By BOB McCARTHY
The area now known as Lambton County was at first a part of the District of Hesse and later a part of the County of Kent. In 1849, Lambton County became an entity of its own, its name recognizing the Earl of Durham whose birthplace was Lambton Castle in England
Beginning of Lambton County
“Grandpa, thanks for telling me yesterday about all those villages that disappeared. Now, how did Lambton get its name?”
“Okay. I wrote it all down while you were at school. Listen as I read my notes.
“Seems almost all of south-western Ontario as we know it now was once called the District of Hesse and it included all of the land north of Lake Erie and west of Long Point. Then in 1792, the lieutenant-governor, Colonel John Graves Simcoe, divided the province into counties and what is now Lambton fell into a much larger Kent County, defined at the time as ‘all the country, not being territories of Indians, extending northward to the boundary line of Hudson Bay, including all the territory westward to the utmost extent of the country commonly called or known by the name of Canada.’
“It was not until May 30, 1849, that the County of Lambton was declared, to include the townships of Brooke, Dawn, Bosanquet, Ennishillen, Euphemia, Moore, Plympton, Sarnia, Sombra and Warwick.”
“But where did the name come from, grandpa?”
“I’m getting there. Just a moment.
“John George Lambton, Lord Durham, the man our county was named for, was born April 12, 1792, in London, England. He was born to a Lord’s family, whose family fortune came from mining on lands surrounding Lambton Castle, their ancestral family home in County Durham in England.
“He was made a Viscount and an Earl and served as an ambassador to Russia. So I guess when they needed somebody to come over to Canada in 1837 to determine just what had led to the 1837 Rebellion, he was the one chosen.
“After travelling across Upper and Lower Canada and the Maritimes for several months, he wrote what he called a Report on the Affairs of British North America (1839) recommending a modified form of responsible government and a legislative union of Upper Canada, Lower Canada and the Maritime Provinces.
“This report, the Durham Report as we know it now, led to Canada having its own government. By 1848 Canada was running itself as a democracy. But one thing Lord Durham did recommend that did not happen was his idea of merging Upper and Lower Canada into one colony. He probably hoped that this would lead to the end of the French language and culture through intermingling with the English population.
“I even found a few direct quotes from him.”
Durham on Responsible Government:
"I know not how it is possible to secure harmony in any other way than by administering the Government on those principles which have been found perfectly efficacious in Great Britain. I would not impair a single prerogative of the Crown; on the contrary I believe that the interests of the people of these provinces require the protection of prerogatives which have not hitherto been exercised. But the Crown must, on the other hand, submit to the necessary consequences of representative institutions; and if it has to carry on the government in unison with a representative body, it must consent to carry it on by means of those in whom that representative body has confidence".
Durham on the "racial" problem in Lower Canada:
"Nor do I exaggerate the inevitable constancy any more than the intensity of this animosity. Never again will the present generation of French Canadians yield a loyal submission to a British Government; never again will the English population tolerate the authority of a House of Assembly in which the French shall possess, or even approximate to, a majority".
“Thanks, grandpa. I can always count on you giving me more information than I really want.”
HISTORICAL NOTES from the author:
Following is from a local web site at http://www.lambtoncounty.com/
Lambton County was named after one of the Englishmen who did more to bring about Confederation in the then widely separate and extremely vulnerable colonies that made up what is now Canada. A commoner who wished to liberalize the Government of Britain to such an extent that House of Lords might be governable, he urged the creation of new peers to liberalize the make up of that extremely hard-shell body. And as a result John George Lambton, Esqure, become the first Earl of Durham. And he became such a radical peer as ore a few of the Laborites who were raised to the Chamber to give the present Government of Britain a voice in that House.
He come out to Canada to study the conditions that led to the Rebellion of 1837. Arriving in Quebec early in 1838, his first act was to amnesty the bulk of the rebels held in custody, and then to rid himself of the Two Governor's Councils in Quebec and Ontario – then Lower and Upper Canada, and to appoint men more in sympathy with the aims of the people of Canada. In the two years, 1838-1839, he made a whirlwind study of conditions and to learn the conditions he visited the country being back in stage-coach and sailing days – to find out for himself. The result of this was the famous Durham Report that led to Union of Upper and Lower Canada and was the transitionary stage between the status of a colony and that of the present Dominion. It liberalized British Colonial Policy to such an extent that he was accused radicalism. But his acts are the reason why a possible rebellion did not sever those ties that have made Britain and Canada the good friends they are today.
When Earl Durham visited this area, it was part of the Western District of Upper Canada, and had not yet become part of Kent County, which was set up later. At that time the centre was not Sarnia, which then bore an Indian name, and was to become known first as Port Sarnia before being shortened to the present name. The centre of that was Point Edward, then, as now, a thriving little town, and port.
Not particularly popular with the former Council members and their following, Durham was, however, wildly popular with the common people. So his visit was occasion of a hilarious cerebration. In his honour an arch was set across the street, down which he must travel to the welcoming platform. The arch took the form of a small platform extending from one ton of hay on the left to one ton of hay on the right and on the platform was a lamb. Thus the Earl's family name was symbolized Lambton. From the other platform, Durham was welcomed to the town. To honour the occasion, he gave the name of Lambton to the district. It was some years before the county was set up, and now separate from Kent was called Lambton. Another county vies with Lambton in honouring this man, and that is Durham, in Eastern Ontario.
And until shortly before the end of the last century, the stationery of the county bore a picture of the symbolic scene, the platform set on the two tons of hay, the lamb and the cheering throng.