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HISTORY: Another compendium of curious stuff from Sarnia’s past

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Randy Evans

When looking through old editions of the Sarnia Observer a researcher often comes across odd and interesting glimpses of life from our city’s past. Here are a few:


In the early 1900s a woman named Nancy Laurence upped and ran off with a man named George Day.

Husband William Laurence was not amused. He brought charges of elopement against the pair and eventually they were apprehended while enjoying a liaison in Forest.

Both were sentenced to jail terms for the dalliance.

As a postscript, the Laurences apparently reconciled and in 1909 were living together on Mitton Street.

Unfortunately, the reunited couple was charged with running a “disorderly house,” which under the law of the time applied to a house at which questionable people gathered to outrage public decency, corrupt morals or commit crimes.

William got three months; Nancy six months.

The names of those found in the home did not include that of George Day.


After just 10 months of marriage, John McConnell was displeased by how the nuptials were going with his young bride Emma.

He brought criminal charges against her, alleging that she frequented saloons and houses of ill repute and kept company with persons of bad character.

When Emma was taken to jail to await trial, it was her mother’s turn to be upset. So motivated was Jana Dobson that she brought perjury charges against her son-in-law, claiming he falsified Emma’s age as 18 on the marriage licence, when in fact she was 17.

So he too was hauled off to jail.

John McConnell was convicted of the offence and received a time-served suspended sentence. Emma McConnell was also convicted, sentenced to time served, and placed on a bond to stay away from the disreputable associations she had made.

Whether the newlyweds were afforded conjugal visits during their joint time behind bars, the Observer makes no mention.


Sarnians are well known for their generosity. Apparently they were just as giving in 1906.

The Observer tells of a man named John Hood, a “one legged beggar” from Port Huron who, while visiting this side of the border, spend a day on the street asking for donations.

In a single afternoon he collected the princely sum of $5, the equivalent with inflation factored in to about $154 today.

It was later reported that Hood had recently been released from jail and intended to use the money to bail out a fellow inmate.

Randy Evans is a Sarnia resident and regular contributor to The Journal

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