By BOB McCARTHY
An Ontario Historical Plaque in Mackenzie Park along the St. Clair River reads:
THE FOUNDING OF SARNIA
The French-speaking families of Ignace Cazelet, Jean-Baptiste Paré and Joseph LaForge arrived here 1807-1810. Other settlers, many of Scottish descent, came in 1832-1834 following the 1829 survey of Sarnia Township. A community called "The Rapids", renamed Port Sarnia in 1836, soon developed and among its prominent early residents were Richard Vidal, George Durand and the Hon. Malcolm Cameron. Called Sarnia after 1856, the village flourished, stimulated by regional lumbering activity, nearby oil discoveries and the arrival of the Great Western and Grand Trunk Railways in 1858 and 1859, respectively. Later, Sarnia became a significant trans-shipment port for western grain. Incorporated as a town in 1856 and as a city in 1914, Sarnia is one of Canada's important petro-chemical centres.
Under its various names of les rapides, the Rapids, Port Sarnia and Sarnia, this community has been settled for a bit more than two centuries by individuals and families from countries from all parts of the world. As indicated above, the first European settlers were French whose families settled here along the St. Clair as a result of the conflict between the British and Americans leading up to the War of 1812. Descendents of one of the three original French families to settle along the east bank of the St. Clair River still live in the Sarnia area.
Born in Germany, the Cazelets immigrated to Quebec and eventually made their way west to the des troites area (Detroit) and then north to this land situated at the south shore of Lake Huron.
The Cazelets were not too long in this area before the name became Causley, probably as a result of an English interpretation of a name pronounced in French as Cause-lay.
Of the three original French families, the Causley name has survived the longest in Sarnia, with descendants still living here two centuries after the arrival of Ignace Cazelet
A few years ago, I wrote a book of stories about Sarnia-Lambton told as historical fiction and titled “Strands of Time”. The second book in this series, with a new group of stories, is titled “Poppa Caz Remembers”.
“Poppa Caz Remembers” is a blend of fact, local lore, conjecture and imagination, relating the lives and experiences of both real and imagined people who came to this area during the 1800’s to find a better home for their families.
The stories in this book, all told in 1914 soon after Sarnia became a city on May seventh of that year, are presented as historical fiction, each one seen through the eyes of Pierre Causley as he relates tales to his great-great-granddaughter, Johanna Thompson, stories based on entries in his journals.
Even though Poppa Caz is a product of my imagination, he and all of the characters in this follow-up to “Strands of Time” are based on real people and on real events from days of the past in Sarnia-Lambton.
Just as in “Voices of Sarnia-Lambton”, the stories in this new book represent one version of how events from this area’s past might have unfolded.
One of the stories is about a visit to Port Sarnia in 1860 by the then Prince of Wales. While here, the prince met with a delegation of Indian chiefs from all of the western parts of what was still at that time known as Upper Canada. Following is a short excerpt from this story.
The Visit of the Prince of Wales – 1860 – Excerpt from “Poppa Caz Remembers”
“First was a chief from Lake Superior, someone I had never met before but had earlier been told was more than 100 years old. As he approached, I saw what was still a fine looking old man, even though he needed assistance and moved very slowly. His was one of the reddest and noblest faces I had ever seen, made even redder by the sight of his eyes. He was obviously blind, only the whites of his eyes showing.
“Guided by the arm by a young native boy, the chief stopped a few paces from us and waited as the boy opened a stool and helped the old man to sit.
“Then, before the prince or I had a chance to speak, this noble man seated before us raised his hands and his head and began to chant, surprising me as he sang out in such a pleasant voice in English.”
‘Beautiful is the sun, o strangers,
when you come so far to see us
all our chiefs in peace await you
all our lodges stand open for you.
You shall enter all our wigwams
for the heart's right hand we give you.’
“As the Indian chief finished and lowered his hands, the Prince of Wales stepped forward. The young native boy produced another stool and motioned to the prince to sit opposite the old chief.
“To my great surprise and probably to the surprise of everyone there, the prince did sit and within a few minutes the two were chatting away comfortably. A sight to see, this fine old man, dressed in his clothes made of animal skins and this royal born young man of just 18 years in his fancy European uniform with gold buttons and white braiding on his sleeves, the only common coloring being the deep red of the old man’s face and the young man’s tunic.
“I did not hear it all but was close enough to hear much of what they talked about. First the chief told the Prince of Wales that he was known as Coming Thunder among his people. When the Prince of Wales asked how old he was, Coming Thunder replied that he did not know since they do not keep registers in their wigwams.
“When the prince asked about the large silver medal around his neck, the chief told him that it had been given to his great grandfather in the great mother’s country across the great sea by King George the third himself. Looking back, the prince called to the duke who brought forward a box on a red silk pillow and stood quietly just to the rear of the prince. Then the prince stood.
“Coming Thunder’s eyesight had failed, but his other senses must still have been very keen since he stood almost simultaneously with the prince.
“The Prince of Wales spoke to Coming Thunder in a voice loud enough for all to hear.”
‘Oh noble Chief Coming Thunder, just as King George III once gave a medal to your grand-father, his grand-daughter, your great mother from across the sea, my mother the Queen Victoria, monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, has asked me to present to you a special medal cast to recognize the bond that exists between your great mother from across the great sea and each of the chiefs of the noble red men here in Canada.’
“The old chief stood tall as the Prince of Wales placed the strap of the medal around his neck. Then the boy behind him handed something forward to Coming Thunder.”
‘My Prince, just as you have presented me with this symbol of esteem from your royal mother the good Queen Victoria, I would like to give to you to take home to your royal mother this club which was many snows ago used against our enemies but is now presented to you for your royal mother as a club of peace, friendship and esteem Please accept this gift to our great mother from across the great sea.’
“Then, as you all observed, Chief Coming Thunder sat back down, crossed his arms and watched as each of the other chiefs came forward to be made known to the Prince of Wales and receive their own medal from Queen Victoria. Since many of them were unable to speak English, I translated on their behalf each of their personal messages to the Royal Prince.
“After all of the medals had been presented, we accompanied the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Newcastle into a longhouse that had been set up alongside the town hall. There we all talked for more than an hour before the prince had to leave. And before you ask, all that we talked about is privileged information and not to be spoken of outside of the group present earlier today in that longhouse.”
HISTORICAL NOTES from the author:
Comments about “Poppa Caz Remembers” include the following:
Mike Bradley, Mayor of Sarnia - In ‘Poppa Caz Remembers – More Strands of Time’, Bob McCarthy once again brings his writing magic to the incredible history of Sarnia-Lambton.
‘Poppa Caz Remembers’ is a memorable tale that weaves fact and fiction together, with the stories all told in 1914, the year that Sarnia became a city.
In 2014, Sarnians will celebrate our Centennial, and ‘Poppa Caz Remembers’ is a must read to understanding our rich history and past.
Laurie Webb, Supervisor/Curator, Lambton County Museums – Bob McCarthy has done it again – creating skillfully crafted stories based on historical fact in his own unique brand of historical fiction. By using real historical personalities, and creating fictional accounts of their lives, McCarthy blends Sarnia's historical past with images of what may have taken place.
History can be relayed in many different forms, such as museum exhibits, research papers, documentaries, news stories, websites, and historical fiction. Often, the stories found in historical fiction are what most people can relate to. Stories such as these are key to engaging the community in its own history.
Through these stories McCarthy generates interest in our collective history, and perhaps inspires others to embark on their own journey of discovery about where Sarnia has come from or what role their own ancestors may have played in its development. Available resources in Lambton such as local libraries, local museums and the municipally managed archives known as the Lambton Room, can help readers learn more about these personalities, along with dozens of others who have shaped Lambton's past.
As you read these stories, remember they are just a sampling of the interesting citizens who have contributed to Sarnia's story. Perhaps you know of others that have stories yet to be told; use this book as inspiration to write your own stories and memories of Sarnia.
I hope you enjoy this journey back in time!
Jean Elford, historian and author of ‘Canada West’s Last Frontier’ – A novel way of presenting history that creates interest.
If you or a family member enjoys reading these stories, “Poppa Caz Remembers” would be a wonderful Christmas present. Autographed copies of this book are available at a cost of $24.00 from The Book Keeper at Northgate Plaza or direct from the author by calling (519) 542-1581.
As well, electronic copies of each of these books in PDF format (readable on laptops/e-readers) are available from the author.