The Fascinating History of Wawa, Ontario

The small town of Wawa, Ontario has a fascinating history that dates back to the 1890s. The name Wawa comes from the Ojibwa word for “wild goose” and was first applied to Lake Wawa, where the community was established. This lake is a resting place for migrating Canadian geese, and it's no wonder that the town has embraced this symbol of freedom and adventure. In the second half of the 1950s, the city's name was temporarily changed to Jamestown in honor of Sir James Hamet Dunn.

However, this change was met with strong opposition from the local residents, who requested that the name be returned to Wawa. The Department of Post Offices had full power to name its post offices regardless of the names of the cities they served, and so Wawa was restored. For the convenience store and gas station chain, what began as a geographical marker has become a deep part of the Wawa culture. Since the shutdown of a major industry in the area, Wawa's economy has suffered a near-total collapse.

To help attract tourists to come to Wawa after the road bypassed the city center, The Goose was developed - a large metal sculpture of a goose that stands at the entrance to town. When it was suggested that Wawa be renamed Jamestown in 1947, a strong faction emerged in opposition to this proposal. Turcott conducted a survey among adult residents using the Wawa post office and obtained 780 names in support of keeping the name Wawa. He also noted that there were dozens of signatures with identical handwriting, names of bunk residents, bystanders and high school students.

Gold mining in the Wawa area has prospered and regressed several times in the 20th century, and continues today. The municipality drafted an agreement with Algoma Central Railway which required all company statements to be addressed to Jamestown. However, Mills as reeve would not ratify this agreement until Jamestown had been changed to Wawa in phrasing. Today, Wawa is still facing difficulties in attracting new industries to the community and region. Despite this, it remains an important part of Ontario's history and culture - one that is deeply rooted in its wild goose namesake.

Tristan Gagliardo
Tristan Gagliardo

Proud social media ninja. Bacon expert. Unapologetic gamer. Proud zombie nerd. Freelance pop culture scholar.

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