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 next four weeks, I have instead recreated these four Tours of Lambton’s Past. 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 <1> – The NORTHWEST ROUTE begins in Lucasville, also known as the Beehive (W1), a hamlet at Plank Road and second line, first called Cole’s Corners, after the Elm Grove Cheese Factory, run by the Cole family in the 1870s and 1880s. In 1875, the post office was renamed Lucasville when it was moved to George Lucas’s Hotel. Take note of the gas station, operating in what was the Methodist church from 1881 to 1931. The Plank Road (W2), known as the Sarnia-Florence Road, completed in 1865, operated as a toll-road up to 1926.
The original road, built for the oil trade, for stagecoaches from town to town and to connect with the railways, was made of oak planks. Head east on Churchill Line to Bunyan (W3), named after the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, first settled by George Watson and Robert Sym in 1834.
The old school house is still in use as Bunyan Pottery. Turn north on Brigden Road and east on Confederation Road to Mandaumin (W4), (Indian word for corn) first named Radcliffe after a Sarnia clergyman on the Great Western Railway line. Head south (right) to Churchill Line.
Turn east (left) and go past several roads to Wanstead Road on your left. Turn north (left) and then east (right) on First Street. Wanstead (W5), on property owned by Henry Beecher, was named for a suburb of London, England. In 1858-1859, the Great Western Railway came through, a post office opened (1859-1969) and 2 hotels were built for rail passengers.
By 1872, a railway station was built and a sawmill and lumber business operated near the tracks. The main business today is the Wanstead Farmers’ Co-op, founded in 1924. On December 26, 1902, Lambton’s worst rail disaster happened east of here, near Kingscourt Junction. A Chicago bound passenger train collided with an east bound freight train, killing 38 persons.
Exit north and then west on Confederation Line . Wyoming (W6), (Indian for “The Large Plains”) was established in 1856, when the Great Western railway cut its way from Komoka (west of London) to Port Sarnia, through land owned by Robert McAuslan and George Brown. Discovery of oil to the south also led to its growth, and a branch line to Petrolia was added by the Great Western Railway.
Head north (right) on Broadway Street (Oil Heritage Road) through Reece’s Corners (W7), named for Samuel Reece, who obtained a Crown grant here in 1837. It became a stage stop on the London-Sarnia route in 1845. Continue past Matlock (W8), (named for a town in Derbyshire, England) located north-east of this intersection, at Michigan Line where there was a post office (1870-1881).
Turn north-west (left) on Egremont Road (W9), chopped out and built as a passable road from London along an old Indian trail through Warwick and north-west to the lake by a group of English settlers brought to Canada by Lord Egremont. Watch for the jog west and then north-west again. Continue into Camlachie (W10), established in 1863-1864 as a station and rail yard for the Grand Trunk Railway on land deeded by Duncan MacDonald, who was born in Camlachie, near Glasgow, Scotland.
By 1877, there were 3 general stores, 2 butcher shops, grist mill, planing mill, barrel works, apple evaporator, furniture factory (later the Masonic Lodge), bakeshop, millinery shop, tailor shop and a doctor’s office. Watch on your left for the Christ Anglican Church (W11), opened in 1877, spearheaded by Reverend Isaac Bearfoot, an Indian priest and the Huron Masonic Lodge No. 392 (W12), established in 1881 and still meeting in the same frame building, originally a furniture factory constructed entirely of wood on your left as you enter town.
Continue north-west on Egremont Road across Lakeshore Road past the golf club on your right. Turn right on Dalrymple into Errol (W13), called Ruglen when it was first settled in 1832. Counting on its road connection to London, Errol expected to be a major community in Lambton. The ambitious town plan was vigorously promoted in The Samiel, the first weekly newspaper published in Lambton. However, the Honourable Malcolm Cameron (lumberman, storekeeper and politician) and other Port Sarnia interests arranged for a road to be built from Warwick to Sarnia, guaranteeing the growth of Sarnia rather than Errol.
The first church in Plympton, (a log building for Presbyterian services) was erected here before 1836. Exit Errol and go west on Egremont Road (becomes Lakeshore Road at Mandaumin Road). Watch on your right for the St John’s in the Wilderness Church (W14), built in 1856 near a swampy cedar wilderness just east of Perch Creek.
Because of the swampy ground, water had to be bailed out before burial could take place. You are now approaching Bright’s Grove (W15), begun prior to 1886 by Mr. Bright as a resort area of summer cottages with connections to the Perch railway station along the Grand Trunk Railway route.
Crinnian’s Grove (W16), was a picnic ground on the Lakeshore just east of the Petrolia Water Works, where the tennis courts now stand, which included an open air dance hall, popular around 1900. T
his later became the site of Kenwick-on-the-Lake, a dance pavilion of the 1930's and 1940's. Jack Kennedy purchased the dance hall, renamed it, and ran it as a dance hall.
From the late 40's to the early 60's, many “big band” names, including Louis Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo, and Sammy Kaye appeared here. The name Kenwick is from Jack Kennedy and from his wife’s maiden name, Genevieve Warwick.
Just ahead, on your left, is the Petrolea (spelling to 1907) Waterworks. Turn south (left) at Waterworks Road and then west (right) on Hamilton Road before the stop-lights. Continue west until you reach Wildwood Park, Bright’s Grove School and the Brights Grove Library, located in a house built (1858-1860) by Robert Faithorne, son-in-law of Henry Jones Sr. John Labatt, a London brewer, was living here in 1934 when he was kidnapped on the Egremont Road.
Stop at the parking lot and take a walk through the park and along the walk-way by Lake Huron. While there, look for the sign directly north of the school.
In 1829, Henry Jones, first English settler in Sarnia Township, started a commune type of settlement, known as Maxwell, named after a community in New Lanark, Scotland. It included a community kitchen and dining room, but didn’t last as many of the people who first settled here soon left and purchased their own land nearby. Exit east (left) back along Hamilton Road to Waterworks Road and south (right) to the lights.
Perch (W17) was a Grand Trunk Railway station south of the rail bed with a post office here from1863 to 1911. Continue south to Vyner (W18), at Michigan Line, a small farming community named after an English family, with a post office from 1870-1911, with only one postmaster (John Gates) for its 41 years.
Turn west (right). Be aware, as you drive, that much of this area south of Blackwell from Telfer Road to Modeland Road was under water as a part of Lake Wawanosh until it was drained into the Cull Drain. The need for more farmland and better drainage led in 1859 to the draining of Lake Wawanosh, which was both fed and drained by Perch Creek.
The lake was named for Chief Joshua Wawanosh, Hereditary Chief of the St Clair Ojibways, who had a dwelling by the lake before he moved to a reservation. The Drain was named after James Cull, the civil engineer in charge of draining Lake Wawanosh.
Turn north (right) at Telfer Road and then west (left) at Blackwell Road and drive into Blackwell (W19), a farm community first settled about 1839. The Grand Trunk Railway built a station and several houses here for railway employees.
The first school on Devine Street in Sarnia was moved here in 1925 and placed across from the Blackwell Cemetery to be used as a community hall. Turn to the south (left) at Blackwell Sideroad. On your right before you reach Highway 40, stop at Wawanosh Wetlands (W20) and enjoy the nature trails. Exit and head back north to Michigan Line and then west (left) along Michigan Avenue, then south (left) at Murphy Road. Continue over the bridge.
Laurel Bank was a small settlement at Exmouth and Murphy. Go west (right) on Exmouth Street. Robertsville, 1873-1880, Sarnia’s first suburb, was located near Northgate Plaza. Continue to Colborne Road then north toLakeview Cemetery (W21). A monument to Alexander Mackenzie (see W25), can be found on the north side in the cemetery.
Continue north to Oakwood Corners, a former settlement at Lakeshore Road. Turn west (left) on Lakeshore and continue west to Christina Street and then south. Turn west (right) into Canatara Park (W22). Go straight west for the Animal Farm. Canatara was the name given by the Iroquois to Lake Huron in the 1600's. At that time, the Point Edward area was an island as there were three mouths to the St Clair River. Lake Chipican was named after Chief Wawanosh’s sister in law, Chip-Kan.
Exit Canatara Park on the west side and then south into Point Edward (W23), first known as Pet-wag-wano and later as Huron Village. This land was surrendered by the Indians in 1827 to be used as a military reserve. The first settler was John Slocum (by 1838) who fished at the point of land. Point Edward became a rail centre by 1856 to service the railways and their need for a ferry service to Port Huron. In 1860, Thomas Edison, General Grant and the Prince of Wales all visited here.
In 1878, it was officially named Point Edward in honour of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. Turn west (right) at Michigan Avenue and continue west to the Bluewater Bridge. The original span of 6,392 feet, was opened in 1938 and eliminated the need for the ferries which had operated between Sarnia/Point Edward and Port Huron since before the railways reached Sarnia about 1856.
Stop for a while to watch the river traffic, to enjoy some french fries, or to take a short walk south along the river to the old C.N.R. Warehouse and Immigrant Shed. Immigrants from the U.S.A. and from European countries would stop here before they headed east into Canada by train or west by ship. Because of the volume of rail traffic moving by ferry to and from the U.S.A. prior to the tunnel being built, this area at one time included a roundhouse and warehousing facilities. Head south when you are ready to continue. Turn south (right) at Venetian Boulevard.
Continue south and turn east (left) on Exmouth into Sarnia (W24). The pioneer Laforge was apparently the first man to locate permanently on the Sarnia town-site about 1807. In the early 1830's, many English speaking settlers were drawn here as a result of the word pictures in “The Backwoodsman”, a book by William “Tiger” Dunlop. The Vidal family located here in 1833, followed by the Durand’s. At that time, the Indian mission house served as the only church.
Malcolm Cameron purchased the Laforge homestead in 1834, parceled it into lots and populated what was then known as The Rapids, created a lumber industry, built saw-mills, built ships, and opened the first store in The Rapids in 1835.
The first church in what was by then Port Sarnia was erected in 1837 by the Methodists.
Blakey’s foundry was producing steam engines and Port Sarnia had its first paper, the Lambton Banner, by 1850. By 1856, Port Sarnia was a notable shipping and ship-building centre when the Great Western Railway reached this far west.
The name was suggested by Sir John Colborne in 1835, then governor of Upper Canada and at one time governor of the Island of Guernsey. Sarnia was the Roman name for Guernsey. The Sarnia Street Railway, up Front Street through Bayview Park to Point Edward and later to the tunnel, ran from 1875 to 1931.The first St Clair Tunnel was officially opened in 1891.
Turn south (right) at the lights at Front Street. Stop for a while at Centennial Park (W25) to feed the ducks, enjoy the children’s play area by the St Clair River, take a short walk west past the Sarnia Marina to the Wetlands Area and the Dow Great Lakes Model, or walk south along the river past the fountain to the Alexander Mackenzie Monument, celebrating Canada’s second Prime Minister (7 Nov 1873 to 8 Oct 1878).
Born in Scotland 1822, he moved to Canada 1842, was a stonemason, a building contractor, editor of the Lambton Shield (1852-1854), a Major with 27th Lambton Volunteer Infantry, an MLA in Ontario (1871-1872), an MP for Lambton (1867-1882) and York East (1882-1892).
He died 17 April 1892 and is buried in Lakeview Cemetery (see W21) in Sarnia. When you are ready, head south on Front Street. Watch for “Calamity” on your left, one of the First Hussars tanks that landed in Normandy during World War II. Turn east (left) on Wellington Street by the Sarnia Observer building, then south (right) on Vidal Street.
Continue south past the Chemical Valley to the plaque for Froomefield (W26) on the east (left) side just past Lasalle Line across from the Shell dock. Froome and Field Talfourd arrived in Lambton in 1834. Their first names were combined to name this settlement where they built a mill on the Talfourd Creek which flows into the St Clair. Exit and head east on Lasalle Line to Tashmoo Avenue, then north (left).
The first school and the first church (Wesleyan Methodist) were opened in this area by the Chippewas of Sarnia in 1832. You will pass the St Clair United Church and the Chippewa Band Council Building (W30) on your right. Turn east (right) at Highway 40 and head back to Plank Road. Turn south-east (right) and you will return to Lucasville and finish 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.