This past weekend I read an article at a meeting about the story of Linden, which is a place in Guyana, South America. I found this information to be interesting since I have family who lives there. Sometimes we come across a street and wonder, “where did they come up with this name.” Well in this article, they explain where the names originated from. I hope you enjoy the read and maybe it will prompt you to do research about your background. Enjoy!
It’s all in the name –the story of Linden (formerly McKenzie) by Sherene Noble
Nestled in the heart of Guyana, amidst lolling white, grey and red sand hills, brown water creeks, blue water lakes and clear water springs; in the lush green of Guyana’s Amazonian vegetation, is the sleepy little bauxite town called Linden.
The story of how the town came into being is by no means a mystery. Three communities, Christianburg, Wismar and McKenzie merged into Macmarburg, then Markenburg; and eventually became a township on April 29th, 1970 with the name Linden, being named after Linden Forbes Burnham. We have been told how George Bain McKenzie, that adventurous American, discovered bauxite in the area in 1913 and commenced mining operations, paving the way for the development of McKenzie, named after him. We know of how German settlers inhabited the land on the opposite bank of the Demerara River, 65 miles from the capital Georgetown, and named it Wismar, after a town and seaport in the northern regions of their native land. We have also heard stories of how the Dutch occupied the area immediately north of the boundaries of Wismar and combined the names of its then Governor, Christian Fenet, and his wife’s family name, Burg, to give Christianburg its moniker.
But the story that eludes many is that of how the wards, those tiny villages that together form the three larger districts which in turn form the township, got their names. Rainbow City, Victory Valley, Half Mile, One Mile, Silvertown, Wisroc, Canvas City and Amelia’s Ward to name a few, might sound like the work of some whimsical, quixotic mind, but each either tells a poignant story of the town’s history, functions as a directional tool or stands testimony to the will of its people.
Amelia’s Ward, perhaps the largest ward, is reputed to have derived the name Amelia from the daughter of the then owner of the land. Within Amelia’s Ward are Cinderella City, Reliance, Brezina and Hopetown Square (in Reliance). Hopetown Square is so named because each household had one or more members who hailed from Hopetown on the West Coast of Berbice. Brezina was named after the American company that built the houses in that particular section of the area. Reliance, more familiarly called ‘Self Help Scheme’, copied from Reliance on the Essequibo Coast and was a fitting name because its inhabitants ‘relied’ heavily on ‘self help’ to forge their community into being. The name Cinderella City evokes a feeling of romanticism but it actually speaks of the vision of its denizens. Comprised mainly of poor squatters living in shacks, in 1970, Cinderella City had no roads, electricity or potable water, but the people there envisioned it rising to a position of stature, the ‘Cinderella’ of the town. Today, they are well on their way to accomplishing their vision as they continue to work to make their community one of the better ones in Linden. The performance of Master Terron Alleyne as the top student at this year’s National Grade Six Assessment, testifies to the aspirations of the people of Cinderella City.
About one mile downhill from Amelia’s Ward is Rainbow City. Thirty odd years ago, it comprised several quaint houses, gaily painted in lilacs and pinks, oranges and yellows, blues and greens. Rainbow City was thus more than apt a name for this kaleidoscopic community.
Aback of Rainbow City lay a vast, swampy wasteland, teeming, as can be imagined, with a reptilian population as varied and interesting as in the heart of the Amazon. When the need to have the Demerara River dredged to accommodate bauxite transporting vessels arose, it was suggested that the sand be deposited into the swamp. From this emerged the idea of ‘retrieving’ the land from the swamp and developing it into a housing scheme. Is it any surprise then, that this area, which comprised houses made of painted aluminum sheets was called Retrieve?
Let us now visit a few communities on the western bank of the Demerara River, with names no less imaginative and informative.
Exactly half a mile from the historic Hamilton’s train station is the community of Half Mile and one mile from that station lies – yes, you guessed it – One Mile. Wisroc is situated between Wismar and Rockstone and Green Valley lies in a lush, green valley. Does that mean that the Valley of Tears is a place where the inhabitants are always crying? Not by any means! But its myriad creeks, springs and streams crisscrossing the landscape did make it seem like the valley cried tears. Those living there though felt the name had negative connotations and so changed it to one that is definitely more upbeat – Victory Valley!
Then there are Silvertown and Canvas City. Silvertown, with its unpainted aluminum houses glimmering brightly in the noonday sun is neighbor to Canvas City, where it’s poor but resourceful populace used discarded canvas to construct homes they could proudly call their own.
Each with its own unique story, these communities merged to form one cohesive unit, the town of Linden with its rich history and vibrant culture.
So next time you hear the familiar refrain, “What’s in a name?” you may respond, “Location, direction, history, aspirations!”