Saturday, February 7, 2015

"Westboro" - but almost "Springbrae"!

Sometimes an old newspaper article you stumble across is, by itself, blog-worthy. The one I'm sharing tonight is definitely in that category. For years I've researched the history of Westboro, and always knew that it was originally called "Skead's Mills" (after the Canadian Senator who owned much of the land in the area, and opened a saw mill by what is now Westboro Beach). But until recently, I never knew exactly how the name was changed. What brought it about, how did such a random name like "Westboro" get selected, and what other options were considered?

Thankfully a short while ago I obtained the answers to all those questions in one single article published in the Ottawa Journal in 1899. I am pleased to present it to you below:

Ottawa Journal - February 22, 1899
In 1899, the residents of Westboro numbered less than 200 (the number had been higher during the successful days of the mill, however Skead had been forced to sell the mill in 1880, and it burned to the ground in 1888). The remaining few who resided in the little village decided the outdated name needed to finally be changed, and thus got together to select the new name. But apparently it wasn't that easy. The little sentence about Springbrae having been "adopted at a recent meeting" prompted a little additional searching. And it turned up an article from a month prior, January 31st:

Ottawa Journal - January 31, 1899
So from the January 31st article above, the vote resulted in favour of Springbrae. Other considered names (including Westboro, and interesting names such as "Earlswood" and "Kingswood") lost out in the vote. "Brae" is an old Scottish term meaning "a slope, declivity or hillside", thus referring I guess to the slope down to the Ottawa River at the north end of the village.

But apparently following the initial meeting, the residents had a change of heart; or perhaps those who had chosen to skip the meeting felt strongly against the new name that they learned had been selected. The drama played out in the newspapers over the first few weeks of February of 1899, including the following article on February 7th:

Ottawa Journal - February 7, 1899

So by the time of the big meeting of Tuesday February 21st, enough convincing had been done that Springbrae was no longer the top choice. In fact, it came out as the last-place choice. 27 electors voted "Westboro" as the new name (the paper spelt it "Westborough" but that spelling was never used in any way, and was likely an error on the part of the Journal reporter), well ahead of the 12 votes that Birchton received, and the 4 that Rockmont garnered. Springbrae was reduced down to just 3 votes.

So there you have it - Westboro was named in 1899 thanks to the votes of just 27 residents. And if it wasn't for the hard politicking work done by probably a handful of villagers in early February of 1899, we'd probably nowadays be getting off the OC Transpo bus at Springbrae station, taking our pets to Springbrae Animal Hospital, and spending hot summer days swimming at Springbrae Beach.

1 comment:

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