What’s in a Name?

By Billie Millholland, NSWA


The village of Innisfree was first known as Del Norte (Spanish: “of the North”). The youngest daughter of the first postmaster Mr. Puckette chose the name. One day in 1905, Byron Edmond Walker (soon to be Sir Byron), president of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, stepped down from his private car on the Canadian Northern Railroad train that ran past the Puckette home. A dozen reporters scrambled after him. Mr. Puckette took the 60-year-old business man in the “soft grey suit” to the top of a hill behind the house. From there they could see how, as Mr. Puckette described it, “…the lakes lay blue in the hollows, the land all around us rolling beautiful like the green knuckled back of God’s hand…”

Byron Walker pointed to Birch Lake a mile or two away… “That looks just like my summer place,” he said. “In Ireland. Innisfree, beauty… beauty.” After the president of a major Canadian bank recited several lines from the William Yeats poem, “The Isle of Innisfree,” he turned to Mr. Puckette and said, “You tell your community that if you rename this town Innisfree, I’ll build you the most beautiful bank on the prairie.” He was true to his word. Over 70 years later, the beautiful bank he built was still in use.


Trains between Islay and Kitscoty had to navigate a difference in altitude of 199 ft (61 m). In the early days, steam trains had to slow down to 3 or 4 miles an hour (4.5 to 6 kilometres an hour) to get up Kitscoty Hill.

British contractor George Still, working for the Canadian Northern Railway, chose the name Kitscoty from a prehistoric site in Kent, England: Kit’s Coty House. It’s a Neolithic structure, about three meters high, made with three vertical stone slabs anchored in the earth with a fourth balanced across them. It is thought that the “Kitscoty” hill up which his men had to lay track reminded him of the hill upon which those ancient stones stand.


In 1906, Eli Sweet built a post office around which the Village of Dewberry grew up. He submitted the name Watson, along with one or two others, to the Canadian government. His names were rejected. One day, Mrs. Andy Brett walked in the post office with a pail of dewberries. She said, “Try Dewberry.” That name was accepted.

Dewberries belong to the rose family. They resemble blackberries and raspberries, but the plants are much smaller. Picking them is tricky because they are fragile and fall off the stems at the slightest touch. Dewberries were once common in the eastern part of the Vermilion River subwatershed but are seldom found today.

The above excerpt was taken from the book Living in the Shed by Billie Milholland. Visit our partner website to purchase the book, which is an exploration of the history and beauty of the North Saskatchewan River Watershed.