Five Windsor Street Names Explained
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Nov 09, 2012  |  Vote 0    0

Five Windsor Street Names Explained


To trace a city's history, all you have to do is take a closer look at the street names scattered throughout. In Ontario, names like King and Queen Street, Dundas, and York are all testaments to the tenacity of British reign. Here in Windsor, though, we don't have a King Street cutting through our downtown like Chatham, London, Toronto, and countless other towns in SWO. This is because settlement in this area began even before British rule.

The following list details the origin of a handful of Windsor street names, revealing some intriguing and influential characters in the city's founding.

1. It's fairly easy to surmise why Huron Church Road includes the "Huron" bit, but why "Church"? The Hurons were a tribe of Neutral Natives living in the west end of Essex County early in the 18th century. Canada's first Jesuit missionary, Father Potier, came to the Detroit River Region in the 1720s, and built the first church, to be used to tend to the spiritual needs of the "savages" in the area. Our Lady of the Assumption Church at Huron Church Road and Riverside Drive is the continuation of this parish, the oldest in Canada west of Montreal.

2. In the oldest section of the city, you find Sandwich Street. Not named for the delicious snack between two pieces of bread, but for the man who coined the term for the most popular hand-held meal. The 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu (1718-1792), was known for his incompetence and corruptness, and a gambling habit that didn't allow for regular meals. He insisted his servants bring him meat between two slices of bread so he could continue his card game. Other stories tell of his dedication to the navy, and that the "sandwich" was born while he worked.

3. Besides British and Native influences, many of Windsor's street names come from the Scottish families that helped shape the city. The Dougall family, from Renfrewshire just west of Glasgow, first came to Quebec in the 1820s, and then migrated down the St. Lawrence to Windsor a decade later. James Dougall Jr. was a sharp businessman and politician, gaining success with his dry goods store and marrying into the most prominent French family in the area, the Babys. He is also responsible for bestowing Windsor with it's name; if not for James Dougall, we could've been living in (another) city called Richmond, or even South Detroit.

4. Lt. George McDougall is another Scot with a strong influence on the city. Stationed as a garrison officer in Windsor in 1761, McDougall fought for the British and helped defend Detroit against Chief Pontiac in the Battle of Bloody Run. He also married into a highborn family, taking Marie-Francoise Navarre (daughter of French nobleman Robert Navarre) as his wife after the end of the French and Indian War. He purchased Hog Island (Belle Isle), and raised two boys. His eldest son, John Robert, married Frenchwoman Archange Campeau and sired 13 children - one of which (James, born in 1793) is the great-great-great-grandfather to the 67th U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

5. A list of Windsor street name origins would hardly be reliable if it didn't include a French surname. French farmers were the original pioneers here, and the settlement was laid out in long ribbon-shaped plots of land extending from the river. Families like the Mercers, the Langlois' and the Marentettes settled in what is now downtown, adjacent to one of the most outspoken settlers, Vital Ouellette. Some say downtown Windsor was born of Ouellette's stubbornness... when the Great Western Railway came to Essex County, he refused to let them build on his farmland, and instead donated land to St. Alphonsus Church and the city. If he had let them build, Sandwich or Amherstburg would be the county's city centre, not Windsor. Vital's house is also one of the oldest standing buildings in the city - you can see it on Chatham Street just east of Ouellette Ave. (the house was moved in the early 20th century to it's current location). It's housed a few restaurants, including the Windsor Castle Cafe, and now it's home to the Venue Rock Parlor.

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