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  • Ontario, Canada


The Allure of Maps

Maps are tools to aid in our understanding of the landscape before us. To a cartographer they are things of beauty and to the lost they are the ticket home. Our GPS screens have taken us away from the beauty and surefootedness of maps.  Maps don’t give incorrect instructions;  they allow us to meander down the byways of  maps without a voice telling us to “recalculate” or scolding that we have turned the wrong way in the journey. The beautiful antique maps were often works of fine art giving testament to the cartographer’s skill of blending the science and accuracy of surveying with the beauty of a finished document worth cherishing.

Present day satellite photography of Historic Westmeath Township.

We have found a variety of maps to present here; many of them are being shown for the first time online.  At the end of this section you can use Renfrew County’s Geocortex software to make your own map.

If you want to see a particular concession or lot as it would appear today,  –  Google Maps can put you standing at the driveway to the old homestead. Google’s camera car has already cruised the back roads of historic Westmeath Township so the scenic drives are all uploaded for you.

Location:   Historic Westmeath Township covered an Eastern Ontario land mass found to the north-east of Muskrat Lake, up to and including the whole of the peninsula that thrusts up into Western Quebec, wrapped by the half-circle sweep of the Ottawa River,  That great bend in the river looking like a “thumbs up” gesture,  is easy to spot on any Ontario provincial or Renfrew County map.

1632 Map of New France by Samuel de Champlain. Perhaps the earliest showing the Ottawa River and its tributaries.

1836 Map of Westmeath Township 

1836 McNaughton Westmeath Map (When opening any of the Adobe Reader map files, note that under “View” you can rotate the image if needed.)  This early survey map signed by Deputy Land Surveyor John McNaughton is from “The History of the Corporation of Westmeath Township” by Evelyn Moore Price. 1984. Note the faint line of the Stoqua Portage from Muskrat Lake to the Ottawa River – a centuries old native trail. The name LaPasse appears in Lower Canada across the river from it’s later location. The Gower (Gore) Line is very prominent as the survey lines are oriented at 90 degrees to it on the north side. The three sections along the river, surveyed into narrow individual holdings, are labelled counter clockwise as:

1.  “East Front” – the LaPasse & Lacroix Bay areas,

2.  “West Front”  the Westmeath & Rapid Road areas, and

3.  “North Front” – the Bellows Bay & Moore’s Beach areas.

Surveyor John McNaughton knew this area well and accompanied William Logan on his 1845 expedition. Adjacent townships to Westmeath were:  Ross to the south, Pembroke to the north, Stafford and Bromley on the west.

1830’s McNaughton Map from McGill University Archives

The surveying work done from the 1830s, 1832, 1835, 1866 and 1874 all come together into these two 1969 Maps available in the Ontario Archives, Township of WESTMEATH, North, Plan No. T 3126   and  Township of WESTMEATH, South, Plan No. T 3127, upon which this township was built. 

Map-Plan-#T3127- South-Westmeath-Township

New Announcement from the Ontario Archives: January 2015:  

The Ontario Archives has digitized and made available online, a great many items from its collection including  maps for Westmeath Township. The Archives of Ontario hold all types of maps, documents, materials and images used by all the various departments of government.

“Use this great new online resource to trace your ancestors’ Crown land records. The images are fully accessible and in high-resolution in a zoomable format that allows you to view fine details.

“This is the RG 1-100 patent plan series, showing the status of Crown lands, whether patented, leased, or under a license of occupation. Several patent plans may exist for an Ontario township or town. Until the late 1970s, the Ministry of Natural Resources used patent plans as a tool to show the alienation of Crown land. When the information was computerized and the plans became redundant, they were transferred to the Archives.”      – from the AO website.

The legend on the right of the patent map shows that a solid black dot indicates surface and mining rights as the disposition of Crown Lands.

 To view the three maps:

1. Click: Archives of Ontario’s Visual Database.

2.  Type the word “Westmeath” in the Keyword Search box;  hit Search button.

4. Three maps appear; the top is Map No.22, followed by the two Patent Plans.

Click on the map image to zoom in or out of the map. Move it along the x and y axis on your computer screen and use your mouse to go up and down.

Map No. 22 of Major Historical Significance

This Westmeath Township Map 22  is  the oldest historic map and most entertaining because it shows the whole of the area that had been surveyed up to that date.  The grubby, discoloured and tattered original of this detailed landowners map from the 1830’s is huge in size to allow the writing in, with beautiful calligraphy,  the owner names on the lots.  When that parcel was sold,  the new name was added. It was used for several decades as the primary map for this township. If this digital version is not enough, a photocopy of this large map is available at the Upper Ottawa Valley Genealogy Group library in Pembroke.

On Map 22, the LaPasse place name is used on the Canada East (Quebec) shore opposite its later location. The Hudson’s Bay post called “Fort Coulonge”, is shown in the vicinity of present day Davidson, PQ., not to be confused with the Village of Fort Coulonge downstream.

This map was very much a working map – a map on which landowner names were handwritten by some authority – usually the Clerk of the Township or a member of the Crown Lands Office such as the Land Agent.  This was a job where good penmanship really counted.  Some names are hard to decipher, but by and large, it is a very legible. No date on the map tells when it first came into use but we know that this is a record of “land patent”, circa 1830’s.  One dated inscription from McNaughton on the map reads:

Note. In issuing descriptions for lots in certain fronts of this township, where allowances for roads along the margin of the waters are not laid down; reservation must be made of allowance for road along shore with free access to all vessels and boats etc. Mr. McNaughton’s letter writ  December 1837.   McN.

John McNaughton, Deputy Provincial Land Surveyor and Crown Land Agent

This Westmeath Township Map No. 22 could well be named McNaughton’s Map but who was this man?

John McNaughton, (1794-1888), a son of United Empire Loyalists and a militia soldier in the war of 1812, qualified as a deputy provincial surveyor in 1821 and did much of his land surveying in the Ottawa Valley thus gaining a thorough knowledge of the area.  He laid out the Townships of Ross, Westmeath and Pembroke in 1831.  So McNaughton’s Map No. 22 is of major historical significance  and  is one of his earliest maps laying out the lots and concessions of the Township. If you have ever thought how straight the Zion or Gore Lines are – think of McNaughton and his team working in the late 1820 & early 1830s in forested highlands or swamps and swales in the lowland. All with amazing precision.

As well as surveying and cartography, he would process the crown lands and superintended the Location of Emigrants in the Bathurst, (consisting of Lanark and Renfrew Counties), and Ottawa Districts as a government Land Agent of the Crown Lands Office in Bytown (Ottawa).  He was responsible for showing land available to settlers as they arrived and providing them with “any information they may require” (Bytown Gazette, May 21, 1832).  [From Appendix 3 of “William E. Logan’s 1845 Survey of the Upper Ottawa Valley”.]  

The life of a land surveyor and cartographer was not an easy one, as some collected letters written by a surveyor who trained and worked with McNaughton in that era show.

A second much later -by nearly 100 years-  inscription on this historic map reads:

“Rocher Fendu (Province of Quebec Development) by agreement of January 2nd 1943…  All the unalienated part of the bed of the Ottawa River (Ontario side) in the Township of Westmeath including unalienated islands therein, together with the right to raise the water level and flood crown lands up to elevation 350 feet above mean sea level, geodetic survey of Canada Datum.”

This inscription is thought to refer to work on the development of the Portage du Fort dam and the resultant flooding upstream behind the dam.

1850, 1863 and 1874 Views of the World – Westmeath Township at the Frontier

It isn’t easy to view the world as our ancestors did.  We can’t suddenly take away and forget all that we have learned about our world.  But take a minute and really look at this online map of Canada and the Great Lakes Basin as was known in 1850.  Suddenly you realize that Westmeath Township was at the frontier –  with only unmarked wilderness beyond.

The beautiful 1850 Tallis Map shows the Bathurst District of Lanark and Renfrew, the Dalhousie Districtof Bytown, and the Eastern and Johnstown Districts of the St. Lawrence Valley. The Pontiac County area of Quebec is labelled Ottawa County and the river itself goes by two names- either Ottawa or Grand River. A river named Nesswabic enters into the Ottawa at now Pembroke and the Hudson Bay Company forts of Fort William and Fort Coulonge are both sited.

Take a minute and use the high resolution Zoom on the Geographicus website to show all it’s fine details.

Our thanks go to Pauline Lacroix Johns who submitted a link to the very special 1863 H.F.Walling Map of Lanark and Renfrew Counties, shown below, housed in the archives of  the Boston Public Library. On the library’s site you can zoom in and out with ease to study the whole map.

1863 Lanark and Renfrew Map from Boston Public Library which was directed by Canada West surveyor H. F. Walling and printed at Prescott, is well worth studying, as it gives a wealth of information including landowner names and the early lay-out of the roads of Westmeath Township.
Sketch from the H.F. Waling 1863 Map. Begun in 1859, construction work resumed in 1863 on the Parliament Buildings. This sketch shows the Victoria Tower which was destroyed by fire and the present-day Peace Tower took its place.  The structure was finally completed in 1876.

The demographic shift from Lanark to Renfrew: This wonderfully detailed 1863 Map highlighted The County of Lanark at the height of its first population boom. Perth, it’s county seat, was of great importance to Renfrew County because the governance and the judiciary were all centred in Perth. By the 1870’s its population had decreased with a number of Lanark County families moving north into Renfrew County. Throughout the HWTProject Family Registry,  early Canada West families are listed as having come from Lanark County and then later moving to Renfrew County; the Perth Courier newspaper carried news of all the Bathurst District and the courts and seat of government were at the Town of Perth.

The first town meetings were held in 1817, and people from Bathurst Township and Perth were elected to the Eighth Parliament of Upper Canada in 1820.

Within the space of a very few years, most of the County was settled. From the census of 7,928 in 1825, the population grew to 15,198 in 1841, and to 31,369 in 1861.  The census in 1871 recorded a dramatic loss of population to 23,020, contributed largely to the exhaustion of the forests and consequent decline of the lumber trade. By 1880 the area of “occupied” land in the County totaled 490,452 acres of which 232,516 acres were improved, 145,784 under crop and 2,054 devoted to gardens and orchards, the whole being in the possession of 3,599 occupiers, of whom 3,208 were owners of the land so occupied. 

From: The Settlement of Lanark County with Special Attention to Bathurst Township.

This detailed H.F.Walling map is based on the surveyed lands of Westmeath Township. Below you will see sections from the 1863 map enlarged for easier reading. Photoshopping to black & white has been done to allow the individual owner names to show more clearly.

Sections of the Westmeath Township of 1863, are shown below to allow more ease of reading the landowner names. Note that only those who had build a dwelling were listed.
Village of Cobden shown on 1863 H.F. Walling map.
Village of Pembroke shown on 1863 H.F,Walling Map.
Village of Cambelltown as shown on the 1863 H.F.Walling Map.

A later 1874 American-made Mitchell Map of Ontario shows the counties and now places like Pembroke, Petawawa River, and Gower Point have all been  included. The city of Ottawa is no longer Bytown.  The counties of Renfrew and Lanark are separate.

The Culbute Rapids to Lake Coulonge Map

This Map includes some areas of Allumette Island.  The economic and social ties with “The Island” went deep into the fabric of the early settlements when people went back and forth either by boat, canoe or on the winter ice roads.  Many early families had relatives or dealings on both sides of the river.

The Village of Beachburg(h) Map

Beachburgh Village in the 1863 H.F.Walling map.

The Land on which Beachburg Village is located was owned by two major families the Beaches and the Condies.  However we only have a map of the Beach Properties.  The village was founded by and named for David Beach who had served in the 1812-14 war and thus qualified for a Militia Grant.

The Village of Westmeath Maps

Westmeath Village as shown on the 1863 H.F.Walling Map.

Jackson Village Properties and  Tucker Village Properties. The two landowner founding families of the Village of Westmeath were headed by Noah Jackson and George Tucker.  Like David Beach these families were old United Empire Loyalist stock.

Prior to 2002 Ontario Municipal Amalgamation:  The Townships of Renfrew County Map:  Townships of Renfrew County.

Westmeath Township prior to Municipal Amalgamation.

Make your own New Electronic Map

From the oldest known map to your new creation.  Any amateur cartographer’s dream can come true when using the County of Renfrew’s web-based Geocortex electronic mapping on the County of Renfrew website.  Click here to give it a try. (choose the Public Site link).

First, zone in on the distinctive big bend in the river in Whitewater Township in the upper right of the Renfrew County- to what was once Westmeath Township.  That is approximately the area for Historic Westmeath Township.  This easy–to-use software contains a wonderful array of possible electronic maps that you make for yourself by adding your personal map “layers”.  Look through the available “Map Layers” list at the left side of the screen and simply check the items you want included. Everything from lots and concession labels to fire halls can be added in any combination.

Click and hold and move the map around onscreen. Zoom in and out. Use the black “Point Identify” button and then move your cursor to the place you want identified and a history will print out for you.  Play with this technology until you have the map of your dreams!

Add the “lots and concessions” layer for the general area where your ancestor lived, then you should try zooming in until the label is easy to read.  Either print of you new Concession and Lot map or make note of the Concession and Lot that you ancestor owned.

Land owners come and go but the land remains constant.   Use this modern map as your reference map.  Rest assured that the same historic numbering and labeling system of lots and concessions is still in use today.  If you know what part of Westmeath Township  your ancestor settled, then you can zero in on the correct lot.

You can also find your property by Civic Address by using the Red “I want to…” button and click on Find a  Parcel by Civic Address.