Wow, I can’t believe Canada is 150 years old! It seems as if it was yesterday when our town actually began. I was fortunate to be a young journalist back in the day, and remember looking at Peter Perry’s plan for the village. It was in fact, drawn up before Canada united to become this fantastic country we call home.
I remember Peter, back in 1845, going on about how we need to build one road to the lake, which would enable us to bring goods and services to the town. “We need to link to the west, to Fitchett's Corners and then connect to the main road to Windsor,” he raved to a handful of business men standing around newly formed Lake Scugog. For those of you not at the gathering, you may know Fitchett’s Corners as Manchester and Windsor, of course was later renamed Whitby.
People were skeptical about the location, because it was after all, only a year since the dam in Lindsay was built, flooding the Scugog River and creating our 2 metre lake. People were concerned, especially after the fiasco caused by the Purdy family in 1835 when they built a homemade dam and killed a number of people, flooding precious farmland.
Peter was adamant to see his plan through, especially as he owned a big chunk of land in Windsor (Whitby). Don’t think Peter’s self-interests went unnoticed by the likes of Joseph Bigelow, who at the time, was contemplating moving to Port Perry from Lindsay.
Mr. Perry, however, was not one to be deterred by a few naysayers, and offered Joseph the respectable job of postmaster, appeasing the businessman and creating a beneficial friendship. Peter was also concerned about all the loyalists in the area and after advice from his son, John, appropriately named the new link road Queen Street. Of course his son wanted a street named after him as well, and Peter agreed on John Street as a fitting reward for his son’s assistance.
Peter noticed that his wife was not in the best of spirits, and after he suggested naming Mary Street after her, she immediately beamed with pleasure. In an effort to head off any further family issues, Peter quickly scoped out plans for Cinderella Street, named after his daughter. I personally laughed at anyone naming a street Cinderella, and many others did as well, which, I suppose, is the reason Cinderella Street was changed to Casimir Street a few years later. Sir Casimir Gzowski, was instrumental in the railroad coming to Port Perry, so it seemed only fitting that a street bear his name.
This was a good start, and Peter was pleased, except he wanted to be certain his mark was forever left on the town. While still in the development stages he aptly named a proposed major street, after his family name and Perry Street became part of the town’s history. Having satisfied everyone in his family, Peter lost interest and creativity in naming the rest of the streets. When I asked him what he was going to call the new road along the water, he simply looked at me and said, “Water Street, of course.”
And so it was that our town was born, around the same time as Canada became a Dominion. It was actually 1852 when the plans were registered, and we have prospered ever since. My interview with Peter Perry is now a distant memory, but his mark on our town will live forever.