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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Canadian:Immigration Records by Patricia McGregor, PLCGS. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Settlement of Ontario After The Napoleonic Wars
The post war conditions in Britain saw increased unemployment, decreased wages and heavy poor rates. Many expressed concern that the population was increasing faster than the food supply. At this time most of those leaving Britain for the new world had their eye on the United States. Even if they landed in Quebec or Saint John, the intention of the majority was to head south of the border.
James Buchanan, the British Consul at New York met the incoming ships and attempted to encourage passengers to go to Canada. But there was no real immigration plan and most immigrants knew nothing about the opportunities available in Upper Canada.
Robert Wilmot who became Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1822 was an ardent supporter of emigration as a means to solve the problems in Britain. He believed that the connection between the mother country and the colonies could only flourish and prove advantageous to both if “the surplus population of one was transferred to the empty regions of the other.” (Craig 1963, 128)
The condition of the poor, although bad in England, was worse in Scotland, and worse still in Ireland where open violence had the potential to become a real political uprising.
- “It occurred to the British government that if a number of people in the most troubled districts were offered a free passage to Upper Canada and assistance in getting established on the land there, not only would Ireland be quieted, but the emigrants would become good subjects when they had a fair opportunity to get on in the world.” (Craig 1963, 128)
There was a variety of types and levels of assistance in the 1820s and 1830s. Neighbours helped their neighbours, landowners assisted tenants, English parishes assisted their poor and the government allowed pensioners to exchange their pensions for land grants in the colonies. Chain migration also occurred where earlier immigrants once settled would send favourable reports and money home to family members or neighbours to assist them in making the move. Often this would continue over a number of years as they struggled to save enough money for the trip. Usually they ended up settling nearby. Another scheme was the one that allowed army and navy officers to sell their commissions for land.
In the summer of 1818 a large group settled in Carleton County. The 99th Regiment of Foot (which included the former 99th and 100th) had been stationed in Quebec after service in the War of 1812-14. They were offered the chance to remain and chose to settle in Upper Canada. By 1820 the village of Richmond was well established.
When work began on the Rideau Canal in 1826 “a large number of sappers, miners, engineers of the regular army, labourers, tradesmen and merchants poured into Bytown” (Ottawa) (Guillett 1974, 22). The canal, completed in 1832, was built in order to have an alternative route between Montreal and Kingston particularly in case further hostilities with the United States closed off the St. Lawrence route. This also provided another route into Upper Canada for immigrants.
In 1831 almost 2000 British settlers, many from the Wiltshire area, arrived. The majority of them settled in Dummer Township, Peterborough County. Many half-pay officers also settled in the county. One of these was Major Strickland who eventually settled in what would become Lakefield. In 1832 his two sisters, also married to officers, arrived in the area. His sisters were Susannah Moodie and Catherine Parr Traill.
- The Stricklands “became famous for their influence in elevating the general tone of society around them, as also for the books they wrote, which undoubtedly form the most valuable contribution made by any family in our province in recording the experiences of pioneer life.” (Guillett 1974, 40-41)
The Archives of Ontario article From Grant to Patent: A Guide to Early Land Settlement Records ca. 1790 to ca. 1850 (Research Guide 215) provides an excellent overview of this time. It is available at the Archives website on the Tracing Your Family History page.
Peter Robinson came from a Loyalist family. He was born in New Brunswick in 1785. His parents moved to Upper Canada in 1792 and settled at Kingston first, and later, York. During the war of 1812 he commanded a rifle company and later was the Upper Canadian Assembly Representative for East York. In 1827 he became the Commissioner of Crown Lands and played a large part in encouraging immigration to the Lanark and Peterborough areas of Upper Canada.
In 1823 he was offered and accepted the job of organizing and directing an emigration scheme. He recruited interested people in southern Ireland. Of those who expressed interest, 600 were selected (all but ten were Roman Catholics) and they were sent to Upper Canada near Perth. Two years later he brought out about 2000 Irish settlers, most of whom were placed near Rice Lake. There, the new village of Peterborough (named after him) flourished.
A parliamentary review in 1826 and 1827 decided not to repeat these two initiatives. The decision was based on cost as well as the fact that thousands from Britain were leaving every year without any help from the government.
The Archives of Ontario describes its Peter Robinson collection as follows:
- “The Archives of Ontario’s Peter Robinson fonds (F 61) includes microfilmed records from the Peterborough Centennial Museum. Among this collection are lists of immigrants by ship (1823) and embarkation cards for 1825. There are also alphabetical lists of immigrants by township, giving birthplaces in Ireland; location lists specifying the tools, livestock, and clothing granted; and applications from intended immigrants, arranged alphabetically and often accompanied by letters of recommendation.”
Thomas Talbot was Simcoe’s private secretary in Quebec and accompanied him to Upper Canada in 1792 when Simcoe became the first Lieutenant Governor and he served as Simcoe’s aide in 1792 and 1793.
He was impressed with the land in Upper Canada and saw great opportunities for settlement. In 1803 he received a grant for 5,000 acres and he chose the area of Dunwich Township in south-western Upper Canada. Scottish, English, Irish, American and Pennsylvania Quakers settled there. By 1824 Talbot had received over 500,000 acres and had control of 28 townships from the westerly sections of Norfolk County to the Detroit River. The population in 1837 was about 50,000. Even some Loyalists unhappy with conditions in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick moved into the area.
Talbot was known to run a tight ship and settlers who did not obey his regulations could be dispossessed. A settler in Talbot’s domain had to build a house and have 10 acres under crops within 10 years and he had to build a usable road along half of his frontage. All this was required before he could get a patent for the land.
- “Although Talbot was inclined to ride roughshod over local officials and at times may have been unreasonable with individual colonists, he largely eliminated, in a big area, the evils of absentee ownership and speculation in land. He emphasized the necessity of having decent roads, saw mills and grist mills.” (Glazebrook 1971, 22)
The Thomas Talbot Fonds at the Archives of Ontario contain among other information town plans with settlers names pencilled in and a register or lease book for some townships. A description of the fonds is accessible from the From Grant to Patent article previously mentioned.
Although in the early days of Canadian settlement Americans were welcome, this changed with the War of 1812-14. The sentiment continued to exist until later in the 19th century when the west was being settled. It is interesting to note, however, that between 1785 and 1815 Americans made up the largest number of colonists in British North America. The War of 1812-14 made Britain aware of the need to populate Upper Canada and particularly to populate it with those sympathetic to Britain. So, for the next one hundred plus years, British headed the list of the most desirable settlers.
The Petworth Emigration Scheme
The Petworth Emigration Scheme was a programme of assisted emigration which occurred from 1832-1837 under the patronage of George Wyndham III, Earl of Egremont of Petworth, Sussex. The Petworth Committee was formed in 1832 at a time when local parishes, governments and private citizens joined together in attempts to do something about rural and urban poverty.
Over 1800 persons expressed interest in emigrating. Lord Egremont was not willing to subsidize them all so the British and Canadian governments also got involved as well as some of the parishes in the area. Most of the emigrants came from West Sussex, but there were also some from Hampshire, Cambridge and Wiltshire.
They travelled in three stages: from their homes to Portsmouth, England; across the Atlantic and up the St. Lawrence to York (Toronto); and on to look for work in places other than York, such as Hamilton, Dundas, Galt, Adelaide Township and Woodstock.
The Petworth immigrants were better treated on the voyage than many others. They had more space, better food and higher levels of cleanliness. The settlers benefited from the fact that Upper Canada’s Lieutenant Governor, Sir John Colborne was a firm believer in assisted emigration policies. He put a plan in place for these arrivals to have temporary possession of five acre lots and log cabin houses that would be near communities which were growing and were in need of labourers. It was as a result of this plan that many of the Petworth emigrants went to Woodstock.
Who were the Petworth emigrants? Most of them were labourers. Most emigrated in families and many of the parents were middle aged with several children.
For those interested in assisted emigration in general and the Petworth Project in particular, Wendy Cameron and Mary McDougall Maude’s recent book on the subject is recommended. Assisting Emigration To Upper Canada: The Petworth Project 1832-1837 is written in two parts. Part 1 describes the work of the Petworth Emigration Committee and Part 2 contains a complete list of emigrants on Petworth ships 1832-37 including background details and family reconstructions.
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Canadian: Immigration Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.