The following article is researched and written for interest purposes only. Resources and links to more are at the bottom of this page.
What’s in a Name? Place Names of the South Shore
by CJN, November, 2013
Places get named for a lot of reasons. Often place names help memorialize, such as the original homelands of settlers and indeed help remind us where many came from in Europe. Appin and Argyle Shore Roads both recall Scotland. Bradford Road tributes Yorkshire, northeast England and Chelton does the same for a town in England’s southwest. Quite a few places in the South Shore are named for important people, like Victoria for England’s long reigning Queen Victoria, Albany for her son, the Duke of Albany, or Lady Fane for Georgiana Fane, who once owned much of the land in Lot 29. Reportedly, Lady Fane devoted all monies she got from land rent back to the Lot’s development. Westmoreland is named, not for the English county itself, but for Jane, Countess of Westmoreland, and Lady Fane’s very independent mother. South Melville is named for her Aunt Anne’s family. They are all grand nieces of the first owner of Lot 29, Admiral Charles Saunders, who himself does not seem to have any local namesake (1). Nor does PEI’s Surveyor General, Samuel Holland have local place recognition, despite having lived in PEI for a time and having land within the South Shore. Tryon and Carleton both refer to commanding officers of Holland. Colonel Augustine Prevost lends both his names to the area. Borden was named one and a half centuries later in 1917, after Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden, when it became the PEI ferry service terminal to the mainland.
Local place names and road names sometimes capture certain points or moments in the past that were very meaningful to people at the time of naming: Inkerman and nearby Balaklava Road, north of Crapaud, are named for two ancient East European coastal towns 12 kms apart in the north of the Black Sea, which in 1854 were sites of famous British military actions. Cape Traverse comes from a time before 1754 when the French settlers bravely and probably eventfully crossed or traversed Northumberland Strait to the mainland from PEI using small boats.
French’s Pond in Westmoreland, off Colette Rd. is likely named, not for French settlers but for the family of Thomas French who lived and worked at the pond in the mid to late 1800’s. Holm’s Pond was worked by that family, as millers, for almost 150 years. Experts say all ponds on PEI are named this way, for the one-time residing landowners (2). In the South Shore, many local communities and roads are so named, for resident families, like Kellys Cross, Gambles Corner, MacDonald, Todd, Collette and McKenna and Muttart Roads.
Ponds were a necessary part of mills. Mills on PEI used water power to do work. Stream water was dammed and stored in a pond until the miller opened gates to power the mill. From early days of settlement to as recently as the 1940’s and 50’s, water-powered mills in the South Shore and throughout PEI were used to make a variety of essential things for Islanders, from grinding grain into foods like flour to cutting lumber and shingles, to processing wool and making cloth, blankets and clothing, to generating electricity, as at Sherren’s Mill, near Crapaud. Tryon Woolen Mills and the now internationally famous and innovative Stanfield undergarment manufacturer, now in Nova Scotia, began on the South Shore. Almost every stream, even a small one, had one or more mills. The location of mills heavily influenced road locations. There is not that much to indicate the once great frequency of mills, except for some road names, like Old Mill Road and Lairds Mill Road, respectively in and north of Crapaud, and Mill Road in South Melville. Mills and the associated ponds were needed by earlier Islanders, but had a complicated effect on the natural environment and migratory fish species.
One can get insight into what was once a normal aspect of certain areas of PEI, in terms of landscape features as well as plants and animals. One might suppose the inlands of the South Shore had many maples, if Maple Plains and Maplewood are any indication. Fernwood suggests a very pleasant land. Seven Mile Bay is almost the distance between Seacow Head and Borden Point (6.6 miles). DeSable is named for its river, in French, meaning river of sand. Crapaud is also named for the French name of the renamed Westmoreland River, this time noting an animal feature: river of toads. Sometimes the animal named is no longer seen on PEI. In the South Shore, Seacow Head is such a case. Sea cow likely refers to walrus, very large, tusked relatives of seals, which surprisingly, were once seen on various Island shores, and throughout the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Bears and some other large mammals are still common in New Brunswick, even though they have not seen here for over a century but walrus are officially classified extirpated (locally absent) from all of Atlantic Canada.
We tend to ignore the familiar, including the names of familiar places. Yet, becoming aware of them, just as with tuning one’s attention to one’s own back yard or woods, can reward with very interesting results.
(1) Lot 29 names are interwoven with the Saunders family. As defined by Surveyor General Holland, the more or less rectangular Lot 29 stretched from Argyle Shore to Victoria and north to Inkerman and Maple Plains. The Lot was originally awarded by the King to British Admiral Sir Charles Saunders (1715-1775), a man who rose through ranks from unclear origins to command of the British Navy, second only after the King of the most powerful navy in the world during the Age of Sail, of which he was very much a part. He became Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, and later First Lord of the Admiralty. He served as the naval equivalent to Army General James Wolfe as they prosecuted the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, at Quebec. Saunders completed the capture of Quebec after Wolfe was killed. Being such a successful Admiral in an era when his rank received one quarter of the value of spoils of war captured by his captains, Saunders was not only decorated but was indeed a wealthy man. It appears he did not have children of his own since his niece became his heiress. The Saunders name was then so important that upon her marriage to Dr. Richard Huck, Huck added her surname to his, so he and his descendants were the Huck-Saunders. Ironically, her given name seems as unimportant as to not have been recorded in any histories consulted. Lot 29 proprietorship was then passed to their two daughters. The eldest daughter, Anne, married Robert Dundas, 2nd Viscount of Melville, a powerful statesman who served many high offices including also as First Lord of the Admiralty. He became part owner of Lot 29 through his wife. Her younger sister, Jane, became the second wife of widower John Fane, the 10th Earl of Westmoreland, making her the Countess of Westmoreland. Together they had five children, but only the eldest, Lady Cicely Jane Georgiana Fane, outlived her parents, taking possession of her mother’s part of Lot 29. The Countess Jane scandalized social circles at the time by moving herself and Lady Georgiana to another manor home where both lived the rest of their lives. Lady Fane never married although she had her own scandal involving Field Marshall Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. Lady Fane and her mother are both recognized in names in Lot 29, as is her mother’s sister. While at least three place names in what was Lot 29 arise from the inheritors of Sir Charles estate, no place name recalls he who obtained the Lot in the first place.
(2)“…all ponds on PEI are named this way” requires some clarification. The historical names are those of early owners, but not every pond still has that name. The pond at the borders of Kellys Cross and South Melville was called Constable’s Pond for years, but is now Linden Hill Pond, for the much-loved Linden tree residing on the hill beside the pond, owned by Eric and Bonnie Rieber. In 2008, they renamed the pond, with DeSable River Enhancement & Activity Management Inc. assisting in a ceremony marking Linden Hill Pond greenspace official opening.
Allen, Douglas W.: The British Navy Rules: Monitoring and Incompatible Incentives in the Age of Fighting Sail, Simon Fraser University, BC, 2002. http://www.sfu.ca/~allen/navy2.pdf Accessed November, 2013.
Bitterman, Rusty; McCallum, Margaret: Lady Landlords of Prince Edward Island; McGill-Queens University Press, Quebec City. 2008
Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada: Atlantic Walrus, Northwest Atlantic Population, http://web.archive.org/web/20070818123101/http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/species-especes/species/species_atlanticwalrus_e.asp Accessed November, 2013.
Newson, Cindy: DeSable as Water Mill Country, unpublished article, heavily drawing from History of Old DeSable by C. C. Ince and author’s conversation notes from senior DeSable residents, 2008.
Rayburn, Alan, Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names: Geographical Names of Prince Edward Island, Surveys and Mapping Branch of Department of Energy Mines and Resources. Ottawa, 1973
Royal College of Physicians: Richard Huck-Saunders, Lives of the Fellows, Munk’s Roll, Vol. II. http://munksroll.rcplondon.ac.uk/Biography/Details/5087, Accessed November, 2013
Stanfield’s official web site, http://www.stanfields.com/about-us, Truro, NS, Accessed November, 2013
For additional information on PE Island place names, history or older maps and atlases, we are pleased to include the following:
1880 Meacham Atlas of PEI, fully digitized, and other map resources at Island Imagined , http://www.islandimagined.ca/
1863 Lake Map, fully digitized, with many other wonderful historical resources at the Island Register, http://www.islandregister.com/lakem/index.html