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The History of Cobourg as told by Street names; By Peter Delanty - Mayor of Cobourg 2000 – 2010

Sources for material included the following:

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Cobourg was founded in 1798 by United Empire Loyalists.

Eliud Nickerson was the first known settler. In 1798 he built a log cabin on Lot 16, Concession B, about 2 miles east of Factory Creek. By the way, Nickerson Drive, at the top of D’Arcy Street is named after him.

Cobourg was first called Amherst and then Hard Scrabble. In the 1820's the name was changed to Cobourg in honour of the marriage of Princess Charlotte to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, Germany.

Cobourg was incorporated in 1837 and by the 1850's had grown to about 3,000 citizens. It was during this time that many of the prominent citizens of the Town had streets named after them. This tradition lasted well into the 20th Century. 1837 was also the year King William IV died (June 20) and his daughter, Queen Victoria, began her long reign (June 21). This event also had a profound impact on street names in Cobourg.

Several streets in Cobourg owe their name to ancestral heritage - hence we have the name Hibernia Street after the Irish tradition. Calcutt, who owned a huge tract of property in this area, was of Irish descent. Tay, Clyde, Tweed and Forth Streets have a Scottish connection.

Names of several streets were named after a business person on that street while others received their names because of their location. Commencing in the latter part of the 20th Century, the Town Council formally declared that new streets should be named after mayors. Other authorized lists of names came from the Cobourg and District Historical Society and LACAC.

Of course, many of our most recent streets derive their name from just being “nice” names - eg. Birchwood and Lakeview Court.

Let me state early on that I do not have a definitive answer to all the street names in Cobourg but I can claim to have made a dent.

divisionst1919Division Street in 1919 - the dividing line between east and west for house numbering. It was a major street connecting the pier on Lake Ontario to highway #2 and connecting up with highway #45.Let’s look, quickly, at streets named for locations: 1st, 2nd and 3rd Streets - first 3 streets west of Division Street on the south side of King Street.

Water, Lake, Bay, Lakeshore, Bayview and Lakeview all are self-evident as to the reason for their name.

Several streets in Cobourg have disappeared from existence. For example:

Royalty Influence:

Queen Street was named after Queen Victoria, while Albert Street was named after her husband, the prince consort. There is a Victoria Street in Cobourg, leading up to the Arena (Victoria Hall and College). William Street was named after William IV, Queen Victoria’s father.

Alice Street is named after Queen Victoria’s daughter

Victoria collegeVictoria College on what is now University Ave.
Photo taken around 1860.
Incidentally, Queen and Albert Streets were originally separated by a large parcel of land between Division and 3rd Streets. This was purchased in 1837 from F.S. Clench by the newly incorporated town for a market site and town square. Only later were the streets joined!

The main street of Cobourg, namely King Street, was commonly called High Street, re-named King to follow a tradition in Upper Canada to name the main street either King or Queen. It is named after George IV who was King in the 1820's.

Cobourg, in the 1800's was the centre of the high Anglican movement in Upper Canada (Bishop Bethune preached here). The name Church Street was in recognition of this. Chapel Street, on the other hand, derived its name from the fact that a Methodist meeting hall was on that street.

University Avenue and College Street both recognize Victoria College.

Staying in the 19th Century, let’s look at some of the other interesting street names:

mackechnieMackechnie HouseSome streets got their names because people lived and worked on them: Elijah Buck owned a tavern where the Dutch Oven is now, and lived in a log cabin on Buck Street (1808)

Several streets in Cobourg are named after Governors of British North America: Sir Charles Bagot (Rush-Bagot Treaty)

Burnham Street was named after Asa Burnham, noted early settler who influenced the building of the 1st Court House (Golden Plough) in the Newcastle District in 1807.

He was prominent in 1837 in the establishment of Cobourg, President of the Board of Police 1843-47-49, and mayor from 1861 to 1862.

I have often wondered how the streets in the northwest quadrant of Town just west of the Burnham School got their names. Several are girls’ names: Shirley, Elizabeth, Norma, Barbara, Ruth.

This subdivision was built during the 1950's and 60's. Mr. George Holman, purported winner of the Irish Sweepstakes, bought the land and started the development. Four of the names: Shirley, Ruth, Norma and Barbara were named after his daughters.

I spoke to Paul Currelly, who was associated with Cobourg Lumber (he married Marion Burtt, Jim Burtt’s daughter and owner of Cobourg Lumber) and he said Cobourg Lumber was building homes in that sub-division in the 1950's. They were trying to think of names and one day, the owner of the firm’s architect’s office in Oshawa, suggested at a meeting, to call one of the streets after one of his secretaries - Elizabeth.

Paul Currelly also related that Cobourg Lumber built the homes on Munro Street, just east of No Frills in the 1950's. It was just a swampy piece of land and he thought it was named after “pop” Munro who was the padre for the 47th Battery and for the Cobourg Legion.

As has been mentioned already, street names in Cobourg come from a variety of sources. The Town of Cobourg has an official list of names that developers may choose from. Both LACAC and the Cobourg and District Historical Society have been asked for lists. One list is that of mayors. There are only three mayors not having street names and they are Joan Chalovich, Mac Lees and yours truly! Another list is famous Canadian war heroes. Hence, we have in Cobourg, Rockingham Court named after Brigadier “Rocky” Rockingham and Fred Tillison who has a street named after him.

Hence, we have Duffy Street named after Rev’d. Francis Duffy who was born in Cobourg in 1873 on King Street West and was ordained a priest at St. Michael’s on September 6th, 1896. He went to New York City where he was a pastor. During WWI, he was the Chaplain of the “fighting 69th”. There is a statue of him erected in Times Square.

William Weller, President of the Police Board in 1838, 1840, 1843 and mayor in 1850 - 1851 and 1863 and the proprietor of the Weller Stage Coach Line, operating between Montreal and Toronto has Weller Court named after him. [More about William Weller]

In the two annexed areas of Cobourg there are several interesting street names. In Pebble Beach, there is Ravensdale Road named after Art Ravensdale, a Cobourg boy, who participated in the 1932 Olympics at Los Angeles and the British Empire Games in London in 1934. While in Coverdale, Gardiner Crescent is named after Reg. Gardiner, developer of the area. Hamilton Avenue relates back to a time when the area was part of the Township. The name Hamilton is from Sir Henry Hamilton, as high ranking British officer in the 18th century who later went to Bermuda as Governor, and it named its capital after him.

In New Amherst and West Park Village the town recently approved the name Charles Wilson Parkway. Mr. Wilson owned the farm on which these developments are taking place. 

In December of 1951 a passenger airline crashed on one of his fields. The plane had originated its flight in California and was destined for Newark, N.J. Caught in a violent winter storm it crash landed on Wilson’s fields. All 47 passengers were uninjured. A few days later the wheels were lowered and the snow packed down. The pilot taxied down the field and took off! [More here.]

In the far east end of Cobourg, we have the names Willmott, Dodge and Delanty - all mayors!

Finally, in West Park Village significant street names include Leonard Street [after Evor Leonard]; Fisher Street (after Lenah Field Fisher); and Rutherford Street (after Charles Rutherford who was a Victoria Cross recipient in WWI).   Just north of this development and heading up to the Golden Plough Lodge is Courthouse Road, so named because Asa Burnham had the first courthouse in Cobourg built there in the 19th century.

As stated early on in this essay, this is not an exhaustive list of all the street names in our Town. If you know the origins of street names not mentioned here, please let me know!

Peter G. Delanty
Mayor 2000 – 2010
Town of Cobourg