Skip to content

Then & Now: Strangely, many local place names honour men who never set foot in Sudbury

The men who lent their names to Capreol, Garson, Creighton, Rayside, Falconbridge and Blezard Valley never actually visited the communities that bear their names

An armchair tour around the City of Greater Sudbury provides a history lesson. Each neighbourhood and community name on the map has a story.

Have you ever wondered how Capreol got its name? 

Frederick Chase Capreol, a man who never visited the community, was a Toronto railway promoter in the 1850s. The Township of Capreol was named in his honour. The community of Capreol was named for the township.

But the father of Capreol is considered by many to be Frank Dennie (1869-1963). He owned the Hanmer Hotel and took advantage of other opportunities available, working as a lumberman, a mining promoter and a landowner.

In 1903, Dennie was hired by American inventor Thomas Edison to supervise the cutting of a baseline for a mining exploration project near Garson. Dennie encountered quicksand and missed a nickel discovery by about 100 metres. (In 1929, Thayer Lindsley of the Falconbridge Mining Company would discover nickel a few feet away.)

Dennie purchased land in Capreol Township when he learned CNR planned to build a junction where the rail line from Toronto would meet the line from Montreal. 

According to the book, "Capreol: The First 75 Years," Dennie agreed to give the railway land it needed if it promised to make Capreol a permanent divisional point with shops, a roundhouse and other railroad buildings. This agreement prevented CNR from moving the entire rail operation to North Bay in the late 1950s.

But Frank Madigan, a member of the Northern Ontario Railway Museum board, disputes the Dennie legend.

"Frank Dennie didn’t have any agreement with the Canadian Northern, Grand Trunk or Canadian National regarding having a shop or terminal in Capreol. He didn’t have any land to give to the railroad. It is all an urban legend.

"No one has ever seen the document. It doesn’t exist but they know somebody who knows somebody who did. No one knows the name of the bank it is in, just a bank. 

"After having heard the story from many Capreol residents, I knew it was wrong from experience but I had to prove it. I did so by attending the record department at city hall and checking who bought what land when. The railroad company first bought the land where the tracks and yard would be and Dennie bought land one day later . His property became Norman Township."

Dennie was the first postmaster of Capreol, and opened the town’s first real estate office with Cyril T. Young. One of the main streets in Capreol is Dennie Street. Other streets in the community are named after his children.

The Town of Capreol was incorporated in 1918.

Prior to a permanent pioneer settlement, a fur trading post was located on the shore of Lake Wanapitei about eight miles from Capreol. The area around the northeast shore of lake is home to Wahnapitae First Nation. Its traditional name, "Wahnapitaeping," means “place where the water is shaped like a tooth." 

Gatchell in the city's West End, one of Sudbury's first subdivisions, was named for Moses Gatchell, a dairy farmer.

In 1903, he and his brother purchased two parcels of land on Copper Cliff Road, now known as Lorne Street, from the Town of Sudbury.

The Gatchells grew oats, corn, wheat and potatoes. Their herd of 146 dairy cows supplied milk to residents in Copper Cliff and Sudbury.

Gatchell was born in Fenelon Falls. His father was an Irish immigrant and his mother was from Nova Scotia.

He was councillor for McKim Township from 1907 to 1909 and was reeve from 1929 to 1933. He lived a long life, passing at the age of 89 in 1950. He is buried in Eyre Cemetery.

In 1916, he began to subdivide his farm and named streets after Sudbury soldiers’ who died fighting in the First World War.

Many Italian immigrants settled in Gatchell. Delki Dozzi Park was named after a prominent local Italian-Canadian politician, Delchi Dozzi (1936-1980, corrected spelling).

In the 1880s and 1890s, when the railways began to transport prospectors and pioneers to the vast wilderness of "New" Ontario and settlements were established, many communities were named for MPPs. 

Most of these politicians probably never travelled north of Queen's Park.

Blezard Township was named for Thomas Blezard, MPP for East Peterborough from 1873 to 1902. Once an area rich in white pine, the rim of the “Blezard Valley” was the site of three discoveries in the 1880s: the Blezard mine, the Stobie mine, and the Little Stobie mine. Blezard Valley became part of the City of Valley East (1997-2000) before amalgamation with the City of Greater Sudbury.

Creighton, the township, the mine and the village, were named after David Creighton, a Conservative MPP for Grey North from 1875 to 1890. Prior to entering politics, Creighton was editor and publisher of "The Owen Sound Times." After politics, he established the conservative "Empire" newspaper in Toronto.

In the northern part of Creighton Township, Col. James R. Gordon established the Creighton Gold Mining Company in 1889; it folded in 1893. Gordon Lake bears his name.

The community of Garson was named after William Garson, the MPP for Lincoln County from 1886 to 1890.

Garson left Ontario and moved to Manitoba where he established limestone quarries near Tyndall in 1898. Tyndall stone was used on the exterior of the Manitoba Parliament Building and other government buildings, including Canada House in London, England.

Garson, Man., near Winnipeg, was also named for the politician and businessman who died in 1911.

Garson's son, Stuart, was elected premier of Manitoba from 1943 to 1946. He turned to federal politics, and from 1948 to 1957 he was minister of justice and attorney general.

Rayside Township was named for James Rayside, a Liberal MPP for Glengarry. Balfour Township was named for MPP Wililiam Balfour, a newspaper owner who represented the Amherstburg area. Balfour was a champion for the rights of women and people of colour.

The Town of Rayside-Balfour was incorporated in 1973 and included the communities of Azilda and Chelmsford.

Azilda was named to honour Azilda Bélanger (nee Brisbois), one of the first settlers. Chelmsford takes its name from Chelmsford, England. The English community is about 50 kilometres southwest of Sudbury, England.

Rayside-Balfour became part of the City of Greater Sudbury in 2000.

Levack was named after Mary Levack Mowatt, the mother of Sir Oliver Mowatt, Ontario premier from 1872 to 1896. Its neighbour, Dowling, was named after Dr. John Francis Dowling, an MPP for Renfrew South.

The name Onaping may be a contraction of the Cree word "Onumunaning," meaning ‘red paint’ or ‘vermilion place’. The Onaping River runs into the Vermilion, where there was once a Hudson’s Bay Company post. The Town of Onaping Falls from 1973 to 2000 included the communities of Onaping, Dowling and Levack.

Coniston was first settled in 1902 and became site of the Mond Company’s new smelter in 1913. While Coniston is the name of a pretty village in England's Lake District, it is believed the postmaster picked the name because Coniston was the name of a popular American novel at the time. Incidentally, the novel was penned by U.S. writer Winston Churchill, who is no way related to his more famous British counterpart.

Copper Cliff is believed to be a derivative of the expression “cliffs of copper,” which is how prospector Rinaldo McConnell described the mineral-rich area to Samuel J. Ritchie, the Ohio promoter who founded the Canadian Copper Company. The site of numerous mining and smelting operations, Copper Cliff was first settled in 1886, became a town April 15, 1901, and became part of the City of Sudbury in 1973. 

Fairbank Lake was named after J.H. Fairbank, Liberal MP for East Lambton (1883-1887) and a prominent oil field owner in the Oil Springs/Petrolia area.

Falconbridge was named for William Glenholme Falconbridge, Justice of the Ontario High Court and Chief Justice of the King’s Bench from 1900 to 1920. He was the son of an Irish Protestant immigrant and a member of the Upper Canada establishment. His wife was the daughter of the second mayor of Toronto.

The judge travelled throughout Ontario to hear cases. "The Dictionary of Canadian Biography" says, "The naming of a township near Sudbury in his honour in 1892 may reflect his commitment to the administration of justice outside the provincial metropolis."

Gilbert Hanmer of Welsh descent was a farmer from Brant County. The first settlers in that area were French-Canadian farmers, who began to move into the area in 1898. The community grew slowly, and in 1903 a post office was established as Hanmer.

I am thankful to late Sudbury historian Martin (Marty) McAllister who researched the origin of so many communities' names. He worked at Inco Ltd. for nearly 40 years and wrote a column for "The Inco Triangle" from 1989 to 1995.

Sudbury's street names also provide a history lesson. Read more about that here.

Vicki Gilhula is a freelance writer in Greater Sudbury.

Sources: October, 2017, April 2018


Verified reader

If you would like to apply to become a verified commenter, please fill out this form.

Vicki Gilhula

About the Author: Vicki Gilhula

Vicki Gilhula is a freelance writer.
Read more