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Early Settler Maps

Learn From Home Activity

Background Information

Even in the late 1700s and early 1800s, the process of migrating and settling new land was not a simple undertaking. As we have learned from our Early Settler Transportation program, settlers were tasked with travelling through rough routes and barely formed roads with their entire lives packed into their wagons. Upon arriving on their new land a whole other set of challenges presented themselves. 

Prospective settlers, in their applications for land would become known as petitioners, as they would submit a petition, or application, for land that was owned by the Crown. Petitions were required for military and civilian settlers who submitted their applications to the Governor. Meanwhile, children of Loyalists were entitled to free lands. Each applicant was required to submit certificates from a local magistrate confirming their age, good character, loyalty and identity. They were asked to disclose their previous military service history, if any and were required to pay a small fee to process their petition.  If their petition was successful, the Crown would issue a land grant to the petitioner, who would then become a settler. If the settler took up residence on the land and fulfilled certain settlement duties, they would come to own the land. The Crown would then issue a patent to the settler, indicating that the ownership of the land passed from the Crown to a private individual. 


One way of being able to visually track the ownership of lots is to explore early maps that were created as land surveys. From 1800 to 1865 there were nine surveys taken of the land in East Gwillimbury.


The following surveys are known to have been taken of the community:

  • 1800 - Stegmann (sometimes noted as "Stegman")

  • 1803 - Hambly

  • 1811 - Wilmot

  • 1819 - Lount

  • 1824 - Chewitt

  • 1859 - Lindsay

  • 1861 - Tremaine

  • 1864 - Haller

  • 1865 - Gossage

These surveys are useful in that they act as early plans for a community, documenting features such as lots, concessions, rivers and bodies of water, and dense trees. Later maps also used symbols and abbreviations to note the location of schools, railroads, orchards, mills, trade routes and more. Perhaps one of the most important elements on these maps, however, is the inclusion of names of property owners. Interestingly, many of these maps also include the word "Crown" showing available, unclaimed lands. 

Beginning in 1818 under Lieutenant Governor Maitland, grantees would be required to fulfill settlement duties which included constructing a habitable dwelling of a certain size and clearing, fencing and cultivating five acres of land across the front of their 200 acre parcel. 

As we know from the well documented settler experience of David Willson, he arrived in Upper Canada with his wife and two young sons in 1801. Shortly thereafter, they took up their land in Hope (now Sharon) at Concession 2, Lot 10. By 1805 Willson is documented as having received the patent for the land, at which point, becoming the official land owner, suggesting all fees were paid and settlement duties were completed. 

However, this process did not always take place quickly, as others took decades to become owners.


Such was the case for Children of Peace member Samuel Hughes. Hughes arrived in Upper Canada with his parents in 1804 and remained on his mother's farm in Whitchurch until after 1815 following the death of his second wife. He then moved with his mother to Hope where he obtained land in the lot south of David Willson. Despite being the petitioner for the property, Hughes did not not take out a patent until 1833. Being directly south of Willson and having no children of his own, he almost immediately divided and sold 36 acres of his land to Hugh D. Willson, the youngest son of David Willson. 

Once homes were established, settlers could then focus on their next tasks...building the community. 


Curriculum Connections

Social Studies - Grade 1: Strand A. Heritage and Identity: Our Changing Roles and Responsibilities (A2.3, A3.2); Strand B. People and Environments: The Local Community (B1.1, B2.3, B2.6, B3.1, B3.2, B3.3, B3.4, B3.6)

Social Studies - Grade 2: Strand A. Heritage and Identity: Changing Family and Community Traditions (A2.3); Strand B. People and Environments: Global Communities (B1.3, B2.2, B2.3, B3.3, B3.6)

Social Studies - Grade 3: Strand A. Heritage and Identity: Communities in Canada, 1780-1850 (A2.1, A2.3, A2.6, A3.2, A3.3, A3.5); Strand B. People and Environments: Living and Working in Ontario (B1.3, B2.3, B3.1, B3.5, B3.6, B3.7)

Mathematics - Grade 2: Geometry and Spatial Sense (Location and Movement)

Mathematics - Grade 3: Geometry and Spatial Sense (Location and Movement)

Mathematics - Grade 5: Geometry and Spatial Sense (Location and Movement)

The Arts - Grade 1: Visual Arts (D1.2, D1.3, D2.3)

The Arts - Grade 2: Visual Arts (D1.1, D1.2)

The Arts - Grade 3: Visual Arts (D1.1, D1.2)


Upon arriving early settlers built their communities by fulfilling their settlement duties on their properties. They then established businesses and institutions like schools, early places of government and religious centres. They also worked to improve roads. 


Using your knowledge of what would have been included in these villages, download, print and complete the map template below. We've helped you to get started by including a few roads and the Sharon Temple. Add forests, sources for fresh water, label roads, draw houses and businesses. Consider adding items that aren't in our community, like a railroad or a lake.


Don't forget to add directions to the compass and to give your village a name! Once complete, share your unique community with us by tagging us on social media @SharonTempleNHS and using #STLearnFromHome. 

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