Glengarry Place Names Part 4

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By Ewan Ross 1922-1987
Goderich, Ontario


In this article I'll try to deal with some of the Glengarry place names that were given 'on-the-spot' by the Scots settlers in Glengarry. Some of these names demonstrate their sardonic wit at its best.

For instance, Battle Hill. This is a little hill on the road between the seventh and eighth concessions of Kenyon, opposite Lot 8. The story here is that two neighbour families in the area had got to squabbling over the exact location of their line fence. The squabbling grew into verbal abuse and then threatened to become physical. Wiser heads prevailed and the case got moved into Court of Quarter Session in Cornwall for adjudication. The parties concerned were duly warned as to when they should appear and the day before their court appearance, the two men concerned and their wives set off on foot for Cornwall. As it happened, both parties concerned left about the same time and of necessity took the same road. When they met the men gravely passed the time of day., made polite remarks about the weather and then walked on. The women started in where they left off in the squabble the last time they had met. Verbal abuse soon became inadequate to express their feelings and they tangled physically. By the time their men got back and pulled them apart, hair had been pulled, faces had been scratched and some versions of the story tell there had been some biting doon, too. This showed the men how silly the whole thing was and they decided to settle their dispute there and then and peacefully. So they turned around and went home with the matter all decided but the spot where the decision was made with tooth and claw became known as Battle Hill. Ask any old-timer in northeast Kenyon.

In Lancaster township as you drive east the third concession from Glen Gordon, once upon a time - well, up to twenty years ago you would come to the old Picnic Grove school. Only the inspecter knew it by its official title of S. S.. # 6, Lancaster. It had a nice grove of trees around it and was a nice place for a picnic. It had a well and backhouses and the people owned it. There were no parks along Lake St. Francis in those days so there was no access to the water and no accommodation if you had been able to get there. Just east of Picnic Grove school the road crosses Sutherland's Creek, so-called because Sutherlands, who were among the first Loyalist settlers, got the land where this creek empties into lake St. Francis. Between Picnic Grove school and Sutherland's Creek one road branches off toward the lake. This is Wildcat's Corner. The wildcat for whome the place was named was a man named Robert Richardson and somewhere, in an unmarked grave close to the corner, he lies buried. At one time Richardson had a tavern at the comer and from all accounts it was quite a place. Like all tavern keepers of 150 - 125 years ago, he made his own -whiskey. It was all-powerful stuff but Richardson's seemed to have more fight in it than most. There was quite a bit of shanty work being done in the township in those days and shanty men were noted for being hard drinkers and fighters. One night a gang of them got steamed up in Richardson's tavern and were in a fair way of wrecking the place. In a clear case of self defence Richardson went on the warpath himself and cleared his premises by the simple device of clouting each combatant who came near him over the head with a club and then throwing him through the window. As the erstwhile combatants began to come to out in the snow., one of them asked another, "What kind of a wildcat was at me?"

There's no trace of the tavern or Richardson's gave today but the name still lingers.

Away back in the early days of settlement before the Military Road (Highway 34) was surveyed in 1841 a winter road between Lake St. Francis and the Ottawa ran through Glengarry. The northern part of this road was known as 'The MacMillan Road' because for most of its length a MacMillan owned the land on one or both sides of the road - a lot of them used it too. This road ran north from McCormick which was named after the man who ran the post office which was established there, in 1880 and then to Lochiel post office, the first post office in this township. It started out as Lochiel but later for a year or so was called Glen James after its first postmaster, James Benton. Then it officially went back to Lochiel which it was officially, as long as there was a post office there but mostly everybody referred to the spot as Quigley's or Quigley's Corners after a family who ran a hotel and store at the corner for years. From Lochiel the MacMillan Road ran north to Kirk Hill which has had kirks on its two hills since 1849 although the east hill had a kirk on it as early as 1819. But before the east kirk was built the settlers called the area Glen Elg after their home place in Scotland. North of Kirk Hill the MacMillan road crossed the road between the eighth and ninth of Lochiel and here a post office, known as McNab, was established in 1868 and this became Lochinvar in 1872, by which name the area is still known. I've heard rumours about a local 'Young Lochinvary who came out of the west' to give the place its name., but we'll pass that and go back to the days before McNab post office was opened and this corner was the site of the Bull Frog Tavern. Here Cariboo Cameron entertained his friends and relatives on his way home to Summerstown from his second wedding reception at the Russell House in Ottawa, but the tavern had its name before that.

There are several different versions of the incident from which the tavern got its name but they all agree on the essential point. The local homemade whiskey sold there had to be diluted with water to make it potable and the water was obtained from the creek behind the tavern, really the Lagrasse River, which was the home of many large and lusty bull frogs. One night the tavern keeper made his mix and when he was through and had rolled his whiskey barrel onto the bar all present heard a. bull frog croaking from the whiskey barrel -- a bull frog had been brought in with the water from the creek. The name of the tavern keeper here deserves to be recorded. It was Malcolm McCormick and when a change in road conditions resulted in the road to Hawkesbury by-passing his premises, he boarded up the Bull, Frog Tavern and in 1890 retired to Quigley's Corners. One can't help but wish he had written his memoirs.

By way of contrast to these 'spontaneous-on-the-spot' names we must consider Maxville. MAX is German: VILLE, is French. Yet the place was named by a serious group of Scots sitting on a log pile in the yard of McDougall's saw mill in the 17th of the Indian Lands. The year it all started was 1871 and there were two buildings on the site of present day Maxville -- McDougall's saw mill and Grey John McEwen's store. A Campbell from Athol carried mail three times a week on horse-back from Martintown to Athol. If somebody caught him as he passed the 17th corner the local settlers got their mail. He had to be caught as he usually went through at night and had the habit of sleeping in the saddle. Just plain poor service and the settlers determined to do something about it (we're different, we put up with it). An informal meeting in the sawmill yard decided that if the place had an official post office the mail carrier would have to stop. So the post office department was petitioned for a post office and in due course they were told they could have one as soon as they picked out a name for it. Another meeting was held. Everybody present was MacSomething or other. McDougalls owned the land west of the road; McEwens owned the land east of it, so Mactown was well thought of but it seemed to be not quite classy enough so Macville was decided upon and suggested to the post office department. In due course a reply came back from the post office people that there already was a post office called Macville up in Peel County and it had been there for 15 years so would they please try again to find a name for themselves. So another meeting was held, at this meeting somebody, whose name is not recorded, but should have been, made the suggestion that in naming the post office they should do as they did in the community when there were two persons with the same name-give them a second one. And he went on to say that it would be nice if the second name honoured the female part of the settlement and as every female around was Mary Anne or Catherine Anne or Maggie Anne it would be suitable if their post office were to be called Macville Anne. This frivolous suggestion received the contempt it deserved. The next suggestion was the sound one that a plural form of MAC be used and Macsville and Macksville were tried but they didn't write too well so the sound of the plural was retained by using the letter 'X' in place of les' or 'cks.' The post office department went for this and in 1880, nine years after the first meeting about it in the sawmill yard, Maxville got its post office.. Grey John (John J.) McEwen was the first postmaster. And the Scots in the north end of the Indian Lands had a postoffice with a French-German name to show for their nine years of deliberation. Just after the post office got Its name the Canada Atlantic Railway built through the south end of McDougall's sawmill yard and, suitably enough, Maxville station was built right there.

Ewan Ross,
Goderich, Ontario

Glengarry County Place Names
Glengarry Place Names part 1 by Ewan Ross
Glengarry Place Names part 2 by Ewan Ross
Glengarry Place Names part 3 by Ewan Ross
Glengarry Place Names part 4 by Ewan Ross
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