ALGOMA DISTRICT NEWS
THE SAULTSTAR — SATURDAY. FEBRUARY 10,1979
Confusion in lake names cleared up
Ministry of Natural Resources
Many local geographic names in the Blind River-Thessalon area are now being authorized for official use and will soon appear on revised editions of topographic maps.
This is the result of investigations undertaken this past summer by researchers from Ministry of Natural Resources. (MNR) Surveys and Mapping Branch. Toronto. The survey to update names of lakes and other natural features coincided with a surge of local interest In names on maps which differ from names used locally.
Sparked by a column of Homer Foster's, interest focused on the 'correct' name for features, such as Bridgeland Lake which many area residents know as Burrows Lake.
"It Isn't unusual for an area to have some geographic features whose local names are different from official ones on the map", says MNR toponymist Debbie Cunningham. "but our survey found that the Blind River-Sault area has a surprisingly-high percentage of them.
It's one of the jobs of the Ministry's Nomenclature Section to collect information on such problems. Researchers like Mrs Cunningham interview local residents and officials who have been recommended as most knowledgeable about names of places and natural features in their vicinity. They usually give former or historical names and name origins as well as the most widely known local names.
When an official name differs from what a majority of local people have used for years a proposal is made to the province's naming authority, The Ontario Geographic Names Board, to change the official name.
The board is made up of five private citizens and two government employees, each an authority in one of the fields of map production, geography, Ojibway language and culture, cartography, surveying and Ontario history. They decide names (or official use so that all maps will bear only one uniform name for each feature or place within Ontario.
"The Board is primarily concerned with getting the best known and most widely-used local names on maps", said Mrs. Cunningham.
As a result of a week-long survey taken in 1975. the board authorized many names and corrected those of Harmony Bay and River, Chippewa River and Jones Creek north of Sault Ste. Marie, which had previously been applied to the wrong locations.
These corrections and many of the local names discovered at that time are shown on the accompanying map A.
On the most recent field trip this past August, more than 50 people provided information about the area between Thessalon and Elliot Lake. Another 47 were interviewed from the Espanola-Sudbury District.
In many cases the researchers would go directly to the feature in question and interview a cross-section of residents on the spot. Some of the information is still being studied; however, decisions on new names and name changes were made at the last OGNB meeting in November for the area north and east of Blind River.
People living in Blind River, Elliot Lake, Iron Bridge, Spragge, Massey and residents of Lake Duborne, Bass Lake, Lauzon Lake, Bearhead Lake and Matinenda Lake provided much of the information for that particular area.
With so many informants It is usually easy to determine the best known name for each feature, according to Mrs. Cunningham. Sometimes, though, there is a near even split between two or more names.
An example is Wakomata Lake, known to many as Clear Lake. Wakomata. an Ojibway term describing a sandy area, was made the official name in 1910 and has appeared on topographic maps since then. However, Clear Lake has a long history of local use, making a decision difficult. Many people questioned last August said they were becoming used to Wakomata and would prefer seeing it remain on maps because of its uniqueness.
Columnist's criticism leads to this new map. Name changes that were made official in November include two well-known and prominent features. Perhaps the best known is a lake shown on maps since I860 as Lake of the Mountains. Twenty informants unanimously agreed that lake Duborne is in fact the name in use locally.
Various spellings were given, among them DuBourne and Deborgne: however 'Duborne' seemed to be the most widely accepted The name is derived from 'borgne' which is French for "blind in one eye". Legend relates this to a one-eyed Indian chief who lived in this area many years ago.
Neighboring Lake Duborne to the northeast is a lake shown as Magog lake on official maps since 1916, and as Lake Magog on an 1881 map.
But to local residents the name is Granary Lake and, interestingly enough, another 1881 map confirms it although with the spelling Grainery. The origin of this name appeared in reminiscences of Mrs Nelson Mongraln (Elizabeth Boyer) in the Sault Dally Star. Dec . 24,1938:
"In 1880 he (Mr Murray, a lumber contractor) had some camps at Granary Lake. That year frost came early, on Nov 1. The river was freezing over and the oats and provisions had to be taken in. My brothers, the Boyer boys, seven of them, loaded the scow and started up the river and were all day going At nightfall they landed and had only unloaded the oats which they piled in a building which served as a warehouse and halfway house.
"After their evening meal they made a bed alongside the pile of oats. During the night in some mysterious way one of the bags broke open and after a time the pile collapsed and covered the sleeping men. suffocating them. Mr. Murray, their boss, discovered them eight days later".
The scene of this tragic accident is now officially recognized as Granary lake, the name it has held locally since the Boyer boys' death.
Other features also 'misnamed' for years and finally corrected are the Potomac River (Cobden River , Bass Lake (Thurston Lake). Upper and Lower Cranberry Lake (Heron and Skull Lakes), Lake Hope (Caroline Lake). These and a number of well known local names the Province had no record of before the summer survey are shown on inset map B. They will soon appear on topographic maps for the first time.
Attempting to discover the origins behind the names of millions of geographic features and places in Ontario is one of the most interesting aspects of the field work which Nomenclature Section undertakes.
Among those collected in the Blind River area was one for Graveyard Hill on Highway 555 which won its melancholy name when two different religious denominations divided the hill between them for use as a grave site before the turn of the century. Eventually the cemeteries were amalgamated as Hillside Cemetery.
Spooner's Bay commemorates Lauzon lake's first settler. Paul Spooner, who built a log cabin at the west end of the lake in 1912, the cabin stood for three decades.
Twenty-five years later Howard Ely purchased an Island In the same lake and built a cottage on it. Although the tiny Island has changed ownership twice since then, first to a Mr. Schultz and then to Mr. A. Rupp, it still bears the name of the original owner.
Also in the late 1930s a number of doctors built cottages on a tiny bay on the southern shore of Lake Duborne which acquired the nickname Medicine Bay. The name caught on and is now commonly used though its origin is fading from memory.
Battle Point, a large peninsula in Lake Duborne was christened by faculty members from Ohio Wesley an University in Delaware who bought 50 acres of land there, not to remind them of any personal feuds but to commemorate a battle which they discovered had taken place on the point between two warring Indian tribes.
And who would have thought that descriptive names, probably applied jokingly by locals some years ago would find themselves on maps many years late — Pregnant Point, Old Baldy and Table Rock have become well known names such as Lonely Lake, residents, so now deserve a place as official names.
THESSALON-IRON BRIDGE NAME CHANGES
Names and name changes collected from the Thessalon-Iron Bridge area are on the agenda of the Names Board's next meeting In March.
Decisions will be made about a number of 'problem" names such as Lonley Lake, north of Desbarats, which is Meredith Lake on the map, and about a lake in Das-Township, known officially as Cullis Lake but as Little Basswood Lake to area residents. It was Bass Lake on the original township plan dated 1879.
As well, official maps currently show Kirk wood Lake and Swinn Lake rather than the local names Cranberry Lake and Birch Lake. And Burk Lake is known locally as Brownlee Lake, while Scarfe Lake is callled Canoe Lake.
How did all these double names come about?
Confusion may have been caused by the method by which names were applied to maps in the past. When surveyors mapped the land on foot they asked settlers or Indian guides about the features and added the local names directly to their maps.
With the introduction of aircraft and aerial photography it became possible to map large areas that were either inaccessible on foot, or relatively remote. Government map producers could obtain accurate pictures of the landscape but did not always have adequate means or staff to contact local people and ask about feature names.
Faced with map production deadlines, mappers often arbitrarily named those lakes and rivers that seemed important enough to require names — after townships where they were located, nearby named features, early surveyors or sometimes simply from their imagination.
Even when a local name was known it did not always appear on maps. Particularly before the mid-1950s there was a conscious policy to reduce the number of common, duplicated names like Mud, Loon, Clear, Pike and Round, even though they were used locally. The reasoning was that any chance of confusion would be eliminated if features had unique names.
As the ministry discovered when it first authorized nomenclature field surveys and its researchers came face to face with local people, the policy had only produced confusion.