Celebrating the beaver
A perusal of the Glengarry County Area Place
Name Locator website – compiled by the late Alex W. Fraser and his wife, Rhoda Ross – reveals a total of seven entries containing the word “beaver.”
There’s Beaver Avenue (specific location unknown); Beaver, located somewhere on the 4th Concession of Lochiel township, circa the 1880s; Beaver Brook (Beaverbrook) Road, still in existence, connecting Martintown to County Road 18; Beaverton, which was apparently in the Glen Sandfield area, circa the late 1800s; and Beaverville, possibly in Charlottenburgh township, near McDonald’s Grove, around the same time.
There are also Big Beaver, which was located on Concession 8 in the former Kenyon township; and Cotton Beaver, one concession over, east of Fiske’s Corners.
Obviously, one of Canada’s most endearing – and enduring – symbols has been a significant part of the Glengarry landscape for some time.
So it’s only fitting that local residents of all ages will have the opportunity to celebrate International Beaver Day this Saturday (April 7, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m) at the Cooper Marsh Conservation Area in South Lancaster.
According to a federal government webpage devoted to official symbols of Canada, it wasn’t until March 1975 that a private member’s bill authored by the late Conservative MP for Hamilton-Wentworth Sean O’Sullivan received Royal Assent, providing for “the recognition of the beaver ( castor canadensis) as a symbol of the sovereignty of Canada.”
But the industrious – and very large rodent – had been a part of the Canadian identity long before that.
The founding of the first permanent colonies in New France in the 17th century, and their subsequent expansion, can be attributed directly to the fur trade – primarily involving the beaver – an economic offshoot of the popularity of broad-brimmed fur hats in Europe.
In 1621, King James I of England granted title of a large chunk of what we now refer to as the Maritimes – including modern-day Nova Scotia – to William Alexander – who would later become the first person in the New World to incorporate the beaver into a territorial coat of arms.
The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), recognizing the importance of the hard-working animal to its success, outdid Sir William, placing four beavers on its coat of arms in 1678 where they remain to this day.
In 1833, Jacques Viger, the first mayor of Montreal, designed the city’s coat of arms, complete with a beaver perched atop.
The first Canadian postage stamp – designed by Sir Sandford Fleming and issued in 1851 – was the Three-Pence Beaver.
Similar to the HBC, the Canadian Pacific Railway adopted the beaver as a corporate symbol, in 1886.
And while it was on hiatus for extended periods since then – from 1929 to 1946; 1968 to 1997; and again from 2007 to 2016 – CP restored the iconic beaver to its former home atop the company’s shield logo in early 2017.
As for International Beaver Day, it was first celebrated in 2009 by a Dolgeville, N.Y.-based non-profit organization known as Beavers: Wetlands & Wildlife , as a way to recognize beavers’ environmental contributions and their important role in creating and maintaining natural ecosystems and landscapes.
It also honours the long-time efforts of Dorothy Richards, a native of Little Falls, N.Y. – born on April 7, 1894 – who died in 1985 after spending 50 years living with, studying and writing about beavers.