As a new division, we often talk about the culture of this new entity. I would like to take you on a tour from a human geographical perspective and describe how the various places in Border Land came to be named.
Place names, or toponyms, are expressions of language in the landscape. We name places for at least two reasons. First, in order to understand and give meaning to the physical landscape. A landscape without names would be like a group of people without names; it would be difficult to distinguish one location from another. Second, place names serve important psychological needs; they provide a sense of belonging, identity and help to establish a sense of orderliness in a new place. Looking at place names often tells us of the origins of the first settlers, or something about their aspirations and helps us to understand the cultural history of the area.
Moving from east to west, visiting a selection of local communities --
Sprague: Community south ofWhitemouthLake. The Post Office, opened in 1901, on 15-1-14e was named after Daniel E Sprague, President of the Sprague Lumber Co. In 1900, Sprague was the terminus of the Manitobaand South Eastern Railway. It was also the school district name.
Piney: Community southwest ofWhitemouthLake. The Post Office was opened in 1901 asPineValleyon 20-1-12e and changed to Piney in 1913. The School District of Pine Creek was on se 36-1-11e, while the School District of Pine Valley was shown on ne 12-1-11e on a 1965 municipal map. Piney was first settled in 1897 in anticipation of the railwayâ€™s arrival and was originally known as Pine Creek, taking its name from the nearby creek. The Local Government District was named after the community and incorporated in 1945.
Vita: Community west of Caliento. The Post Office opened in 1907 as Szewczenko under Postmaster Nicolas Hawryluk and was changed to Vita in 1908. The name was changed against the will of local residents, and attempts to restore it went unheeded. Vita is a Latin word meaning life. TheSchool Districtwas first shown on one map as Szewezenko but as Shevchenko on later maps. The name Shevchenko was probably inspired by the famous Ukrainian poet and painter Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861).
Gardenton: Community southwest of Caliento. The Post Office was first established in 1905 on 35-1-6e. Settlement began in 1896 with the arrival of the Wasyl Zahara family from theDniesterRiverarea. Possibly a contraction of the words garden and town, but according to Luba Onysko, it was named after an early settler named Gardner. It was also a CN railway point. The School District name was shown as Purple Bank on a 1966 Municipal map but asGardentonSchool Districton the 1970 edition.
Stuartburn: Community west of Caliento. The Post Office opened in 1884 on 18-2-6e. Correspondence from Postmistress Matilda Ramsay indicated that it was named after one of the first settlers, Stuart Miller, who lived on theRoseauRiver It was first called Stuartville but the Post Office in Ottawachanged it to avoid confusion with another place of that name. The area was settled ca. 1880 jostly be Germans and Austrians. According to records, the CNR station of Stuartburn (presumably referring to nearly Gardenton) was originally called Stuartstown but was changed to Stuartburn because of duplication. It was named after the first settler, William H. Stuart, plus the Scottish word, burn, meaning creek, because of the small stream at that point. It was also the name of theSchool District. In 1944, the R.M. of Stuartburn was named after the community of Stuartburn.
DominionCity: Community northeast of Emerson. Correspondence from Postmaster Alex Waddell indicated that the Post Office was originally called Roseau, since it was located on theRoseauRiverwhere the CPR crossed it in 1878. He added that there was confusion with Roseau inMuskoka, Ontarioand so they were obliged to change names:
After a year or two of real boom times , every place got ambitious and had to have â€˜Cityâ€™ attached [e.g.CrystalCity, Rapid City] so we gotâ€¦ the jost important and that was Dominion city.
Roseau Crossing had been so named because it was a place where travelers from St Paul to Winnipegoften crossed the river. Post Office records showed that the Post Office opened as Rosseau Crossing in 1876 and changed toDominionCityin 1880. It was also the local school district name.
Emerson: Town southeast of Morris on theRed River. Postal records indicate that the Post Office opened as Pembina in 1871, was changed to West Lynne in 1873 and to Emerson in 1879. The community was founded by Thomas Carney and W.A. Fairbanks, and was named by the latter in 1879 after the famous American essayist and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. Thomas Carney was the inventor of the cash register. Emerson was considered the â€œgateway to the westâ€ as early settlers bound for southwestern Manitoba came through here via the USA and then set out along the Boundary Commission Trail. In 1889, Emerson was united with West Lynne, a settlement sponsored by the Hudsonâ€™s Bay Company on the west bank of the Red River.
Letellier: Community northwest of Emerson. The Post Office opened in 1880-81 and was named after the Honourable Luc Letellier de St Just, Lt-governor of Quebec (1876-79). It was also a CP railway point. Letellier was originally called Catherine, after local landowner Catherine Wright. The school district name was Inverness.
St Joseph: Its Post Office opened in 1879 as St Pie. Archbishop Tache established a parish here in 1877 and named it St Joseph after the patron saint of Canada. The area was largely settled by French Canadians from Quebec. It was also the school district name.
Sommerfeld: It was first noted on an 1881 map. A Mennonite community northwest of Emerson. The German name translates as summer field. It was also the school district.
Neubergthal: Community northwest of Emerson. A German name meaning new mountain valley.
Altona: Town northwest of Emerson. Names after Altona in Germany, it means old fertile plain. D.K. Friesen suggested it came from the phrase â€œall zu nachstâ€ meaning all too near, referring to the proximity of Altona in Germany to the larger city of Hamburg. Dr V. Peters indicated that during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) there was a Swedish garrison in Hamburg, which the Altonians considered all zu nachst.
Gretna: Town west of Emerson. This border town was developed c.1883 following the link-up between the CPR and the Great Northern Railway on the American side. According to Mrs. Mary Brown, a descendent of the earliest residents here, it was named in honor of Mr. Ogilvie, who built the first grain elevator. He had come fromGretna Green, a Scottish community famous for its runaway marriages. Like its MB namesake,Gretna Greenis also a border community. It was also the school district name (on 5-1-1w).
Rosenfeld: Community northwest of Emerson. A post office and CN/CP railway junction point. It was named in 1882 by the CPR and was an early Mennonite community with a German name meaning rose field. It was also the school district.
Reinland: Postal records indicate that a post office opened prior to 1883, but closed in 1937. A Mennonite community with a German name meaning clear field or land. It was the unofficial capital of the West Reserve of Mennonite settlements. It was also the School district (se13-1-4w).
Rhineland: Rural Municipality west of Morden. Established in 1881 and named after this district in the middleRhineRivervalley in westernGermany. The majority of the population was of Dutch, Swiss and German origin.
Place names form a permanent register or index of the course and events of a nationâ€™s history: they are fossils exposed in the cross-section of that history, marking its successive periods; and so lasting are they that records in stone or brass are not to be compared with them for endurance.
William Francis Gagnon (1864-1941)
This information is taken from the book Geographical Names of Manitoba.