When someone was needed to drive the English prince from Sarnia to the village of Huron, the task fell to one of the community’s best-known citizens.
Marcus Aurelius Hitchcock was just 20-years-old when he chauffeured the carriage of Prince Edward Albert to the village that was soon to be renamed Point Edward in the prince’s honour. It was September of 1860 and the 18-year-old son of Queen Victoria was touring parts of Canada and the United States.
Hitchcock was born in 1840 in the National Hotel, the wood frame structure on Front Street that would become the first Belchamber Hotel. He was one of the 12 children of Samuel Hitchcock, who had recently moved the family from Sarnia to Point Edward to better tend his fishing business in the St. Clair River.
Known as ‘Mark’ for short, Hitchcock grew up in Point Edward and, eventually, took over the fishery founded by his father. He had 30 men working for him, hauling in pickerel and sturgeon in the spring and herring each fall.
He once described how tons of sturgeon, now endangered but then dismissed as a “useless fish,” were buried, left to rot on shore or sold as fertilizer for 10 cents a load.
Marcus Aurelius Hitchcock also became a notable Great Lakes sailor. He was a member of the crew of the schooner Hercules under Captain John Glass, and served for a time on the crews of the schooners Benedict and Wales.
During his time as a fisherman and sailor he managed to save 15 people from drowning. He was awarded — and treasured — a life-saving medal for that feat.
In 1866 when the Fenian Raids threatened the region, Marcus Aurelius was quick to sign up with one of the local battalions. During his life of 90 years he lived through the Indian Mutiny, the Crimean War, the Boer War and the First World War.
Hitchcock was also considered an “artist” on the ice – one of the finest skaters in Western Ontario. He taught skating to the boys of Point Edward on nearby Sarnia Bay. In later life, sporting white chin whiskers and resembling “Uncle Sam,” he performed figure skating displays during halftime of hockey games at St. Andrew’s Rink on Christina Street.
He built a house at the corner of Alexander and St. Clair streets, and raised a son who would build one of Sarnia’s first automobiles.
Marcus Aurelius Hitchcock died in 1930, renowned as one of the area’s great storytellers and raconteurs – a local historian and a colourful character who wouldn’t soon be forgotten.