from The Guide October 11, 1877
In our first letter we introduced to our readers the first actual settlers, one of whom is still living
among us. We designate them as the first actual settlers, though they were preceded by
two, what the Indians name, pale faces, because we consider these were not in the strictest sense
of the word, permanent settlers, intending merely to trade with the aborigines in the
adjacent country for a short time and then decamp with their booty. Not so with our pioneers.
They came for nobler purposes and were welcomed by the red man with a truly friendly
spirit worthy of all imitation. What a blessing that throughout the wide expanse of British
North America the white man was thus received and that the historian has no thrilling tale to
relate of brutal murders being perpetrated on the pioneers and their families like the many
sad occurrences that transpired in the early settlement of the United States and are still
occurring in many parts with which our readers are conversant.
Although we are limited in our narrative to the early settlement of this small section of
the noble country of our adoption and are consequently debarred from taking a more general
notice of the very interesting events of a social and political nature that might otherwise have
been added, we deem it not necessary to apologize for digressing by noticing anything that
bears a relation, however remote to the section under consideration. In doing so, however, we
shall be as brief as possible. We therefore intend in this letter to go back to a date prior to the
settlement of this and surrounding country between Belleville and Niagara, commencing with an
outline of the first great geographical divisions into which Canada was originally
divided, together with its subsequent alterations. This, we think, will be interesting to many of
our readers, as it shows to which of these divisions our favoured section belonged before and
after it was set apart to take its political position in the county and to become the home of
thousands of inhabitants, which, by the emulous exertions of our first settlers stimulating their
successors, it has attained.
The Province of Quebec, including all this western country,
was only divided into two districts - the Eastern and the Western - and remained so until 1788
when Governor Dorchester, by proclamation dated July 24 at the city of Quebec, divided the
western territory into four districts, namely, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nassau and Hesse, the
first being bounded on the east by the eastern limits of a tract lately called or known by name of
Lancaster, the present boundary between the Provinces of Quebec and Ontario.
It will be observed that there was either a strong inclination on the part of the Government of
Lord Dorchester to please the Dutch element in the country by thus giving these districts
Dutch names, or it was only adverted to in order to flatter the Sovereign. However, it is of little
moment to us what the motive was, whether it was the one or the other or both.
The first act of Lieutenant Governor Simcoe on arrival at Kingston, before he reached Newark (Niagara),
which he afterwards selected to be the capital of Upper Canada, was to issue a
proclamation, dated July 16, 1792, dividing the Province into 19 counties for electoral purposes,
as described in the preamble which is as follows -
J Graves Simcoe:
'George the Third, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland,
King, Defender of the Faith, and so forth etc, etc. To all our loving subjects whom these presents may
'Whereas, in pursuance of an Act of Parliament, lately made and provided,
passed in the thirty-first year of our reign, and of authority by us given for that purpose, our
late Province of Quebec is become divided into the Provinces of Upper Canada and Lower Canada
and our Lieutenant Governor of the said Province of Upper Canada, by power from us derived, is
authorised in the absence of our right trusty and well beloved, Guy, Lord Dorchester, Captain General
and Governor in Chief of our said Province of Upper Canada, to divide the said
Province of Upper Canada into districts, counties, cities or towns and townships for the purpose of
effectuating the intents of the said Act of Parliament and to declare and appoint the
number of representatives to be chosen by each to serve in the Assembly of the said Province.
'Know ye therefore that our trusty and well beloved John Graves Simcoe, Esq, our Lieutenant Governor
of the said Province of Upper Canada, in the absence of the said Governor in
Chief, hath and by this our Proclamation doth divide the said Province of Upper Canada into
counties and hath and doth appoint and declare the number of representatives of them and
each of them to be as hereinafter listed, that is to say........
'That the thirteenth of the said counties
be hereafter called by the name of the County of Durham, the fourteenth, the County of York and the
fifteenth, the County of Lincoln: which County is to be divided into four Ridings, the first Riding being bounded
on the west by the easternmost lines of the County of York, etc, and that the Counties of Durham and York and
the said first Riding of the County of Lincoln shall be represented together in the House of Assembly by one member.'
We see that our future 'city of bricks' was situated in the Nassau District and before it was occupied by any but the
red man, who had chosen this beautiful site for his residence, where he erected his rural palatial edifice, the
wigwam, with which this riparian village was studded when our pioneers arrived.
Out of the nineteen counties, sixteen members were to be chosen to represent the county in the
House of Assembly and so sparse was the population that only five members were found
in attendance at the first session of the first Parliament of Upper Canada.
In the first session of the first Parliament, October 15, 1792, an Act was passed for building a
jail and court house in every District within the Province and for altering the names of the
said Districts. The preamble stated that:-
'Whereas great inconveniences have been
suffered by the inhabitants of this Province for the want of Prisons and Court Houses in the
several Districts thereof, etc, be it enacted, etc, that a Jail and Court House shall be erected in a
manner hereafter to be mentioned, in each and every District throughout the said Province.
'Second, And be it further enacted, etc, That from and after the passing of this Act, the name
of the District at present known by the name of the District of Lunenburg and bounded as
in a certain Proclamation issued by His Excellency, Guy, Lord Dorchester, in the 28th year of His
Majesty's reign, is described, shall cease and the said shall hereafter in all public
proceedings be called and known by the name of the Eastern District.
'Third, And be it further enacted, etc, The District of Mecklenburg, etc, to be hereafter called the Midland District.
'Fourth, The District of Nassau to be henceforth called the Home District.
'Fifth, The District of Hesse to be henceforth called the Western District.'
The Home District, to which the Township of Hope belonged, was bounded on the east by the
Midland District and extended westward as far as the north and south line intersecting the
extreme projection of Long Point in Lake Erie on the northerly side of the said Lake Erie.
In 1796 Lieutenant Governor Simcoe selected York as the capital of Upper Canada just before he was
required to relinquish his government and proceed to St Domingo in a similar
capacity. The Government of Upper Canada devolving upon the Hon Peter Russell, President of the Council, he
convened the first session of the Second Provincial Parliament in 1797 at the new capital with a general election.
The inconvenience the inhabitants of Northumberland and Durham sustained in having the
Registry Office and the Courts of Law held at York was very great and continued until the Counties of
Northumberland and Durham were declared a separate District.
In the second session of the Second Parliament, 1798, the Counties of Northumberland and Durham were formed,
the former containing the Townships of Murray, Cramahe, Haldimand, Hamilton, Alnwick, Percy and Seymour,
with the peninsula of Newcastle. Durham comprised the Townships of Hope, Clarke and Darlington, with all the tract of land
hereafter to be laid out into townships which lie to the southward of the small lakes above Rice Lake and the
communication between them, and between the eastern boundary of the Township of Hope and the western boundary
of the Township of Darlington. Section 24 enacts that the Counties of Northumberland, Durham, York and Simcoe shall
constitute and form the Home District. Section 25 provides what when and so soon as the Counties of Northumberland and
Durham shall make it satisfactorily appear to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor or person administering the
Government of the Province that there are 1,000 souls within the said counties and that six of the townships therein
do hold town meetings according to law; then the said counties and all the land in the rear confined within their extreme
boundaries shall and are hereby declared to be a separate district, to be called the District of Newcastle and the
Governor, etc, is hereby authorised upon such proof as aforesaid, to declare the same by proclamation any time
within one year after the same shall be so established, as to him shall seem most fit.
The Royal assent to the above section was promulgated by Parliament, bearing date the first day of January in the year of our
Lord 1800, wherein the Counties of Northumberland and Durham are declared to be a separate district to be called the District
of Newcastle. In 1802 an Act was passed enacting that a jail and court house for the District of Newcastle shall be erected and
built in some fit and proper place within the town of Newcastle. As the town of Newcastle was inconvenient for the inhabitants
to have a jail and court house built at this place, it being at the extreme eastern limits of the District, an Act was passed in 1806
repealing the above section and authorizing that it shall and may be lawful for the magistrates in quarter sessions assembled,
to appoint a proper place in the Townships of Haldimand or Hamilton for building a jail and court house. Amherst, in the Township
of Hamilton (now Cobourg) was selected and in l806-7 the first jail and court house, a frame building, was erected. So inconvenient
was this edifice, there being no room for the grand jury, they had to retire to a room in the tavern near by to deliberate on the
matters brought before them. The writer has had this experience when attending court as a grand juror. This state continued until
1832, when the stone jail and court house, now occupied as a jail was erected on the west side of the road opposite to the old building.
July 4, 1800, the Counties were again divided for electoral purposes and the County of Durham, the East
Riding of the County of York and the County of Simcoe were together to be represented in the House of Assembly by one
member. The electoral boundaries were once more altered In 1808 and the Counties of Northumberland and Durham
were together to be represented by one member.
We are afraid that our digression from the main subject has been protracted to too great an extent. And having now arrived
at the time of the union of the two Counties, as they are at present constituted, we shall in our next letter return to the events
transpiring with our pioneers.