And Jones created Thorold
By Alun Hughes

By the time Augustus Jones began the survey of Thorold, or Township No. 9 as it was then known, on August 25, 2021 he had been in the field for almost 14 months straight.

Starting in June, 1787 he accompanied Philip Frey on surveys of Niagara and Stamford and then did work along the Lake Ontario shoreline. Early in 1788 he took charge of his own survey party and by late August had surveyed in Barton, Clinton, Bertie, and Saltfleet. Though he must have been weary, he had no time to rest, for the Thorold survey began immediately after he left Saltfleet.

Like most Peninsula townships, Thorold was divided into rectangular 100-acre lots arranged in rows or concessions. At first the lots were identified by lot and concession number, but this was soon superseded by the consecutive numbering of lots from the start of the survey (a point east of lock 16 of the Third Canal alongside the Glendale GM Plant). Thus, as can be seen on the accompanying map of north-east Thorold, lot 3, concession 2 became simply lot 14. Consecutive numbering was also adopted in Niagara and Stamford, while other townships like Grantham kept lot and concession numbers.

Road allowances were established on every concession line and every other lot line, and the map shows those stretches of modern road in the Thorold townsite that coincide with the basic survey grid. Surprisingly perhaps, Front Street is not one of them. The grid covers the rural parts of Thorold too, and roads like the Merrittville Highway, Cataract Road, Holland Road and Port Robinson Road also follow survey lines.

The method of survey was the front and rear system, which meant the survey party moved back and forth along the lot lines like a shuttle in a loom. In Thorold, the lot lines run north-south, so if you live on Collier or Chapel, Augustus Jones - Upper Canada's leading surveyor prior to 1800 - passed within a few feet of your home. But if you live on Richmond or Regent he rarely came close, for the east-west concession lines were not surveyed.

The instruments were simple, a compass to give the directions of north and south, and a Gunter's chain to measure distances (tapes had not yet been invented). The chain consisted of 100 links - straight sections of wire joined by loops - which made for great ease of use in the field. Brass tags with one, two, three or four teeth were attached every ten links along the chain, and an oval tag marked the mid-point.

Gunter's chain was not only an instrument but also a unit of measurement, for its total length - 66 feet - was called one chain. Thus each lot measured 50 by 20 chains, and the road allowances were 1 chain wide. As they travelled through the township the surveyors cleared the lot lines and left markers (typically blazes and notches on trees) at intervals to signify the concession lines and road allowances, but it was the responsibility of individual landowners to clear the latter.

Nine men were employed on the survey. Three of them, Augustus Jones himself, Joseph Jones and Benjamin Stanton, worked for 54 days at 4 shillings a day. The others, who judging by their names (Johnson, Haney, Wilson, Van Every, Demude and Hansler) were local settlers, worked as axemen and chainbearers for periods varying from 6 to 27 days for about two shillings a day. The total cost was 42 pounds, 12 shillings, New York Currency.

Augustus Jones finished work on Township No. 9 in October, 1788. And so Thorold came to be, though it would be another four years before the township was named and another six before it was completely laid out. For Jones surveyed only as far south as concession line 8 (Turner Road), plus 20 lots in concessions 9-12 immediately alongside Pelham.
It was left to another surveyor, Thomas Welch, to complete the township in the summer of 1794, laying out lots north and west of Chippawa Creek, including a large piece of what is now Welland. He seems to have employed a variant of the single front system of survey, in which the surveyors moved east and west along the concession lines. But the result was the same - rectangular lots of 100 acres.

The fact that Thorold was laid out in two stages produced discontinuities where the surveys meet. Though nominally the same width, Welch's lots were wider than Jones's, and many lot lines jog as they cross Turner Road (most noticeably Kottmeier Road). Consecutive lot numbering breaks down also, so when you drive south along Cataract Road from Hurricane Road you have lot 164 (Jones's) on your right and lot 212 (Welch's) on your left.

The hurricane for which the road is named occurred in 1792, and Welch lamented that "a very great windfall" made his work "exceeding tedious and difficult." Copies of Welch's field notes exist and make for fascinating reading, though they mostly refer to his later surveys in Pelham and other parts of the Peninsula. Sadly, Augustus Jones's field notes for this area have not survived.

© Alun Hughes 2003

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