What is in a name?

What is in a name?

Wetaskiwin and other names have history in them

by Craig Baird For The Pipestone Flyer

When you look around the area, you see some interesting names of towns. There is Wetaskiwin and Ponoka and Millet, along with others but where do those names come from?

In this column, we are going to look at the names of the places around us and learn a bit more about how they came to be.

Millet: There are a few versions to where this name came from. The first is that it comes from the name of a famous French painter named Jean Francois Millet, who lived from 1815 to 1875. At the time of the founding of Millet, the chairman of the CPR was an ardent admirer of the painter. The second version states that it was named for August or John Millet, a local fur trader who devoted time to the Hudson’s Bay Company. He also contracted himself out to the North West Mounted Police. He also worked with Father Lacombe.

Wetaskiwin: When the Calgary and Edmonton Railway was coming through the area in 1891, a name was chosen for the community. The name chosen was the Cree name of wi-ta-ski-winik, which means Place of Peace, and was changed to Wetaskiwin.

Ponoka: Originally known as Siding 14 when the railway extended in 1891, and then known as Yescabba by local settlers, the name was eventually chosen to be Ponoka. The name comes from the Blackfoot word for elk, which is Ponokaii.

Gwynne: Prior to 1906, the community was known as Diana but it was then changed to Gwynne in honour of Julia Maude Gwynne, the wife of Sir Collingwood Schreiber. He had worked as a chief engineer for several railways and had succeeded Sir Sandford Fleming as chief engineer of the CPR.

Falun: This small hamlet was named for the mining town in Sweden, which was well known for its copper mines. The man who proposed the name, John Strom, had come from that community.

Bittern Lake: The name for this community was taken from the nearby Bittern Lake, which was named for the bitterns, a species of bird similar to a heron, that populated around the lake.

Pipestone: While we know where the names of the above communities come from, Pipestone is unique in that it is not known how this community earned its name.

Suggestions for columns or questions? E-mail Craig at crwbaird@gmail.com. Listen to his podcast by searching for “Canadian History Ehx” on your podcast platform. Find his show on YouTube by searching for “Canadian History Ehx”.

Information for this column comes from Millet Volume 1.