The following is a collection of ‘curiosities’ from the book The Streets of Sarnia, a volunteer project by local researchers Tom St. Amand and Randy Evans, providing explanations for all but a handful of Sarnia’s 700 street names.
Where? You Gotta be Kidding!
In the 1830s, the Government of Upper Canada decided it was time to survey Lambton County.
As a result, the teams of Malcolm Burwell (1827) and Roswell Mount (1829) were sent into the dense hardwood forests and watery bogs of the then Lambton County. Historian George Smith reported that the surveyors “ate well at settler’s homes,” foraged and shot wild game. The meat had to be protected from hungry bears.
Damn those Speculators
Because they tend to inflate prices, early Sarnia newspapers would bemoan the existence of land speculators in Sarnia and Lambton County.
The biggest villain was no doubt one Samuel Street (1775-1844).
A Niagara businessman and financier, Street was one of the richest men in Upper Canada.
Through the use of inside information and influence on surveyors and politicians, Street acquired large swaths of lands in Upper Canada including Lambton County.
By 1839 and especially along the Lake Huron waterfront, he had amassed ownership of 14,777 acres of land in Sarnia Township. Incredible.
Despite his clear profiteering, it is doubtful that Street ever set foot in Lambton County.
Gotta Get Organized
The first survey for Sarnia was completed in 1836. The next survey was completed in 1852. Together, both surveys basically covered only what is now considered to be downtown easterly to Vidal St.
Hail to the Chief
Ten streets are named after Sarnia Mayors. Forsythe, MacKenzie, Johnston, Davis, Gurd, Watson, Proctor, McGibbon, Dagan and Newton.
Early Sarnia settlers were, for the most part, from the British Isles. At the time, Britain “ruled the waves “of the world’s waters. This was a point of great pride for Sarnia’s Henry Jones. As a result, it is not surprising that Jones would develop his considerable land holdings and, within it, name the streets after naval masters of the old country- Exmouth, Napier, Parker, St. Vincent, Maxwell and Collingwood.
Various streets have changed names over the years. Some examples lost to the ages are Trongate (Front St.), Harris (Lochiel St.), Albert (Vidal St.), Dora (Stuart St), Durham (Napier St.), Mechanic (Brock St.), Colina (College St.)Richard (College St.), Emeric (Brock St.) and Spragge (Devine St.).
There are Sarnia streets generically named after animals. But there is no generalization when it comes to the name Robin St. There exists controversy over whether the street was named after a beloved neighbourhood dog or domestic bird. Nevertheless, it is without doubt that Robin St.was named after an actual known pet.
Since 1849, the Watson family owned a considerable landholding north west of London Rd and East St. Part of the land was set aside as a picnic grove and fairgrounds where citizens would venture to the outskirts of town for a day of relaxation.
In 1939, the Watsons subdivided the parklands. To ensure the park’s name endured, one of the conveyances was named Lincoln Park Av.
– From the Streets of Sarnia – Randy Evans and Tom St. Amand