1819 Survey

Surveying in Upper Canada

  • Surveying in Upper Canada came with the first British settlers around 1783 1
  • Instead of surveying parcels of land after settlers had cleared homesteads, as happened in the American colonies, Governor Haldimand and Surveyor General Holland reversed the process, creating a gridlock pattern of lots
  • These were laid out by surveyors before settlers were granted any land, creating an orderly pattern of settlement
  • However, the growing increase in the rate of immigration outstripped the pace that surveyors could create lots.  In addition, the requirement that settlers clear and maintain roads was an onerous task
  • In 1818, Surveyor General Thomas Ridout upgraded the system, doubling the numbers of lots available for settlement in each township and distributing settlers along both side of concession roads, thereby reducing the individual road maintenance responsibilities
  • This became known as the Double-Front survey system and was used in over 100 Double-Front townships, covering  approximately 18% of today’s southern Ontario, including North Peel

The Survey of Albion Township

  • In early 1819, James Chewett was named Deputy Surveyor and was contracted to survey Albion Township and the east half of Caledon Township.  His contract stipulated that his services would be paid for in land, as a percentage of the total acreage surveyed 2
  • The survey plans had been prepared in advance based on the map outlined on the 1805 Mississauga Tract purchase document 3
  • The 1819 survey marked the first use of the new double-front lot system which meant that each two hundred acre lot would front on two concession roads
  • Two out of every seven lots were held as Crown and Clergy reserves (29% of the available land) 4
  • Five out of every seven lots would be eligible for land grants to prospective settlers; however, military and other extraordinary or special grants were to be fulfilled before Location Tickets were assigned to settlers with the result that less than 50% of the available land in Albion Township was actually assigned to new settlers 5
  • James Chewett led a survey crew whose tools included a sighting instrument and a measuring chain, 66 feet long with 100 chain links, hauled by men across the heavily forested region. It is from this measuring device that the measures of chains, rods and links have evolved
  • Other members of the crew cleared sightlines, marked lots and hauled the supplies required for their four month trek
  • The 1819 survey of Albion Township has had a lasting impact by defining a lot system which is still used for land transactions.  It laid out arterial roads including Airport Road (formerly known as the First Line Albion Township) and Highway 9
  • Perhaps the most obvious impact is the surveyor sightlines which still exist as the road grid which criss-crosses across the Town of Caledon

Peel County Surveyors

What do we know about James Chewett? 

James Chewett 


  • He was born in Kingston, Upper Canada and educated by John Strachan, later Bishop Strachan 6
  • His father was Deputy Surveyor General and the family formed part of ‘The Family Compact’
  • He was 24 at the time he was contracted to undertake the survey of Albion.  The contract included being paid in land, calculated as a % of the land surveyed 7
  • James received  2635 acres of land in Albion Township and another 1400 acres of land in Caledon Township as payment.  As a result, he become the single largest landowner in Peel County.  His lots in Albion Township are noted on the annotated map below 8
  •  He had selected many of the most valuable lots for himself including several with water-rights and suitable for potential future mills
  • One such 200 acre parcel was Lot 9 Concession 7 Albion Township, purchased two years later by George Bolton 9
  • James Chewett was also trained as an Architect and designed several buildings in Toronto 10
  • He later became a prominent government banker 11
An original Survey Map of Albion Township. Note that each 200 acre lot fronted on two concession roads. Map source: Archives of Ontario
This is an 1882 copy of the original 1820 Grant of 2400 acres of land to James Chewett. Click here to see the text of the document.
The highlighted lots are those James Chewett received as payment for the survey of Albion Township, 2635 acres of land in total. This constituted the earliest ‘land grab’ in Upper Canada. The chart below shows the quantity of land various surveyors earned.
SurveyorTownshipTotal Acres%Payment to Surveyor
James ChewettAlbion550004.792635
James ChewettCaledon EHS570002.451400
Samuel RykmanCaledon WHS570002.951685
Richard BristolChinguacousy North half660002.721800
Timothy StreetChinguacousy South half660002.871900
Timothy StreetToronto640001.541000
Reuben SherwoodToronto Gore170005.29900
  1. Information in this section has been taken from an Abstract of a Master’s These in the History of Surveying at the University of Waterloo.  By Hugh Goebelle, B.A., B.Sc., M.A., O.L.S.  Printed in The Ontario Land Surveyor Quarterly, Fall 1997
  2. Randy William Widdis, Speculation and The Surveyor, Department of Geography, Queen’s University 1982
  3. See the map below
  4. This was dictated by the government and executed by the Surveyor General, Thomas Ridout
  5. As determined by Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, Sir Peregrine Maitland.  Esther Heyes, The Story of Albion, published by The Bolton Enterprise, 1968 Edition, p.55
  6. Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Volume IX
  7. Randy William Widdis, Speculation and The Surveyor, Department of Geography, Queen’s University 1982
  8. Township Papers, Albion Township, Region of Peel Archives at PAMA.  A list on the Location Ticket for Lot 3, Con 1, Albion Township, summarizes the remaining lots he acquired.  The lot numbers can also be found on the Abstract Index to Deeds, Albion Township, Reel A and B, also at the Peel Archives
  9. Abstract Index to Deeds, Albion Township, Peel Archives
  10. Dictionary of Canadian Biography
  11. ibid.