Monday: Map Day!

Lower Canada ranges and lots

Finding our way on Bouchette’s 1815 Topographical Map

Last Monday—as part of our ongoing search for Jonathan M. Clark’s roots in northern Vermont and Lower Canada—we introduced Joseph Bouchette’s huge and minutely detailed Topographical map of the Province of Lower Canada, published in London in 1815. Today’s post picks up where we left off last week, so if you missed that introduction, I recommend you click here and read it first.

For easy reference, here’s the complete, original map again:

Bouchette, Joseph, Topographical map of the Province of Lower Canada, 1815. Credit, David Rumsey Map Collection, David Rumsey Map Center, Stanford Libraries, non-commercial use permitted under Creative Commons license. Click image to open larger map in new window. Be patient, it’s a big file.

And to help get you oriented again, here’s the same map, with a few annotations added by me (see Monday: Map Day! for a full explanation of these):

Bouchette, Joseph, Topographical map of the Province of Lower Canada, 1815, annotations by Reed Perkins. Credit, see above. Click on the image to open larger image in new window. It’s a big file and may take a moment.

Vermont’s neighbors in the Eastern Townships

Today, I’d like to zoom in on three of the Eastern Townships closest to the Vermont border: Hatley, Barnston and, most especially, Stanstead. These Lower Canada townships, and perhaps also their closest neighbors, are the most likely locations outside of Vermont for Jonathan M. Clark’s birth (November, 1811/12) and early childhood. For this discussion, I have enlarged and excerpted two detail views of the big map. Both of today’s detail maps are centered on Stanstead township; on the large annotated map, follow the blue arrow to the left of the big blue letter “S.”

Where’s North?

You’ll remember that Bouchette’s large map was not oriented with north at the top (see the compass rose in the top right corner of the big map). For ease of reading and interpreting today’s two detail maps, I have cropped and rotated the images so that the international border—hand colored in yellow on the big map—now runs left-to-right, west-to-east. (The parallel hand-colored red line indicates part of the contiguous southern border of Lower Canada’s judicial district of Montreal.)

Starting with Stanstead

Bouchette, Joseph, Topographical map of the Province of Lower Canada, 1815 (detail, showing Stanstead township). Credit, see above. Click image to open larger map in new window.

This first excerpt from the big map is centered on the township of Stanstead, but also includes the northern part of Derby township, Orleans county, Vermont. At the moment, I am presuming that Stanstead is the most likely place to find Jonathan Clark’s family at some time during the period 1800-1830 or so.1

This would be a good time to re-read Bouchette’s description of Stanstead in 1815 (see Stanstead, 1815 — a portrait in words for more context):

STANSTEAD, on the eastern side of Lake Memphremagog, in the county of Richelieu, stretches along the province line until it is bounded by Barnston on the east, and Hatley on the north. This certainly obtains a superiority over all the new townships on this frontier, both in the advantages of its locality, the excellence of its soil, and the quality of its tim­ber. There are many large swells of land, some of them of considerable elevation, that are clothed with oak, pine, and nearly all of the best sorts of hard woods; in the low parts there is great abundance of common timber. Besides Lake Memphremagog and Lake Scas­winepus, it is watered by numerous streams that flow into them, and turn several mills of both sorts.

The southerly half of this township, that was granted in the year 1800 to Isaac Ogden, Esq. is well settled and in a very thriving state of cultivation, producing every species of grain peculiar to the province; the wheat su­perior in quality to most other parts of it; many excellent situations and congenial soil offer op­portunities to promote the growth of hemp and flax to almost any extent. 

The northerly half is not so well settled as the opposite one, but for no other reason than having been granted only in the year 1810, as the land is good, and fit for every species of agriculture. It is the property of Sir R. S. Milnes, Bart. being a por­tion of 48,000 acres granted to him by the crown, as a special mark of his Majesty’s ap­probation and royal favour for the many import­ant services rendered by him to the province; during the period of his being its lieutenant­ governor; at present it is greatly inferior to the other half in the number of its population, yet as it holds forth almost every strong inducement for such persons as may be desirous of settling upon new lands, its improvement is likely to be rapid. The remainder of Sir R. Milne’s grant is located in [the townships of] Compton and Barn­ston. 

In the south-east part of the township [of Stanstead] is the village of Stanstead, which though small has some good houses in it; the main stage road from Quebec into the states of Ver­mont, New Hampshire, &c. passes through it, from which, as bringing a continual influx of strangers, some little consequence is derived. From hence the same road leads to Derby in Vermont; at that place the communication to almost every part of the United States is easy. 

The settlements along the border of the beauti­ful Lake Memphremagog are most delightfully situated, and in a very forward and promising state of improvement. The houses dispersed over them are well built, and surrounded by neat well-stocked gardens, fine young orchards, and every requisite comfort of rustic life; their appearance conveys to the traveller a very favourable opinion of the content and happiness of their owners. In the township there are se­veral manufactories of pot and pearl ashes; The aggregate population exceeds 2500 souls.

Bouchette (1815), pages 263-2652

Ranges and Lots

Let’s look at that Stanstead township detail again:

Bouchette, Joseph, Topographical map of the Province of Lower Canada, 1815 (detail, showing Stanstead township). Credit, see above. Click image to open larger map in new window.

In Lower Canada, under the English-influenced survey system, the townships are usually square, about ten miles on a side. Each township is partitioned into ranges, and each range is divided into rectangular lots of about 200 acres each.

Stanstead township has 14 ranges arranged in north-south columns. Range 1 (and the northern part of range 2) are on the western edge of the township, along the eastern shore of Lake Memphremagog. Ranges 2 and 3 are split, in their lower half, by Fitch Bay, Range numbers increase as you move eastward, and range 14 forms the eastern edge of Stanstead township, contiguous with Barnston.

Each range of Stanstead township is divided into 29 lots per range. Lots numbered 1 are at the south edge of the township, adjacent to the international border. The lot numbers ascend as you go northward. Lots numbered 29 are along the north edge of the township, adjacent to the township of Hatley. In theory, Stanstead township would have a total of 406 lots (14 ranges x 29 lots per range) of about 200 acres each. Because parts of the “ideal,” rectangular Stanstead township are covered by Lake Memphremagog, Fitch Bay, and other waters, there are actually fewer than 406 lots.

Land for Settlers, King and Clergy

There is some other important information found in the map’s “References, ” or key, including something U.S. readers may not have encountered before. See the small print on the right half of the key:

Bouchette, Joseph, Topographical map of the Province of Lower Canada, 1815 (detail, References). Credit, see above. Click to open larger image in new window.

Bouchette’s 1815 map indicates four types of land use in the early-nineteenth century Eastern Townships. For example, on the detail image (below), showing Stanstead ranges 11–14, lots 10-14 along the Stage Road to Quebec:

  • Unshaded lots have not been settled yet, for example, lots 12, 13 and 14 of range 11.
  • Lots with shading made of small dots represent areas settled as of 1815, for example, lots 12 and 13 in range 13.
  • Lots with dark, essentially solid, shading “are reserved for the maintenance and support of the Protestant Clergy within the Province,” for example lot 12, range 13 and lot 11, range 11.
  • Lots with lighter shading (diagonal hatching) are “reserved for the future disposition of his Majesty,” for example, lot 14, range 12 or lot 11, range 14.

Bouchette, Joseph, Topographical map of the Province of Lower Canada, 1815 (detail, Stanstead township, ranges 11-14, lots 10-13). Credit, see above. Click to open larger image in new window.3

The lots “reserved for the maintenance and support of the Protestant Clergy within the Province” and those “reserved for the future disposition of his Majesty,” would not always be set aside for those purposes. It was not uncommon for settlers to occupy some of these lands, clear and farm them for a number of years, and then petition the provincial government for title to the land. We will discuss these issues, and talk about some of the wide-spread Lower Canada land grant schemes and swindles, in later posts.

But wait, that’s not all!

Take some time to get yourself oriented to the ranges and lots of Stanstead township, circa 1815. Because—of course!—once you develop a good sense of the area, we’ll introduce further complications and changes…

For starters, ponder this detail map from Bouchette’s 1815 map. It includes three complete Eastern Townships, and part of a fourth: Stanstead (lower left corner), Barnston (to the east of Stanstead) and Hatley (north of Stanstead and about half of Barnston). Also included, East of Hatley and north of the other half of Barnston, is the western half of Compton township:

Bouchette, Joseph, Topographical map of the Province of Lower Canada, 1815 (detail, showing Stanstead, Hatley and Barnston townships). Credit, see above. Click image to open larger map in new window.

Perhaps you think you now understand township, range and lot surveying and numbering in the Eastern Townships? Think again! Hatley and Stanstead may both have ranges organized in north-south columns, but Hatley’s ranges begin with range 1 in the east side of the township and range 14 in the west, the reverse of the numbering in Stanstead. And while Hatley’s lots are, like Stanstead’s, numbered low-to-high from south-to-north, Hatley has 28 lots per range compared to Stanstead’s 29.

And the arrangement of range and lot numbers in Barnston, as in a number of the Eastern Townships is rotated 90° from that of Stanstead, Hatley, and Compton. Barnston’s ranges run in east-to-west rows; range 11 defines the southern border of the township and is contiguous with the international border; range 1 is at the northern border of the township adjacent to the southern edges of Hatley and Compton.

Barnston’s lots are organized in north-south columns. Lots numbered 1 form the western border of the township, adjacent to Stanstead. Lots numbered 28 form the eastern edge of the township, where it meets Barford township.

And as we’ve discussed before, the diagonal red line on the map separates the judicial district of Montreal, to the southwest, from the district of Three Rivers, to the northeast. In the process, this diagonal boundary—derived from the orientation of the older French seigneurial land grant system—manages to slice through parts of Hatley, Compton and Barnston, further complicating our search for early-19th-century records from this area.

In upcoming posts I plan to focus on Stanstead and its neighboring townships, and begin to locate various Clark families and friends that received land grants from the Crown in the years 1800-1830 or so, as we search for clues to JMC’s kin.

Any questions?


  1. The choice of Stanstead as a likely spot for Jonathan M. Clark’s birth and/or early years is a surmise. But Liz Hickman, Nina Look, and I have been working on this issue for quite a while now, and our current perhaps-he-was-born-in-Stanstead? hypothesis is based on some promising observations made during our initial look at the documents and other sources. As we continue to search for evidence of JMC’s youth and family, I also expect to search records for neighboring townships, especially Hatley, Barnston and—a bit farther afield—Melbourn(e).

  2. Bouchette, Joseph, A Topographical Description of the Province of Lower Canada, with Remarks upon Upper Canada, and on the relative connexion of both provinces with the United States of America, London, 1815. pages 263-265.

  3. Remember—on this detail map of Stanstead township—ranges are numbered as vertical columns, and lots are numbered in horizontal rows. But each township can have a different orientation for its range and lot numbering system. If you are trying to locate a particular lot within a particular township, be sure to check its coordinates on the big map.

    Another reminder: I have uploaded the largest possible, highest-resolution, JPEG of the big map and the smaller detail maps to my WordPress media library. If you enlarge the map from this blog post you will get excellent resolution and detail. However, there are much higher-resolution JP2000 and TIFF versions available for download at the Rumsey Collection, but these require special software to view after downloading. You can easily view the map at its highest resolution on Rumsey’s website, just click this link and zoom in all the way. That’s probably the best way to view the smaller details on the big map.

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