Who was Lady Evelyn?

Her name is on a park and on one of the largest water systems


Map: the Lady Evelyns of Temagami

The name has long been a puzzle. We do know that the lake was named in 1888 by explorer Robert Bell of the Canadian Geological Survey (even though it already had a Nishnabai name). But who was the lady?

Some of Bell's notes are missing for his 1887 and 1888 expeditions through the area, so there has been speculation as to which Lady Evelyn he had in mind. By far the most probable explanation is that put forward by Bruce Hodgins and Jamie Benidickson in The Temagami Experience.

Bell, note Hodgins and Benidickson, was a prominent explorer in his day and moved in the upper circles of Ottawa. That included being on the guest list at Government House, the Governor General's residence. The governor general from 1878 to 1883 was Sir John Douglas Campbell (Lord Lorne, 9th Duke of Argyll). His sister was Lady Evelyn Catherine Campbell and while visiting Canada likely met Bell at Government House. Maybe Bell became a little infatuated, as she was single until 1886.

Bell only named the lake, so the river probably acquired its name decades later from a mapmaker in Ottawa, noting that it terminated (prior to major flooding in 1925) in Lady Evelyn Lake. The river is the major waterway within Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Wilderness Park, the largest park in the area.

Original Nishnabai Names

Lady Evelyn Lake:


MEANS: where the moose feeds

Lady Evelyn River (main section):


MEANS: speckled trout





Sources: The Temagami Experience by Bruce Hodgins and Jamie Benidickson, Reading the Rocks by Morris Zaslow, National Archives of Canada, Historical Map of Temagami by Craig Macdonald, Craig Macdonald, The Keewaydin Way by Brian Back

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