The Archives of Ontario Celebrates Our Agricultural Past: Settling the Land - Page Banner

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Agriculture was practised in Ontario long before the creation of records to document it. The Huron used the land to grow corn, peas, squash, kidney beans and sunflowers.

When the American Revolution ended in 1783, many British loyalists, who were forced to leave the United States, chose to settle in what would become Ontario. They were offered free land, tools, and seeds. This 1925 painting below which is based on a much older painting, recreates a scene of newly arrived Loyalists on the shores of the St. Lawrence.

Drawing: Encampment of the Loyalists in Johnstown a new settlement on the banks of the River St. Lawrence in Canada West, 1925
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Encampment of the Loyalists in Johnstown, a new settlement on the banks of
the River St. Lawrence in Canada West, taken June 6th 1784 [copied 1925]
J. R. Simpson, after James Peachey
Museum Program Drawings, Department of Education
Reference Code: RG 2-344-0-0-89
Archives of Ontario, I0003081

It was not until the late 18th century, however, that large-scale settlement of farmland took place with the establishment of a land granting process. To earn the right to own a piece of property, emigrants petitioned the Crown with a promise to fulfil certain duties, such as clearing trees, cultivating the soil, and building houses. If the requirements were met, the settler was granted ownership. Others were awarded land for free, including members of the militia and United Empire Loyalists, as rewards for their allegiance and service to the King.
The Archives of Ontario Celebrates Our Agricultural Past: Langton Family Farm - Section Banner

Some of the earliest records in the Archives holdings that visually illustrate settling and clearing the land are from the Langton family fonds.

Anne Langton was a prolific artist whose family settled in the area around Fenelon Falls, near Peterborough, Ontario. The sketch to the right shows the farm built by her brother John Langton. Soon after he designed Blythe Farm which would become the family's permanent home.

The house, sketched below, was the first two-storey log house to be built in the area. The sketch below was completed around 1851 when the house was about ten years old.

Drawing: End view of John's house, near Fenelon Falls, Ontario, 1837
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End view of John's house, near
Fenelon Falls, Ontario, 1837
Anne Langton
Pencil drawing
Reference Code: F 1077-8-1-4-19
Archives of Ontario, I0008042

Watercolour: Blythe [Farm, near Fenelon Falls, Ontario], [ca. 1851]
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Blythe [Farm, near Fenelon Falls, Ontario], [ca. 1851]
Anne Langton
Watercolour
Reference Code: F 1077-8-1-2-52
Archives of Ontario, I0008416

The photograph to the right shows the farmhouse at Blythe farm as it appeared in the late 1940s, a little over 100 years old. The photograph below, also taken in the late 1940s shows the barn at Blythe Farm.

The barn is a bank barn typical of hundreds of barns across Ontario. The design, which is built on the side of a hill, provides two entrances at ground level. The bottom level was used to house animals and the upper level was used for the storage of equipment and hay, and for thrashing grains. Holes in the upper level floor allow food to be dropped down to the animals below.

To learn more about Anne Langton, visit our online exhibit: Anne Langton - Gentlewoman, Pioneer Settler and Artist .

Photo: [Blythe farmhouse in winter, near Fenelon Falls, Ontario], [ca. 1948]
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[Blythe farmhouse in winter, near Fenelon Falls, Ontario], [ca. 1948]
Photographer unknown. Langton family papers.
Black and white print
Reference Code: F 1077-11-0-2-16
Archives of Ontario, I0011261

Photo: [View of barn and farm buildings, beyond wooden fence on Blythe farm, near Fenelon Falls, Ontario], [ca. 1948]

[View of barn and farm buildings, beyond wooden fence on Blythe
farm, near Fenelon Falls, Ontario], [ca. 1948]
Photographer unknown
Langton family papers
Black and white print
Reference Code: F 1077-11-0-2-7
Archives of Ontario, I0011251

The Archives of Ontario Celebrates Our Agricultural Past: Attracting Newcomers - Section Banner

Beginning in 1869, Government advertising programs were created to encourage people to settle in Ontario. Through the use of pamphlets, posters, and very persuasive agents, emigrants from United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States were drawn to Ontario for the free land and hope for a better future.

Poster: Emigration to the Province of Ontario, 1869
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Emigration to the Province of Ontario, 1869
Department of Immigration
Reference Code: C 233-1-5-1938
Archives of Ontario Poster collection


Over the years various government programs have been created to attract newcomers from all over the world seeking the opportunity to live and work in Ontario and contribute to its growing agricultural industry.

In 1921, Ontario led the way as the province with the highest annual field crop value and highest immigration rates. At that time, the most prominent immigrant groups were English, Irish, Scottish, French, German, Dutch and Italian.

Ontario Department of Agriculture. Farming in Ontario. Toronto: The Department, [ca.1924]
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Ontario Department of Agriculture. Farming in Ontario. Toronto: The Department, [ca.1924]
Archives of Ontario Library Collection
Call No: Pamph nd F #16 folder G-445

Poster: Values of farm property in Ontario, 1923
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Values of farm property in Ontario, 1923
The Ontario Department of Agriculture
Archives of Ontario Library Collection,
Call No: Govt Doc A Misc Box 2 No 7


Letter: Settler's Opinions
Ontario. Department of Agriculture. Ontario : the premier
province of Canada : settlers’ opinions. Toronto: The Department, 1911
Archives of Ontario Library Collection, Call No: Govt Doc A Misc Box 2 No 4

Many were convinced to leave the poverty and cramped living conditions in Great Britain after reading the glowing words of former neighbours who had become Ontario farmers. These and other examples of promotional materials can be found in the Archives of Ontario Library and Department of Agriculture collections.

Click to see a larger image (137K)
Planting with a dual seeding machine, 1919
Reuben Sallows
Reference Code: C 223-3-0-0-4
Archives of Ontario, I0002265

Photo: Planting with a dual seeding machine, 1919

Photo: Finnish farm in the Fort William District, 1926
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Finnish farm in the Fort William District, 1926
Department of Agriculture
Agricultural Representative Photograph Albums
Reference Code: RG 16-274, Album 3, pg. 73
Archives of Ontario, I0019305