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 fourth and final driving tour. I hope you will enjoy reading it and, perhaps, venturing out with your family to follow this route. Who knows? You might even hear some Voices of Lambton’s Past somewhere along the way.
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 <4> – The SOUTH ROUTE begins in Dawn Township, which may have been named after the Dawn of Liberty experienced by Negro slaves who settled here about 1820. Begin at Edy’s Mills (S1), begun when the Michigan Central Railway built a spur line from Oil Springs. In 1887 Melvin Lotteridge built a saw mill here financed by two brothers named Edy, who later took over the operation. Head west to Marthaville Road, named after the wife of Richard Smith, an operator of an early mill developed on the site of an oil field in 1872.
Turn south (left) and down to Bentpath (S2), named after a path in Scotland, site of a post office from 1887 to 1914. Turn west (right) and drive past Cuthbert Road, named for a post office operated from 1903-1914 from the home of Alexander Cuthbertson in Cuthbert (S3) north of here at Edy’s Mills Line. Continue west past Mandaumin (an Indian word for corn) Road (county road 26), and turn south (left) and head to Beaver Meadow (S4), named about 1900 by William Nesbitt for the beaver dams built here at the head of Booth Creek. Turn west (right) one concession to Brigden Road and north (right) to Stanley Line and Bradshaw (S5) at a post office from 1874-1914, named for William Bradshaw, first postmaster. Turn west (left) to Kimball Road at Avonry (S6) or Avonroy, a post office from 1882-1912 named for a place in Scotland. Turn south (left) then right(west) at Wilkesport Line to Wilkesport (S7), at the point where Black creek joins the Sydenham River, first settled by Paul Sturdevant, who built a log cabin about 1830. In 1836, John Wilkes built a steam sawmill and a grist mill. By 1847, it was known as Wilkes Mill. When the post office opened in 1856, it was known as Wilkesburg. The present name came into place in 1856. Continue west to Indian Creek Road. Turn south (left) to Bentpath Line then west (right) to Sombra (S8). Just before you turn at the river, you will notice on the right the St John’s Roman Catholic Church memorial. Sombra was first settled in 1821 by the Beauchamp and Matavies families.
To cater to river and road traffic, several hotels, including the Union Hotel which was torn down last summer, were here from the 1850s on. In the 1880s, there was a cheese factory on stilts out over the St Clair River, which later was moved on to land and became the Thistle Rubber Stamp Company (1900-1975). The building has recently been restored as a duplex. Turn south (left) on to the St Clair Parkway (S9) with 16 public parks along the river. The St Clair River and Lake were named in 1669 by Father Hennepin on board the Griffon captained by La Salle. The day they approached the river had as its patron saint Saint Claire. As you enter Sombra, look for the Sombra Museum on your left, located in an 1880s pioneer home originally owned by John Edgar Bury, exhibiting a collection of Victorian artifacts and a Marine Room, open daily from June to September. Drop in for a visit to the past.
Sombra has a year-round English themed village of small shops and boutiques. Samuel Whitely of Sombra started a ferry service about 1880 with a rowboat. From Sombra, as you head south, stop and enjoy the river and watch the boats at one of the many parks along the St Clair Parkway. The next community on our route is Port Lambton (S10), whose earliest settler, Duncan MacDonald, built a house here about 1820. By 1880, the lumber industry thrived with two saw mills, a shingle mill, a planing mill, a door and blind factory, and a grist mill, all run by steam. By the early 1900s, there was a 450 foot dock and a total of six hotels catering to the tourists who came here by way of the river. This settlement has also been called Lambton Village. Continue south to Pointe Line. Baby’s Point (S11) is to the west (right). Francis Baby, one of the first recorded settlers, established himself in 1826 just north of the Chenal Ecarte, a channel separating Walpole Island from the mainland. His brother James became one of the pioneer settlers of Mooretown.
Sacre Coeur Church (known as the French Church) was built here about 1827 and was in use till 1871. The church was moved to Port Lambton to be used as a blacksmith shop. The key to Eglise du Sacre Coeur is now in the Mooretown museum. Continue south and turn west (right) across the Snye Bridge (S12), The Snye is another name for the Chenal Ecarte which separates St Anne Island (part of Walpole Island) from the mainland. Go on to Walpole Island (S13) or Bkejwanong, (the?place?where?the waters?divide), named after the "warpoles" which were long wooden starves planted in the ground with the emblems of the First Nations on them. The people are descended from Ottawa, Ojibwa, and Potawatomi Nations who lived in the area at different times in the past. Walpole, 58,000 acres spread over six islands, is blessed with a unique ecosystem including 6,900 hectares of the most diverse wetlands in all of the Great Lakes Basin. Follow Tecumseh Road west across Walpole Island. The Tecumseh Monument (S14) is on your left just before you reach the River Road. It is believed that Tecumseh is buried here. Turn north (right) and follow the road to the north end of the island and then east to the Heritage Centre (S15) on your left. The Walpole Island Heritage Centre or Nin.da.waab.jig, (meaning "those who seek to find"), officially founded in July 1989, is the research arm of the Walpole Island First Nation. Continue east to Chiefs Road and then south to Tecumseh Road where you should turn east (left) back across the Snye Bridge and head north (left) back on to the St Clair Parkway. Watch carefully for Whitebread Line just past Snyview Motel next to 30127 St Clair Parkway.
At Whitebread Line, turn east (right) to Baseline Road. Notice the sign on your right for Whitebread (S16), named after a man whose property was bisected by the Pere Marquette Railway about 1890. By 1930, it had a school, post office, church, pickle factory, store and the rail station. Now, there are just 4 homes and an interesting sign. Go north (left) to French Line and then east (right) to Thornyhurst (S17), a post office from 1874-1914 at Highway 40. Turn left (north) one road to and east (right) on Holt Line to Duthill Road. Duthill (S18), once located at this corner, had an old elm tree used as a survey marker that stood in the middle of the intersection until 1951. There was a ferry to cross the Sydenham River from prior to 1880 to 1930. Turn south (right) on Duthill Road which becomes East River Road to Lambton Line and then east (left) through Becher (S19), a post office from 1871-1970, named after Henry Beecher. At one time, a railway with cars pulled by horses moved timber from Florence to the river for shipment. A ferry across the Sydenham River was established by 1861. Turn south (right) at Kimball Road, then east (left) on Charlemont Road through Charlemont (S20), a post office 1892-1914 at Mandaumin Road. Turn south (right) to Kent Line, then east (left) to Dawn Valley Line. Go north (left) to Dawn Valley (S21), a post office 1895-1914 and then east (right) on Lambton Line to Rutherford (S22), named after a noted Presbyterian clergyman. The post office, 1861-1914, originally known as Dawn Centre, was at the centre of the township. Continue east to Huffs Corners at Huffs Corners Road.
Head north (left) to Langbank (S23), where a post office (1885-1913) opened in a lean-to on the log house of the postmaster James Wood. The lean-to and the log house are now located on the grounds of the Oil Springs Museum. Turn east (right) at Langbank Line and go to Mawlam Road (S24) An early resident (1827), Thomas Mawlam settled on 400 acres along Bear Creek. A trip to market then took up to a month as they had to travel by dug-out canoe down the Sydenham River to the St Clair River through Lake St Clair to the Detroit River to either Detroit or Sandwich (now part of Windsor) for mail and supplies. They burned the trees they cleared from their land, used the ashes to make potash and then sold the potash in Florence where it was shipped overseas to make gunpowder and soap.
Turn south (right) to Lambton Line. Go east (left) to Florence (S25). A grist mill, powered by the Sydenham River, was first built here by Looman Long and William Hutchinson about 1825.First known as Zone Mills, the name was changed in 1856 to honour Florence Nightingale. By 1834, Florence, the oldest municipality in Euphemia, had a grist mill, sawmill and carding mill, 2 blacksmith shops, a post office, two stores, a merchant’s shop, a distillery and a tavern, a schoolhouse and a new church. You are now in Euphemia Township, named in 1848 for his mother by Malcolm Cameron, while he was a representative for the Western District in the Legislative Assembly, the then parliament in Upper Canada (Ontario). Continue east to Shetland Road and north (left) to Bilton Line, named after the Biltons, pioneers since 1830, and then east (right) to Cairo Road (Highway 79) and north (left) to Cairo (S26). A post office was opened in 1852 under the name of Sutherland’s Corners and changed to Cairo in 1897. A planked road was built from Cairo east to Newbury Station in 1870 to take advantage of the railway station and mail service. Continue north to Mosside Line. Mosside, a name of Irish derivation, had a post office from 1880-1913 near Mosside Line and Dobbyn Road.
Turn west (left) to Smith Falls Road (S27). Samuel Smith, a surveyor from 1819 to 1854, surveyed much of Lambton County, including parts of Sombra in 1820, Bosanquet in 1828, Brooke in 1832, and Euphemia Township in 1823. Smith selected a site in Euphemia beside a small falls for himself, using the falls to run mills, including a grist mill, a saw mill, a turning mill to run a lathe, a fulling mill and a carding mill. Samuel Smith could also be considered the Canadian equivalent of Paul Revere. He served as a sentry in the Canadian Militia during the War of 1812. According to the memorial opposite his homesite, “At daybreak, Oct 13, 1812, sentry Samuel Smith spied American forces embarking for invasion of Canada at Queenston and promptly notified commander.”. Go south (left) to Bentpath Line and then west (right) to Shetland Road and south (left) to Shetland (S28). Shetland, named after the Shetland Islands, was a post office (1865-1918). Prior to 1865, it was known as Dobbyn’s Mills. Return to Bentpath Line and turn west (left) to Oakdale (S29), named after the growth of oak in this district, once known as North Dawn, which grew up around the first church in Dawn, opened here in 1879. Turn north (right) to Edys Mills Line and then west (left) to Edys Mills to end the SOUTH 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.