– George Mathewson
Where is Perch Creek?
If you’re an older Sarnian you will probably say Perch Creek is the body of water that enters Lake Huron at Bright’s Grove, near St. John in the Wilderness Church.
That’s what the road signs once called it. Old maps too.
But city hall now calls that creek Cow Creek.
What’s more, a few kilometres to the west is another creek that has long been called The Cull Drain. The Cull Drain Bridge — much in the news lately — spans the mouth of that creek.
Yet for some reason the highway sign on Lakeshore Road identifies the Cull Drain as Perch Creek.
So what’s up with that?
We put the question to Kevin Edwards, Sarnia’s planning department manager. He laughed, then sighed, then said, “It’s complicated.”
A sizable area of north Sarnia, Edwards explained, was once covered by Lake Wawanosh and the Blackwell Marsh. It had a single drainage outlet called Riviere Aux Perches – Perch Creek in English – that flowed northeast to Bright’s Grove, where it connected to Cow Creek.
To drain the Wawanosh basin and convert it into the rich farmland it is today a man-made canal was dug, starting in 1859, called the Cull Drain.
The result was a watershed with two drainage outlets.
“They split it in two, but the history of the names has been carried forward, and that’s what we’re struggling with,” Edward said.
Cull Drain, Perch Creek, Wawanosh Drain — the system has had interchangeable names altered by additional ditches and drains. Today, the only part of Perch Creek that’s still a natural watercourse is south of London Line.
So if Cull Drain is now Perch Creek and Perch Creek is now Cow Creek, when did the names change, and why?
Even that’s not clear, Edwards said.
“There is a history of (Cow Creek) north of Lakeshore being referred to as Perch Creek. So we almost have two Perch Creeks in the city.”
Dear reader, if you’ve actually made it this far, take heart. A fix may be on the way.
Sarnia’s Heritage Committee is currently going through historical records to sort out the mess and come up with standardized names, Edward said.
“We’re spending a lot of time going through all the old drainage reports to see if council changed the name, or the province did it under the drainage act,” he said.
“It is our plan to work through this.”