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Sarnia’s roads: from deer trails to highways

Published on

Dean Hodgson

Special to The Journal

Since the early 1830’s the City of Sarnia has grown from a few rutted streets on the bank of the St. Clair River into a vast area with more than 70,000 inhabitants.

The city has expanded with annexations, amalgamations, new subdivisions and roads. All of this has been combined into a transportation system that keeps our traffic flowing. One has to admire how town planners have been able to connect this conglomerate of roads into a smooth network.

However, some city streets were here long before the current traffic plan. Some, including Errol Road, probably began as deer trails that were expanded by First Nation people for hunting and moving.

Early settlers used bush trails to get from point A to B while chopping their farmsteads out of the forest, and many of the old pioneer trails are still in use and moving traffic through what is now the city.

These roads, which ran through the woods, often wandered over and across private property.

Over time these trails became public thoroughfares because of constant use. When expropriated by the municipality to blend into the planning system, the general public knew them as “Given Roads” because the property owner donated the land for use.

One of the earliest of thoroughfares was the London Road. It was surveyed and laid out along a sand ridge from the St. Clair River to the Perch Creek, where it connected with what is now London Line.

The Errol Road is another of the old trails, winding its way from Christina Street, which once ended at the town limits at Exmouth Street.

The original Errol Road followed the high ground northeasterly past Colborne, Murphy and Modeland roads, eventually following the Lake Huron shore to the village of Errol in Plympton Township. Errol Road ends today at Cathcart Boulevard.

The Blackwell Road was petitioned by the landowners to provide them with a dry road to their farms along the banks of the former Lake Wawanosh.

Jackson Drive is another road petitioned by the property owners to give them access to their properties south of the swampland along the Michigan Line.

Dean Hodgson is a member of the Sarnia Historical Society


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