Expositor archives help resolve street name debate

The Boozeneck Road, soon to be Boosneck Road, connects Highway 540 to Little Current’s West End. photo by Alicia McCutcheon

‘Boozeneck’ to be renamed ‘Boosneck’ Rd. to better reflect history

LITTLE CURRENT – The Northeast Town council had a brief debate over the fate of the Boozeneck Road last week following a letter from the Manitoulin detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) that asked council to reconsider the name.

The topic was brought forward during the January 7 council meeting but was deferred as staff sought clarification on the origins of the name. (Boozeneck Road is the road that connects Highway 540 to Red Mill Road in Little Current at its Hardbargain Road intersection and will also be a street connection to the soon-to-be new OPP detachment.) At the earlier meeting, Councillor Al Boyd made a motion to re-name the road to Red Mill Road which was then tabled.

While some councillors looked to Facebook to find information on the Boozeneck name, The Expositor recalled that this is the second time in nearly two decades that the street name has come to the council table and so this paper pulled historical information from its files and past editions for the benefit of council and which was provided to them at the January 9 meeting.

In 2002, the late Orville Eadie suggested council rename the Boozeneck to Eadie Sideroad to commemorate the pioneer family with ties to that area. Before amalgamation, the road was part of Howland Township.

In historical columns penned by the late Allan Dryburgh, a Little Current historian, Mr. Dryburgh references the Boozeneck Road. Mr. Dryburgh’s long running feature was titled ‘Now and Then: narrated by Allan Dryburgh.’

“I have been asked several times, and have heard several different stories of both roads before Jack Eadie built the white house on the corner of the Boosneck Road (sic) and Highway 540, a log shanty stood just about half way between where the house is now and the barn,” Mr. Dryburgh writes. “The shanty was up on posts about two feet off the ground and the door faced the highway. I heard my father mention of her living by herself there. And Walter Neil was the first man to live there after Mrs. Boosneck.”

In a letter to council in 2002 from then-Expositor publisher Rick McCutcheon, he notes Mr. Dryburgh’s writing, explaining that he was “the last member of a pioneer Howland family to carry the Dryburgh name.” He lived all of his long life on the ‘home farm,’ a Century Farm on the corner of Boozeneck Road and North Channel Drive. (The farm is currently owned by Keith Ashley.) Mr. Dryburgh’s memory was long and prolific. In all the years of the column (1976 to the mid-1980s) we never had another ‘old timer’ dispute any of Mr. Dryburgh’s recollections or research.”

“My point in responding to council’s call for comment on this matter is to point out that the origins of the road’s name are clearly not ‘booze and neck’ as one might imagine from the current spelling of the road name, but in fact are drawn from the name of a family that lived where Mr. Dryburgh indicates in the column,” Mr. McCutcheon’s letter continues. “Whether or not the road name is spelled properly on the signs, it does refer to pioneer residents of the area, something that council may wish to consider when debating the name change.”

During the January 9 meeting, Mayor Al MacNevin shared this 2002 information with council and said he agreed with the accompanying news story about the issue penned by former editor Cheryl Waugh that had himself, a councillor at the time, taking exception to changing street names simply because they were asked.

“I still think it’s important to consider the historical context,” Mayor MacNevin said.

“We had a person living on that road by that name, which came to be misspelled,” he continued. “Do we change the name or just correct the spelling on the sign?”

Councillor Michael Erskine said he liked the idea of correcting the spelling, but said he understands the police concerns with the current spelling of the street name. “I think the change would likely appease everyone,” he added.

Councillor Barb Baker pointed to the 2002 article which quotes Mr. MacNevin as having concerns with the major costs, and bother, involved in changing street names. CAO Dave Williamson said it would not be an “onerous task” to change the name, especially as there are not currently any 9-1-1 signs on that road.

Councillor Bill Koehler said he agreed with Councillor Erskine and agreed with changing the spelling of the road sign. Councillor Bruce Wood also agreed.

“Definitely, I’m in favour of that too,” said Councillor Al Boyd. “For the history of the community, it’s important things aren’t changed of that matter.” Councillor Boyd then withdrew his motion.

A motion was then put on the floor to amend the spelling of ‘Boozeneck’ to ‘Boosneck.’

“I’m not sure it will change the way people say it, though,” the mayor quipped.

The motion was approved unanimously.