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|Records of the Bay of Quinte
Background to this petition
In 1788, Districts were established in Upper Canada. Originally, only four districts were created and they formed the basis for administration and Courts. As the population increased these districts were subdivided and by 1849 there were twenty districts.
In 1792, Prince Edward was part of the first group of counties to be established. They formed the basis for elections, militia, surveying of townships and land boards. The counties existed within the districts. In 1830, the County of Prince Edward was within the Midland District and the district seat was Kingston.
This petition, dated 1830 and signed by 518 inhabitants, refers to an earlier petition in 1825 and continues to request that the "peninsula" of Prince Edward County be established as a District of its own, separate from the Midland District. In 1831, following this petition, Prince Edward became a District with Picton (Hallowell) becoming the administrative and judicial seat. The court house was completed in 1834. See the Archives of Ontario maps for the early District boundaries. This petition provides a partial census substitute for the year 1830.
This petition was assembled by gluing several pages together in a long scroll. The text of the petition itself is followed by seven pages of signatures in four columns each and they are transcribed below as assembled. Each column was headed by the signature of a Justice of the Peace. Signatures can be a challenge to transcribe. Let me know if you think I have misread some and I will double check.
© Randy Saylor, transcribed Dec 2011.
Source: Civil Secretary's Correspondence, Upper Canada Sundries, 1766-1841, RG5 A1, LAC, film also at AO, Vol 104, C-6871, pp. 59152-52g.
To His Excellency Sir John Colborne Lieutenant Governor K.C.B. of the Province of Upper Canada and Major General commanding His Majesty’s Forces therein etc etc
The petition of the undersigned freeholders and others of the county of Prince Edward in the Midland District
That the Midland District extends along the Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte a distance of upwards of seventy miles in length, is generally of a productive soil and from its extensive inland roads? communication perhaps more advantageously situated than any other District in the Province. That the population of the district now exceeds Thirty Thousand [sic] Souls and when the vacant lands become occupied and under cultivation, which is rapidly taking place, it will from its agricultural products alone sustain more than five times that number.
That the County of Prince Edward is composed, as will be seen by reference to the map of the Province, of a large peninsula upwards of Fifty Miles in length, entirely cut off and separated from the rest of the Midland District, except in narrow Isthmus at the extreme Western limit of the county. That it covers an area of about eight hundred square Miles, and has already a population of upwards of Ten Thousand [sic] Inhabitants and when the uncultivated parts of the County become cleared and occupied, which will be the case in a few years, the number will be greatly increased, and it will present at tract of country on equal in its fertility and internal resources and a population unsurpassed in respectability and Loyalty to the Government by any other part of the Province.
The peculiar Peninsular situation of the County appears marked out and designed by nature to form a separate jurisdiction untrammeled and unconnected with the rest of the Midland District. The present incorporation with which has long retarded the Growth and Improvement of our County without yielding any corresponding advantage in return.
It will perhaps be unnecessary to enumerate and point out to your Excellency all the disadvantages under which we labour, the peculiar local situation of the County must render them self evident. We will merely state to your Excellency that all or almost all the taxes levied and raised in the County of Prince Edward except our representatives wages are spent in Kingston from which place sheriff's fees are charged to the remotest parts of the County a distance of more than seventy miles, and to which place we are all liable to be called that the sittings of every Court either as Magistrates, Jurors, Constables, Litigants or Witnesses.
That in many instances crimes and misdemeanors are passed over and allowed to go unpunished on account of the great expense, and damages unavoidably occurring to the persons prosecuting at so great a distance from their homes. That the communication with the rest of the Midland District, separated as the County is by the water of the Bay of Quinte is always interrupted, and, at certain seasons of the year extremely difficult and dangerous.
These and other reasons needless at present to mention induced the Inhabitants of the County of Prince Edward in the year of our lord eight Hundred and twenty five, to present their humble petition to the Provincial Parliament and then in session, praying the passing of an act to set off and direct the County into a separate and distinct District, and a bill for that purpose was introduced and then passed the House of Assembly [9 words too faint to decifer] to your humble Petitioners it did not meet the convenience of the other branches? of the Provincial Legislature. Every year since that period a similar petition has been sent from the County and so well satisfied has the House of Assembly been of our ??? and the many [two words?] situation that they have year after year declared their readiness? to afford us relief by passing through their House a Bill founded upon the Prayer of our petitioners which unfortunately for us has not been conducted? in by the Honble the Legislative Council.
Your petitioners would further represent that the public debt of the Midland District which has been contracted by building a new Gaol and Court House in the Town of Kingston at present amounts to about Two Thousand five hundd pounds in equitable proportion, of which your petitioners are willing, shall be liquidated by yearly installments out of the assessed Taxes collected in the County, after which there will still remain a sum amply sufficient, with proper management and economy, to defray all necessary expenses and charges of a separate jurisdiction.
These reasons and arguments your petitioners humbly and respectively submit to the calm and dispassionate consideration of your Excellency with a confident hope they will produce that decision they look to for their relief and that your Excellency will be pleased to sanction an Act authorizing and empowering the Lieutenant Governor or person administering the Government by his proclamation to establish and erect the county of Prince Edward into a separate and distinct district, to be subject to all the liabilities and enjoy all the rights, privileges, jurisdiction and immunities of any other District in the Province. So soon as he shall receive satisfactory evidence that a Goal and Court House are erected in the Township of Hallowell in the said County and so far completed as to admit the holding of Courts therein, and that the remainder of the taxes collected in the County, after paying such proportion of the Public Debt of the Midland District as may apply, up here appear just and equitable may be paid into the hands of a treasurer of the County hereafter to be appointed, when set off as before mentioned and appropriated to the General purposes thereof and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
The County of Prince Edward