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The lost island of Pet-Tag-Wano has morphed into Point Edward

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Phil Egan

When the French explorer La Salle and his tiny ship reached what’s now Point Edward in the late 17th century he found Lake Huron entering the St. Clair River through three separate channels.

To the indigenous people, the island between them was known as Pet-Tag-Wano.

When French settlers arrived a century later and called the mouth of the river La Chute, or “The Rapids” for the rushing water, Pet-Tag-Wano was a small First Nation village.

It served as a meeting spot for tribes from all over the region, who would meet in the vicinity of where people now gather to eat fries under the bridge and placidly sit beside the river to watch freighters go by.

One notable tribal conference took place at Pet-Tag-Wano around 1776, at the outset of the American Revolution. A party of Wyandotte under the leadership of Chief Ke-Mus arrived there to consider whether to ally themselves during the coming conflict with the Americans or the British.

In the end, they chose to remain neutral.

During the War of 1812, Sir George Prevost was commander of the Canadian forces. In 1813, the Americans won control of Lake Erie and Prevost ordered Major-General Henry Procter to retreat to Pet-Tag-Wano.

Instead, the incompetent Procter decided to make a last stand at Moraviantown, near today’s Chatham. There he lost the Battle of the Thames, with the tragic death of Tecumseh, the charismatic leader of the tribal confederacy.

Following the war, and some twenty years after the LaForge family built five log cabins with an orchard near the site of Sarnia’s library and post office, the first Europeans reached nearby Pet-Tag-Wano from New York State.

As more settlers arrived it became known as Huron Village, and the community is so designated on early maps of the area. By 1855, Huron Village had become Point Edward.

The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, visited during his 1860 tour of Canada and a huge ball was held at The Point to welcome the Prince. Large crowds descended on the hamlet from Ontario and Michigan to see the royal visitor.

The Grand Trunk Railway arrived in 1858 from St. Mary’s. The railway spurred the growth of the village and brought many notable visitors, including future president U.S. Grant. The village of Point Edward was officially incorporated in 1879.

 

 

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