By BOB McCARTHY
As the weather improves, we all begin to think about going out for an afternoon drive. Back in 1999, at the time of Lambton County’s sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) my wife and I drove all over our county, searching out historic points of interest. The result was four driving tours of Lambton County.
In place of Voices of Lambton’s Past for the month of May, I have instead recreated these four Tours of Lambton’s Past. This is the second driving tour. I hope you will enjoy reading them and, perhaps, venturing out with your families to follow one or more of these routes. Who knows? You might even hear some Voices of Lambton’s Past somewhere along the way.
The accompanying photo shows that there were traffic slowdowns waiting to cross the river even back in the 1920’s and 1930’s when cars had to cross by ferry.
In May, 1999, Lambton County celebrated 150 years as a county. Prior to 1849, Lambton was part of the Western District, which included all of present-day Kent, Essex and Lambton Counties. We all should be more aware of the communities, past and present, of Lambton and of the rich history of the men and women who settled and built these communities. The Lambton County tours reproduced here on Lambton Shield will hopefully encourage you to <Re>Discover Lambton County as you travel many of the roads built by the settlers of Lambton. Enjoy the tours of our past and please drive carefully.
There are currently 102 communities in Lambton County listed on detailed road maps of Southwestern Ontario. Probably in excess of 200 community names have graced different parts of Lambton over the last two centuries. The two NORTH routes will focus on Bosanquet, Warwick, Plympton and Sarnia Townships and some of the north part of Moore. Some of the communities you will travel through continue to exist only as names of county roads, as crossroads, as cemeteries, as cairns, or as memories of the past. Many were set up as post offices and ceased to operate when rural mail delivery began in the 1910-1920 period. Some of the roads that you will be traveling on are not paved.
Each route is circular. You can begin or end at any point. Stop and learn about the past of Lambton wherever you wish – at a cemetery, at an old schoolhouse, at a memorial cairn, at an old building, at a shop, at a museum. Stop and ask the locals about their part of Lambton. We hope you will enjoy and learn from your trip off the highways on to the back roads through communities settled by Lambton’s pioneers, as you <Re>Discover Lambton County.
ROUTE <2> – The NORTHEAST ROUTE begins in the Village of Warwick (E1) named after the Earl of Warwick. The township was surveyed by Peter Carroll in 1832, the first settlement was at the site of Warwick by Lt Col Freer, who built the first saw mill. The first town meeting was held in 1850 at O’Dell’s Hotel. At the west side of Warwick, turn south towards the Conservation area on Warwick Village Road.
Go past the Roman Catholic Cemetery on the left to the memorial (near the entry to the Conservation Area) to Reverend Joe Little (E2). Uncle Joe, as he came to be called, wandered the county on a small pony visiting in cabins, preaching at religious gatherings and advocating abstinence in an era of hard drinking. After his death in 1880, a mile long funeral procession followed the hearse from Watford to Warwick. Head back north on Warwick Village Road across the highway to Egremont Road. (E3).
Lord Egremont brought a group of English settlers to London and west towards Lake Huron in 1833. They chopped out and built a passable road along an old Indian trail through Warwick and north-west to the lake. Go west on Egremont Road to Uttoxeter Road, then north (right) through Uttoxeter (E4), named by Thomas Doherty in 1863 after a town in Staffordshire, England. As you continue north, watch on your left for Camp Heritage, a recreation of a native site.
Go to Aberarder Line and then west (left) to Hillsboro Road and Aberarder (E5) named after a place in Scotland, settled 1863 by Alex. Hamilton, once a station on Canadian National Railway, which at one time ran from Sarnia through Blackwell, Perch, Camlachie, Aberarder, Forest anf Thedford.
Turn north (right) over the old rail bed. Continue to Douglas Line and then east (right) to Forest Road, then turn north (left) to Forest (E6) started when the Grand Trunk Railway set up a station in 1859 in what was still wilderness at the juncture of Plympton-Warwick-Bosanquet townships, where there were roads running east, west and south. By the 1880's, more grain was shipped from Forest than from any other station on the Grand Trunk from Sarnia to Stratford.
There were two weekly papers, the Standard and the Free Press. Take some time to explore Forest and then exit north on Highway 21. Exit left at the sign for Kettle Point. Turn north (right) and then west (left) on Indian Lane past the Kettle Point United Church.
Continue west to Lakeshore Drive. Turn north (right) and watch for kettles on the lawns as you follow the road to the Kettle Point Concretions (E7). The Concretions are rock formations, spherical in shape, (perhaps a crystallization of foreign substances), composed of rock harder than the shale beds in which they are found. Continue east (right) to London Road to West Ipperwash Road. Jog left and then right on to William Street which becomes Parkway Drive.
On your left as you drive are a number of public beaches. Why not stop for a while. Continue east to Ipperwash Road and then south (right). Pass through Ravenswood (E8), settled in 1850 by Peter McCallum, after a 12 week trip from Glasgow to Port Stanley. Continue south. The road becomes Ravenswood Line at the bend. Continue east (left). Springvale (E9) was located on Ravenswood Line where it crosses the Mud Creek between Army Camp Road and Jericho Road. Go north (left) on Jericho Road, named after a post office operated from 1880 to 1913.
Turn east(right) at Lakeshore Road to Northville and turn north (left) into Port Franks (E10) named for Captain Franks who discovered the 50 foot deep harbour which became a centre for the pine and oak lumber floated down from the Pinery.
The deep water harbour allowed schooners and barges to carry the lumber to other ports on the Great Lakes until 1875 when a drainage cut by the Canada Company resulted in the harbour being destroyed. This was also the site of a salt plant from the early 1880's for about a ten year period. Return to Lakeshore Road and east (left) again.
To the right, between Port Franks and Thedford, there were at one time three lakes (Burwell, Smith and George). Lakes Burwell and George were drained about 1875 by a drainage cut dug out by hand labour and horses for the Canada Company. Then a gap was slashed through the sand hills, causing the dislodged sand to change the course of the river from Grand Bend to Port Franks, destroying the harbour and the lumbering trade.
In 1922, an improved cut reduced the flooding and made the land more useful for agriculture. As you head towards Grand Bend, you will pass the Pinery Provincial Park (E11), opened in 1957 on land first bought by the Canada Company from the Crown in 1826 for $2.50 an acre. Further up on your right, you will see the Lambton Heritage Museum (E12). Why don’t you stop here and visit the many displays from across Lambton for a while?
A bit further on your right, (at #10149), you will see some great tree sculptures at Klein Westland Greenhouses. If you need bedding plants, take a look while you are admiring the sculptures. A bit further on, there are two big flea markets (open seasonally on week-ends if you want to stop).
Continue on to Grand Bend (E13), earlier known as Aux Coches and as Brewster’s Mills, after Brewster and Company purchased in 1832 from the Canada Company a site for a mill and a dam. The resulting flooding of inland farms resulted in a midnight mob of drowned-out settlers from four townships tearing it down and burning all that would burn. One participant was heard to say “Not any dam by a mill-site nor any mill by a dam-site”.
Floods still continued in the low-lands until 1875 when a drainage ditch was built by the Canada Company. Stop for a while and visit the beach and the shops. When you are ready, turn back south-west on Lakeshore Road and turn south-east (left) at Greenway Road . Go to River Road along the Ausables River, and follow the winding road to Bog Line (E14), named for the swampy conditions which prevailed in much of north-east Lambton prior to the Cull Drain being built.
Turn west (right) to Gordon Road, then south (left) into Thedford (E15), first called Widder Station, started when the Grand Trunk Railway opened a station north-east of Widder in 1859. The new town continued to grow, acquiring its first newspaper the Thedford Herald in 1878, established by Wallace Graham of Parkhill. Continue through Thedford on Highway 79.
Turn east (left) on Rock Glen Road. Follow the road to Rock Glen (E16), a deep gorge with towering banks, forming a miniature falls. This is where Henry Utter first built a grist mill in 1837. In 1907, a dam was built here and the Rock Glen Power Company was formed to provide hydro-electric power (one of the first in Ontario). Stop and visit if you have never been here before. Head west on Townsend Line. Asa Townsend blazed a trail north-west from Middlesex County to Lake Huron.
He built himself a log cabin in 1821 and was the only white man among the natives until Henry Utter came in 1833.Head through Arkona (E17), settled in 1821 by Asa Townsend, hoping to develop salt deposits. In 1837, Henry Utter built the first grist mill. Known as Eastman’s Corners (after Nadab Eastman) to 1851 when the new post office was called Bosanquet, the name was changed in 1857 to Akron (after Akron, Ohio).
The name was misspelled, but accepted by the villagers. Continue to Nauvoo Road (E18) named for the trek of Mormon converts from the Gardiner’s Mill area to Nauvoo, Illinois.
Turn south (left) through Birnam (E19). Gaelic for “Hero’s House”, this was a post office from 1874 to 1915. Continue south to Brick Yard Line (E20), named for the high quality bricks from the Auld, Janes and McCormick brickyards along Bear Creek. Turn east (left) to Wisbeach Road. Go south (right) to Wisbeach (E21), a stage stop half-way between Sarnia and London in pre-railway days.
Turn west (right) back to Nauvoo Road and then south (left) to Confederation Line at Watford (E22), first settled by Rosco van Rosenberge in the early 1830's, and influenced by the opening of the Great Western Railway in 1856. You might want to stop at Watford for a visit. Look for one of the few remaining Carnegie Library buildings, still being used as a library on the west side of the main street.
The town was originally named Wat’ford after Waterford in Ireland. By 1880, there were many mills, foundries and other businesses. Lambert Steam Grist and Flouring Mill was probably the most pretentious. The Restorick House (hotel from 1855-1946) was a great centre for horse and cattle breeders.
Return to Confederation Line and head west to Kingscourt Road and then north (right) past where the Ellarton Salt Works (E23), owned in 1880 by Arthur J. Kingstone, was located on the banks of Bear Creek. It began when brine was discovered while drilling for oil.
The salt here was the purest in Ontario and received a silver medal at the Paris Exposition. This medal is in the Lambton Heritage Museum (see E12). Continue north to London Line (Highway 22). Turn east (right) and follow the road into Warwick to the turn of the century Warwick General Store, just before the bridge, built and opened by Robert McKenzie, who ran a successful business and a Post Office. Stepping inside the store is like stepping into the past. This is the end of this route.
Notes from the Author
WHERE DID LAMBTON COUNTY GET ITS NAME?
John George Lambton, the first Earl of Durham, left England for Canada to study the conditions that led to the Rebellion of 1837. During 1838?1839, he completed a study by visiting the country by stage?coach and sailing vessel to find out the conditions for himself. The result was the Durham Report that led to the Union of Upper and Lower Canada. When Earl Durham visited this area, it was part of the Western District of Upper Canada. The main centre of the day was Point Edward, then a thriving little town and port.
To honour the occasion, he gave the name Lambton to the District. Some years later, when Kent was separated (1849), the name Lambton was used for the new county, honouring Lord Durham. This year, Lambton celebrates 150 years as a county.
FUN FOR KIDS
If you are traveling with young people, you may want to make up a list of things to look for. If so, include some or all of the following.
Note that some do not appear on all four routes. You might include an abandoned building, cow, horse, sheep, black sheep, llama (there are at least 3 farms which raise llamas on the north-east route), silos, barn with red roof, log cabin, outhouse, cemetery alone or next to church, memorial plaque, tractor, orchard, river or creek, stone church, wood church, church or building built in 1800's, abandoned schoolhouse, museum, oil jerker rod line, war memorial/cenotaph, flea market, golf course, corn crib, campgrounds, township signs, Lambton County signs, grain elevators, waterfall (Rock Glen), factory, park, playground equipment and other items of your choice.