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GRENVILLE TOWNSHIP, CIRCA 1851 | Laurentian Heritage WebMagazine
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GRENVILLE TOWNSHIP, CIRCA 1851

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The 1851 census of Grenville Township identified a population of 1,200, split evenly between Catholics and Protestants. The break-down by ethnic group was 362 French Canadians, 544 English-speaking Canadians, and 187 Irish-, 77 Scottish-, 28 English- and 2 American-born immigrants.

George Kains' signature, 1851.In browsing the 1851 census, one cannot but be impressed by the calligraphy of its enumerator, George Kains. The bold flowing strokes of his pen are clean and concise, as the gentleman himself doubtless was. But who was George Kains?

George Kains, who was born in England in 1801, was for many years a merchant and one of the leading men in Grenville. His wife, Thomasina, twelve years his junior, was the youngest daughter of Major Archibald McMillan, Grenville’s first settler. George Kains was also an officer of the Grenville Volunteers and had commanded a march towards St. Eustache during the Rebellion of 1837-38. On arriving in St. Andrews, news reached the volunteers that the Rebels had been defeated, so they returned to Grenville.

Kains’ older brother, Thomas, had been a paymaster in the Royal Navy and had married Mary McMillan, the oldest daughter of Archibald McMillan. For several years Thomas Kains was captain of the steamer Shannon, which he shuttled between Grenville and Bytown (Ottawa).

In recording his own situation in 1851, George Kains noted that his family included 5 boys and 2 girls, and that the family lived on a 2-acre portion of Concession 1, Lot 9, now part of the village of Grenville. Kains indicates that the religion of his children was Episcopalian (as was his own), rather than Presbyterian like their mother’s. More conscientious than most enumerators, Kains, provided supplementary notes (below), which give us rare insight into the general circumstances in Grenville Township in 1851. George Kains died 26 years later, in 1877.

“The township of Grenville is situated on the north side of the Ottawa River at the head of the Long Sault Rapids and encompasses eleven ranges of one mile in depth by 20 lots, one third of a mile in width, out of which there is a broken front.

The township is exceedingly mountainous and very much intersected by lakes. The mountains are rocky and barren, containing copper, iron ore, marble and plumbago. The plumbago mine has been worked, it was found to be very rich but the work was abandoned owing to the great expense of working it. The marble quarry has also been worked but found to be not remunerative.

The mountain range nearly parallels the Ottawa River and towards the west end of the township it approaches to within a few acres of the river and is inaccessible except in four places which the inhabitants have improved, according to their means, to get back to their farms and only one of these roads is available for carts to the eight range.

The west end of the township is divided from the east end by a rapid unnavigable river called Rouge, too crooked and full of falls to admit of square timber descending, but has been a source of revenue to the province from saw logs for many years.

There are other streams, which empty into the Ottawa, but, not being of such extent, the inhabitants have bridged. The river Rouge is without a bridge, although on the direct road to Hull and By Town, but as it has been estimated to cost one thousand pounds and the inhabitants are too poor to raise that sum, it remains as a memento to the government.

There is a succession of mountains through the whole of the township and for some miles in the rear before the table land commences. The land is thickly interspersed with boulders rendering it disadvantageous to tillage and consequently keeping the inhabitants poor.

The inhabitants in rear are in very isolated situations owing to the mountains and lakes, and this circumstance contributes to their ignorance, added to which their extreme poverty, renders them so obstinate that it was with the greatest difficulty any statistical information could be arrived at from them, the majority supposing the information now required was the precursor to a general tax for schools which they are strongly opposed to, their situations precluding the most of them from sending children so far to school through the detours of mountains and lakes. There is not one public school in the whole township.

Most of the lakes contain fish, which the inhabitants in their vicinity take advantage of, to the detriment of their farming interests. Farms partially cultivated with a log house and barn erected would sell (generally speaking) at about ten shillings an acre.

Owing to the very scattered population of the township of Grenville and Augmentation I considered it expedient to engage a person to assist me in taking the census, in order to finish as near the prescribed time as possible and on the 2nd of February (1852) the census of Grenville and Augmentation was finished, and while occupied in copying the lists, I sent my colleague to the Townships of Howard and Arundel and he reports as follows;

On the 3rd of February went to the farthest part settled of the Township of Harrington and found I could not get any farther back in that direction.

Returned and went up the Rouge River past the middle of Arundel and Howard, a distance of thirty five miles from the place I started and found no settlers in those townships.

These townships are more level and the soil much better than the Township of Grenville, and from the appearance of the brooks running into the River Rouge, the country is well watered and susceptible of making good farms.”