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Ontario, Canada

ONTARIO, a province of the Domi­nion of Canada, bounded on the N.E. and E. by the province of Quebec; on the S.E., S.S.W. and W. by the River St. Lawrence and its great lakes; and on the N.W. and N. by the North West Territories. Length from S.E. to N.W. about 750 miles, and from N.E. to S.W., about 500 miles. Area, land and inland waters, 107,780 square statute miles, equal to 18,979,­372 acres. Area of the Ontario frontier waters of the St. Lawrence and its large lakes about 27,094 square statute miles, or 17,340.160 acres.

The surface of the country is gently undulating, rather than mountainous, and is diversified by rivers aid lakes. The ridge of high laud which enters the province at Niagara Falls extends to Hamilton, and is continued to Owen Sound, thence along the peninsula to Cabot Head and through the Manitoulin Islands of Lake Huron. The Laurentian hills run westward from the Thousand Islands, near Kingston, and 'extend north of Lake Simcoe, forming the coast of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. A main watershed separate, the waters of the Ottawa from those of the St. Lawrence; a minor one divides the streams flowing into Lake Simcoe, Georgian Bay and Lake Huron, from those flowing into Lakes Erie a al Ontario.

The agricultural resources of the country are very great. The fertile belt extends over three-fourths of the present inhabited parts, and a vast area, in the hands of the Government, now open for settlement. Immense cops of wheat are annually raised; also oats, barley Indian corn, rye, potatoes, turnips, &c. The apple orchards of the south western counties are very productive, and pears, plums, grapes, cherries and various kinds of berries thrive luxuriantly. The climate of Ontario is agreeably tempered by the proximity of the great lakes. The winter is considerably shorter and milder than that of Quebec.

The principal rivers of Ontario are the tributaries of the Ottawa; the French, the Maganetawan, the Severn, and the Nottawasaga falling into Georgian Bay; the Saugeen, the Maitland, and the Aux Sables, falling into Lake Huron; the Thames, running S.W. into Lake St. Clair; the Grand, flowing S.E. into Lake Erie; the Trent, in part of its course called the Otonabee, and the Moira, flowing S.E. into the Bay of Quinte; and the Niagara, falling into Lake Ontario. The mighty St. Lawrence sweeps through the eastern part of the province, from Kingston, and the Ottawa forms part of its N.E. boundary. The lakes of Ontario are numerous and magnificent. The largest are Lakes Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario. They cover an area of 80,000 square miles, and contain nearly half the fresh water of the globe. The minor lakes are Nipigon, Simcoe, Nipissing, and those in the counties north of Lake Ontario, and in the Ottawa and the St. Lawrence rivers. The principal bays are the Georgian, Nottawasaga, Owen Sound, Long Point, Burlington and Quite.

The mineral wealth of the country is not surpassed, if indeed it be equaled, by any other in variety and richness. Iron is found in large quantities a short distance hack of Lake Ontario, in the country between Georgian Bay and the Ottawa; also, in the same region, copper, lead, plumbago, antimony, arsenic, manganese, gypsum, marble of the finest quality, and building stone. Gold has also been found in the same region, but not as yet in quantities sufficient to pay well. On the north shore of Lake Huron are extensive mines of copper, and on the shores of Lake Superior, particularly round Thunder Bay, are enormous silver deposits. Amethysts and agates are also found there, as well as mica, iron, gold, cobalt and bismuth. The petroleum wells in the south westerly part of the province are yielding immense supplies, and so are the salt wills at Goderich and Kincardine. The article is obtained by evaporating the brine, and is exceedingly good for table use, having been found, upon chemical analysis, to be of almost perfect puaty. Large peat beds exist in many parts of the province.

The almost unlimited supply of water power throughout Ontario affords unusual facilities for manufactures to which that power is adapted, and in consequence various descriptions of industry are springing up in all direc­tions; steam power is also used to a large extent. The principal articles manufac­tured are cloth, linen, furniture, sawn timber, flax, iron and hardware, paper, soap, starch, hats, caps, boots, shoes, leather, cotton and woolen goods, steam engines and locomotives, sewing machines, wooden ware of all descriptions, agricultural implements, &c.

The settlements in Ontario have hitherto been made south of the Laurentian range of hills, which was thought to bound the lands fit for settlement, but it has been discovered that behind this range there is another tract of rich agricultural land, as level as the St. Lawrence valley and timbered with a heavy growth of mixed white pine and hardwood. These lands are approach­ed by the Northern, Midland, and Toronto and Nipissing, railways on the one hand, and the upper Ottawa on the other. They have the basis of Lake Nipissing and the water shed of the Ottawa for their drainage. Their waters are in part navigable, and the rest can be made so. Settlement has already commenced to enter rapidly into this new district, considerable tracts of which have been set aside as free grants to settlers.

The railway system has made rapid. strides in Ontario during the past 20 years. In 1852 there was not a single mile in the whole province. In 1873, there were 2078 miles in operation, viz: Grand Trunk, 804 miles; Great Western and branches,453 miles; Canada Southern,327 miles; Toronto, Gray and Bruce, 215 miles; Northern, 143 miles; Midland, 109 miles; Brockville and Ottawa, 89 miles; St. Lawrence and Ottawa, 54 miles; London and Port Stanley, 24 miles; Welland, 25 miles; Canada Central, 28 miles; Cobourg, Peterboro and Marmora, 25 miles; Wellington, Grey and Bruce,195 miles; Toronto and Nipissing, 88 miles; Hamilton and Lake Erie, 35miles; Kingston and Pembroke, 18 miles; and Whitby and Port Perry, 19 miles. The following roads were chartered, and some of them are in course of construction: Ontario and Quebec,—miles; Kingston and Pembroke, 140 miles; London, Huron and Bruce, 105 miles; Brantford and Port Burwell, 45 miles; and the Canada Pacific, 2,500 miles; 600 or 730 miles of which will be in this province.

There are several canals in Ontario. The Welland, between Lakes Erie and Ontario, to avoid the Niagara Falls; the Rideau, between Kingston and Ottawa; and the St. Lawrence canals, rendered necessary by the rapids of that river. Two others have been for some time contemplated, but their construction is doubtful, one to connect Georgian Bay with Lake Ontario; the other to connect Georgian Bay with the Ottawa river.

The school system of Ontario is admirable. It affords the children of the rich and poor alike the means of free education. It is under the control of a Chief Superintendent, and exends over the whole province. The schools are supported by a tax on property, with some assistance from the Legislature, and are free to all. Each Township is divided into school sections, with a Board of School Trustees, composed of 3 persons, to each section. This Board employs the teacher aid controls the school. There are 53 inspectors of schools for the entire province, but no Inspector line the supervision of more that 120 or less than 30 schools. They are paid partly by the Council and partly by the Government. These gentlemen visit their respective schools twice a year, examine into the state of educational matters and send an elaborate Report to the Chief Superintendent of the result of their inspection, and the exact standing of the schools. Roman Catholics may, if they think proper, establish separate schools. and are in such cases exempted from supporting public schools, and receive a separate grant from the Government. In 1872 there were 4,598 public schools, (of which 100 were Roman Catholic separate schools,) with 440,326 pupils attending them. The amount of money expended in their support was $1,514,821. The School Act of 1871 has given an immense impetus to public school education, and it is confidently believed that the year immediately following its passage will show a much greater increase in educational statistics than has yet been known The high (formerly grammar) schools of Ontario number 102, with 7,490 pupils, They are principally confined to cities, towns and villages. Pupils enter them from the public schools, and thence to college and the university. The Normal School at Toronto is designed to perfect teachers in their profession, and to show them the best method of teaching. Upwards of 300 young men and women attend it annually. The system of Teacher's Certificate is as follows: There is a Central Board of Examiners at Toronto, which issues let class certificates alone. Each County has a local Board of Examiners for the granting of 2nd and 3rd class certificates. There are two examinations per annum, the papers being got up by the Central Board and sent sealed up to the local Boards. Any candidate who fancies justice has not been done to him may appeal to the Education Department. Or late years the status of teaching qualifications has greatly increased. There are 17 Protestant universities and colleges, and 3 Roman Catholic co1leges in Ontario. Private schools are few, and generally in cities and large towns. The total number of Educational Institutions in Ontario, in 1872, was 5,004, with 433,057 pupils, and a total amount available for educational purposes of $2,629,370.

The municipal system of Ontario is among the most perfect in the world. All religions are free without State preference.

There are numerous public institutions throughout the province, chiefly under control of the Government. Of these are the Lunatic Asylums at Kingston, Toronto, London, Amherstburg and Orillia; the Reformatory Prison at Penetangashire; the Asylum for the Blind at Brantford; the Deaf and Dumb Asylum at Belleville; the Normal School, University College, and Osgoode Hall, Toronto. Other public buildings are in course of construction.

The public affairs of the province are administered by a Lieutenant Governor, an Executive Council of 5 members, and a Legislative Assembly of 88 members, elected every 4 year.

The laws and the mode of administering them are mainly the same as in England , the practice, however, is simpler and far less expensive. The Courts are the Queen's Bench, Common Pleas and Chancery, each presided over by a Chief Justice and two assistants, and a Court of Error and Appeal, composed of a President and the Judges of Superior Courts of Lap and Equity. In each county there is a County Court, presided over by a County Judge. The Judges of the Superior Court (who are all appointed by the Dominion Government) go circuit to each county throughout the province twice a year, to hold assizes for the trial of civil and criminal cases. The judges of the Court of Chancery also hold their courts in various counties as well as at Osgoode Hall.

Ontario is divided into the following counties (which are sub-divided into 88 electoral districts), viz:

Counties Pop. County Town
Addington 21,312 Napanee
Algoma District 7,018 Sault S. Marie
Bothwell 20,701 Sardis
Brant 32,259 Brantford
Bruce 43,515 Walkerton
Cardwell 13,500 Brampton
Carleton 43,281 Ottawa
Dundas 18,777 Cornwall
Durham 37,839 Colmar
Elgin 33,030 St Thomas
Essex 32,697 Sandwich
Frontenac 28,717 Kingston
Grey 59,395 Owen Sound
Haldimand 20,091 Cayuga
Halton 22,006 Milton
Hastings 48,334 Belleville
Huron 63,165 Goderich
Kent 26,836 Chatham
Lambton 31,994 Sarnia
Lanark 33,020 Perth
Leeds & Grenville 57,908 Brockville
Lennox 16,333 Napanee
Lincoln 21,672 St. Catharines
Middlesex 82,595 London
Monck 15,130 Niagara
Muskoka Dist 5,410 Bracebridge
Niagara 3,693 Niagara
Nipissing 1,791 Bracebridge
Norfolk 30,760 Simcoe
Northumberland 39,030 Cobourg
Ontario 45,893 Whitby
Oxford 45,207 Woodstock
Parry Sound 1,519 Parry Sound
Peel 11,359 Brampton
Perth 46,536 Stratford
Peterboro 30,473 Peterboro
Prescott 17,547 L'Orignal
Prince Edward 20,333 Picton
Renfrew 27,977 Pembroke
Russell 18,244 L'Orignal
Simcoe 57,309 Barrie
Stormont 11,873 Cornwall
Glengarry 20,524 Cornwall
Victoria 30,200 Lindsay
Waterloo 40,251 Berlin
Welland 20,572 Welland
Wellington 63,289 Guelph
Wentworth 57,599 Hamilton
York 115.974 Toronto
Total 1,620,851  

Total area of the above counties, 68,097,643 acres.

The prevailing religion of Ontario is Methodist, next Presbyterian, then that of the Church of England. The dioceses of the latter are five in number, viz: Toronto, Western Toronto, Ontario, Huron and Algoma. The Roman Catholic dioceses are five in number, viz: the archdiocese of Toronto, and the dioceses of Ottawa, Kingston, Hamilton and London. According to the census of 1871, the religions denominations in the province are as follows:

  Wesleyan 233,911  
  Episcopal 92,198  
  New Connexion 30,889  
  Primitive 24,045  
  Bible Christians 23,225  
  Other Methodists 14,518  
  Canada 293,275  
  Kirk 63,167  
  Church of England 339,993  
  Church of Rome 274,162  
  Baptists 86,830  
  Lutherans 32,399  
  Congregationalists 42,858  
  Miscellaneous creeds 41,304  
  Jews 510  
  Of no religion 4,908  
  No creed stated 13,849  
  Total 1,620,831  

The largest, and in every respect the most important, city is Toronto, the capital of Ontario. This city has a pop­ulation of over 56,000; it is well situated on Lake Ontario, very handsomely built, and contains a large number of fine buildings. Ottawa is the capital of the Dominion, and is beautifully situated on the river of the same name. It contains the Parliament Building:, one of the noblest structures on the America continent. Kingston is a well built and fortified city, beautifully situated at the outlet of Lake Ontario. Hamilton is a fine commercial city, at the head of navigation on Lake Ontario. London is a handsome inland city, in the centre of the western peninsula.

According to late returns, the total value of the imports of tee province from all foreign countries in 1872 amounted to $37,523,304, of which $16,278,934 were from Great Britain, and $19,531,778 from the United States. The exports for the same period amounted to $25,560,410. The imports for Toronto alone amounted to $13,098,133. The fisheries of Ontario yielded, in 1871, 28,5601 brls., valued at $185,074. The province of Ontario contains many objects of interest to the tourist. Not to speak of its beautiful cities, the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence, and the unrivalled scenery on the Great Lakes, there arc the world-renowned Falls of Niagara, a never failing source of attraction, and the Falls of Kakabikki. on the River Kaministiquia, 30 miles from its outlet into the head of Lake Superior. The scenery surrounding this fail, although less extensive, vies in grandeur and sublimity with that of Niagara. In beholding it, the spectator is inspired with equal awe, the principal features are equally striking, while the deep in­tonation is more sensible than that of its rival, and has a nearer resemblance to the roar of distant thunder and the rumblings of an earthquake.

The existence of Upper Canada as a distinct province can be dated only from the year 1791, previous to which it formed hart of the old Province of Quebec Major General J. G. Simcoe was the first Lieutenant Governor appointed, and the first Parliament met at Niagara on September 17, 1792. In 1820, dissensions of a political nature arose in Lower Canada, which went on increasing in intensity year by year, deepened by the national prejudice of' the French and English colonists to each other, until, in 1834, it extended to Upper Canada, and finally terminated ill insurrections in both provinces in 1837. These were, however, quickly suppressed. The result of these proceedings was the reuniting of the provinces, which took place in 1840. In 1867, under the Act of Confederation, Upper Canada was erected a province, under the name of Ontario. It is the most populous province n the Dominion, having a population, according to the census of 1871, of 1,620,851. The Indians in Ontario, as far as known, number about 13,000.

A Work was published in 1863, entitled "Eighty Years' Progress of British North America," in which an exceedingly interesting article from the pen of T. C. Keefer, C.E., descries in lively and animated language the aspect Upper Canada presented in 1777, only 14 years before it was erected into a Province. "Upper Canada was at that period in possession of the Northern Iroquois, a confederation of the most warlike of the native tribes; and there are those yet living who remember when—save the few families around the precincts of the old French forts—not a white man could be found over all the vast area of Canada West. Toronto was then an Indian village, whose warriors speared the salt water salmon in her harbor, or chased the deer through the county of York; and their squaws then paddled canoes among the rice beds of the smaller lakes, and threshed out the wild grains over the gunwales of their canoes. In the Western peninsula the noble elk herded upon the prairies of St. Clair, or roamed over the oak forests, untroubled by the sound of the settler's axe, and swam the waters where paddle and screw, barque and brig now plow their busy way. Myriads of wild pigeons from the South annually invaded the beech woods and bore down the branches by their weight; thousands of black squirrels from the East swam the broad Niagara, and marched westward in extended line; while flocks of gorgeously clad turkeys and plump breasted quails stalked solemnly along the wild pathways of the forest, undisturbed by the hoarse roar of the locomotive. In every narrow valley and upon every living streamlet the labo­rious beavers arrested the rich alluvion and prepared rich meadows for the flocks and herds of the red man's successors. The hunter and the hunted have exterminated each other."

An erroneous impression prevails, not only on the continent of Europe, but in Great Britain, that the British North American Colonies recently confederated have been completely eclipsed in growth of population and material resources by other communities similarly circumstanced; nevertheless it can be demonstrated with almost the accuracy of a mathematical problem that in their aggregate character these colonies have maintained the highest standard of progress, while in one instance, that of the Province of Ontario, historical records and census returns can be adduced to prove beyond contradiction that she has kept pace with the most ambitious and successful of her competitors, and can compare favorably with the most prosperous States in the American Union.

A statist who draws his inferences from accumulated data, finds himself fortified in his conclusions when depicting a country in the possession of a salubrious climate and a grateful soil— inhabited by a population industrious and enterprising, proud of their colonial connection, needing no army for their protection, only asking time and opportunity to conquer the wilderness, and with a firm belief in their glorious destiny. Ile takes up their statistical returns and finds that Ontario has grown from 120,000 in 1851 to 1,620,851 in 1871, thus repeating herself twelve times in fifty years; and looking into the future, sees no obstacle to prevent her attaining a population of ten millions before the close of another century.

This anticipation is not extravagant, because it is based on the assumption of an annual increase of two per cent., whereas the results for the two last decades exceed that ratio, as the following figures demonstrate:

Population in 1851 952,004
Population in 1861 1,396,095
Population in 1871 1,620,851
Whereas, had the increase of population been restricted to 2 per cent. per annum, the figures would then have been:
Population in 1851 952,004
Population in 1861 1,132,404
Population in 1871 1,370,884

Thus while according to the census the actual population in 1871 was 1,620,851, yet had the increase been but 2 per cent per annum, the return should have been 249,967 less.

Ninety one years ago the entire population of Upper Canada did not exceed 10,000 inhabitants.

There are unmistakable signs that a prolonged period of unexampled prosperity is dawning on Ontario, and it may fairly be assumed that her growth and population must for several decennial stages equal, if not exceed, those recorded in the past. Amongst other reasons for arriving at these conclusions the following are suggestive: The migration of the native born from Ontario has almost ceased, while numbers of American citizens, farmers, manufacturers, miners, or lumber merchants are making that province their home. Emigration from the European continent and Great Britain is encouraged by reduced rates of passage money and free grants of 100 acres to actual settlers. The Legislature moreover votes large funds fur the construction of national colonization roads, extending into tin unoccupied public domain. Railways liberally subsidized, either under construction or projected, and intersecting every district, connect every section of the province with that great railway artery of the Dominion, the Grand Trunk, thus affording facilities for the conveyance of emigrants to public lands, enhancing the value of farm pro­duce and real estate, and calling into activity long dormant manufacturing and mining industries.

The financial statement of the Ontario Treasurer on the 18th February, 1873, revealed a condition of prosperity rarely reached, and is a testimony of the prudence and economy of the people and their aptitude fur public affairs. The revenue for 1373 amounts to $3,093,401; the expenditure, conducted on a liberal scale, $2,690,913. The surplus savings accumulated since 1867,and invested in interest-bearing securities, exceed four millions and a quarter, with a further sum of $352,091 cash in bank, besides enormous assets in real estate, pine forests and mineral lands. From the 1st July, 1867,to the 1st January,1873, 1,484 miles of railway have been constructed, or were in course of construction, at an estimated cost of thirty five millions, all bona fide enterprises, built mainly with local funds. Thirty four thousand emigrants. from Great Britain and the continent made Ontario their home in 1872, in addition to 2,000 American citizens who reported themselves to the emigrant agents as having permanently removed to that Province. 115,075 acres were given away to actual settlers, besides a bonus of $6 by the Government to each adult emigrant who entered and resided three months in that Province, and arrangements have been made to turn the tide of Scandinavian migration towards the vast unoccupied forest lands around Nipissing, Georgian Bay, and the shores of Lakes Huron and Superior, where a brighter sun and more grateful soil will banish the regrets of the emigrants, and reward their industry.

No language can convey so vivid a picture of the prodigious strides in population and civilization of counties, a few years since wild and untenanted, like the present Nipissing region, as the passionless figures of the census. In 1827 the Huron country was an unbroken. wilderness; in 1821 the counties of Huron, Perth and Bruce counted only 5,000 inhabitants; in 1851 the number had risen to 37,580; in 1871 the enumeration was 161,216; being nearly thirty fold within thirty years, a rate of progress rarely paralleled amongst a population exclusively devoted to agriculture, and without the attractions of manufacturing centers.

The cities and towns of Ontario show as encouraging a record of steady and continuous progress:



  1851 1871
Toronto 30.775 53,092
Hamilton 14,112 26,716
Kingston 11,697 12,407
Ottawa 7,760 21,545
London 7,030 15,823
Brantford 3,877 8,107
Belleville 4,596 7,315
Chatham 2,070 5,573
Port Hope 2,476 5,114
Brockville 3,236 5,102
St. Catharines 4,338 7,864
Guelph 1,820 6,878

Lovell's Gazetteer of British North America, Edited by P.A. Crossby, 1873


Lovell's Gazetteer of British North America

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