towns, Villages and Hamlets
The Counties seemed to have been named by those that surveyed the areas in Ontario and names from the "old country" were designated. One wonders if this was because the particular places resembled “back home” or if it was to lay claim to the British territory.
According to the government website the original districts for Ontariio were as follows:
· Hesse (renamed Western in 1792), comprised of the Lake Erie and Windsor areas. (Southwestern Ontario).
· Nassau (renamed Home in 1792), comprised of the western Lake Ontario and Niagara areas. (South-Central Ontario).
· Mecklenburg (renamed Midland in 1792), comprised of the eastern Lake Ontario area.
As the population grew it was obvious that changes were needed so in 1849 these districts were abolished and new ones were created. County courthouses were built and due to the judicial system of the time the administrative duties needed to be transferred to these Counties.
My concern is more about Counties, Townships, towns and hamlets situated in what was called the Gore district, created in 1816 and consisting of Halton 1816—1849 and Wentworth 1816—1849. My maternal ancestry touched more on the Home district particularily Northumberland 1792—1802 (transferred to Newcastle), and York 1792—1849, Toronto, in particular which I will pursue at a later date.
The Counties that concern my paternal ancestors were those of Halton (created in 1816 from York County (West Riding)), Wellington and I will also touch briefly on Lambton County. The gov’t link above gives more in depth maps and descriptions of these territories and Counties.
Esquesing, surveyed in 1818 is said by some to have been named as such because it is a First Nations word meaning “land of the tall pines”. I like this definition as it fits nicely with my ancestors and the story of the building of Churchill church, built from large pine logs cut and hewn from the Swackhamer farm to build their meeting house.
Another possibility is that the name is more likely to have come from the Mississauga Indian word ishkwessin, meaning "that which lies at the end"
Whatever the case maybe the name Esquesing is a romantic one, and tells of a time of hardship and growth in an area that was once a wilderness.
Jacob’s land was in Halton County, Esquesing Township. The first thing to appear was a cemetery on Jacob’s land for a daughter of his brother that died at a young age. It was originally known as Swackhamer's Corner, but never had a store, Post Office, hotel, or industry of any kind - only the school built by the Swackhamer’s and their neighbors, erected on land donated by Mr. Snyder across the road from the Swackhamer farm, a church and cemetery both on the Swackhamer property proper.
The original church was called the Swackhamer Church as Jacob was one of the original founders along with Peter Masales. Bible groups that had once met in the Swackhamer kitchen, eventually had their own house of worship in 1840 built with pine logs from the Swackhamer homestead. These logs were originally meant for an addition to his farmhouse. Jacob obviously a pious man, felt the church to be more important than the addition. Jacob remained a deacon to the church until his death in 1874.
Swackhamer’s Corners was therefore named after a very important pioneer to the area, as was Crewson’s Corner in Erin township just northwest of the Swackhamer’s. The Swackhamer church was eventually named Churchill and exists as such today.
Georgetown was apparently named after George Kennedy who started a mill and foundry in the area.
Acton established in the 1820's with the arrival of the Adams Family. First known as Danville it was renamed Adamsville in honour of those first settlers. In 1844 it was renamed again, this time in honour of Acton, England, by the first postmaster Robert Swan who hailed from Acton, Northumberland, England.
This would lead us to believe that most of the towns that began were named honouring prominent settlers or the original birthplace of a prominent settlers.
In the case of Petrolia, in Lambton County, a town where my great grandfather moved to in the late 1870’s is a different case. I was named for the oil that was found causing a boom in that area.
According to the Town of Erin site Erin came about as follows:
“Erin Township is said to have been so named by the surveyors, because it was surveyed immediately after the Townships of Albion and Caledon. Albion suggested England, Caledon suggested Scotland, and it was thought fitting that the third should suggest Ireland; so they called it Erin, the poetic name for Ireland. It was established 1851.”
Interestingly the township was inhabited by more Scots than Irish. Apparently Gaelic was originally the universal language and in some cases some of the pioneers never spoke anything but.
For anyone interested in the detailed history there is a great link about the settlement at the town of Erin site above.
It is here I learned that my great-great grandfather George Martin was the Reeve of Wellington County from 1864 until 1868.
Fairbairn, Gardiner (2009). Nothing But Names: An Inquiry Into the Origin of the Names of the Counties and Townships of Ontario. BiblioBazaar. p. 243. ISBN 978-1-110-32611-2.
 FREELANG Ojibwe-English and English-Ojibwe online dictionary
Formerly in the Gore District (1816—1849) it was named for Major William Halton and comprised the townships of Esquesing, Nassageweya, Nelson and Trafalgar.
Established in 1851 and incorporated in 1853 originally from Waterloo County it was named in honor of the Duke of Wellington.
Formerly in the Western District (1837—1849), it was established in 1837 from Kent County and named for John George Lambton, Earl of Durham
Next the townships were named for the influence on a larger scale such as the First Nation Reserves that preceeded the settlers and or names given by surveyors of the land for development by the pioneers.
Lastly the Counties gave honor to important royalty or military figures either by their name or by the place they originated.
*Now to visit one of my favourite ancestors that came from this area go to Frances Sophia Martin-Ryder. Although I have never known her I am presently writing a story about her life and how I imagine it. Later to be featured in the section Family Lore