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.
You Go Girl
In the late 1800’s, women had precious few rights or opportunities to be land holders. It was on this basis that two Sarnia women stood out from the Victorian crowd namely Clara Ann Rowles (Ann Street – 1891) and Emma Bothwell (Emma Street -1899)
When, in 1892, Scotsman Daniel McLaren developed his land in the south end, he felt it proper to name a street after a county in the old country. To his dismay, he discovered that sales were slow due to the fact no one wanted to live on a street name Athole. McLaren was substituted as a less odorous name.
Keep ‘em happy
Clan Proctor was an influential and industrious family in early Sarnia history. As part of their land enterprise, the Proctors developed Martha Street. A shrewd business move being that the street was named after one of their mortgage holders Martha A. McSherry. Always a good choice to keep your creditors happy.
Over the years it has been very common for landowners to name streets after themselves or family members. A good example of this is one Alfred Shepherd who made sure his south end lands would bear his name over the years.
For decades, two street signs have noted a north end street. One sign says Beverly (wrong) and the other Beverley (correct).
Another faux pas exists with the Howston St. sign – a sixty year poke in the eye to the Howson family.
When the Huron lakefront was surveyed, the surveyors implemented the seigneurial system of landholding. This resulted in landholdings with lots having a relatively small lakefront but deep dimensions therefrom. This maximized the number of landowners who ultimately would have waterfront properties.
The names of early waterfront landowners can be found on Sarnia St. signs today. Giffel, Modeland, Hardick, Telfer, Jones.
The Aunt Emm rule
When Harvey and Laurette Lalonde wanted to name a street Flamingo, many citizens questioned the appropriateness of the name. The matter came before City Council and, rather than intervening, Council endorsed the right of a developer to assign street names in his/her enterprise. According to Councilor Ruth Donohue ‘If a man wants to name a street after his Aunt Emma, it’s his right.” The Aunt Emm rule continues to this day.
Thanks to the 2019 efforts of Tom Slater, Tom St. Amand and Chuck Toth, Veteran’s Parkway is named in honour of all Sarnia past and present service men and women.
Additionally, five Sarnia Streets are named after individuals who paid the ultimate price in foreign wars. Barclay Dr., Berger Rd. Eddy Dr., Quinn Dr, and Wheatley Dr.
Most fittingly, each one of these conveyances bears an embossed Poppy on its street sign.
It is a shame that there are not more streets named after Sarnia’s fallen.
– From the Streets of Sarnia by Randy Evans and Tom St. Amand