Rez geography: Do you know where to find…?

By Doug Whitlow

I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic of late and one could assume other people are as well as we have all been isolated for so long. Some of the following places are no longer around but many older people should remember where the named places in this essay were located. They are: the Red Line, the Iroquois Road, Moses Creek, the Obadiah Bridge, Suicide Corners, Five Bridges, the Monkey Cage and other places.

The idea to write this story came about a couple of months back when an elderly Mohawk man, Harry, who lives on First Line near the Bateman Line was asking around if anyone knew where the Red Line got its name. So far, no one had the answer to the query, but perhaps some one who reads this article may have the answer.

Back in the 50’s and 60’s everyone living on the reserve and off the reserve had their own names for places that did not appear on official maps put out by the Canadian government or the local municipalities. There was no bridge over the Grand River at Chiefswood — just a car ferry that was in use part of the time with no schedule.

According to some of our elders still alive there was also at ferry that ran across the River at the village of Onondaga over to the end of Seneca Road. Another ferry crossed the river next to the Grand River Church where the Red Line and now Mohawk Road ends.

Most people who are alive today in the Upper End know that there was actually a Church where the Stump Hall cemetery is located. The church was called the Plymouth Brethren Church, but most people simply referred to the building as the Stump Hall.

The Red line was, and still is, Mohawk Road beginning at the Indian Line where the late Jim Powless had a working garage after World War II. The Red Line ends at the Grand River near where a ferry once carried people across the river.

Iroquois Road began where Second Line starts at the Bateman Line, travels east to 69 Corners, turns left into the village of Ohsweken and right down Fourth Line to Number 6 highway. Moses Creek is a small rivlet or creek that runs between Chiefswood road and empties into the Boston Creek just to the east of Tuscarora Road on the Mississaugas reserve.

The author is unsure of when or how the Obadiah Bridge got its name. But it is easy to locate as it is the bridge located in the village of Ohsweken where Fourth Line crosses the McKenzie Creek. The McKenzie Creek begins near the hamlet of Oakland on Old Cockshutt Road. Before and during the war of 1814, Oakland was known as Malcombs Mills. This was the scene of the last major land battle between the armies of Great Britain, Canada and the United States. Here the American Army had been on its way to attack the town of York, now Toronto, but was turned back at Brant’s Ford by elements of the British army and several hundred Mohawk Warriors from the Six Nations settlement nearby.

Suicide Corners is known today as, Smiths Corners named for the late Murray Smith and his family who farmed there forever. In the old days, the corner was referred to as Number Three as Six Nations School # 3 was located across the road from the Smith homestead. The Mounties, who policed the reserve back then, called # 3 Suicide Corners as there were two hills that made up the road at that time. When travelling west on First Line toward the intersection, a person had to drive uphill to get there. There was a second hill to the south on Mohawk Road which had a big bump at the top at the intersection. Many a driver, drunk or sober went over the bump headed toward the Indian Line much too fast and wound up in one of the ditches at the bottom of the hill. The roads were all gravel at that time which added to crashes.

Five Bridges was and still is known as Townsend Centre. This is where the old Cockshutt Road crosses Thompson Road. As late as the 1960’s there were five bridges near the intersection. Two bridges on the Cockshutt Road west side of Thompson Road; one on the east side of Thompson Road on the Cockshutt Road and two more on Thompson Road on south and north side of the Cockshutt Road. Everybody from the reserve knew where Five Bridges was, while many local Townsend residents were unfamiliar with the name.

The Monkey Cage was a large red brick bus stop located in Brantford on the west end of the Market Square. The Market Square was located between Colborne Street and Dalhousie street at the intersection of Market and Colborne

Streets. The Monkey Cage had a large inside waiting area, men’s and women’s washrooms and large glass windows. There was also a vendor outside selling the best french fries ever. A person could buy a small paper cone of fries for 15 cents. All the Indians from the reserve called the building; the Monkey Cage due to the many scones looking out the windows waiting for the bus or just eating some fries.

There are no doubt many places or names of old places out there which would bring back many old and forgotten memories to many people which would in turn help to ease and erase the loneliness many people are experiencing as we all wait out the COVID-19 pandemic.

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