Lampman. A cairn was erected in the Trinity Church Yard in his memory; his father was Clergyman at Trinity at the time of the poet's birth.

WALLACEBERG - This name is said to be a compromise between rival factions each of which wanted it to be called by their clan name.

OUVRY - This place has had several names and several locations. Each time a new postmaster was appointed he moved the Post-Office to his own dwelling. In this way the location was frequently changed. In 1876 the present location was finally agreed upon.

FLETCHER & GUILDS - These were both named after influential residents. The Guilds family still live at that place situated on No.3 Highway. Near it is the old home of Jean Blewett and her brother Archie P. McKishnie. They both attended Guilds Public School, and later Ridgetown High School.

CONWAYS GROVE - This was named after the family name of one of its residents.

RUSHTON'S CORNERS - Also took its name from the Rushton family, residents of the district.

RUTHERFORD, TUPPERVILLE, TURNERVILLE, AND FLORENCE - Doubtless these places took their names from some of their residents. This practise of naming places from some family name is very interesting. Some schools, instead of being called by their Section Number, are commonly called after some nearby family.

OF CLASS 3 NAMES SUGGESTED BY LOCATION

ERIE LAKE - This word came from the Indian word "Eriale" meaning "to eat." The French in reality discovered the name. It is believed that the indentations of the shore line and the better evidence of Rondeau, made the Indians believe that the great water was eating away into the land.

RONDEAU - The most romantic of all Kent's places. It is interesting to know the different names that have been given to it. Round O is one of the names and it was evidently so called on account of the shape of the bay. Rond Eau is a French name and Little Lake or Little Water, are the Indian names. These names sanction our belief that they were given on account of its position.

SHREWSBURY - This place was laid out as a townsite by Governor Simcoe. This noted statesman visited the site while on one of his tours. Here he dreamed of a merchant armada and fancied his choice as a lake port that in later days would perhaps outstrip Toronto in importance; visioning all this, the Governor had his engineers lay out streets for a town.

CEDAR SPRINGS - This was from a characteristic feature belonging to the place.

CLEARVILLE - Situated on Clear Creek where it empties into Lake Erie. This place has moved back to Talbot Street (now Highway No. 3) When it was at the mouth of the Creek there was a busy mill and dam. People for miles around patronized this mill. There was a dock and vessels called there. An old Indian fort was situated there and archeologists have discovered some valuable material there which has found it's way to the Toronto Museum.

THAMESVILLE - is said to have first been called Tecumseh, taking its name from the fact that the great Indian Chief fought his last battle in the immediate vicinity. A cairn was erected to his memory East of the village of Thamesville, the name the village afterwards took from the river "Thames".

RIDGETOWN - this town without doubt was named because of its position on the high gravel ridge between the Thames River and Lake Erie. It became a post village in 1854, receiving mail three times weekly.

COUNTY & TOWNSHIP NAMES - It is interesting to note that these names are similar to Old Country places. Also the Counties into which Ontario is divided have derived their names in the same way, they often have the same names as English Counties. At the time of the Constitutional Act, Governor John Graves Simcoe was trying to revolunize Canada, arousing all interest in Great Britain rather than the United States. Unrest was culminating and Simcoe saw the necessity of keeping Canada loyal.

KENT - was first called "District of Hesse" before it was surveyed and named after Kent, England.

HOWARD TOWNSHIP - The Township of Howard was surveyed in 1794 and named after Thos. Howard, Earl of Effingham, whose daughter, Lady Mary Howard, married Sir Guy Carlton the Governor-General of that time; in honour of her family the township was named Howard. The first township council was elected in 1850.

ANTRIM - This place was situated on the lake shore south west of Morpeth. There was a dock where boats called and a hotel which did a thriving business. Although the town which Rev. Massingberd dreamed of never developed, he purchased three hundred acres of farm land in Howard Township in 1867 and had a map drawn of the village which he called Antrim. Then Rev. Msssingberd tired of Canada and returned to England. His granddaughters presented his map of the village of Antrim to the University of Western Ontario.

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Transcribed from the records of Mrs. Geo. S. Brien, Rural Ridgetown Women's Institute.
2004-10-29