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A Brief History of the Town of Clearwater

By This project was completed by summer student Ryan McLeod as part of the Ontario Summer Experience Program. Ryan rediscovered this history while workin

Had things gone a bit differently, Sarnia could have been neighbors with the Town of Empire, Narnia, or even Unicorns!

town of clearwater map

In the years leading up to 1986, the former Township of Sarnia—adjacent to the separated City of Sarnia—began to grow and flourish. When the population neared 10,000, the municipal government recognized that the Township had the potential to become a successful town. The Minister of Municipal Affairs said on August 11, 1986 that the Township of Sarnia was “a viable well-managed suburban municipality. Its existence cannot be ignored.” The municipal government wanted to steer away from the name of Sarnia to avoid perception that the Township was just an addition to the already thriving City. But the municipal government wanted to involve its citizens in the naming of their new town, so they designed a contest to allow the citizens to submit their own ideas for a new name.

Contest participants submitted a name along with a brief description of why they had proposed the name. After all of the names were collected, members of the Council deliberated as to which names were suitable for discussion.

The contest form that could be filed out to name the new town

(The contest form that could be filed out to name the new town)

The Municipal Council received upwards of 1,800 submissions. Not every entry was made in earnest. Some entrants made up joke names for the town, while others took up this opportunity to show their displeasure towards the town renaming, some of whom wanted to keep the Town name Sarnia.

Some of the more “interesting” names and descriptions included such entries as:

  • AINRAS: “is Sarnia spelled backwards – name said lots”
  • ANNEXVILLE: “because Sarnia does not deserve us”
  • BANANAS: “because our town is going bananas”
  • BURGER TOWN: “because I love restaurants and food”
  • DEFIANCE: “you did not give in”
  • EMPIRE: “because Mr. Whitnall and our Council has stood firm to make it our ‘Kingdom’”
  • FARM: “because of the farms”
  • HAPPY:  “because I like it”
  • KADRETZY:  “because I just thought of it”
  • MOOCHTOWN: “the Township is always mooching from the City of Sarnia”
  • NARNIA: “contraction of North Sarnia”
  • NEW SARNIA: “the new name would suggest a progressive version of an older Sarnia”
  • NOT SARNIA:  No reason given
  • PHAIRSVILLE: “unique; not connected with Sarnia”
  • PIGGYBACK:  “like riding on Sarnia’s back”
  • SARNIA:  “This is absolutely ridiculous. The present name is just fine” and “one big city is better than 2 small ones – common sense” and “we don’t need a new name – we need a new Council”
  • SARTONIA: “A concoction of Sarnia and Sarnia Township; pleasant sounding”
  • UNICORNS: “Unicorns are thought to be peaceful, our town should be too”
  • WHIMSY:   “everyone needs a little whimsy in their lives – it is guaranteed to turn the       corners of your mouth up not down and think of the publicity one could get from a town called WHIMSY”

Eventually, the council members narrowed down the list of names to six: Bluewater, Clearwater, Faethorne, Huron Shores, Lakeland, and Wawanosh. On September 23, 1987, the Council officially determined that the name Clearwater would be the new name of the Town.

While there were people who liked the idea of the Town being named Clearwater, many others were against it. Some people thought the name change would lead to confusion in regards to addresses and information, while some stated that the name would be the same as cities in the United States. Council replied that the name of Clearwater would help advertise the beauty of the Town, emphasizing that the name encapsulated the “clear blue Lake Huron and River St. Clair, our green fertile farmlands, our moderate climate – in short the ‘quality of life’ we enjoy.”

Examples of Pamphlets done by Bright’s Grove school students to promote Clearwater

(Examples of Pamphlets done by Bright’s Grove school students to promote Clearwater)

On January 1st, 1988, the Township of Sarnia officially became the Town of Clearwater. Council unveiled a Town logo and raised the new Town flag at an open house held on January 6. 

unveiling the new clearwater flag

(Councillors Lloyd Passingham, Sam McCrea, and Town Reeve Ray Whitnall unveiling the new Clearwater flag) 

Despite good intentions and considerable effort, only a year later plans were underway to amalgamate Clearwater with the City of Sarnia. In January 1991, the two municipalities joined to become the City of Sarnia-Clearwater. That year, citizens of the newly amalgamated City voted to drop “Clearwater” from the name and the City became known simply as Sarnia.

As the short-lived Town of Clearwater fades from memory, residents of Sarnia travelling east across Murphy Road may perhaps be thankful that they are not entering the Town of “Not Sarnia”.

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This article was posted Tuesday, August 17, 2027 3:33 PM


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