This year, 1984, is the Province of Ontario’s Bicentennial — a celebration to commemorate the arrival of the first settlers into an area we today know as Ontario, but two hundred years ago was a wilderness, inhabited only by tribes of wandering Indians. The upcoming Heritage Papers will examine some of the very early history of East Flamborough, and record, how in the fifty years following the arrival of the first immigrants, settlements were established throughout the township and foundations of the present-day centres were established.
This paper looks at the area we know as East Flamborough and the stages of its formation.
The Algonquin hunter, and the Iroquoian cultivator were almost certainly the first inhabitants of Southern Ontario, the triangle of land formed by the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers and the lower Great Lakes. The French appeared during the 17th century, but had little interest in the area, regarding it as a source of income from which supplies of furs could be shipped out through the St. Lawrence to the profitable markets of Europe.
In 1775, at the beginning of hostilities between England and her American colonies that became the American War of Independence, the whole area we know today as Ontario, was part of the province of Québec. The area was an unmapped wilderness, and is said to have contained a population of less than two thousand white persons. With the war came the arrival of refugees — a steady flow of people crossed the border seeking protection because of their wish to remain loyal to the British Crown. These people, amidst hardship and struggles chose to begin life anew. It is believed that as many as 10,000 of these patriots of Loyalists settled in Canada within a year of the conclusion of the war in 1783. These Loyalists were a very “mixed” group of people, some were long established in English-speaking America, others such as the Scots and Germans were more recent arrivals in the New World. Some of them were prosperous business men, but many of them were soldiers and farmers from the backwoods of the American colonies, well adapted to a life of pioneering. Some emigrated to Canada because they feared their religious faith or political convictions might be compromised by association with republicanism, while another group, made up of displaced British officials and military veterans, set out for the “northern dominion” simply because they had no other choice in the matter.
During the years of the war, the refugees were billeted in the Fort at Niagara and in the surrounding area. Once all threat of war had passed, these people were not slow to realize that the Peninsula was a desirable area with its fertile soil and moderate climate. Small settlements sprang up along the shore of Lake Ontario and the banks of the Niagara River. Some of the more adventurous Loyalists were not content to remain in the locality of the Fort and began travelling westwards, following Indian trails or by coasting along the shore in open boats until they reached the western end of Lake Ontario, or the “Head of the Lake” as it became known. So before any official surveys of land were completed, people had chosen property in this area and were building shelters ready to begin life anew. Among these were the widow Ann Morden and her two sons, John and Ralph Jr., who had squatted on land in what was to become West Flamborough by 1787, and David Fonger who had settled in what was to become East Flamborough by 1783.
With this large influx of people into the western portion of the Province of Québec, to secure better government and to provide every facility for orderly settlement, Lord Dorchester, Governor General of Canada, issued a proclamation of the 24th of July, 1788, dividing what is now the Province of Ontario into four districts (the land that was to become East Flamborough Township being in the district known as Nassau). It had become evident to the British government that vigorous measures were very necessary so that settlements for the distressed Loyalists could be started for it was now obvious that these people would never be able to return to their former homes.
In each of the districts, Land Boards, as they were called, were established. The Nassau Land Board was at Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) and consisted of the following persons: Lieutenant-Colonel Hunter of Lieutenant-Colonel Butler, Peter TenBroeck, Robert Hamilton, Benjamin Pawling and Nathaniel Pettit. Their considerable duties included examing the loyalty and character of all persons claiming or asking lands for settlement, if approved the oath of allegiance was administered, and the surveyors were directed to locate the applicants on unclaimed lands. As many settlers had already located their families on land still unsurveyed, the Land Board also acted as a court to settle all land disputes arising from boundary quarrels.
Sir Frederick Haldimand had begun the work of surveying townships as early as 1781, but little progress was made so on the recommendation of the Land Board, Mr. Augustus Jones was, in June 1791, appointed Deputy Provincial Land Surveyor for the District of Nassau, and began the enormous task of surveying for the establishment of townships. At the end of 1791, the British Government passed the Constitutional Act which replaced the old Province of Québec with Upper Canada in the west and Lower Canada in the east, and appointed John Graves Simcoe as the first Governor of Upper Canada.
Surveying now proceeded at a rapid rate, copies of the original surveys are to be found at the Ontario Archives, and show that Saltfleet, Barton, Binbrook and part of a township on the north shore of Lake Geneva (now Burlington Bay) called the Township of Geneva were surveyed in 1791 by Augustus Jones, and countersigned by Samuel Holland, Surveyor General and at a later date by D. W. Smith, Acting Surveyor for Upper Canada. These plans are dated 25 October 1791, but Geneva Township, which was later to be renamed East Flamborough, consisted of only four concessions and broken front lots.
Augustus Jones spent much of the following year surveying what was to become the Governor’s Road or Dundas Street, and it was not until 1793 that the remaining land that was to become East Flamborough was completely surveyed. The eastern boundary was an important survey line that ran in a north-westerly direction, known as the “Purchase Line”, it separated land already purchased from the Mississauga Indians from land they still laid claim to. Today a section of this line serves as the townline boundary between the Counties of Hamilton-Wentworth and Halton. The starting point for the “Purchase Line” was the “old outlet” connecting Burlington Bay with Lake Ontario, and situated near the northern end of the Beach. The line was run at an angle of north 45 west, and extended to a point about twelve miles from the water’s edge. Strict instructions were issued with regards the drawing of concession lines so that they ran at right angles to the north-eastern boundary line. Finally a road allowance of one chain was left between lots 7 and 8, and is today known as the Centre Road. In December 1793, Governor Simcoe assigned the name Flamborough to this newly surveyed township, a name like so many others in the Niagara Peninsula with connections to the counties of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, England.
In 1798 the Parliament of Upper Canada passed an act dividing the province into twenty-two counties, which were grouped into nine districts. Most of the townships in present-day Hamilton-Wentworth formed part of the new district of Niagara, while Beverly and Flamborough remained in the Home District. It was at this date that Flamborough was divided into two separate townships, East and West, although royal assent was not given until January 1, 1800.
“Papers and Records of the Wentworth Historical Society”Volume 10. 1922. Griffin & Richmond Company Ltd., Hamilton“The Head of the Lake, a History of Wentworth County”.1958. C.M. Johnston.Heritage Paper No. 21, Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society Newsletter, 1983.“West Flamboro Township Centennial”. Star Printing Company of Dundas, 1950.Newspaper Article entitled “New Start”, Helen Langford for Burlington Historical Society, Burlington Post.
Originally published in Heritage Happenings, January 1984.
© The Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society 1984, 2020