Kingston's Backcountry

1835-1868
Sand Lake, Rideau Canal looking down, 34 miles from Kingston, Ontario circa 1854. Source:  Library and Archives Canada.Pinterest
Sand Lake, Rideau Canal looking down, 34 miles from Kingston, Ontario circa 1854. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Kingston’s hinterland is dominated by the Frontenac Axis of the Pre-Cambrian Canadian Shield consisting of outcrops of igneous and metamorphic rocks, swamps and forests. These lands were unsuited for an agricultural economy focussed on producing wheat for the imperial market. Nevertheless, local boosters organized the Midland District Land Company (1835) and the Grand Jury proposed the construction of roads to open up the back-townships. In 1846, John A. Macdonald and Benjamin Seymour proposed the construction of a road from Kingston to the Ottawa River. The following year, the Midland District Colonization and Emigration Society petitioned the Governor-General for support of initiatives to settle the back-country. Promotional rhetoric advanced the attraction of meadows, pockets of cultivable lands and timber products. These initiatives culminated in the Public Lands Act (1853), the Free Grant and Homestead Act (1868) and the construction of the Frontenac and Addington colonization roads that attempted to extend Kingston’s hinterland to the north.