COLUMN: Samuel Hitchcock was patriarch of influential local family

Sam Hitchcock was the proprietor of Sarnia’s first hotel, the Double N-I, later known as the Exchange Hotel. Courtesy of the Lambton County Archives, Wyoming. Sarnia Observer Negative Collection, 6O Hotels, Restaurants and Inns.

Everyone in Port Sarnia knew Samuel Luke Hitchcock.

Born in Buffalo on June 13, 1813, he was the scion of a family that reportedly traced its ancestry back to the Pilgrims’ arrival in New England in 1620.

Sam Hitchcock came to Canada in 1830 and landed in Middlesex County with the intent of founding a brewery.

But he changed his mind and gravitated to a dot on the map known only as The Rapids. It was 1833 – the year George Durand and some of the earliest European settlers arrived and began building homes. Hitchcock settled on a farm located on what is now London Road.

He was the proprietor of Sarnia’s first hotel– the curiously named Double N-I. The two-storey log structure was located on the site of today’s Belchamber Apartments on Front Street.

When the hamlet’s first fire brigade was formed in 1840, Hitchcock volunteered and ultimately became a Lieutenant. Later, as a town councillor, he voted to sell a piece of land he owned on George Street to the town, which became the site of the George Street Firehall, the central firehall for more than a century.

His participation in the council vote to purchase his own land did become a minor political scandal, but was ultimately overlooked due to Hitchcock’s immense popularity.

He seemed to have boundless energy and his interests were varied and industrious. He operated one of the first commercial ferries between Sarnia and Port Huron and founded a fishery in Huron, as Point Edward was then known.

For an annual fee his company, Hitchcock and Steed, was able to purchase from the Legislature the exclusive fishing rights for the stretch of the St. Clair River knows as The Narrows.

He became the village’s police constable; also the Court Crier, calling trials to order.

He fathered 12 children; ten sons and two daughters. At some point in the 1840s he moved his family from Sarnia to Point Edward, building a home on the waterfront just south of the old waterworks plant. In time, the Hitchcock name became synonymous with Point Edward.

For the next 100 years his son, Marcus Aurelius Hitchcock, and grandson, Samuel J. Hitchcock, were a major influence on life in Sarnia and Point Edward, as future stories will tell.

Sam Hitchcock died in 1871at the age of 58. Though still reasonably young by today’s standards he had already accomplished much for the nascent community.