Naming the Lakes

The simple answer to the question of where did the Crow and Bobs Lakes names come from is: no one knows for sure!

The longer answer has been taken from the book The Dammed Lakes, An Environmental History of Crow and Bobs Lakes, written by Lloyd B. Jones and published in 2003.

Here is what Lloyd Jones wrote concerning the naming of the lakes.

“The origin of the names Bobs Lake and Crow Lake remain unknown. They seem to have appeared about 1830-40 as local names and were probably legitimized by their appearance on surveys. We know more about who did not name the lakes than we do about who did, or why the names were used locally.

The maps and surveys of the early 1800’s suggest the name Bobs Lake did not come from the Rideau Canal development nor from early township surveyors. Early French explorers or fur traders may have visited the Tay and the Crow-Bobs Lake system. A 1703 map, “Nouvelle France,” by French geographer Claude De I’ Isle, labels the Rideau River and shows the Tay and the lakes accurately illustrated, but not named. Clearly someone had passed along information about the Tay waterway; this knowledge was likely to have resulted from the fur trade, by Montreal traders with native trappers, on the Ottawa River.

A map drawn in 1800, for Lt. Governor Maitland of Upper Canada (Ontario), shows how little the British knew about Crow and Bobs Lakes. Bobs Lake was not shown; at its approximate location, only a river entered the wrong township in Lanark. In 1817, John Booth and his survey party from Perth established the west boundary line of South Sherbrooke Township across the East Basin of Bobs Lake. Booth did not mention a name for Bobs Lake or any other lakes, suggesting that Bobs Lake was named neither by the surveyor of its South Sherbrooke boundary, nor by early Perth settlers.

Colonel By, the British officer in charge of building the Rideau Canal, was not greatly informed about Bobs and Crow Lakes either, despite the lakes’ importance as the main source of water for the highest point on the north section of his canal. In a map he commissioned in 1826, the lakes are crudely drawn in a “C” shape with no distinction among the parts, and is labelled “Tay Lake” – suggesting that the lakes were not named by the builders of the Rideau Canal and neither were they aware of any other name. We know that Samuel Benson did not record them or understand the regional drainage, he could not have named them.

The 1860 Walling map spells the lake “Bob’s” with a possessive apostrophe as if it was named after a person, which was likely the common usage. Folklore has it that the lake was named after a reclusive Native or part-Native trapper. The name was in use before the arrival of the Algonquin band in which no adults were named Robert. There were two Mississauga named Robert – Blacker and Mitchell. Unfortunately neither was called “Bob” on his account, nor do we know their possible connection to the lake. There is the possibility of a “Bob” among the main group of the Mississauga who left Bedford in 1827, but they might have been too early in time for the name to be passed along. In addition, there were European settlers whose first names were Robert. We are still looking for Bob!

Both the provincial and federal offices responsible for place names have no knowledge of the origins of the name, but there is now an official spelling – Bobs Lake, (no apostrophe). The name was approved in 1939 by Geographic Board of Canada, which appears to have often simplified names by dropping an apostrophe where one existed before.

We still do not know which of the four lakes, prior to flooding, was called Bobs Lake. The data are confusing. One of Benson’s 1841 references suggests that Big Bobs was the lake so named; however, a painting from the 1830s by Thomas Burrowes – a draughtsman with the Rideau Canal services who made more than forty pen-and-watercolour drawings of the Rideau system and eastern lake Ontario, including two of Bobs Lake – uses the name “Bobs” apparently to describe one of the two lakes in the East basin. The origin of the name Bobs Lake apparently is not recorded anywhere.”

The Origins of the Name Crow Lake

The origin of the name Crow Lake is apparently not recorded anywhere either; consequently, only speculation is possible. Samuel Benson named the lake “Clear Lake” on his 1824 survey map, so obviously his naming did not stick. The stream flowing from Crow Lake to Crow Bay was known as Crow Lake Mills about 1840; European loggers, already active on the lake, could have named it. A Mississauga settler, Peter Crowe who lived at Devil Lake, has been proposed as a possible source of the name, but whether he had any connection with Crow Lake is not known.

In 1826, Oso Township’s first surveyor, Publius Elmore, did not name any lakes there. He did not record any human activity, so there was no one even to suggest a name to him, and he apparently did not know about Benson’s Clear Lake label either. Elmore, then, was not the source.

Every morning when I am wakened at dawn by crows speaking to each other from the high hills surrounding the lake, I am reminded of my nomination for the origins of the lake’s name – the early loggers on the lake may have been wakened the same way.

The above excerpts taken from the book have been done so with the author’s permission. All Rights Reserved. The information may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or any other – except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the author.

Lloyd Jones’s book is an extremely informative and interesting read that covers the complete history of Crow and Bobs Lakes. If you are interested in learning more about Crow and Bobs Lakes I highly recommend you read this book.

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