After the Treaty of Paris in 1763, British territory included the Colony of Quebec with boundaries that encompassed what would become Upper Canada, and later, Ontario. The British Crown ruled the territory while French civil law continued to influence the system of land ownership. Following the American Revolution, there was an influx of United Empire Loyalists to the country. This brought demands for a system of land tenure based on British custom and common law. Governor Haldimand's initial plan of settlement was to create townships six miles square, yet there was no standard for laying out lot sizes, and even some townships varied with no regular classification. In Essex County, for example, Sandwich Township on the Detroit River was laid out with long, narrow lots to accomodate the French settlers.
In early 1789, Lord Dorchester established land boards in each of the four districts to monitor land ownership and help expedite the settlement process. The land board for the District of Hesse met at the Council Chamber of Detroit. In 1791, the Colony of Quebec was divided into the two provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, and the Crown Lands Department began to issue the patents for previously allotted lands of the loyalist settlers. Once loyalty to the British Crown was determined, settlers were allotted lands with the allotments described on location tickets. On 15 Oct 1792, British Parliamentary law changed the names of the four districts, and Hesse became the Western District. Settlers soon began trading tickets to increase their holdings or obtain more suitable locations, which led to lands frequently changing hands. By 1794, the land boards were abolished, and surveys were made under the direct supervision of the Surveyor General or his Deputy.
II. History of the Land Registry Office
In August of 1795, the Fourth Session of the First Parliament of Upper Canada passed the Registry Act of 1795. Under the newly established Registry Act, a registry office for each county and riding was established, and in 1796, a regulated system was instituted. In 1796, British administration was transferred to the Canadian side of the Detroit river where Sandwich became the capital of the Western District in Upper Canada. Richard Pollard, who lived at Detroit, was appointed Sheriff in 1792, Registrar in 1793, and Registrar of Surrogate Court in 1794, acting in many capacities for the people of the district. In 1796, Pollard was appointed the first Land Registrar for Essex County, and on 16 Mar 1796, the first registered memorial for Essex County in the Western District of Upper Canada was signed at Detroit.
In 1796 when the British began to vacate Detroit, residents were given one year in which to decide their loyalties. Many residents owned land on both sides of the river and merchants continued to buy and sell land on both sides of the river as if there was never any political division. In the late 1790's, the early registrations were still being registered at Detroit. It appears that all government functions were performed in one central location, particularly as Pollard was himself performing many of the government functions. As early as 1796, land was reserved in the heart of Sandwich for the Court House and Jail purposes. This accounts for the fact that all the different county buildings have stood on the same spot in Sandwich. When Sandwich became the county seat in 1796, officials were allowed to bring an old block storehouse from Chatham to be used as a "gaol and courthouse". This building was erected at Sandwich in 1797, however, burned when nearing completion late the same year. Circa 1800, the first brick court house and jail were erected on the same ground currently occupied by the prison in Old Sandwich Towne. The second court house was built in 1855, and is known today as Mackenzie Hall. During 1870-1871, the original brick courthouse and jail were torn down and a more modern prison was erected in its' place. In 1876, a contract was issued to build a new stone Registry Office in Sandwich, located on Bedford Street, in between the old courthouse (Mackenzie Hall) and St. John's Church. In 1978, the provincial government built the Ontario Government Building in Windsor, and the registry office was relocated there.
III. Land Registrars of Essex County
The first Registrar of Essex County was Richard Pollard who had come from England and settled at Detroit in 1782. He served as Registrar from 1796-1824, and was succeeded in turn by John Hands (1825-1830), James Askin (1831-1858), John A. Askin (1859-1875), J. Wallace Askin (1876-1913), Hon. Dr. J.O. Reaume (1914-1933) Thomas Edward Green (1934-1944) and Dr. Paul Poisson (1944-1959).
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