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The following is Copyright © 1997-2020 by Clayton Barker, all rights reserved. It was published on the editorial page of The Burford Times, in October of 1997, in Burford, Ontario, Canada.



A segment of an c1886 map, obliterated with names


(Editor's Note: This article, written by local historian Clayton Barker, takes a refreshing look at the current discussion regarding re-naming the "soon-to-be-restructured" County.)


A "tag", a "label", a word which uniquely identifies one person, place or thing from all the rest. Often you hear how some people are dissatisfied with their birth name, so they change it. Whether they completely change their name to something else, or just omit or add letters to their existing name, it is almost as if they have disowned their relatives. Perhaps they are richer or maybe they are trying to bury their past. Whatever their reasoning, it only makes it more difficult when researching one's family history.


Place names change as well, but you would think it would be a more difficult task to change the name of a community, as so many people have to agree with the change. At least, that is what I would expect. However, it appears as though all through history, Governments have taken it upon themselves to change the names of communities whenever they please and with no regard to public opinion or even common sense. Why bother with a name when a number would suffice?


After the former British province of Quebec became known as the Provinces of Upper Canada and Lower Canada in 1792, Upper Canada (now Ontario) was divided up into "Townships" and Districts. Of course, the smaller geographical area was the "township" or, as it was also called, a "town". These two terms were used to refer to a single block component of the larger District. There were no Counties then (at least not until names were assigned to the townships). "Town" was a physical land mass and the outline or boundary was the Town's ship or "Township" ... as in "it was found within the Township" ... sort of like his Lordship, etc. The surveyors back in 1793 referred to what is now Burford Township as "The Town of Burford”, or "Dayton's Town", as Abraham Dayton was the Town's appropriator and founder. Up until 1849, Townships were not associated with Municipalities or Municipal Councils.


Like a unique puzzle or a patchwork quilt, the Township blocks formed the base grid or pattern from which our present road systems and municipalities were based. At first, however, these blocks were given only a number and a list of place names was compiled by the original Legislative Council of the Province. Names like: Oxford, Norfolk, Middlesex, etc. These were names that were most familiar to them, from their homeland, Great Britain. Even the name "Burford" was taken from the Oxfordshire Village in England (which coincidentally or purposely was selected to adjoin and/or fall within the proposed County of Oxford in Upper Canada). In a "nutshell", what they were trying to do was create another Great Britain in the wilderness.


The name Burford has been the name of the Township from the time it was assigned to Dayton's Town. On the other hand, the Urban Service Area ( or "Police Village" if you are of older stalk) of Burford had several names over the past 200 years: Dickie's Corners, Claremont, etc., but all along, even when the community was "officially" being called one thing, there were always those die-hard, long-time residents who consistently called Burford - "Burford". The County of Brant was not one of the original building blocks of the Upper Canadian puzzle; it was an afterthought and the results of a scheme to further assimilate the Six Nations of the Grand River into the British Master plan.


The portions of Brant County that fall within the "afterthought" are the Townships of Brantford, Onondaga, South Dumfries, the Town of Paris and the City of Brantford. These lands, along with the present Six Nations of the Grand River and New Credit lands, fall within the six-mile limits on either side of the Grand River, originally known as the Haldimand Grand (which extended from source to mouth of the Grand River).


In 1853, for whatever reason, Burford and Oakland townships were chopped away from Oxford County and tacked onto the new Brant County, by the Government. Brant became somewhat of a transition zone between the rural wilderness west of the Grand and the urban boom communities east of the Grand and around Lake Ontario. It was around this period that the present community of Cathcart was entered on "the map" as Sydenham (after Lord Sydenham), and Burford was renamed on "the map" (the Government's map that is!) as Claremont (a place of high altitude??!). Also, it is said that the Military had a great deal to do with reporting place names to the Government. According to local legend, the Military encamped quite frequently in the vicinity of what's now County Rd. 25 and Hwy. 53, at what was once called "Rag Town". The name did not appeal to the Military official who was about to record the name for his log and to report to the Government, so he changed it to something a little more patriotic ... "like Victoria".


"Brant-on-the-Grand,” What a mouthful! Sometimes people feel sorry for someone who had been named something very unusual like Bartholomew or Egbert. Who knows, maybe other "cities" will feel sorry for Brant-On-The-Grand, if that is the name that is chosen. The word Brant is good and is appropriate as Joseph Brant led his people to the Grand River. However, The City of Brant might be too close to sounding like the “City of Brantford.” On the other hand, "The Grand River City" is good, a bit wordy but streamlined; so is "The City of Grand Valley" which could be another suggestion. What's wrong with just "Brant"? There is a Brant, New York State, also a Brant Lake and Brantingham New York. There you go ... call it "Brantingham"! Actually, that suits the City of Brantford best these days, with their glorious Mayor and "The Kingdom of Brantingham"! Thayendanegea is a good name...


There is, believe it or not, a Brantford in Kansas; a Brant Rock, Massachusetts; Brant, Michigan; Brant Beach, New Jersey; and Brant, Alberta. I could only find one Burfordville, in Missouri. As far as dividing the future City into Brant East, West, North and South, that is no different than assigning everybody with a number!


The westerly component, which comprises the present-day Burford Township (if it must bear a different new name), should be named "Dayton" to commemorate the founder of this township, Abraham Dayton. There is a Drayton in Ontario, but not a "Re- structured Ward" called Dayton. I believe the present-day Urban Service Area of Burford will retain its name (as it should!). The other Wards in the Restructured City of "Brant" or "Brantwood" (like Brantwood, Wisconsin), or "Brant-On- The-Grand" (like Berwick-on-Tweed), or "Brantingham" (like Nottingham), or "Grand City (like Grand Rapids, Michigan), or "Grand Valley" or whatever, should be named in such a way as to retain some piece of their identity and heritage.


Governments might think they can change the configuration and structure of where we live, but names are personal. What's next? Perhaps someday the Government will have a say in what names we choose to call our children?





My brain and everything that it has collected over the past 58 years...



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