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So Many Catharine's

Why St. Catharines with two "a's" ?

The St. Catharines Constitutional masthead, 1866

What's in a name?  

Most people that are mildly familiar with the history of the city of St. Catharines will have heard or read about the various theories surrounding the unusual spelling of the city's name.  To date, no definitive documentation exists to conclusively prove that the founders chose the unique spelling for any one particular reason.  

Alun Hughes, a historical geographer and professor at Brock University (now deceased) presented several theories to the unique naming in his presentation to the First Grantham Friendship Group on 19 April 2007. 

Professor Hughes had three theories – the Saint theory, the Helpmate theory and the Palatine theory.  The Saint theory is based on Saint Catherine of Alexandria and the Helpmate theory is based on the first name of  the women of local prominent families -- the Butler's, the Hamilton's, the Merritt's and the Hainer's.  The third theory, the Palatine theory, ties the connection of many early St. Catharines inhabitant's close ethnic ties to the German Rhine Valley. 

Many of the United Empire Loyalists who settled this area have their origins in the Rhine Valley, hence the so slightly Germanic spelling of Catharine with two "a's".  


Read more: 

Professor Alun Huges' complete presentation "Too Many Catha/erines  - The founding and naming of the garden city" is available in the Alun Hughes Papers - RG 576, Brock University Archives.  

It is also amongst many essays about local Niagara history in, History made in Niagara, written by Alun Hughes and published posthumously in 2019.  See more: History Made in Niagara book launch