From the Rapids to Port Sarnia to Sarnia, the City has undergone many changes - from an Indian hunting ground to an up-and-coming settlement to an industrial centre. In 1812 Sir John Colborne was appointed Governor of the Isle of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, the Roman name for which was "Sarnia".
In 1829, the area was surveyed and the Townships of Sarnia and Moore were surveyed by Boswell Mount, and named by Sir John Colborne. In 1835, Colborne paid his first visit to what is now the City of Sarnia, then known as "The Rapids". Previous to his visit, the villagers had decided that a change of name was necessary, but found it impossible to agree on a new name. The English settlers favoured the name "Buenos Aires" and the Scottish "New Glasgow". To break the deadlock, Sir John Colborne suggested "Port Sarnia" and on January 4, 1836 the name was formally adopted by a vote of 26 to 16.
A year previous to the adoption of the name Port Sarnia, the village was comprised of 44 taxpayers, 9 frame houses, 4 log houses, 2 brick dwellings, 2 taverns and 3 stores. An Act to incorporate the Town of Sarnia was assented to on June 19, 1856. The name Port Sarnia was officially changed to "The Town of Sarnia" effective January 1, 1857. The population of the Town was mentioned in the Act at upwards of 1,000 inhabitants and there were three wards.
An Act to Incorporate the City of Sarnia was assented to on April 20, 1914. The name Town of Sarnia would be officially changed to "The Corporation of the City of Sarnia" effective May 7, 1914. This day was marked by the visit of Canada’s Governor General, H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught, and his daughter Princess Patricia. It was also on this day that Sarnia adopted the title of "The Imperial City". The population of the City was mentioned at 10,985 in the Act, and there were six wards.
On January 1, 1991, The Corporation of the City of Sarnia and the Corporation of the Town of Clearwater (formerly the Township of Sarnia) officially became "The Corporation of the City of Sarnia-Clearwater". The new City would consist of four wards.
On January 1, 1992, the name of The Corporation of the City of Sarnia-Clearwater was changed to "The Corporation of the City of Sarnia".
In any atlas, or world reference, Sarnia's name is unique, but it does have some worldly "similarities".
Sarnico, Italy is perhaps the closest to Sarnia in a variety of ways. Sarnia is located at 42.57 degrees north latitude, while Sarnico, in northern Italy, is at 45.40 degrees. The Italian town is located at the mouth of the Oglio River where Lake d'Leso empties, much like Sarnia sits at the mouth of the St. Clair River at the tail of Lake Huron.
Another close similarity is Sarnena, Bulgaria, not only in name but location. The Bulgarian city is located at 42.35 degrees latitude.
The Roman name for Guernsey, of which Sir John Colborne was appointed Governor, was Sarnia. There are two Guernseys, the Island and one in the United States in Wyoming. The island is located at 49.27 degrees latitude, and Guernsey, Wyoming, is situated at 42.17 degrees. Sir John Colborne chose the Roman name of Sarnia as opposed to Guernsey.