My Discovery of Carleton County, Published 22 June 1940
A Geography Lesson by Austin F. Cross
Just the other day, being temporarily a resident of Ottawa after some years' absence, I set out to discover Carleton county. Now understand me. I have seen just about everything around this old town pretty often, but now I was about to view the old spots through new eyes. First of all, I was sizing up this old Tory riding after I had looked at a great deal of territory, from Skagway to Asiatic Turkey. Secondly, I am somewhat older than in the days when I rode down to Carleton Place and on to Smiths Falls for half-fare. Lastly. I was no longer a railroad traveller, but taking a slant at things from my own car. That last is very important, and you have no idea how differently everything looks from your own car for the first time, when ever since 1904, you have been seeing things off and on either from the train window, or perhaps, once or twice in ten years. from some other person's auto.
You recall that George Eliot starts off Silas Marner by describing a condition of mind, instead of using the more common practices of beginning either with a geographical description, or a conversation. I therefore have no apology to make for approaching all this with a psychological preface.
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So, being brought up around here, and having visited the local spots only as long as the train stopped if it did I felt like a latter-day Columbus off to discover a new world, when I got out on the Richmond road. I had seen such places as Stittsville as early as 1904, and I was going through Ashton pretty often even in my college days. But that was all by courtesy of the Canadian Pacific. Now I was viewing things by courtesy of down payments to General Motors.
I was curious to see Bell's Corners, once a flag stop for trains headed west from Ottawa, and once also a gag town for visiting vaudevillians. I am afraid I can't say much for Bell's Corners. I drew rein at Stittsville and asked why the town is called Stittsville and the railway station Stittville. The sforekeeper had no idea as to why the railway had dropped that middle letter "s" unless it was to save space. On the face of it, the answer seemed silly, but I think the merchant might have been right. Before the last war, some big busybody in Windsor Station got the idea that he would economize on names, and so Pogamasing became Pogma. Biscotasing was listed in CP. folders as Bisco. and Vankleek Hill became-Vankleek. That last piece of business cost the Canadian Pacific thousands of dollars. The Canadian National retained the word "Hill" but the CP. had dropped it. The result was that even loyal C.P.R. ticket agents on the prairie, when in doubt, would sell a ticket over the C.N.R. most of the way. rather than take a chance that Vankleek on their own line was the same place as Vankleek Hill on the National. That is not so surprising. For you probably recall that Caledonia, Ontario, is up in Haldimand county, near Hamilton, whereas Caledonia Springs, Ontario, is east of Ottawa on the way to Montreal. There is therefore every reason to believe an agent might make a mistake, if one word is dropped. So when finally, a Canadian Pacific agent billed a car from Alberta to Vankleek Hill over the CNJt., that finished the station of "Vankleek." What all this has to do with Stittsville I don't know, except that perhaps the aforementioned letter economist shrivelled Stittsville to Stittville, and since it has never cost the CP. any money, and no one out there gives a hoot, all this doesn't matter much anyway.
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