Street Name Stories: Building a Nation Pt. II, The Explorers

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

With the plethora of 150 commemorations taking place this year, I thought I could use my usual Street Name Stories blog series to throw another hat in the ring.  Looking at a map of Oshawa, there are a number of streets whose names are commonplace in the history of Canada.  Over the next five Street Name Stories Post, I will look at street(s) whose namesakes helped contribute to the growth of Canada.  In Part I, we looked at Oshawa’s Indigenous People who have called the our country home for thousands of years.

The earliest Europeans to arrive at North America were the Norse who settled for a time at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland; their stay was brief and did not make an overall impact in the settling of Canada.  Their story is an interesting footnote, but it is generally regarded as just that rather than the next chapter of our story. That chapter begins in the late 1400s.  At the turn of the 16th Century, a slew of European explorers began to take to the high seas and ‘discover the new world.’  In 1497, John Cabot arrived at Canada’s Atlantic coast and claimed it for England, and less than 40 years later, the French explorer Jacques Cartier sailed the St. Lawrence and in turn claimed it for France. Several attempts to colonize and settle in this ‘newly discovered country’ were made and generally unsuccessful; the climates were harsh and disease was prevalent. Nevertheless, trading posts and companies were also established, and in 1608, Quebec City was founded by Samuel de Champlain.

Champlain is an interesting figure in our history.  He was an explorer and cartographer who created many early maps of what is today Quebec and Ontario.  He established good relationships with the Huron (Wendat) peoples, relationships that helped the French settlers survive the Canadian winters.  In turn, hostile relationships with the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) were forged as the Wendat and Haudenosaunee were already opponents.  Champlain would travel back and forth across the Atlantic a number of times in his life, and he died in Quebec City in 1635.  New France would grow and thrive over the next century until the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.  More on that next month.

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Statue of Samuel de Champlain located on Dufferin Terrace, Quebec City

Cabot Street and Cartier Avenue are found southeast of King and Stevenson; other explorers in that neighbourhood include Frobisher Court (English explorer who sought the northwest passage), Valdez Court (Spanish naval man who first circumnavigated Vancouver Island),  and Vancouver Court and Street (another British explorer who navigated around Canada’s Pacific Coast and namesake for Vancouver Island and the City of Vancouver).  Champlain Avenue is found directly north of Highway 401 between Thickson Road in Whitby and Stevenson Road in Oshawa.


Want to know more about these early explorers? 

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography has in-depth looks at Cabot, Cartier, and Champlain.

For a more ‘readers digest’ version, the Canadian Encyclopedia gives an excellent overview of their lives and expeditions (Cabot, Cartier, and Champlain).

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