Mona Cottage, the Residence of James Scott, Esq. 1844 – Orillia Township, Ontario

By Fred Blair, OMAH Family researcher and guest contributer

In July of 1844, Titus Hibbert Ware, originally from the City of Worcester, England, left England at the age of 33 to assess Upper Canada for commercial investment and the potential location for a new law practice.  Titus kept a travel diary in which he recorded his plans, expenses, and day-to-day experiences.

In Toronto, land agents offered 80 acres near the Narrows for $160; 200 acres on Lake Simcoe nearby for $300; and other land in the area for about $2 per acre.  Labourers with oxen to clear the land charged about $20 per acre.  Farm labourers and servants earned about $10 per month after paying for board and lodging.  Labourers in Toronto earned far less.

Titus travelled north by stagecoach to Holland Landing to cross Lake Simcoe on board the Beaver, a journey of eight hours to Orillia.  He landed at the foot of Mississaga Street and noted that there were more than 30 “good frame wood houses” owned by “mechanics and labourers.”  There was one clergyman and two doctors in residence but no lawyers yet.  There were a grist and sawmill nearby.  A “good road” had just been completed between the Coldwater Road and the Narrows.  In winter, people could travel to Toronto by sleighs.

Log House in Orillia Township, Ontario – 1844-09

Most settlers, built log or framed houses.  Titus had been in two that had lathed and plastered interiors “with good dining rooms and spacious parlors.”  The Gentry who had settled in the area had small pensions from England and only farmed to supply their own needs.  Titus cautioned them not to invest in large tracts of land and expect an income from the land as there was only a limited market for produce. 

New settlers could learn farming by working on an established farm, but farmers would not prosper yet because labour costs were too high and the good markets were too far away.  The greatest inconvenience was the scarcity of prospective wives.  Titus believed that farmers with large families were ensured comfortable lives in the future as their children laboured on their farms.

In early summer, settlers were tormented by mosquitos until temperatures became hot in summer.  Winters were long and “exceedingly cold.”  “The snow generally lies on the ground for five months.”  However, settlers looked forward to winter as there was little work to do outdoors and there was time to travel by sleighs and visit neighbours and to do business in the market towns to the south.   Winter travellers had to avoid snow blindness and frost bite.

Although Titus felt that a settler could do well, he chose not to settle in Upper Canada and open a law office.  He made many sketches during his journey and left a number of images of early life in the Orillia area.  In 1981, author Su Murdoch transcribed parts of Titus’ diary and published them in the East Georgian Bay Historical Journal, Volume 1.

Titus Ware’s diaries and sketches paint a vivid picture of the area.  We are indebted to him for leaving this record.

Hodges Hotel, Hawkstone, Ontario (1844)

OMAH previously published an article about Hodges’ Landing (today known as Hawkstone) researched and written by Fred Blair.

Titus Ware did two beautiful sketches of Hodges’ Landing while travelling in this area in 1844.

Click HERE to learn more about the Hodges’ family history, the roots of the community of Hawkstone and the sketches by Titus Hibbert Ware.