The Naming of Thunder Bay

Biking this afternoon, I listened to The Story from Here on CBC Radio One. One story was about the naming of Thunder Bay, Ontario.

The City of Thunder Bay was formed in 1970 through the merger of the cities of Fort William, Port Arthur, and the geographic townships of Neebing and McIntyre. A referendum was held to vote on the new name, and it seemed as if "Lakehead" would carry the day. It was often referred to as "Lakehead" because of its location at the end of Great Lakes navigation on the Canadian side of the border.

The ballot, however, included three possible names: "Thunder Bay", "Lakehead" and "The Lakehead". As you could imagine, the vote split between the two and "Thunder Bay" came up the middle to win.

Check out the final tally:

  • "Thunder Bay" - 15,870
  • "Lakehead" - 15,302
  • "The Lakehead" - 8,377

I had no idea and thought that was pretty damn interesting.

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Comments (19 - click here to join in!)

James Edgar

My parents got married in 1946 and took the train to Fort william for their Honeymoon.

That was how my dad got to meet my Moms family or some anyway they were in Winnipeg so Fort william was not to far to go.

Thunderbay is not considered too romantic these days and everytime i tell that story people can't believe they went there. But my oldest sister was born 9 months later so it must have been a little romantic at least.

June 17, 2015 @ 4:02 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@James Edgar

Sadly, I have never been to Thunder Bay.

June 17, 2015 @ 4:37 PM


I've been to Thunder Bay in late 70's with my job for a weekend retreat with suppliers.
It really was a great experience as everyone was cordial there - too bad it was October. very cold weather & snow & the plane flight was memorable with high winds & turbulence.

Motto in Thunder Bay is don't wake the Sleeping Giant - an awesome sight.
It's also the home of Terry Fox's statue for his run for cancer where he had to end.

June 17, 2015 @ 6:16 PM

Frederic 'Chip' Lacroix

Passed through Thunder Bay a couple of times when doing the cross Canada jaunt thing.
Never knew this story. I think 'Thunder Lake' would have been a good compromise name.

June 17, 2015 @ 6:42 PM


fascinating! I love info like this.

June 17, 2015 @ 8:25 PM


Both my parents are from Thunder Bay, so we spent a few weeks every summer at a camp (aka cottage, although this one was more like a shack with no running water) on Lake Superior. Beautiful, awesome nature in this area of the world.

To this day, people ask if you are from the Port Arthur or Fort William part of town.

June 18, 2015 @ 6:28 AM


Hi there, I am born and bred Thunder Bay. I am a Fort William moved away back in 2002 but visit my family and friends once in a while. Miss my pickerel and bon bons...and the Persians..just some things you can not get outside Thunder Bay.

June 18, 2015 @ 7:37 AM

Lena Owens

My sister was the first baby born when they renamed the city to Thundery Bay.

June 18, 2015 @ 8:06 AM


I too was from Thunder Bay. I am a Port Arthur gal. Camps are only about half an hour out of town. Everyone has saunas, either at their camp or at their house. it has the largest Finnish population in the world outside of Finland.

June 18, 2015 @ 8:09 AM


Both my parents, myself and my three brothers were all born in Thunder Bay. We moved to Georgetown Ontario when I was ten years old in 1969. I know the story of the renaming of the two cities very well. Just last week my Mom and I were talking old times - reminiscing about summer camping trips, the rained out campsites, the fishing, the campfires and the numerous encounters with bears. Good times! Over the years our family spread out over two continents and in 2003 we all travelled back to our hometown to celebrate our parent's 50th Wedding Anniversary. The celebration was held in the same dining room at the Prince Arthur Hotel that my parents had their wedding reception in 50 years earlier. No matter where I live - every time I return to Thunder Bay - I feel like I'm home.

June 18, 2015 @ 9:11 AM

Sally Ann

My home town, my Mom was a Port Arthur Girl, and my Dad a Fort William lad.
I was married there in St. Pat's Cathedral, my eldest was born at McKellr.
Love that place, great summers at Trout Lake and fond memories of family!

June 18, 2015 @ 10:42 AM

AJ Crocker

My Mom and sister were born in Port Arthur.
My parents were married also in 1949.
We lived there from 1950 to 1965 as we journeyed to Toronto and we have been here ever since.
My Grandma worked for the Red Cross, while my parents worked at the shipyards.
I can remember the smoke houses and the Lake Superior Trout. Yummy.
Played hockey outdoors at Brent Park.
And how can we not mention the Sleeping Giant, camping or Kecabecca Falls.
Beautiful area which I will never forget.

June 18, 2015 @ 11:11 AM


I would have preferred Lakehead... I am from North Bay, and I have yet to talk to anybody in the Toronto area that doesn't think I have an 11 hour drive to go see my hometown for a weekend !! Thunder Bay and North Bay are mixed up by southern ontario people almost 98% of the time. (NB is 3hrs 30 mins N of Toronto - add 2 hours when driving out of TO on a long weekend at rush hour)

June 18, 2015 @ 11:14 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

I also learned about Thunder Bay mayor Walter Assef who in 1973 patted Queen Elizabeth on her butt.

June 18, 2015 @ 1:46 PM


- a lovely place to stop going on a long journey to Winnipeg via Greyhound from Toronto

June 18, 2015 @ 6:02 PM


- a lovely place to stop going on a long journey to Winnipeg via Greyhound from Toronto

June 18, 2015 @ 6:02 PM


- a lovely place to stop going on a long journey to Winnipeg via Greyhound from Toronto

June 18, 2015 @ 6:02 PM


Persians! My parents bring some back every time they go back to visit, which is a few times a year. But only the original ones with the strawberry icing. So tasty.

June 20, 2015 @ 8:25 AM


Born and raised in Fort William (Westfort). Moved to the US over 25 years ago. Family are all gone now and don't go there anymore. Some of the best fishing and camping in the bush around. 🙂

October 26, 2016 @ 2:34 AM

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