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People and organizations
Lambton, County of

Aamjiwnaang First Nation

  • Corporate body

The Aamjiwnaang First Nation (formally known as Chippewas of Sarnia) is a First Nations community of about 2400 Chippewa (Ojibwe) Aboriginal peoples (850 of which live on Reserve). We are located on the St. Clair River, 3 miles south of the southern tip of Lake Huron in the city limits of Sarnia southwestern Ontario, Canada – just across the United States border from Port Huron, Michigan.

For more details consult their website at https://www.aamjiwnaang.ca/history/.

Our heritage language is Ojibwa.

The name Aamjiwnaang, (pronounced am-JIN-nun) means “at the spawning stream.”

St. Joseph's Hospital, Sarnia, Ont.

  • Corporate body
  • 1944-1990

The Sisters of St. Joseph of the Diocese of London had been invited by the Sarnia City Council in 1942 to open a hospital in Sarnia. Initially, the Sisters faced opposition on the part of the Ministerial Association, the Derry Orange Lodge, and some medical personnel. Construction of the hospital began in 1944, and after numerous delays due to shortage of materials and labour during WW II, one floor was finally opened in 1945 to meet the acute need for hospital beds. St. Joseph’s Hospital was fully operational with 150 beds on March 1, 1946. The formal opening ceremony for St. Joseph’s Hospital was held on October 18, 1946. The Honourable George A. Drew, Premier of Ontario cut the ribbon. Bishops J.T. Kidd and J.C. Cody (Coadjutor, Bishop), and priests from London and Detroit were present. Officials from other hospitals were also present.

The entire million-dollar project was funded by the Sisters of St. Joseph. They received no financial assistance from the government and only a $10,000 grant from the City of Sarnia. The units were filled with both Canadian and American patients from Port Huron and the state of Michigan.
The Sisters carried out active nursing roles and administrative duties, notably Sister Pascal Kenny who served as the first Administrator of the hospital. She had previous experience working in operating rooms and administration, and was a member of the American College of Hospital Administrators and of the Board of Governors of the Ontario Hospital Association.

In the early days, nursing, technical, and domestic staff were difficult to find. Many of the staff were mothers of families who could only work occasionally. Students from St. Joseph’s Training School of Nursing in London helped fill the nursing rota, and were hired permanently after graduation. Because of the nursing shortage, innovations were made such as the central distribution of medicines and central surgical supply rooms.
By September 1948, St. Joseph’s Hospital was better able to provide for patients. A detoxification centre was opened and many alcoholics were treated at the hospital. A clinic for cancer patients was also held regularly at the hospital, overseen by a team from the London Cancer Clinic, who did follow-up checks and therapy. The Auxiliary Radiotherapy and Follow-up Cancer Clinic, the first of its kind in Ontario, was opened in conjunction with the Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation.

The late 1950’s saw increased demand for hospital services, which led in 1959, with the advent of government sponsored coverage, a seven-storey, two million dollar addition and an increase of 150 active treatment beds. In 1960, a 45-bed paediatric wing was added. An Intensive Care Unit was opened in 1967, and an Employee Health program was established. The late 1960’s saw the addition of a Social Service Department, and in 1969, a diagnostic radioisotope service. This time period also saw the establishment of District Health Councils.

In the 1970s, the hospital needed to update its facilities to meet accreditation standards, as well as to comply with the Sisters’ own standards of care. Because government funding was decreased, Sisters needed to do more independent fundraising. This decade also saw the Ministry of Health deciding to amalgamate hospitals and rationalize services in Lambton County. This became a political issue which meant many hours were spent on discussions with the District Health Council, the Mustard Report, and other tasks. St. Joseph’s Hospital also became embroiled in a confrontation with the Ministry of Health on contentious issues regarding health services, which conflicted with the Catholic faith. The end of this tumultuous period saw the closure of the paediatrics unit and the doubling of obstetrical unit beds.

From 1979 onwards, diminishing numbers of Sisters able to take on the responsibilities of hospital management led to the hiring of qualified laypersons, beginning with Frank Bagatto as the Executive Director in June, 1979.

In the 1980s, quality assurance became a major focus, and new services such as the chiropody and palliative care were added. The new Chronic Care Facility was financed and completed. In November of 1983, A Memorandum of Understanding between St. Joseph’s Hospital, Sarnia and Sarnia General Hospital was drafted to form the basis for the future planning of each hospital.

St. Joseph’s Hospital was officially re-opened as St. Joseph’s Health Centre on October 12, 1990. This was the amalgamation of St. Joseph’s Hospital, the Continuing Care Centre (formerly the Chronic Care Facility), Sarnia-Lambton Workers’ Treatment Centre, and a Day Hospital. The name change reflects a concomitant change in service provision and governance. St. Joseph’s Health Centre no longer served as exclusively as an in-patient treatment centre for the critically ill. It also provided long-term care beds and outpatient treatment. Assets were transferred from the Sisters of St. Joseph to the newly incorporated body of St. Joseph’s Health Services Association of Sarnia. The board of directors of the corporation was now the hospital board, and six Sisters formed the General Administration as members of the corporation which was an un-shared capital corporation. Ownership lay with the corporation while the Sisters maintained final authority over decisions.

In January 1995, the Sisters donated their residence at 430 London Road to St. Joseph Health Centre to be used as a hospice. On January 29, 1998, the St. Joseph’s Health Centre joined in partnership with the Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital and the Sarnia General Hospital by signing the Strategic Alliance Agreement. In April 2003, ownership of St. Joseph’s Health Centre was given to the Lambton County Hospital Group.

Vidal Family

  • Family
  • 1789-1948

The Vidal family descends from Spanish and French origins. The family settled in London England in 1685. Emeric Vidal, a British Royal Navy Captain, lived from 1751-1811 and resided in Bracknell, Berkshire England for the entirety of his life. He married in 1783 to Jane Essex and they had 4 children together named Emma Vidal (1783-1844), Captain Richard Emeric Vidal (1789-1854), Emeric Essex Vidal (1791-1861) and Vice-Admiral Alexander Thomas Emeric Vidal (1792-1863). Like their father, all three brothers entered the Royal Navy and became officers in active service. Captain Richard Emeric Vidal was a Naval Officer who voyaged around the world and kept detailed and thorough diaries throughout his years at sea. After retiring from the navy in the 1830’s, he emigrated from Bracknell, England to Sarnia, Ontario (then called ‘Les Chutes’ or ‘The Rapids’) in 1834. With him he brought his wife, Charlotte Penrose Mitton (1789-1873) and four children, including son Alexander Vidal (1819-1906). However, there was a fifth child who died before the family immigrated. They had one more child after moving to Canada. Captain Richard Emeric Vidal was among the first pioneers of Sarnia and was active in changing the name of the town from The Rapids to Port Sarnia. Alexander Vidal was 15 when he moved to Sarnia with his father Richard Emeric Vidal and family. He went on to be an important figurehead in the Sarnia community, having experience being a surveyor, a banker, and a politician. Alexander Vidal eventually became a conservative member of the Senate of Canada for the Sarnia division from 1873-1906. He married Catherine Wright (daughter of Captain William Wright) and they had seven children together. One of those was Charlotte Vidal Nisbet (1855-1948), or ‘Chattie’ as her friends and relatives often called her, who would become a local Sarnia historian and author. Her husband, Thomas Nisbet was the originator of the Boy’s Brigade in Sarnia. Charlotte Nisbet provided weekly contributions to "The Sarnia Canadian Observer" starting in 1935. Her columns were based on daily happenings for the corresponding days one hundred years before which she extracted from her grandfather’s and other family member’s diaries and letters.

Wawanosh, Sands, Mern Family

  • Family
  • 1781 - 1966

The Wawanosh family was a prominent family of the Chippewas of Sarnia, Kettle Point and Stoney reserves (now known as the Aamjiwnaang First Nation) with several of its members serving as hereditary chiefs in the 19th century and one member, William Wawanosh, serving as the first elected chief.
Joshua Wawanosh (ca. 1781-1871) served as Chief from 1827 - 1844, 1848 - 1853 and 1868 - 1870. In 1827, he and several other Chiefs signed Treaty 29. He converted to Christianity when the Methodist missionary Rev. James Evans visited the district. Joshua Wawanosh and his wife Eliza had one daughter named Elizabeth and four sons - David, Joseph, Thomas and William - all of whom succeeded Joshua as chiefs. David, Joseph and Thomas all died of tuberculosis and in the cases of Joseph and Thomas, this meant their time as Chief was short lived.
David Wawanosh (d. 1867), Joshua's eldest son, served as the chief from 1853 until 1867. He and his wife Elizabeth had six children - Julia, Francis, Agnes, Florence, Minnie and David D. After David died of tuberculosis, his father again took on the role of chief.
William Wawanosh (ca. 1845-1907) was appointed Indian Interpreter in 1870 and served as chief from 1874-1877 and again in 1899-1901. He married Mary Helen Waldron, the daughter of a missionary and they had three children - Charles (known as Chas for short), Augusta and Edward. William changed his name from Wawanosh to Wells and this is the name that he passed down to his children. His son Charles became a clergyman and founded the Wells Academy in London, Ontario.
Agnes Effie Sands Mern (1875-1966) was the only daughter of Julia Wawanosh Sands, (daughter of David Wawanosh) and Daniel Sands. She received musical and vocal training from Sarnia teachers at Our Lady of Mercy Vincent in Port Huron, Michigan; from Profs William A. Harvey and George D. MacComb in Detroit and Prof A. Straub of the Detroit Opera House. She wrote song lyrics, poetry and stories and organized and participated in a variety of cultural events, including concerts of music by well know First Nations musicians including Oskenonton and David Russell Hill and His Onondaga Indian Concert Band. Along with the Indian Confederation of America, Agnes assembled a group of Native Americans to march in the Brooklyn Centennial parade. Throughout her life, Agnes was an active member of the church community, singing in the choir and teaching at the Devine St. Methodist Sunday School. She and her mother also ran a dress making business.
In 1933, Agnes married John Phillips Mern, a retired sailor from the US Navy. John had a son from a previous marriage but the couple did not have any children of their own. They lived in Marcy, New York as well as in the Wawanosh family homestead in Sarnia and travelled throughout Ontario and New York State. From 1936 to 1937 they briefly ran a convenience store in Sarnia called the Wawanosh Post where they sold gasoline and groceries. Agnes Sands Mern died in 1966 in Sarnia.
For additional information about the family, please consult the Wawanosh family tree, which is attached as an appendix