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Bruce County Historical Society

Bruce County, Ontario, Canada

Incorporated 1901 - 1915       Re-incorporated 1957

Bruce County History


Place-names of Bruce

from Bruce County Historical Notes, Volume 44, No. 1, April 2002

By John Weichel

Pott’s Crook. Toenail Hill. Earl’s Patches. Ah, the place-names of Bruce! They don’t go willingly into neat categories, but some semblance of order is nevertheless possible. Here are some of the factors involved in choosing place-names.

Local Features

Often names were derived from obvious local physical features: Ragged Bight in St. Edmunds Township. (A bight is a curve or recess in a shoreline.) Lion’s Head in Eastnor, Burnt Corners (later Spark’s Corners) and Horseshoe Bay in Saugeen. There is also Clover Valley in Huron, Snake Creek in Elderslie and Slabtown in Arran.

Local Colour

Little Stratford (an area of Southampton), Blue Lake (Loch Arran), and Death Valley (an area of Paisley).

Settlers’ Choices

Some names were transplanted, no doubt with fond memories, from the homeland of early settlers: Arran, Paisley, Bervie and Kinloss, to name a few.

Family Names

Many communities were named after local families: Eidt’s Grove and Goble’s Grove in Saugeen; Spence’s Hill and Spear’s Hill in Arran; Douglas Hill in Elderslie, and Cargill in Greenock.


Several place-names recall wars of long-ago: Balaclava in Carrick is one. Paisley has three streets named after Crimean War battles, Inkerman, Balaklava and Alma, and several named after officers in that war, Arnaud and Canrobert, after two French generals.


Porridgeville (this Elderslie hamlet had an oatmeal mill), the Alps, (a series of hills in Culross), Old Maid’s Hill in Kincardine Township, and Holy City in Huron Township (Bruce Beach), because of the number of clergymen with cottages.

Church, Bible

Several areas display a Biblical touch — Egypt, Canaan, the Red Sea, and the Wilderness, in Kincardine Township, for example. Throughout the county, church names — and sometimes communities — were named after Biblical stories. Thus we find Bethel (House of God), Bethesda (from John 2:5-4) and Ebenezer (actually of Hebrew origin).

Royalty, Statesmen

Street names often bore the names of the Royal family: Victoria, Regent, Edward, were common in Bruce County. Southampton has many named for statesmen: Palmerston, Lansdowne and Grosvenor, among them.

Names Changed

Many communities went through several name changes: Cargill was first an Indian village called Yokassippi. It was later called Mickle, and Mickle Station, before becoming Cargill (after Henry Cargill).


Traditional Place-names, Terms and Local Nicknames

from Bruce County Historical Notes, Volume 45, No. 2, September 2003

By Stan McClellan

In response to requests in previous newsletters for readers to submit early place names and local terms to the Bruce County Historical Society our director for the North, Stan McClellan of Tobermory has provided a list of early place names from St. Edmunds Township. Here, we print a partial list of Mr. McClellan’s collection.

In St. Edmunds Township, now a part of the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula, a study has been ongoing for many years, initiated originally by the staff of Fathom Five Provincial Park and now being continued by the author in his retirement. While the listing is far from complete there are dozens of local places, names, nicknames and folklore terms with descriptions to match. In addition to the names, it is important to place the appropriate locations on maps or at least provide a lot and concession positioning. In the St. Edmunds project, the terms have been broken down into categories such as those associated with timbering, fishing, hunting, people, local lore and buildings. Some out of necessity may also fall into a miscellaneous category.


Cassels Cove - Map name is Boat Harbour located on the east side of Cove Island. It is a shallow inlet, so called after Thomas Cassels timbering camp which  operated during the period 1905-1909.

Jerry’s Hole - Timbering was often a dangerous business as many old loggers will testify. One day while back cutting logs, Jerry Parker had a frightening experience when he stepped into a large pothole. Not being very tall, Mr. Parker had to wait for help to arrive before getting out.

Tank Marsh - When logging back in this area, teams of horses were used during the winter months to skid logs out to the mill. The loggers would carry large tanks, fill them with water from the marsh and flood the trails, making a hard surface for skidding and easier for the horses to follow. Thus the water area where they filled their tanks became known as the Tank Marsh.

McVicars - The Crane River hamlet became fairly extensive during the heyday of the timbering. In 1872, a number of lots were purchased for the purpose of timbering along the Crane River. These lots were purchased by James Cockwill, Wm. Grant and John Leatherhorn and became the site of the first sawmill in St. Edmunds Township. The mill and settlement site continued to flourish through the 1870s. In 1882 the Cockwill-Grant holdings, including the mills, were purchased by two brothers, Wm. and Peter McVicar. The brothers built up a large lumbering concern encompassing vast areas of the eastern part of the township and became a well-known station on the old road from Lions Head to Tobermory. Although the property has long since changed hands (several times) the name McVicars as well as the original mill site remain known throughout the area. It is currently owned by the Johnstone family who call the area Hidden Valley.


Indian Bay - Originally a small indentation in the shore about midway between Big Tub and Little Tub Harbour on the south west side, approximately where the parking lot / loading area is today for the ferry service. Formed on the west side by Fishgut Point, a landing point until the 1920s used by the Indians arriving down with goods from Manitoulin Island by small sailboats.

Wolverine Hill - A fairly steep part of the shore road near Lee’s Dock, named originally after the Wolverine Fish Company which was located at the Lee Dock location.

Fish Gut Dock - A small wooden dock located on the south west corner of Doctor Island used by the commercial fishermen as a place to clean fish before coming into the harbour.


Gin Bottle Stump - A landmark, an old gin bottle left in a stump to mark a good deer run.

Henry’s Nook - A settler, William Henry, set the dogs on the deer then sat out on the flat rock beach at this location and simply waited for the deer to pass as the dogs chased them out.


Cooney’s Hollow - A man named Cooney lived by a gully or hollow that once lay by the main road, but has since been filled in.

Spears Hill - Solomon Spears lived here, he was the first reeve of St. Edmunds Township.

Woods Swamp - Billy Woods lived on this lot, it was said that he lived downstairs and kept his many chickens upstairs in the house.

Local Lore

Mrs. Munn’s Bathtub - (From the Owen Sound Sun Times, April 19, 1958) One spring when the first mail in months was being taken to Tobermory from Owen Sound by horse and buggy, the mailman’s mother went along for the ride and her name was Mrs. Munn. Coming to a low place in the road and deeply flooded by the spring thaws, the mailman stood up in the buggy while the horses swam for several yards. He glanced down to find the water up around his mother’s neck and only snatched the good body to her feet in time to avert a drowning. And so this place was known for many years as Mrs. Munn’s Bathtub.

Old Coat Corner - Named after an old coat that hung in a tree by the side of the road and left as a landmark for several years.

Toe Nail Hill - A steep hill (now filled in) on the main road, so steep that the locals claimed horses had to dig in their toenails in order to climb it.


Wireless Point - Map name is North Point, located at the east side Tobermory harbour entrance, named after the nearby site of the original wireless radio station, now known as Trails End Lodge.

Wireless Bay - The inner portion of the eastern part of the Tobermory Harbour, again attributed to the Wireless radio station as well.

Matheson House Hotel - The original name for the large hotel known since as the Davey Hotel, The Georgian Hotel and now the Princess Inn. Located on the south side of the Little Tub Harbour.

Telegraph Office - Located in a house on Bay Street South, adjacent to the south side of the Little Tub Harbour. Originally owned by the William Smith family. ‘Operator Billy’ ran the telegraph station there. It was later owned by Gale Jensen, now deceased.


Orange Meadow - Named because of the large number of orange flowers (wood lilies) that grew in the small open field near the main road. Also noted today that in the fall the grasses take on a distinctive orange colour.

Singing Sands - At the head of Dorcas Bay, also known as Big Bay, named because sand blowing from the beach is said to make a distinct humming sound.

Signal Pole Hill - Named after the large mast erected to support the early storm signal baskets used to warn sailors. The basket system went out of use following radio installations, but the mast was not removed until 1955.

Lake Kent - Original name for Cameron Lake, named after an early trader, John Cameron of Southampton. (History of the County of Bruce, p. 260).

Long Bridge - Also known as Little Lake, or more recently ‘Lake Soon-Be-Gone’, located along Highway 6, half mile south of Willow Creek, named after the original bridge of wood and boulders built about 1910 to get across the swamp. The water that forms the lake in the spring runoff usually dries up by late summer.