News Local

Open house will feature churches and trains

By Melissa Schilz, Postmedia Network

A photo of a snow covered train in Petrolia is just one of the historic finds that can be viewed at this weekend's Heritage Open House (Submitted photo)

A photo of a snow covered train in Petrolia is just one of the historic finds that can be viewed at this weekend's Heritage Open House (Submitted photo)

Petrolia’s Heritage Committee is holding an open house this Saturday that will celebrate the churches and railroad history in the community.


Committee member Dave Hext said churches and the railroad system were two important pillars in the community. Back in the early 1900s, Petrolia was booming, and it was expected to become a major city before the shift to Sarnia. The population 100 years ago exceeds the number of people living there today.


The town had well over a dozen churches to accommodate the community, including the Salvation Army, which was around until the 1960s, and the Trinity Baptist Church on Euereka Street that closed about 20 years ago.


Hext said for a number of years, there were three of four churches located on the flats, right by the creek. The oil men preferred this location, since it was close to their wells where they worked. But the problem with having creeks in this location was the flooding that came with the rains each spring.


“They’d have a few inches of water inside,” Hext said, noting that when the churches moved to higher ground, some people actually stopped going in protest.


Hext said the history of churches and trains has proven to be a crowd pleaser at past events. And he’s always looking for locals who might be willing to share stories of their own, or from generations before them. At previous events, Hext said locals have shared first-hand accounts of their experiences growing up in Petrolia, something that has always fascinated the history lover.


“We’re encouraging people to share the history of their family,” he said. “There’s a lot of people with old stuff in their basement, and we really just want to promote sharing heritage.”


The open house will feature artefacts, vintage photographs and books. Hext encourages anyone who might have a photo or antique they’d like to show off, they are always welcome to bring it to the open house for display.


Hext said he’s always collecting little pieces of heritage from the community, whether that’s scanning borrowed family photographs or caring for donations that people give the committee for safe keeping.


Hext said they try to hold an open house at least once a year around Family Day to promote heritage in the community, an important aspect of the historic oil town.


This year’s event will feature the Lambton Branch of the Ontario Genealogical society, the Lambton Archives, local authors Tom Walters, who wrote the Petrolia Spur, and Daniel Barton,

who recently released his book entitled Watch. Copies of Petrolia’s first graphic novel by Mickey Maple will also be available for purchase.


Hext said guests can expect to see model trains and memorabilia on display, as well as a silent auction for unique antique dishes that feature Petrolia events, which were donated by a local woman to raise money for the heritage committee.


If you would like to participate, contact Liz Welsh at 519-882-0825.



When: Saturday Feb. 17, 2018 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Where: Victoria Hall

Cost: FREE