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Stone cairn marks city’s ‘other’ Centennial

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John Rochon

The stone cairn on the northeast corner of Front and George streets commemorates not the declaration of Sarnia as a city, but the Centennial of the naming of Sarnia.

The new community was often referred to as The Rapids due to its proximity to the rapids in the St. Clair River, and by 1835 it was felt it should have a proper name.

The English faction favoured the name Buenos Aires while the Scottish faction favoured New Glasgow or Glasgow.

Sir John Colborne, Lieut.-Governor of Upper Canada, was visiting at the time and suggested the Roman name for the Isle of Guernsey, where he was previously Lieut.-Governor.

The English liked it and changed their suggestion to Sarnia.  When put to a vote on Jan. 4, 1836, (Port) Sarnia won out 26 to 16.

Fast forward to the summer of 1936.  The main event of the Centennial was the unveiling of a cairn topped with an art deco thermometer in Victoria Park.

On August 3, after much fanfare, Charlotte Vidal Nisbet, granddaughter of Richard Emeric Vidal, one of Sarnia’s earliest British settlers, drew the chord.

The cairn stood in Victoria Park until the construction of the present library in 1960-61, when it was removed in order to reposition the cenotaph.

Luckily the original granite plaque was found and preserved by Ron and Jann Burd, who upon hearing of the intention of the Sarnia Heritage Committee to reconstruct the cairn donated it for the new cairn.

 John Rochon is a Sarnian with a lifelong passion for local history



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