Office of the Surveyor General

History of the Office of the Surveyor General

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) in Peterborough, Ontario holds a large collection of Crown Land Survey diaries, field notes, maps and reports. A search of these and other records transferred to the Archives of Ontario in Toronto revealed how the present-day name, "Office of the Surveyor General" (OSG), evolved.

 

Chronological History of the OSG's Previous Names

 

1763-1791

 

The Ontario government agency was called Surveyor General's Office. Ontario had its beginnings as the British Province of Quebec, when Canada was ceded by France to the Crown of England in 1763. During the period 1764-1791, Surveyor General's Office was responsible for the surveying and mapping of the lands of the Province and the laying out of one of the first townships, in 1783, at Cataraqui (Kingston).

 

1791-1845

 

During this period, the name of the Ontario government agency was succeeded by: Upper Canada. Surveyor General's Office. On September 23, 1792, the first Surveyor General for Upper Canada, David William Smith, was appointed to the office which was also known as: Canada (Province). Surveyor General's Office. After 1827, many of the responsibilities held by the Surveyor General were absorbed by a new and competing office, the Commissioner of Crown Lands.

 

1845-1867

 

However, in 1845, the above-noted conflicting responsibility was abolished with the Surveyor General's function being fully integrated into the Department of Crown Lands, under the authority of the Commissioner of Crown Lands. This change also resulted in establishment of a surveying branch - the Surveying Department-Canada West - under the Department. The resulting successor agency was called: Canada (Province). Crown Lands Dept. Surveying Department-Canada West.

 

1867-1870

 

Under the Ontario Department of Crown Lands, the Surveys Branch was established in 1867 with head of the branch, Thomas Devine, holding the title of Surveyor-in-Chief. In 1870, the Surveys Branch, the Letters Patent Branch and the Roads Branch were amalgamated to form the Surveys, Patents and Roads Branch (1870-1900), responsible for the surveying and mapping of provincially owned land, construction of colonization roads and bridges, and for the identification of resources of value to the development of Ontario.

 

1867-1905

 

Under the terms of the British North America Act (now the Constitution Act) of 1867, both predecessor agencies the Department of Crown Lands & the Commissioner of Crown Lands were continued. In 1900, responsibility for colonization roads was transferred from the Department of Crown Lands to the Department of Public Works, and the Branch was renamed the Surveys and Patents Branch (1900-1912). During the period 1900-1912, head of the Branch, G.B. Kirkpatrick, held the title: Director of Surveys. In 1912, the Branch was renamed the Surveys Branch.

 

1905-1906

 

In 1905, the Department of Crown Lands was renamed Department of Lands and Mines; and with this change the Commissioner of Crown Lands became the Minister of Lands and Mines, now taking charge of the Surveys and Patents Branch (1900-1912).

 

1906-1920

 

On April 27th 1906, pursuant to the legislation, the Department of Lands and Mines was renamed the Department of Lands, Forests and Mines under which, in 1912, the Surveys and Patents Branch (1900-1912) was renamed: Surveys Branch (1912-1941).

 

1920-1972

 

In 1920, when Department of Mines was established, the remaining functions of the Department of Lands, Forests and Mines were continued as Department of Lands and Forests. Now Surveys Branch (1912-1941) also became part of the Department of Lands and Forests.

 

Until 1928, the head of the Surveys Branch (1912-1941), L.V.Rorke, held the title of Director of Surveys. It was in 1928 that the Office of Surveyor General, which had been abolished in 1845, was revived; and Director of Surveys was promoted to the position of Surveyor General (with continued responsibility for the direction of the Branch) and given Deputy Minister status.

 

In 1941, due to considerable reorganization of the Department of Lands and Forests, Surveys Branch was renamed: Division of Surveys (1941-1944); and in 1944, the Division of Surveys was renamed as Division of Surveys and Engineering (1944-1957). The Division was headed by C.H. Fullerton (1944-1947), and by F.W. Beatty from 1947-1957.

 

On December 1, 1957, the Division of Surveys and Engineering and the Division of Lands were amalgamated under the title of the Division of Surveys which became Lands and Surveys Branch (1957-1971).

 

In 1971, the Surveys section of the Lands and Surveys Branch was grouped with the Engineering Section (of the Forest Protection Branch) to form the Surveys and Engineering Branch (1971-1972).

 

1972-Present

 

In 1972, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) was established with the merging of the Department of Lands and Forests with the Department of Mines. As a part of this new MNR, the Surveys and Mapping Branch (1972-1991) was also created in 1972. In 1979, the various sections of the Branch were reorganized into three main groups - Mapping Services, Surveying Services, and the Ontario Centre of Remote Sensing.

 

Until 1986, the Surveyor General of Ontario was the director of the Branch. After 1986, however, a general Director was established as the head of the entire Branch, while the Surveyor General continued as head of Surveying Services. In 1988, the Branch was renamed the Surveys, Mapping and Remote Sensing Branch.

 

In 1991, the functions of Surveys, Mapping and Remote Sensing Branch were assumed by the Land and Resource Information Branch which was later renamed as the Natural Resources Information Branch (NRIB), in 1994. The Branch consisted of various sections, including Office of Surveyor General.

 

In 1997, NRIB was renamed the Natural Resources Information Management Branch (NRIMB), and was known as the Information Management and Systems Branch by 1999. However, by 2000, the Branch was once again known as the Natural Resources Information Branch (NRIB). The Branch formed a part of the Information Resources Division from 1991 to 1995, and the Science and Information Resources Division (SIRD) from 1995 onwards.

 

Under the SIRD's Provincial Land Information Office, the present-day Crown Land Surveys Operations came into existence on April 4, 2000; and the existence of the present-day name, Office of the Surveyor General - OSG, was traced to July 4, 2002.