Historical Plaques of
Lambton County

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The next 6 plaques were sent in by Elaine (Vance) Brown


Location: In Thedford Park, Main & King St., Thedford

In 1858, during the construction of the Grand Trunk Railway through this region, Nelson Southworth purchased land here on the line, donated a site for a station and laid out a village plot named Thedford. The hamlet which developed, however, took the name of the depot, Widder Station, which opened to serve the nearby village of Widder. During the 1860's Widder Station grew steadily as a shipping point for square timber, lumber, grain and cattle, and by 1869 the community consisted of 350 inhabitants. The addition of several industries, including a steam-saw and gristmill and a planing mill, fostered the village's growth and it was incorporated as the Village of Thedford by a county by-law of 1877.

Erected by the Ontario Heritage Foundation,
Ministry of Culture and Receation


Location: At the Fire Hall, Victoria & North St., Arkona

By 1836 the earliest settlers on the site of Arkona, notably Henry Utter, Nial Eastman, and John Smith, had located in the vicinity. Within three years Utter, the first to arrive, had constructed a grist-mill around which a small community, the Eastman Settlement, gradually developed. About 1851 a post office was opened, a village plot laid out and the village became known as "Smithfield". Situated at an important road junction and serving a fertile region, the settlement grew rapidly during the 1850's. By 1860 the village, now called Arkona, reportedly after a lighthouse point in Germany, contained a foundry, tannery, and woollen factory among its many industries. Arkona, with over 700 inhabitants, became an incorporated Village by a County By-law of June 10, 1876.

Erected by the Ontario Heritage Foundation,
Ministry of Culture and Receation


Location: St. Andrew St., Sarnia

The first international submarine railway tunnel in North America was built here, 1889-9, by the Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada. It connects Sarnia with Port Huron, Michigan. To compete with U.S. railways for the lucrative Chicago and mid-western freight and passenger traffic, the Grand Trunk required uninterrupted access to these areas. A ferry service across the St. Clair was considered unsatisfactory and a bridge impracticable. The tunnel and its approaches, over two miles long and including 6026 feet of iron tube, were built under the direction of Joseph Hobson. Electrification of the line through the tunnel was completed in 1908 and remained until the introduction of diesel trains.

Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Ontario


Location: Shell Canada Terminal, Co. Rd. 33. Froomefield, Sarnia
(The number on the marker is Stone # 48)

The nearby concrete marker, erected in 1911, is one of a series used by surveyors to determine the exact boundary between Canada and the United States. The St. Clair River was originally designated as a boundary line by treaty in 1783. The first detailed survey from St. Regis on the St. Lawrence to Lake of the Woods was carried out under the terms of the Treaty of Ghent, 1814. It was directed by a British Commissioner, John Ogilvy, his successor, Anthony Barclay, and an American commissioner, General Peter B. Porter. A more precise delineation of the whole international boundary was ratified at Washington on January 11, 1909.

Erected by the Ontario Archaeological and Historic Sites Board


Location: Froomefield Pioneer Cemetery, Co. Rd. 33 & Church St., Sarnia

Froome (1807-1902) and Field (1815-74) Talfourd emigrated from England in 1832 and in the following year took up adjoining lots here in Moore Township. Froome had previously served in H.M.S. Ariadne under Captain Frederick Marryat, the author Field soon moved to the United States, then back to England, where he became an accomplished portraitist. Froome purchased his brother’s lot and laid out the townplot of "Froomfield" on the combined property in 1836. He later became a magistrate, commissioner of the court of requests, and a lieutenant-colonel in the Kent militia. As "visiting superintendent" to the local Indian reserves, Froome lived in Sarnia from 1855 to 1868 when he returned to England.

Archaeological and Historical Sites Board of Ontario


Location: In front of Forest Public Library
at west end of King Street

In 1858 Timothy Ressegui laid out the first village lots and the opening of a railway station here in 1859 on the recently completed Grand Trunk line from Guelph to Sarnia provided the nucleus around which this community grew. A general store was opened and it was followed by other commercial enterprises. An Anglican church was established in 1861 and the following year a post office was opened. Grist-mills and sawmills were constructed and the community flourished as a trans-shipment centre. With a population of over 750, Forest, in 1872 was incorporated as a village in accordance with a Lambton County by-law and in 1889 it became a town.

Erected by the Archaeological and Historic Sites Board,
Archives of Ontario

The next 4 plaques were sent in by Elaine (Vance) Brown


Location: Along River Road in Grand Bend about 1/2 block from Lake Huron

Grand Bend derived its name from a hairpin turn in the Ausable (Aux Sables) River a short distance inland from Lake Huron where sand dunes blocked the river's outlet to the lake. Frequent flooding hampered farming in the region; never-the-less, a small milling community developed at the "Grand Bend" in the 1830's. In response to a local petition, the township cut a new riverbed directly to the lake along an old portage route in 1892. This improved drainage in surrounding farmland and provided access to the Lake Huron fishery. In subsequent years, the sand dunes attracted summer vacationers to Grand Bend and made the village a popular summer resort.

Ontario Heritage Foundation,
Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation


Location: South of Petrolia on Hwy 21

Born on a nearby farm, Johnston became a co-founder and in 1915, the first president of the world's first Kiwanis Club. He spent his childhood in this area, and in 1892 emigrated to Detroit, Michigan. Employed in the insurance business, he gained prominence in that field, and assisted in forming a club of local businessmen which became the first Kiwanis Club. Johnston served as an international trustee 1916-18 and governor of Michigan Kiwanis in 1923. During his lifetime he saw the Kiwanis grow into an international organization, among whose objectives are "promoting the adoption and applicaton of higher, social, business and professional standards", and the development of "intelligent, aggressive and serviceable citizenship".

Araeological and Historic Board of Ontario


Location: Alexander MacKenzie Park, Front St., Sarnia

The French-speaking families of Ignace Cazelet, Jean-Baptiste Pare 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 Honorable 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.

Erected by the Ontario Heritage Foundation,
Ministry of Citizenship & Culture


Location: Alexander MacKenzie Park, on the banks of the
St. Clair River, Sarnia

The second prime minister of Canada came to this country from Scotland in 1842. He was a contractor first at Kingston and later at Sarnia, and constructed a number of public buildings. In 1861 he was elected to represent Lambton in the Legislative Assembly of Canada, and in 1867 for the same constituency in the first House of Commons. As Prime Minister from 1873 to 1878 he dedicated himself to consolidating the newly-formed dominion.

Born in Perthshire, 1822
Died in Toronto, 1892
Buried in Lakeview Cemetery, Sarnia

Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada
Commission des lieux et monuments historiques du Canada

The next 5 plaques were sent in by Dorothy Dahm


Location: South of Highway 22 on Warwick Village Road

Joseph Little came to Warwick Township from Ireland in 1833 to manage the estate of a large landowner. The poverty of many pioneers so shocked him that indifferent to his own comfort, he gradually gave away his savings, wages, clothing, even his employers’ profits, to those in need. A fervent adherent of Wesleyan Methodism, Little had a natural ability in leading song and prayer. As an itinerant lay preacher, he helped establish many Methodist congregations, in Lambton County and, after 1871, in backwoods communities in eastern Ontario. When friends of "Uncle Joe" heard of his death on Anticosti Island, they collected money to have him returned to Warwick for burial. His grave is in the cemetery just south of here.

Ontario Heritage Foundation,
Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation


Location: Townhall, 411 Greenfield St., Petrolia

Following the discovery of oil at Oil Springs in 1857 prospectors extended their search to the entire township of Enniskillen. At the site of Petrolia, which contained two small settlements with post offices named Durance and Ennis, a well was brought into production in 1860. The following year a small refinery was opened and the Durance post office renamed "Petrolea". At first, eclipsed by Oil Springs, the community developed slowly. But in 1865-66 a series of discoveries culminating in the drilling of the King well established Petrolia as the major oil producing centre in Canada and its population soared from about 300 to some 2,300. Incorporated as the village of Petrolia in 1866, it became a town in January 1, 1874.

Erected by the Archaeological and Historic Sites Board,
Ministry of Colleges and Universities


Location: Michigan Ave. at the Bluewater Bridge, Point Edward

First ship to sail Lakes, Erie, Huron and Michigan, the "Griffon"’, probably 40-45 feet long, was built by Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, several miles above Niagara Falls in 1679. La Salle came to New France in 1667, became seigneur of Cataracoui (Kingston), engaged in the fur trade and sought a western route to China. In August, 1679, the "Griffon" sailed from the Niagara River with La Salle and a company of about thirty-three. In this vicinity the crew had to haul the ship up the swift current of the St. Clair River. La Salle remained in the West while the "Griffon:", laden with furs, vanished enroute from Green Bay to Niagara.

Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Ontario


Location: Municipal Office, 36 St. Clair St., Point Edward

In 1838 John Slocum, a native of New York, established a commercial fishery on the site of a former military reserve here where the St. Clair River flows out of Lake Huron. The area remained sparsely populated until 1859 when it became the crossing point into the U.S. for the Grand Trunk Railway. Rapid development followed and in 1864 a town plan was laid out for the community called Point Edward, reportedly after Queen Victoria’s father, Edward, Duke of Kent. In 1870 a steamship service was inaugurated to transport immigrants and supplies to western Canada and by 1873 the town contained stores, hotels, sawmills and large immigration sheds. Five years later it was incorporated as a Village with a population of more than one thousand.

Erected by the Ontario Heritage Foundation,
Ministry of Culture and Recreation


Location: 316 Christina St. N., Sarnia

Constructed about 1861, this house is a fine example of a blend of several Revival styles termed Ontario Classic Architecture, popular throughout the province during the second half of the nineteenth century. It was built for John Mackenzie, a prominent local merchant and member of the Scottish immigrant family that had settled in Port Sarnia in 1847. By the 1860's he and his six brothers had become firmly established with extensive business interests throughout the region. Hope and Alexander, the two most politically active brothers, developed Lambton County into a Reform stronghold and exercised political leadership over much of southwestern Ontario. They were elected to Parliament, and Alexander Mackenzie served as Canada’s second Prime Minister from 1873 to 1878.

Erected by the Ontario Heritage Foundation,
Ministry of Culture and Recreation


Location: at the Old Sutherland Cemetery, Mooretown

1842 - 1881
The first Anglican church in Lambton was built on this site 1841-42 and, for many years, its bright tin steeple served as a guide to mariners on the St. Clair River. The land was donated by Thomas Sutherland who had founded the community of Sutherland's Landing (now Mooretown) in 1833. The first rector was the Reverend Alexander Pyne, and it was consecrated by Bishop John Strachan in 1845. In 1863 a new church was built and the original Trinity demolished in 1881.

Erected by the Archaeological and Historic Sites Board

The next plaque was sent in by Ken Taylor


Location: In Brights Grove, Lambton County (behind the Bright Grove Public School

In 1829 Henry Jones of Devon, England, a retired purser in the Royal Navy, brought a group of more than 50 emigrants from the United Kingdom to this area where he established a settlement on a 1,000 acre tract of land on Lake Huron. An early supporter and dedicated follower of Robert Owen, the well-known British social reformer, Jones names the settlement "Maxwell" and organized the community on the basis of common ownership and collective living. The settlers built a large log house with the community kitchen, and dining room but separate rooms for each family. A school and storehouse were added. Within a few years, however, disappointing harvests and the burning of the log house led the colonists gradually to abandon the enterprise.

Erected by the Ontario Heritage Foundation
Ministry of Culture and Recreation


Location: In some bushes on the west side of the building on the NE corner of
Christina Street South and Clifford Street, Sarnia

Stimulated by the discovery of significant oil deposits in Enniskillen Township, Ontario's first commercial refineries were erected in 1857-62 at Sarnia, Oil Springs, "Petrolea" and Hamilton. The industry, developed to produce coal-oil and lubricants, was plagued by explosive fires, market fluctuations and problems of refining. In 1880, to counter growing American competition, several companies joined to form Imperial Oil. In 1898, however, seeking expansion capital, it sold a majority interest to Standard Oil, an American refining company. The following year, Imperial brought its operations here to the lakeside. Although other cities had refineries in operation by 1907, Sarnia's access to the higher grade of Ohio oil, the new demand for gasoline and from 1942, the location here of major petro-chemical industries established Sarnia as Ontario's principal refining centre.

Erected by the Ontario Heritage Foundation
Ministry of Culture and Recreation


Location: In McGibbon Park on College St North south of George Street, Sarnia

The first woman to hold a vice-regal office in Canada, Pauline Emily Mills, was born in Sarnia, Ontario in 1910. After local schooling and a degree at Victoria College, University of Toronto, she married Donald Walker McGibbon in 1935. A life-long volunteer and supporter of the arts, Mrs. McGibbon became president of the Dominion Drama Festival in 1948 and national president of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire in 1963. She was the first woman to lead such organizations as the Canadian Conference of the Arts (1972) and the National Arts Centre (1980). In 1974 McGibbon was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Ontario (1974-1980) where she focused on culture and the arts. She was honoured as a Companion of the Order of Canada (1980) and a member of the Order of Ontario (1988). Once described as "Ontario's Eve" for all her "first woman" achievements, the Honourable Pauline McGibbon dedicated her life to the betterment of her community, province and nation.

Ontario Heritage Trust, an agency of the Government of Ontario


Location: At the Oil Museum of Canada on the NW corner of Gum Bed Line and Kelly Rd. 2 km
from the intersection of Oil Springs Line and Oil Heritage Rd. (Road 21) in Oil Springs

The presence of oil in this locality was observed by early travellers and by the pioneer farmers who used it for medical purposes. In 1858, near Oil Springs, James M. Williams dug the first oil well in Canada and later established a refinery at Hamilton. In 1861, John Shaw, by drilling into the rock, opened the first flowing well, its situation being Lot 18, Concession 2, Enniskillen Township. From these beginnings developed one of Canada's most important industries.

Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada
Commission des lieux et monuments historiques du Canada


Location: On the north side of St. Andrew Street between
Christina St. South and Vidal St. South, Sarnia

This was the first subaqueous tunnel in North America and one of the great engineering feats of the 19th century. Built in 1889-1891 to link the Canadian mainline of the Grand Trunk Railway with Chicago, the tunnel is 1,837 metres long with a 6-metre bore. Joseph Hobson, a Canadian engineer, designed and supervised its construction. His innovative combination of cutting shield excavation, cast iron tunnel lining, and compressed air broke the transportation bottleneck caused here and elsewhere by the impossibility of tunnelling through soft riverbeds.

Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada
Commission des lieux et monuments historiques du Canada


Location: Part of a small display beside the Victoria Hall on the west side
of Greenfield St. just south of Petrolia Line (Road 4), Petrolia

When Victoria Hall was built in 1889, Petrolia, in the midst of an oil boom, was one of the wealthiest towns in Canada. The opulent town hall reflects this stage in the town's growth. While its first floor housed municipal offices, court room, fire department and armoury, the entire second floor was an opera house capable of seating 1,000 people. The design, by London (Ontario) architect George Durand, uses a diverse combination of forms and a variety of decorative motifs to heighten visual interest and recall various stylistic periods.

Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada
Commission des lieux et monuments historiques du Canada