The birth of a township

Following the end of hostilities between England and the Thirteen American colonies in 1783, the British government was faced with the responsibility of having, in part, caused the displacement of thousands of people who wished to remain under British rule. All had seen property destroyed, suffered harassment or had been threatened with death by citizens who had supported the rebels seeking independence from Great Britain. More than 10,000 farmers, soldiers, businessmen, government officials and First Nations people sought safety by crossing the border into Canada.

Since these loyalist refugees could not safely return to their property in the United States, the British government assumed the responsibility for resettling them in Canada. In 1789, the establishment of Land Boards across present-day Southern Ontario was ordered. They were to be responsible for surveying townships and the location of roads that would allow settlement to begin.

Two years later, with the formal creation of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe was appointed the Lt. Governor of the new province; he chose Augustus Jones to be one of his surveyors. Jones was instructed to begin at the mouth of the Niagara River and lay out townships in a westerly direction as far as the western end of Lake Ontario. Between 1791 and 1793, a series of townships fronting onto the south shore of Lake Ontario (Niagara Peninsula and the Head-of-the-Lake) were surveyed.

Soon after work began, the Land Board at Newark (present day Niagara-on-the-Lake) received a request to assist with a settlement problem, that of housing several thousand members of the French nobility, who had fled to England to escape the terrible atrocities perpetrated during the French Revolution. These exiles were a serious embarrassment to the British government, so arrangements to reserve land for them in Canada were quickly initiated. The émigrés were offered land a considerable distance from Lower Canada (Quebec).

The township fronting onto the north shore of Burlington Bay was reserved for them, but just as arrangements to transport them began, the French Republic established during the Revolution collapsed. The exiles returned to France and the land grant was rescinded. Had they come, the township reserved for them was to be East Flamborough, so it would have held a unique place in Ontario’s history.

Sylvia Wray is the former archivist with the Flamborough Archives. She can be reached through the Archives at

This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 20 July 2007.


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