Brights Grove, Ontario
|Neighbourhood of Sarnia|
|Post Code||N0N 1C0|
The Owenite Project
Brights Grove was the site of Canada's first commune. In 1829, Brights Grove was established along the model of Robert Owen's New Lanark, Scotland project by Henry Jones (1776–1852). The colony was named 'Maxwell' and was a short-lived project. However, it has been argued by Canadian socialist historian Ian McKay that "[t]he builders of the short-lived colony named Maxwell that Jones planted near Sarnia may well have been the first people in North America to call themselves 'socialists'."
In the 1970s, the Ontario Heritage Foundation erected an historical plaque recognizing the site with the following text:
In 1829, Henry Jones of Devon, England, a retired purser in the Royal Navy, brought a group of more than 50 emigrants from the United Kingdom to this area where he established a settlement on a 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) tract of land on Lake Huron. An early supporter and dedicated follower of Robert Owen, the well-known British social reformer. [sic] Jones named the settlement "Maxwell" and organized the community on the basis of common ownership and collective living. The settlers built a large log house with community kitchen and dining-room but separate rooms for each family. A school and storehouse were added. Within a few years, however, disappointing harvests and the burning of the log house led the colonists gradually to abandon the enterprise.
In 1875, Col. Robert F. Faethorne built what is now known as the Faethorne House. Faethorne built the house on the most easterly of the five farms (the "East Range") into which the land grant of Henry Jones, Faethorne's father-in-law, had been divided. Robert Faethorne had married Jones' daughter, Elizabeth, and farmed the East Range. Faethorne was interested in race horses, imported trees to beautify his property and took an active part in the militia. In 1862, he was promoted to full colonel to command the local military district until after the Fenian alarms of 1866 and 1868.
On Faethorne's death in 1897, the house was sold to Angus Jamieson. In 1921, it was purchased by H.F. Holland who restored it and the grounds. In 1934, it achieved notoriety when John Labatt, of the brewing family, who had rented it for the summer, was kidnapped on his way to London. In 1938, the house was sold once more. Under the name of Wildwood, it began a long career as a summer resort and golf club. By 1978, it was badly in need of repairs when it passed into the hands of Sarnia Township. It was restored to its present condition and started a new life as the Brights Grove library and Gallery in the Grove.
Big band era
Brights Grove hosted many top performers at the Kenwick dance hall.
In the late 1940s, Kenwick-on-the-Lake was open air in the round. The venue served as a Saturday night destination for passengers of the SS Noronic that stopped at Sarnia on its trip around the Great Lakes from Toronto until it burnt out alongside the quay in Toronto. Bands that performed at the dance hall include Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Lionel Hampton. There was also boxing.
The structure was destroyed by fire and is now a basketball court on the lakefront.
- golf professional Mike Weir.
- Poet Paul Vermeersch
- golf professional Matt Hill.
- 2010 & 2012 ISIHF (International Standing Ice Hockey Federation) gold medalist Jarret Dark.
- Bluegrass harmonica player Mike Stevens
- 2005 Salmon Derby Winner. Alan Jones.
- Summer home of Dr. Mary Wright, first female director of the Canadian Psychological Association in 1959.
- The first woman to chair the Ontario Board of Examiners in Psychology.
Lake Huron Waterfront Walking Trails
There are 8 kilometres of lakefront walking trails, half is on rural road and other on dedicated bike/walk path.
Howard Watson Nature Trail
Brights Grove is located halfway on a 25 km nature trail from Sarnia to Camlachie. It is a good rail path, crosses numerous creeks (including Cow & Perch Creek), and is well maintained. Visitors can do a loop of rail path and lakefront around Brights Grove of 20 km or more.
- Ontario Heritage Foundation
- Photograph of Ontario Heritage Foundation historical plaque
- Gallery in the Grove website
- McKay, Ian. Rebels, Reds and Radicals: Rethinking Canada's Left History. Toronto: Between the Lines, 2005.
- Obituary London Free Press