Sign In

Forgot Password Create Account
Description

Detailed map of Canada and the Great Lakes, published by Henry Teesdale in 1834.

The map provides a nice early treatment of the Townships in Upper Canada, here shown centered around the towns of London, Guelph and York.

Expansion in Upper Canada

Up to the War of 1812, a majority of Upper Canadians had been born in the Unite States. While many were United Empire Loyalists, political refugees whose allegiance to the British Crown was beyond reproach, many others, the so-called 'Late Loyalists', were suspected of moving to the province in search of cheap land, and not due to political conviction. During the war, the province's deeply conservative governing elite worried that the recent American immigrants would side with the American invaders. The crown believed that henceforth efforts should be made to ensure that the majority of new settlers would come from Britain, and not the United States.

As time wore on, the cash-strapped Crown balked at paying the ever-rising war compensation claims, and so desired to find a new source of revenue for settling these obligations. Moreover, just as had happened in the neighboring American states, people realized that vast fortunes could be made in land speculation.

John Galt (1779-1839), a brilliant, charismatic, and some would say roguish Scottish novelist sensed an opportunity. In 1824, he proposed that a private land development company be formed to settle much of the hinterland of Southern Upper Canada. The company could buy large tracts of undeveloped land from the Crown, the proceeds of which could be used to settle the war compensation claims. In turn, the company could sell the land to migrants, in theory at great profit. Galt petitioned various political figures in London and York, and on July 27, 1825, the Canada Company was given a royal charter by Act of Parliament.

The Company agreed to purchase 400,000 acres of land from the Crown for a sum of 3 shillings, six pence an acre, plus some additional fees. The 'Canada Company Lands' consisted of much of the northern part of Southwestern Ontario, including much of the future counties of Lambton, Huron, Bruce, Wellington and Dufferin. Galt was made the secretary of the Company, and while he officially reported to its board of directors, he was, for all practical purposes, the Company's C.E.O., with complete control over the enterprise's operations.

Fortunately, by coincidence, in the wake of the War of 1812, the British Navy had arranged for all of Canadian coastlines of the Great Lakes be surveyed to advanced scientific standards. While this process was still far from complete, from 1819 to 1824, Lieutenant Henry Bayfield had charted the shores of Lake Huron, from the mouth of the St. Clair River, all the way north and over to the mouth of Severn River in Georgian Bay.  

The years following the Company's establishment marked a period of explosive growth in Upper Canada, as the province's population grew from 165,000 in 1826 to 375,000 in 1846. The Company experienced considerable success in attracting settlers and developing its territories. New roads were quickly laid across the lands and new towns, such as Guelph (the Company's Headquarters) and Goderich were established (both in 1827).

However, the Canada Company quickly ran into financial and legal problems. This was, in good part, due to Galt's chaotic mismanagement and the web of corruption into which the venture became intertwined. Amazingly, Galt who had almost complete autonomy over the Company's day-to-day operations, did not even keep ledger books. Agreements were often made (and then rescinded) by means of oral conversations, and no proper records were kept. Company agents habitually embezzled funds and leading members of the "Family Compact" accepted bribes and other ill-gotten gains. Many of the regular prospective settlers and investors who had paid money to the Company were defrauded. Upper Canada's courts were inundated with lawsuits against the Company, and public outrage over the Company's behavior is thought to have been a contributing cause to Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837.

The situation was so serious that the Crown was not being paid its fees and quitrents. In 1829, the province's Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Peregrine Maitland, ensured that Galt was dismissed, and had the Company placed under official audit. While the Company continued to play a key role in the settlement of what would become Ontario, the vast riches imagined by the Company's founders remained elusive. The Company existed in various forms until it was folded in 1958.    

Henry Teesdale Biography

Teesdale was a London-based map publisher. He was an early Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, elected in 1830. Teesdale partnered with John Hordan and William Colling Hodson, but this arrangement dissolved in 1832. Afterward, he continued to work on his own and periodically with colleagues like John Crane Dower, Christopher Greenwood, Josiah Henshall and others. He published a variety of atlases and separately-issued maps. His business was quite successful, as he registered as a partner in the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1845.