Ontario's Counties

Leeds County (1792+)

Located in South-Eastern Ontario, Leeds County was established in 1792 as one of the original nineteen counties created by Governor John Graves Simcoe. From 1792-1798 it was part of Eastern District, 1798-1849 part of Leeds District, then from 1852 onward it is part of Leeds and Grenville United Counties.

Leeds was named for the Fifth Duke of Leeds, Francis Godolphin Osborne. The area was first settled by United Empire Loyalists who arrived in 1784.

In 1788 western Leeds County was opened for settlement, in the 1790's the rear townships were opened. Settlement was slow until after the war of 1812 when disbanded soldiers and British emigrants settled in the area. A majority of the British emigrants were from Scotland and arrived in 1816. Even more settlement occurred during the 1820's after the construction of the Rideau Canal.

The townships, prior to being given names were numbered: 1 was Lancaster, 2 Charlottenburg, 3 Cornwall, 4 Osnabruck, 5 Williamsburg, 6 Matilda, 7 Edwardsburg, 8 Augusta, and 9 Elizabethtown. However in the very early days the numbers were all off by one as Lancaster was considered unsuitable for settlement and Charlottenburg was considered the first township, Cornwall the second, and so on.

Leeds County

Lennox & Addington County (1792+)

Located in South-Eastern Ontario, Addington County was the eighth county and Lennox County was the ninth to be created in 1792. They were joined for administrative purposes in 1798, then united formerly in 1800 as the incorporated counties of Lennox & Addington. They were named for Henry Addington, Lord Sidmouth and Charles Lennox, Duke of Richmond.

From 1788-1792 the counties were part of Mecklenburg District, 1792-1800 part of Midland District. The first townships settled were the ones in the south along the St Lawrence River/Bay of Quinte. As with most of the counties in South-Eastern Ontario, the first settlers were United Empire Loyalists who arrived in 1784.

As townships were surveyed and laid out for settlement, each one was available for settlement by specific UEL soldiers. Sir John Johnson's soldiers settled in Ernestown, Colonel Rogers' in Fredericksburgh, and Major Van Alstine's in Adolphustown.

Lumber was the main industry when timber was plentiful, wool and railway construction also played a part but as they dwindled agriculture and tourism took over.

Lennox & Addington County

Lincoln County (1792-1970)

Located in South-Western Ontario, Lincoln County was established in 1792, one of the original nineteen counties, and named for Lincolnshire, England. From 1792-1800 it was part of Home District, 1800-1849 part of Niagara District.

The first settlers were United Empire Loyalists and British Army veterans who arrived in the 1780's. The Loyalists included British subjects, Quakers, French Huguenots, and Pennsylvania Mennonites.

Lincoln County was dissolved 1 Jan 1970 and along with Welland County became the Regional Municipality of Niagara.

Lincoln County

Manitoulin District (1888+)

Located in Lake Huron, Manitoulin District was established in 1888 from Algoma District and is comprised of the islands of Manitoulin, Cockburn, Great Cloche, Fitzwilliam and several smaller islands. Manitoulin Island is the world's largest island in a freshwater lake. The name is derived from the great spirit Manitou.

Originally inhabited by Ottawa First Nations, and it was they who met explorer Samuel de Champlain when he visited the area in 1615. Years later, Jesuit missionaries established a mission on the mainland but it was destroyed in 1650 by the Iroquois.

A treaty signed in 1836 'gave' the island to the Ottawa and Potawatomi peoples. It was hoped that other tribes would move to the island so Europeans could settle on the mainland. However, white settlers also wanted to live on Manitoulin Island and a new treaty was proposed. Not everyone could agree and this led to the creation of the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory.

In 1838 surveys commenced and European settlers started to arrive with Manitowaning being the first white settlement. Surveys of townships started in 1863 and land was open to settlers. The islands were covered in trees which lead to a profitable lumber industry. As trees were cleared, farming began. Fishing and maple sugar production were also popular occupations.

Manitoulin District

Middlesex County (1800+)

Located in South-Western Ontario, Middlesex County was established in 1800 and named for Middlesex, England. Prior to 1800 the area was known as Suffolk County and was part of Western District. From 1800-1849 it was part of London District.

Settlement started along the Thames River, with the first settlement in Delaware Township. Until 1852 the area that is now Elgin County was part of Middlesex County. In 1865 two townships from Huron County (Biddulph & McGillivray) were added to Middlesex County.

Middlesex County

Monck County (1867-?)

Located in South-Western Ontario, Monck County was an electoral district established in 1867 and existed for an unknown number of years. It included townships from Haldimand, Lincoln, and Welland counties.

Electoral districts were areas created for the purpose of generating more seats in the Senate. Due to changing electoral boundaries these type of districts were no longer needed after the 1930's.

Monck County

Muskoka District (1868+)

Muskoka District was established in 28 Feb 1868 with the passing of the Free Grants and Homestead Act, however it wasn't officially recognized until 1888.

The land was first inhabited by the Algonquin. They were nomadic and would trade with the Huron. The Iroquois wiped out the Huron in 1649 and the Algonquin moved south. By the time the British took over in 1763 the Ojibwa were living in the area. A treaty in 1850 transferred some of the land to the British crown.

Initially it was thought that the land should be set aside for a First Nations reserve, but land agent R.J. Oliver issued land location tickets in 1859 and settlement began. The first townships open to settlement were Draper, Macauley, Morrison and Muskoka in 1861. Brunel, Cardwell, Draper, Humphrey, McLean, Stephenson, and Watt were opened for settlement in 1868.

When first settled the townships of Ryde, Draper, Macaulay, Stephenson, Oakley, McLean, Brunel, Chaffey, Ridout, Franklin and Sinclair, and the towns of Bracebridge and Huntsville were in Victoria County. Gravenhurst was in Simcoe County.

Muskoka District

Nipissing District (1858+)

Nipissing District was established in 1858 from unorganized territory, and named after Lake Nipissing.

The 1868 Free Grants and Homestead Act opened areas of Nipissing to settlement. Most of the settlers to this area were from Quebec giving Nipissing a distinct bilingual population not seen elsewhere in Ontario.

As townships were surveyed, settlers were able to obtain 200 acres per head of household, 100 acres for each child over 18. In order to keep the land they were granted, settlers had to clear the land, cultivate it, build a home and live there for a minimum of six months per year.

In the 1850's and 1860's lumbering was the main occupation that soon gave way to farming as the trees disappeared.

Nipissing District