The Office of the Surveyor General for Upper Canada descended from the earlier position of Surveyor General for the Province of Quebec; with the passing of the Constitutional Act of 1791, this structure was kept for the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. The Surveyor General was responsible for surveying, maintaining, and selling Crown lands in the province (via land grants and leases), and would report to the Lieutenant-Governor and the Legislative Assembly. David William Smith was appointed at the first Surveyor General of Upper Canada in 1792, although surveying work had been done prior to this.
One of the earliest surveyors in the Western district was Patrick McNiff. In approximately 1790, he surveyed the land around Lake Erie, although dismissed it as not being good for settlement; by October of the same year, he was sent to survey the area around the Thames River. He surveyed about 17 miles before being forced to stop due to ill health. He returned to the area in 1793 to survey three townships around the Moravian settlement, but from there had to be persuaded to perform more survey work, with his employers lamenting his poor work ethic. By 1795, McNiff had been replaced by Abraham Iredell, who completed surveys around the Kent County area from 1795-1800.
One of the chief surveyors around the Elgin County area was Mahlon Burwell, who surveyed most of the Talbot Settlement and, on the recommendation of Colonel Talbot, was hired by the provincial government in 1809 to survey and lay out townships as well as work on the Talbot Road. He surveyed the townships of Aldborough, Dunwich, Malahide, and Southwold in Elgin County. J. Chewett was another surveyor in the same area.
The physical act of surveying was a difficult one, and required a team of around eight to ten men per surveyor, including two chain bearers (used to determine measurements) and axemen to clear paths. The surveyors were required to keep both diaries and field books outlining their operations, and taking note of characteristics such as vegetation, soil type, topography, and the suitability of the land for agriculture. (See ECVF Box 58 for examples.) Upon the completion of a survey, the notes and other records were handed to the Office of the Surveyor General, where draftsmen or surveyors would assemble finished plans based on the material. The maps created by this office established a visual standard, including the use of coloured inks for specific areas (red ink for Crown reserves; black ink for Clergy reserves; blue for water; yellow-green for swamps) and the units of measurement.
Around 1827, the Surveyor General position was slowly superseded by the newly-created office of Commissioner for Crown Lands, and by 1845 the Surveyor General’s Office was fully integrated into the Department of Crown Lands. From that point on, surveying duties were done under a new branch, the Surveying Department of Canada West.
The Ministry of Natural Resources fonds consists of 33 large-scale plans (registered 1793-1844; incorporating annotations dating up to 1981) created by the Surveyor General’s Office documenting 23 townships along the north shore of Lake Erie. The plans show lot and concession numbers, major roads, First Nations settlements, mills, creeks, swamps, and local geographic information. Many maps contain an assortment of notes on specific geographic features and have settler names written in; others are blank. The maps were frequently used as working documents, and bear revisions and annotations dating years after their apparent creation.
Seven maps lack any sort of date; in these cases, the Archives of Ontario’s estimation has been used. In other cases, a map bears dates of annotation but no written date of registration; in these cases the date range of the annotations has been used as an approximate date.
The table can be rearranged, alphabetically, by clicking either the “Township” header or the “County” header. Clicking once will arrange it alphabetically; clicking a second time will reverse it. By default, the table is sorted alphabetically by township name.
(Link to descriptive record)
|Date of Registration (R) or Annotation (A)||Digitized Plan
|Aldborough||Elgin||RG 1-470-0-0-1||ca. 1820s|
|Aldborough||Elgin||RG 1-470-0-0-331||1844 (R)|
|Caradoc||Middlesex||RG 1-470-0-0-30||1830 (R)|
|Caradoc||Middlesex||RG 1-470-0-0-31||1835 (R)|
|Chatham||Kent||RG 1-470-0-0-35||1799 (R)|
|Colchester||Essex||RG 1-470-0-0-44||1797 (R)|
|Dover||Kent||RG 1-470-0-0-54||ca. 1805|
|Dunwich||Elgin||RG 1-470-0-0-55||1821 (A)|
|Dunwich||Elgin||RG 1-470-0-0-56||ca. 1820s|
|Gosfield||Essex||RG 1-470-0-0-78||ca. 1790s (A)|
|Harwich||Kent||RG 1-470-0-0-95||ca. 1800 (A)|
|Harwich||Kent||RG 1-470-0-0-96||1826-1843 (A)|
|Harwich||Kent||RG 1-470-0-0-97||ca. 1800s|
|Harwich||Kent||RG 1-470-0-0-98||1826-1848 (A)|
|Houghton||Norfolk||RG 1-470-0-0-108||ca. 1820s|
|Howard||Kent||RG 1-470-0-0-109||1821 (A)|
|London (Township)||Middlesex||RG 1-470-0-0-135||1796 (R)|
|Malahide||Elgin||RG 1-470-0-0-141||ca. 1810|
|Malden||Essex||RG 1-470-0-0-142||1846 (R)|
|Middleton||Norfolk||RG 1-470-0-0-152||1809 (R)|
|Orford||Kent||RG 1-470-0-0-169||1811 (R)|
|Orford||Kent||RG 1-470-0-0-319||1794 (R)|
|Raleigh||Kent||RG 1-470-0-0-200||ca. 1820|
|Romney||Kent||RG 1-470-0-0-210||1799 (R)|
|Sandwich||Essex||RG 1-470-0-0-223||ca. 1790s|
|Sandwich||Essex||RG 1-470-0-0-224||1798-1820 (A)|
|Sandwich||Essex||RG 1-470-0-0-225||ca. 1790-1824|
|Sandwich||Essex||RG 1-470-0-0-321||1797 (R)|
|Southwold||Elgin||RG 1-470-0-0-236||1816 (A)|
|Townsend||Norfolk||RG 1-470-0-0-246||1793 (R)|
|Walsingham||Norfolk||RG 1-470-0-0-254||1849 (A)|
|Woodstock||Oxford||RG 1-470-0-0-180||ca. 1800|
|Zone||Kent||RG 1-470-0-0-275||1843 (R)|