The Founding of Hamilton Township
by local historian Catherine Milne
By the Constitutional Act of 1791, the Province of Quebec was divided into Upper and Lower Canada. On February 14, 1791, Hamilton Township was named for Henry Hamilton, who had been lieutenant-governor of Quebec from 1782-85.
As soon as the new province of Upper Canada was created, Lord Dorchester, governor-in-chief of North America, ordered that surveys of the townships be carried out. Hamilton Township was surveyed during the 1791-2 by Augustus Jones, provincial surveyor, back to a depth of one mile from Lake Ontario. He marked out the base line (Elgin Street) and the side lines. The surveys were completed by 1796 by William Hambly and Mr. Root. The township was now ready for official settlement.
John Graves Simcoe, lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, advertised in the Philadelphia papers of 1791 offering 200 acres to each emigrant who would take a loyalty oath to Britain and perform settlement duties. Although loyalists had been coming to the province since the end of the American Revolution in 1783, settlement had not yet reached the middle of the Lake Ontario shore. This advertisement of free land brought many new emigrants into Hamilton Township. Some of these people were loyalists and if they could prove their claim, their sons and daughters also qualified for grants of land. (See Gores Landing and the Rice Lake Plains, P. 16, for sources for this information.)
Among those early pioneers were the Ashes, Purdys, Harrises and Goheens. According family history, the Ashes left New York State c.1795 for Hamilton Township. They settled east of Cobourg. The Harrises, Goheens and Purdys were in the township by 1796. (These are the only families researched by the author, no doubt there are others.)
On September 1, 1797, three entrepreneurs, Asa Danforth (builder of the Danforth Road in 1800), Aaron Greeley and Josiah Keeler, presented a list to the government of over 60 settlers who wished to settle in Hamilton Township. Lots and concessions were included and most were assigned in the broken front of concession 1 and 2. (The complete list of settlers is on file in the Cobourg Public Library in the Percy Climo collection).
Many of the people on the 1797 list and who were later grantees never lived in the township but got their grants through influence with the government and as rewards for military service. It took several years before all the claimants for grants were investigated and approved.
The above mentioned families were on that list of settlers and were also resident when the first township census was taken in 1804. Censuses were taken in the township every year until 1851 when they were replaced by the first Canada Census. The Canada Census was taken only every ten years thereafter.
In 1850 Hamilton Township's first reeve was chosen from among the elected councillors themselves but there were township bylaws starting in 1818. These were mostly concerned with building roads (e.g. in 1818 from Cobourg to what was later Ball's Mill), appointing overseers to make sure settlers gave their work days to maintain the roads, (a very unpopular practice) fenceviewers and controlling straying livestock.
The Township has grown and prospered over this 200 year period of time. A Coat of Arms has been designed to delineate our unique attributes, which will preserve our heritage for the future.