From Petition to Patent

Obtaining land from the Crown in Upper Canada began with a written petition to the Crown stating who you were and what you sought, and culminated in receiving the patent (as the deed was called) to the land.

In the summer of 1847 Alexander Fleming with his son James walked from Vaughan, near Toronto, north to the newly opened Derby Township in Grey County. Their purpose was to examine available lots and make a selection. Alexander likely submitted a petition to request Lots 9 and 10 in the 6th Concession, and , after paying the ₤ 157.12, received patents for the land 23 November 1847. We know from a copy of the receipt kept by the family that most of the payment was made in script, a type of voucher given to soldiers that could be redeemed for land or traded to others for money.

His next recorded purchase was Lot 6 Concession 9 in 1858, but we learn from papers retrieved from the Township Records at the Archives of Ontario that he began the process to obtain the land several years earlier. When Alexander heard that lots that had been reserved as “school land” would soon be on the market, he submitted his petition to Andrew Geddes, land agent, 19 February 1851.

By an advertisement in the neighbourhood, I understand that the Government land in Derby will be for sale after the 24 inst [instance] upon the same terms as when last in market.

But (?) I wish to be informed by you when the sale will be by Auction or otherwise, likewise whether land script will be taken as payment, and whether you will take payment for Lot No. 6 on 9th Con for which my name is in your book and Day after the 24th of this month and if so State the amount that it comes to and send me word as soon as you can by post and in so doing you will confer a favour on this enquirer.(1)

By “your book” Alexander may have meant the patent plan, a map of the township used in land office as a working document to record ownership. On it  the lot is clearly marked as belonging to Alexander Fleming (although the date of the map is indeterminate).

Excerpt of Derby Twp Patent Plan

[Source: Archives of Ontario, RG 1-100 Patent Plans, Derby – (See About patent plans for guidance on locating the full map. ]

The reply has not survived, so we will not know whether Alexander was allowed to present script again. On 6 February 1854, Alexander put ₤ 100 on deposit with the agent George Jackson. The text on the form read: “which I hereby apply for permission to occupy and cultivate with a view of purchasing in conformity with the notice issued from the Crown Lands Department, and published in the Official Gazette under date 31st July 1852.” (2)

[Source for 1 and 2:  Archives of Ontario, RG 1-58 Township papers 1783-1870, Derby  Township, MS658 Reel 105]

Alexander took ownership through the patent granted 26 August 1858, showing full payment of $400 for the 200 acres. The following year, in March 1859, he sold the lot to his sons – the east half to Alexander for $600, and the west half to William for $500 –  transactions which are shown in the Abstract Index to Land Records and the Derby Township Copybook.


Excerpt of Patent for Lot 6 Conc 9 Derby to Alexander Fleming

[Source:  Archives of Ontario, RG  53-1 Land Patent Records]

Thus Alexander brought to completion his and Jean’s plan to set up each of their six sons with land, something that would have been impossible in Scotland.

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