Corunna celebrates 200 years in the ‘almost capital of Canada’

732

Blake Ellis/Local Journalism Initiative

If the original intentions for Corunna came to fruition, the town and surrounding Lambton County would look much different today.

The original survey of Corunna had the intention of the community being the future site of the capital of a united Upper and Lower Canada, now Ontario and Quebec.
That’s one of the things which will be celebrated when the community celebrates its 200th anniversary.

Tracy Kingston, the chair of the Corunna 200 Committee, says Lord William Beresford was sent from England to survey and lay out a settlement. He and his survey party first set foot in the area, which would become Corunna in 1823.

It was named after La Corunna, a seaport in northwestern Spain, where a battle of the Napoleonic War took place and his commanding officer Sir John Moore, died in battle.

Kingston first became aware of the original 1823 survey through her work with the St. Clair Heritage Committee. The street grid were diagonal and resembled the Union Jack with a 10 acre St. George’s Square converging in the middle of the survey where the parliament buildings were to be located. The proposed St. George’s Square is where the streets of Hill and Baird now intersect.

Of course, Ottawa became Canada’s capital.

The idea of Corunna becoming the capital was rejected because of the close proximity to the United States and needing more of a central location in the colony, closer to Quebec, but Corunna hopes to revive some of that early excitement when it was thought Corunna could be a possible capital.

In the wake of the decision, Kingston said it took a long time before Corunna was actually settled.

Another survey was conducted in 1836, but it and the original 1823 survey were rejected in favour of another survey in 1837, which is the town layout you see today.

Lots were put up for sale and the development of Corunna slowly began.
The post office was established in 1852 and soon the village boasted two shoemakers, two harness makers, three blacksmiths, a cabinetmaker, a tinsmith, a gristmill, a shipbuilder, two general stores and several hotels.
Over the years, the community has celebrated its fate as ‘almost Canada’s capital’ including placing a monument at what was King George Square.

The St. Clair Heritage Committee wants to expand on it and a storyboard is being developed on the history of Corunna.

The storyboard has been in development for the past couple of years, says Kingston and this will be a good time to unveil it.

She is looking to May 23, as she plays on the 1823 theme.

It has been 200 years since Beresford set foot on the site, which would become Corunna and the community is looking to mark this occasion with a celebration which being dubbed Almost Canada’s Capital.

A street festival is scheduled for Sept. 23. Even though the committee is still in the planning stage, she said there will be vendors and artisans set up with many family fun activities. There could be a dunk tank or Disney princesses also a part of the day.

She hopes to have Aamjiwnaang First Nation involved. Treaty 29 or the Huron Tract Purchase was signed in 1827, just four years after the original survey of 1823 and the Sept. 23 celebration is also close to the Truth and Reconciliation Day on Sept. 30.

The Local Journalism Initiative supports the creation of original civic journalism that covers the diverse needs of underserved communities across Canada.