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STREET NAMES: Vidal clan was a local dynasty

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No family has had a greater impact on Sarnia street names than the Vidals.

Richard Emeric Vidal was a captain in the Royal Navy who was rewarded for his service with 200 acres in what would become the city’s choicest residential neighbourhoods.

He wasn’t famous like his brother, the British admiral and explorer Alexander Vidal, who warrants his own encyclopedia entries, but he was no slouch either.

Richard Emeric Vidal arrived in 1834 and founded a dynasty that would dominate the town’s politics and business for half a century.

He is regarded as one of Sarnia’s three founding fathers, but his clan showed little interest in the Upper Canadian practice of naming thoroughfares after the royal family.

Thus, if you walked west on London Road in the later half of the 19th century you would have crossed, in succession, Richard Street, Emeric Street and Vidal Street. (Emeric is now part of Brock.)

The pairing of one-way Vidal and Brock today forms a major north-south traffic link from Sarnia to the Chemical Valley.

Not to be outdone, the captain’s wife – Charlotte Penrose Mitton – also scores a street hat trick.

Their son, Alexander Vidal, went on to become one the community’s principal movers and shakers.

He served in the militia during the Upper Canada Rebellion and was a provincial surveyor who surveyed the town plot for Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

He managed the Bank of Montreal in Sarnia, got elected to the Legislature and was named to the Senate.

The Vidals also left their mark on:

* Essex Street, after Alfred Essex, Captain Vidal’s uncle.

* Maria Street, for Anna Maria Penrose Mitton, a daughter.

* Hillcrest Nisbet Drive, after Harry Nisbet, who married granddaughter Charlotte Vidal.

* Cobden Street, which the Vidals named for Richard Cobden, an English politician.

– George Mathewson

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