Let’s take a Stroll Down Dog River Road
Let’s take a stroll down Dog River Road
And recall the days when our ancestors came
And boats were moored along river docks
Could we have imagined the day
After the many years of a bustling highway
That we could go back to gather a glimpse
Of the peaceful life that they had once again
We’ll hear sounds of hawks on the marsh
Mooing cows up Watson’s Lane
And stop on the hill
Not to avoid a near miss
But to take in the beauty we missed.
Names are the domain of writers and poets to give them life, so this is my humble attempt as we introduce the names of the two roads (the main road and a service road) that were once the old Trans Canada Highway through the community of Clyde River. The main route was originally called Tryon Road, as that’s where it led, and later the Trans Canada Highway that ushered our youth to their destinations of dreams across our great country.
Dog River was the name of the community before 1864, and one can well imagine the conversation among families that they would maybe like a more sophisticated and romantic sounding moniker. For in those days, a dog would not have much of a life, which spawned the expression “he didn’t have the life of a dog”. But, my dear, how times have changed for dogs. That expression has no meaning now as they have become beloved family members where their every need is taken care of. The old expression “a dog’s breakfast” is no more. My dog, for one, eats a premium blend of canine cuisine with a dollop of Balkan yogurt in the morning. It is more likely now that we will be able to enjoy walking our Rover along the Dog River Road without feeling like we’re taking our life in our hands. We can stop at the bridge to give him a chance to study the marshland birds and offer up a few barks.
So for clarification, in Cornwall, they are calling their section of the former Trans Canada Highway “Main Street”. When you are winding your way up Main Street, as you reach the community of Clyde River, without making a turn, you will then be driving on Dog River Road all the way through the community until you connect via a roundabout to the new highway on the Western boundary towards New Haven.
If you do not veer to the new highway on the Western boundary and instead travel the old highway to its dead end, you will travel along a service road now called “Watson’s Lane” named after Watson Livingston a former resident/owner of the adjacent farmland. Watson and his wife Lillian (Hyde) were parents of Wanda (Livingston) MacPhail featured here. That section of land was part of the original Livingston farm first settled by Donald and Flora (MacPhail) Livingston who many in the community could claim an ancestral connection including me. They were Watson’s great grandparents and my greatx3 grandparents. The homestead that Donald’s son Archibald (married to Margaret Dixon) built is the one that Watson’s granddaughter Ruth (MacPhail) and Alan Nelson and their family live in today on the Clyde River Road. Her parents Wanda and Eric MacPhail won a PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation Award for the renovation of the homestead. JoAnn MacPhail lives on another section of the original farm.
So there you have it. We have returned to our historical roots in naming our roads. After tomorrow, we will begin to experience the community in a whole new way. It’s an opportunity for us to renew our community life and consider starting some traditions that help us reconnect with our history. And maybe instead of a car, we can enjoy a stroll or bike ride down memory lane or Dog River Road. And don’t forget to take Rover.
Historical notes from the book, History and Stories of Clyde River
- The earliest name on record for what is now Clyde River was Oonigunsuk a Mi’kmaq name meaning Portage Place.
- In 1765, Samuel Holland named the river Edward Creek, more popularly called Edward River.
- Dog River appeared in Hazard’s Gazette, September 18, 1843 (Editor’s note: I have seen “Dog or Nixon River” labelling the river on farm deeds.)
- One theory on the Dog River name was the abundance of seals swimming in the river with only their heads appearing and resembling dogs.
- Other theories related to the many docks along the river where Dock River became Dog River and also dog sleds travelling on frozen ice.
- Clyde River would have been chosen by Scottish Immigrants as a reminder of the famous River Clyde in Scotland. Bannockburn Road would also be reminiscent to their Scottish history and the Battle of Bannockburn.