Assistant Surveyor Collins Commenced His Work in September, 1783
Instructions in Regard To the Townships
The First Settlement
Dealings With The Indians
The Four Townships
As the Whig has already published some facts in regard to the recently published letters between governor Haldimand of Quebec and the first surveys and surveyors in Upper Canada, commencing with 1783, the following additional particulars may come well in place. It has already been stated that on May 26th, 1783, Governor Haldimand gave official instructions to Major Holland, surveyor general, to proceed at once to Cataraqui and arrange for a survey of lands in that vicinity, in view of the coming of the U.E. Loyalists refugees and that John Collins was appointed deputy surveyor. Facts have been given in regard to the fixing of the site for the fort and the then proposed town of Kingston. We now come to the surveys and settlement of the five townships along the shores of the Bay of Quinte.
It appears to have been on September 7th, 1783, that Mr. Collins was sent from Quebec to commence his work of surveys about the Bay of Quinte. On that date Governor Haldimand wrote a letter to Major Ross, then in command of the forces at Carlton Island. That letter states that Mr. Collins is being sent “with proper assistance to Cataraqui, in order to survey and mark out the settlement intended at that place for the refugee loyalists,” and that “Captain Laforce, Captain Sherwood and others skilled in land and the principles of colonization accompany Mr. Collins. They have also a number of men in order to cut down and square timber to make a beginning.” To Mr. Collins’ official instructions were also given, bearing date of September 11th, 1783, in which it is said: “It being my intention to establish settlements for the provision of part of the distressed loyalists resorting to this province at and in the neighborhood of Cataraqui, upon Lake Ontario, you are herby directed to proceed to that place without loss of time for the purpose of surveying and laying out the several lands in townships and lots.” Then follow the detailed instructions. He was first to make an exact survey of the neck of land intended for the town lot, “and if Point Frederick is not commanded from Point Henry, on both of which places sufficient spaces for fortifications must be reserved.” The ground on the west side of Cataraqui harbor, within certain lines, “must remain to the crown, for the use of the garrison, and as a place of resort for the Indians, where some of the most noted might be allowed to build, reserving sufficient spaces round the slips unencumbered by buildings.”
Then come the instructions in regard to the townships. These were about six inches [sic] square, and it was proposed to grant to each family 120 acres, of which six were to be in the front, with sixty-three chains, twenty-five links in depth, so that every township would have twenty-five lots in front, road allowances and seven concessions deep. This plan was not carried out. The townships are not uniform in width or depth and 200 acres were granted to each family. He is now informed that captain Sherwood and lieutenant Cotte and also “Mr. Grass, captain of one of the companies of militia intended for that settlement,” would accompany him, “and these gentlemen will be attended with axemen, etc., proper for the occasion.”
It may as well be inserted here the following extract from J.J. Murphy’s paper: “Early in January of 1784, the first band of U.E. Loyalists, under the leadership of captain Michael Grass, arrived from New York and the following May, they ascended the St. Lawrence in batteaux, to take possession of the lands which had been surveyed for them. Sir John Johnson and deputy surveyor general Collins were instructed to proceed with the party and settle them on the lands (in “First Town,” or now Kingston township) which were to be drawn for, in order to prevent partiality. Mr. Collins was also appointed to administer the oath of allegiance. Provisions, seeds and implements were supplied and energetic efforts were made to have these refugees settled comfortably. The greater part of Captain Grass’ party were settled in township No. 1 and this was the first effective settlement made within the boundaries of what is now the province of Ontario and may be justly considered as the foundation of the province.”
The Mohawk Indians, to whom much reference is made in this old time correspondence, were, it must be remembered, U.E. Loyalists and not aborigines of Canada. They fought bravely with the British cause in Mohawk valley, near Albany and shared the fate of the other Loyalists when the war was over – expulsion from their native country. Under Captain Joseph Brant, they were now to be located, and it was with difficulty that a place was selected to suit them. At last the township of Tyendinaga was selected. On September 15th, 1783, governor Haldimand wrote to Major Ross in which he stated: “From the report of Sir John Johnson I have reason to expect that the Mohawks and some other tribes of savages will establish themselves near the Bay of Kintie, and I understand that it is their wish to have the Loyalists in their neighborhood. The only difficulty seems to be, giving uneasiness to the Missisagues (aborigines) as they claim the northern part of Lake Ontario to avoid which I have directed Sir J. Johnson to treat with them in this matter and if necessary to make such purchases as the king’s service may require, which he tells me will be easily accomplished.”
Major Ross wrote to Captain Matthews from Cataraqui on the 2nd of October, 1783 that, “the Indians have not yet been advised on this occasion. I am doubtful they will make more difficulty that Sir John Johnson imagines; but still I hope of no great moment or importance. I have had no rum to give them since my arrival to which they are absolutely devoted. Any little I have given them as yet has been my own, but it has been but trifling.” Again on the 3rd of November Major Ross wrote: “I am much obliged to his excellency for the order on Carlton Island for rum. Such is the nature of the Indians here that if their services are wanted they are exceedingly covetous, but if they are not employed seldom ask for anything. As the latter is mostly the case at present a very small quantity of rum or provisions will satisfy them, both of which shall be managed with the greatest economy. The party which went to meet Lieut. French returned some days after his arrival here. They travelled about sixty miles, nearly a northern course. The lands in general are of a better quality than those reported by Lieut. French on the banks of the river Ganenenqui (Gananoque) which he described as very barren. They did not touch the river – the Indians made a trip up the Rideau river to see of a satisfactory reserve could be found for them, but are reported to have returned without giving a definite answer as they preferred to visit other points farther west first. The results would indicate that they made other choice.
On the 3rd of November, 1783, Mr. Collins reported to Gov. Haldimand from Cataraqui, in which he stated: “All I have been able to do has been to complete the survey of one township, the plan and report of which I have the honor to transmit, with a plan of point Henry, surveyed by Mr. Cotte. Mr. Cotte sets off to-morrow with Capt. Sherwood and myself in order to lay out a second township, which will be a few miles above the first. The lands between the two are stoney and unfit for cultivation. The lands on the east side (of Cataraqui river), back of point Henry, by Capt. Sherwood’s report, are stoney and barren and not more than half a dozen good lots can be found for some miles back. Theis made me decline laying out a township on the east side of the river.”
Mr. Collins wrote out a report containing a description of the first four townships outlined by him in the fall of 1783 and sub-divided the following year. It will be remembered that so far as Adolphustown was concerned the surveys of the lots were not completed until some time after the landing of the Loyalists, in June of 1784 and they had to remain inactive in their canvass tents for some weeks, until an allotment could be made to each family.
Township No. 1 (afterwards named Kingston) was described as a tract of land six miles square, “lying and being in the province of Quebec, situated on the north side of Lake Ontario, near the ancient Fort Frontenac…including 23,040 superficial acres of land, the greater part of which appears to be of excellent quality, fit for the production of wheat, oats, Indian corn, hemp, flax, timothy and clover. The woods in general are maple, bass, hickory, ash, elm, pine and white oak – the two latter in many parts from two and a half to three feet in diameter.”
Township No. 2 (now Ernesttown), surveyed the 7th day of November, 1783, a tract of six miles square… including 23, 040 superficial acres, which appear to be equal in quality to the best lands in America. The woods the same as described in No. 1.”
Township No. 3 (now Fredericksburgh) surveyed the 12th of November, 1783, bounded on the east by No. 2 and the west by No. 4; then comes the boundary described, also described as six miles square. It will be remembered, however, that before the settlements were completed, thirteen lots were taken off Adolphustown, or Fourth Town and added to Third Town, in order that all the members of the same military company might be located in the same township. The quantity of land is not mentioned in the report. It is said that Collins wanted to have all Fourth Town added to the Third, but Holland would not consent and there was a hot contention between them about it, almost leading to a duel.
Township No. 4 (now Adolphustown) surveyed November 15, 1783. This record settles a disputed opinion in regard to the date of the surveys. Some very intelligent residents are now of opinion the Adolphustown was first surveyed; that the surveyors were anxious to select a good township for Major Vanalstine’s company, who were, or had been, nearly all well-to-do farmers and wanted good farming land, while the others had been largely soldiers and military men of some class; that the surveyors in passing up the bay did not see any very good land along the shore until they reached what was the original boundary of Adolphustown, above the gap, and then surveyed the base line. It seems somewhat singular and nothing in the original letters explain it, that in the first three townships, the lots all number west to east, while in Adolphustown they number the other way – from east to west.
THOMAS W. CASEY