7 Interesting Place Names in Ontario: From Noëlville to Milberta

Ever wonder how Haileybury got its name? The answers may surprise you!

Throughout our travels of Northern Ontario, we’ve scratched our heads at a few place names along the way. We’re breaking down the origin of 7 communities you’ve wanted to know about (and maybe some you’re just finding out about now!).

1. SILVER ISLET

Silver Islet looking south, 1921 // Credit to Dept. of Mines and Technical Surveys, Library and Archives Canada
Silver Islet, 1869 // Credit to Thomas Macfarlane

Near Thunder Bay, off the coast of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, is a tiny island with national importance. In 1868, Scottish-born geologist, Thomas Macfarlane, explored the 80-foot diameter island on behalf of the Montreal Mining Company. There, he discovered Canada’s first significant silver deposit and named it Silver Islet. Later, a massive underwater mine was built, called “one of the greatest enterprises in North America.” But the price of silver dropped, and after most of the high-quality silver was extracted, the Silver Islet Mine closed in 1884. Today, the island is uninhabited.


Silver Islet Mineshafts // Photo credit to Jonathan Wilson

To see the flooded mine shafts up close, hop on one of Sail Superior’s 30-foot zodiacs. While you’re there, do a day trip to the seasonal community on the mainland (also called Silver Islet) that developed alongside the mine. Here, you’ll see miners’ cottages on Highway 587 and the newly renovated general store. Before your visit, we suggest getting acquainted with the history. Check out Elinor Barr’s comprehensive work: Silver Islet: Striking it Rich in Lake Superior. Explore more things to do in Silver Islet while you're there. 

2. PEAWANUCK

Polar bear roaming Peawanuck // Photo credit to Tara Sloss

Peawanuck is an exquisite subarctic wonderland near the south shore of Hudson Bay. The community was established in 1986 after a massive flood decimated Winisk, a Cree community located at the mouth of the Winisk River. The flood, predicted many years before by the community, took place on May 16, 1986, tragically claiming two lives. Members of Weenusk First Nation chose a new location 30 km upriver, at a higher sea level, and relocated over several months. The new community, Peawanuck, was named for the Cree word ‘flint,’ which is found in the area. Today some 195 residents live in this active community surrounded by Polar Bear Provincial Park (hence why polar bears are a frequent sight here). Peawanuck is accessed by plane and during the winter via the Wapusk Trail, one of the longest winter roads in the world. Learn more about the culture, happenings, and sheer beauty of Peawanuck through the community’s Facebook page

3. KRUGERDORF

Early days in Krugerdorf // Photo credit unknown 

Hidden away in the backwoods of Northeastern Ontario is a former Jewish settlement, Krugerdorf. In the early 1900s, Jewish immigrants came to this area north of Englehart. One pioneer, German-born blacksmith August Kruger, moved north from Renfrew County to take advantage of the stone-free land. Soon, the community was named in his honour. ‘Dorf,’ was added – the Yiddish word for village. Krugerdorf had a railroad station, school, synagogue, and a sawmill on the Blanche River. There’s little left to remind us that the community existed; however, the Northern Chevra Kadisha Cemetery, established in 1905, is still maintained by Northern Ontario’s Jewish community. For a deep dive into the history of this community, locate a copy of A Place Called Krugerdorf by Herb Kruger.

4. AUNDECK OMNI KANING 

A-OK store // Credit to Chief Patsy Corbiere
Credit to Chief Patsy Corbiere

Driving into Manitoulin Island on Highway 540, you’ll see the A-OK store, short for Aundeck Omni Kaning. This Ojibwe community (known for its traditional powwow the first weekend in June) has lived on Manitoulin Island since time immemorial. The community first settled where Little Current is today but was removed and relocated to an area by the North Channel. The founders named their community Aundeck Omni Kaning, an Ojibwe phrase meaning “where the crows’ nest.” Later, the community was called the Sucker Creek Indian Reserve No. 23 by the federal government, but in the early 2000s, the community reclaimed its original name. The crow is featured prominently on the town logo and is the subject of an Ojibwe story by local author Robert Madahbee that centres around “finding purpose in life with empathy and listening.” There are lots of neat town happenings to explore on the community’s Facebook and Instagram pages.  

5. MILBERTA

Milberta Road sign // Credit to Little Claybelt Homesteaders Museum

Milberta is a curious dot on the Northeastern Ontario map. This place must have something to do with Alberta, right? Yes, but not the Alberta you’re thinking of. 

Sam and Alberta Hogg // Photo credit Little Claybelt Homesteaders Museum

In the late 1890s, a community was established 18 km northwest of New Liskeard. One of the first residents was Samuel Hogg, owner of a sawmill. His wife’s name was Alberta (Berta), and boom, the village was called Milberta. The community was home to a blacksmith shop, school, hotel, and the Kerns Community Telephone Company. The population was 125 at one time, but today, Milberta is a locality within Kerns Township, remembered by a closed church and a few homes.

6. HAILEYBURY

Haileybury quadrangle, 1890s // Photo credit Haileybury
Haileybury, 1910 // Image credit unknown 

Charles Cobbold Farr loved his school so much that he named his hometown after it. Born in England, Farr moved to Canada in 1871 and soon got a job surveying areas of Northern Ontario. Farr joined the Hudson’s Bay Company in Quebec at Fort Témiscamingue and put down roots on the Ontario side of Lake Timiskaming. Carr, publisher of the Haileyburian newspaper, named the town after a prestigious boarding school, Haileybury, that he attended as a child in Hertford, England. Today, more than 3200 people live in Haileybury, well known for its internationally recognized School of Mines, dating back to 1912. It's also known as the home of Charles Leslie McFarland, author of the Hardy Boys. Now part of the township of Temiskaming Shores, the area is popular for its farm-to-table cuisine

7. Noëlville


Noëlville // Photo credit Wikimedia Commons 

With a festive name like Noëlville, it’s tempting to assume that this community southeast of Sudbury honours Christmas. Well, kind of. Initially, this Francophone village was called Cosby, but the local pastor was not a fan of the name. Another problem was the confusion resulting from a town in Eastern Ontario with a similar name, Crosby. So, in 1911, the village was renamed Noëlville to honour the village’s first reeve, Noël Desmarais. As it happens, Noël was the grandfather of late Quebec financier and philanthropist Paul Desmarais. Noëlville, known for its long-running hockey tournament, is part of the Municipality of French River

About Maya Bilbao

Maya Bilbao is passionate about the history of Canada. Her work as a researcher and writer has been featured on CBC, PBS, Rogers-TV, and The Canadian Encyclopedia, among other media. She loves hiking, photography, classic jazz, anything invention-related, and finding the best possible decadent dark chocolate around. 

Recommended Articles

Agawa Rock Pictographs are one of the great wonders of Canada

Indigenous entrepreneur, nature lover, career builder, opportunity finder.

Brian Still talks motivation, mentors, and more when it comes to a tourism career.

When Your Internship Turns Into an Amazing Career in Tourism

Sequoia Wemigwans talks Science North, Science Communication, and Cultural Connections

The Best Ontario Parks to Visit in 2023

5 provincial parks that are hidden gems.

The Great Big Northern Ontario Story Contest

Enter to win $1000 for your best travel story!

Say spaaaah!

8 Northern Ontario spas where you can treat yourself 

Canada's Canoe King: The Fascinating History of Temagami's Heirloom Vessels That Are Built to Last a Lifetime

Discover the true story of John Kilbridge and the Temagami Canoe Company.

7 Neat Town Slogans in Northern Ontario

Gardens, gold, and the North's prettiest village—these Northern Ontario towns are known for some unusual things!

Surf Northern Ontario

Bring your board and learn what the Great Lakes have to offer.

10 Essential Stops on Ontario's Antique Trail

Turn back time (literally—the end destination is in the Central Time Zone!) by exploring these Northern Ontario antique shops.

See the Leaves Change: Fall Colour Report Ontario 2023

Autumn in Ontario is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. Here’s how to plan a spectacular viewing experience.

Got deer?

A complete guide to backyard deer feeding made easy—what to feed them, how often, and why it's so much fun

Live Your Best Outdoor Life with a Job in Tourism

Mani Cuza's summer job turned into a year-round opportunity to flex soft skills and build connections in her field.

9 Northern Ontario Artist Residencies That Will Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

Apply now!

The Essential Northern Ontario Holiday Gift Guide 2023

Shiny things, cozy things, smart things, yummy things...local gift ideas for everyone!

Shore Lunch

Secrets of the Ultimate Northern Ontario Meal

Canada U.S. Border Opening FAQs

Here are the top frequently asked questions about the Canadian border.

New books tells the hidden history of Cobalt, Ontario

Discover the secrets of this little town filled with silver.

The Best Made in Ontario Face Masks

Where to buy handmade masks for the whole family

The 11 Best Burgers in Northern Ontario

From locally-sourced bison burgers to doughnut buns—Northern Ontario's got some delicious burgers you've got to try.