The sketch caught my attention for several reasons.
Appearing in the June 25, 1975 edition of the Sarnia Gazette, it depicts a striking two-storey brick home identified as “The Douglas House.” It stands just blocks away on London Road from the house in which I grew up.
But I knew 213 London Road as “The Potter House.” This is the home of Greg and Emily Potter and their three beautiful little girls – Annie, Juliet and Phoebe. Emily is a fellow director of the Sarnia Historical Society and her home is the location of our monthly board meetings.
I also knew the guy who did the sketch. Local businessman Jim Vergunst, a talented artist and ice sculptor, had drawn a series of historic homes in his teens, and Marceil Saddy, a former mayor and editor of the Gazette, had purchased them all to hang in his office.
Saddy printed one of them in the Gazette that day in 1975.
In 1870, when the house was being built for $2,000, a 20-year-old Irish immigrant from Kilkenny was studying for the Anglican priesthood. Ordained in 1874, and armed with a B.A. and M.A. from Toronto, Rev. Thomas R. Davis took up pastoral duties in Aylmer and then Brantford.
In 1882, he was transferred to Sarnia. And here, the man who would become “Canon Davis,” intersected with a piece of Sarnia history.
Richard Emeric Vidal was one of the founders of Sarnia. In 1848, he hired Alexander Mackenzie, later Canada’s second prime minister, to build a red brick church. The new Anglican church, called St. Paul’s, seated 100 parishioners and was located on the north side of London Road, east of the present Our Lady of Mercy church.
In 1882, as Rev. Davis arrived in Sarnia, he moved into 213 London Rd., which became the rectory for a new church being built at Vidal and Charlotte streets. The new church became St. George’s, and Canon Davis, its pastor, lived in the rectory until 1922.
The Rev. Canon Davis served as chaplain of the Lambton 27th Battalion, was president of the Sarnia Board of Education, and Rural Dean for Lambton County. He died in 1925 in Vancouver.
Today, his memory is kept alive by parishioners of Canon Davis Anglican church.
While Canon Davis lived at 213 London Rd. he fathered three daughters. Today, the music of their voices and laughter is mirrored by that of Annie, Juliet and Phoebe Potter as they run through the hallways of the historic old house.