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Following article posted February 24, 1999 Vol. III No. 04

Alan Rayburn,

Ontario Places - Dufferin and Bancroft

Dufferin County

In the April 25, 1998 issue of the Global Gazette, Ryan Taylor noted in his Routes to Roots column that "Dufferin was a county [formed] in 1882. Townships were removed from Simcoe, Halton and Wellington to create the new county".

Dufferin was in fact formed from three adjoining counties, but the third, after Simcoe and Wellington, was Grey, not Halton.

The present town of Orangeville (where I went to school for 13 years, although I then lived in Peel County) was founded in the 1830s at a point where three counties came together: Peel to the south, Wellington to the southwest, and Simcoe to the north.

As early as 1861 the merchants and professional men of Orangeville became increasingly frustrated about having to travel many miles to the county seats in Barrie, Guelph, and Brampton to attend to matters relating to taxes, assessments and court proceedings. Led by Jesse Ketchum Jr., and 11 other men (but not town founder Orange Lawrence, who was ill and died on Dec. 15, 1861), the following motion was approved: "That it is highly desirable that a new County, to consist of the Townships of Mono, Amaranth, Mulmur, Melancthon, Caledon, east halves of Luther and Proton (to compose one township), and the east half of Garafraxa, be formed into a new County, said County to be called Hurontario County". The name was taken from the surveyed road from Port Credit on Lake Ontario to Collingwood on Georgian Bay. A weekly paper in Georgetown proposed the name Orange County.

In 1862 another group of merchants appealed for the creation of a new county, but clamour for it was not raised again until late 1871. In the summer of the following year it was suggested that the new county be named after Lord Dufferin, who had been appointed Governor General of Canada that spring. In Dec. 1874 the Dufferin County bill was passed in the legislature, and comprised the proposed townships put forward in 1861, with the exception of Caledon, which remained in Peel, Proton, which remained entirely in Grey, and the east half of Luther, which only joined the county in Jan. , 1883. East Luther, Amaranth and East Garafraxa came from Wellington, Mono and Mulmur were separated from Simcoe, and Melancthon was severed from Grey.

Dufferin was proclaimed a full county in 1881, after the townships had settled their debts with their respective counties, and after the county buildings had been built on Orangeville's Zina Street. It was the last county to be created in Ontario. In genealogical matters it is an orphan, belonging to none of the surrounding branches of the OGS. Fortunately all the cemetery inscriptions have been collected and published (with my wife and I contributing 11,000 inscriptions in three books).

The townships of Mono (pronounced MOH-nuh please, not MAW-noh) and Mulmur were named in 1821, probably by Lt-Gov. Sir Peregrine Maitland, who scatttered poetic names like Sombra, Zorra, Mariposa, Orillia, Oso, Oro, Ops, and Artemesia across the province of Upper Canada. Much speculation surrounds the origin of these two names. My best guess is that he likened the very rough landscape in the two townships to the southeastern Highlands of Scotland, where the Gaelic word for hilly is "monadh", and where the Monadhliath Mountains are located. For Mulmur, he may have perceived a similarity to the hilly nature of Maol Mhor, a high hill on the Scottish island of Mull.

The name Amaranth may also have come from Maitland's fertile imagination. It was also created in 1821, taking its name from the never-fading flower of the poets, which is also the scientific designation for the common pigweed. In his Paradise Lost, John Milton refers to the "Immortal amaranth".

Perhaps Garafraxa was another contribution from Maitland, as it too was named in 1821. It may have a Gaelic origin, with the two words "garry" and "fraech" suggesting "rough heath", but this is only speculation on my part.

It has often been said that Melancthon and Luther were named by a frustrated Catholic surveyor, who chose the worst names that he think of. I do not believe it for a minute. Melancthon was named in 1821, and was possibly chosen by Maitland to honour Martin Luther's co-worker, Philip Melanchthon (the latter a Latin translation of his birthname, Schwarzerd, "black earth"). Luther was not surveyed until 1831, but the name may have been proposed ten years earlier.

During the past two years the politicians representing the towns and townships on Dufferin's county council have been bickering and debating the realignment of municipal government in the county. Some would prefer the total amalgamation of municipalities into a single adminstration, such as has happened in Prince Edward County. Others would like to see some amalgamations of townships within the county, with the possibility of extending further into Peel Region's town of Caledon - there are already some 250 acres of Caledon within the town of Orangeville and Dufferin County.

The Origin of the Name Bancroft

In the August 8, 1998 issue of the Global Gazette it was reported that Bancroft was named after the wife of Senator Billa Flint. Although this occurs in many references, including Gerald Boyce's Historic Hastings (1967) and Nick and Helma Mika's Places in Ontario, Part 1, A-E (1977), it was not named after the senator's wife Phoebe, but after her mother, Elizabeth Ann Bancroft Clement.

Bancroft, which became an incorporated town in 1995, was first known as York Mills, but its first post office was named York River in 1861. Without consulting the local people, Senator Flint renamed it in 1879 after his late mother-in-law. She had been born in New Hampshire on July 5, 1785, and had died in Belleville on June 10, 1851. The gravestone for her and her husband Peter (1780-1834) is in the Belleville Cemetery's Section O, Row 8, Lot 7 or 8, but nothing is recorded about them in the cemetery's records, as the cemetery had only been opened in 1875. Their remains had, therefore, been transferred there from a small graveyard in or near the city. It would appear that the senator had much respect for his wife's Bancroft ancestry.

I travel through Bancroft once or twice a year, on the way to visit family and friends in the areas of Lake Simcoe, Muskoka and Haliburton. For a place in the "back of the beyond", I find it pleasantly laid out. The large number of provincial offices located there might lead one to believe that it is a county seat. Considering that it is 120 kilometres (69 miles) from the Hastings County seat of Belleville, Bancroft would have been an ideal site for a county seat for northern Hastings, northern Lennox and Addington County, and that part of the Nipissing District south of Algonquin Park. However, the province is not creating new counties, so there is little chance of Bancroft becoming a county seat any time soon.

Senator Billa Flint was a larger-than-life character of the nineteenth century. He was born in Brockville in 1805, and became a general merchant in Belleville in 1829. Within ten years he had extensively developed the waterfront of the Moira River and exploited the forest resources of its basin, especially its tributary the Skootamatta. He built mills at Troy (now Actinolite) and Flint's Mills (now Flinton) in the 1850s.

Flint was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada in 1847, defeated in 1851, and reelected in 1854. In 1863 he was chosen as a representative of the Trent Division in the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada, serving until 1867, when he was appointed to the Senate of the newly formed Parliament of Canada. He died in Ottawa on June 15, 1894, in his 89th year.

(Thanks to Hugh Heal of the Quinte Branch OGS for details on the Clement monument in the Belleville Cemetery. Those seeking information on place names may now contact me at ).

Books by Alan Rayburn:

Place Names In Ontario In this, the first wide-ranging survey of Ontario's place names, Alan Rayburn has reviewed 2285, including those of all 815 municipalities, as well as of unincorporated places with populations exceeding 75 and of a large selection of the more prominent lakes, rivers, islands, points, hills, mountains, and highways.

Naming Canada Stories About Place Names from Canadian Geographic 'This isn't your garden-variety let's-poke-fun at Dildo, Newfoundland. Author Rayburn looks at the origins of the place-names and how - and why - they've been altered by local tongue.' Inc. 1992-2018
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