Skip to Main Content Scroll to the top Icon

Celebrating 175 Years of Incorporation: The County of Simcoe, 1843-2018

Blog originally posted January 9, 2018

While Simcoe was recognized as a distinct County within Upper Canada as early as 1798, it primarily existed on paper for military purposes.  More definite boundaries were laid down in 1821, by which time most of the townships had been surveyed.  Between 1837 and 1841 several acts were passed by the Legislature of Upper Canada which set apart Simcoe District. These acts named the townships that the County would encompass and authorized the levying of taxes for the purpose of constructing a jail and court house.  

968-40 Simcoe County Jail, with the Registry Office in the foreground, Livingstone Collection; Copyright: Public Domain​

On January 11, 1843, the jail and court house having been duly erected, the Governor General proclaimed the County of Simcoe to be a separate and distinct District.   

The Canada Gazette, Number 68, January 14, 1843, page 582; Copyright: Public Domain 

The Province of Canada appointed officers to the positions of:

  • Judge (James R. Gowan)
  • Sheriff (Benjamin W. Smith)
  • Clerk of the Court (Jonathan Lane)
  • Clerk of the Peace (William B. McVity)
  • Jailer (Moses Hayter)

The Governor General, Sir Charles Bagot, appointed Jacob Aemilius Irving the first Warden of the District. Irving (1797-1856) was a former Lieutenant in the British Army and fought with the 13th Light Dragoons at Waterloo.  He immigrated to Canada in 1834, settled near Newmarket in 1839, and became a Justice of the Peace.  As well as being appointed District Warden in 1843, Irving was elected a member of the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada.   

Jacob Æmilius Irving (1797 – 1856) commission
2000-39 Irving Warrant, January 11, 1843; Copyright: Simcoe County Archives

Elected members of the first District Council were: 

  • James Adam, Oro Township
  • William Armson, West Gwillimbury Township
  • John Carswell, Tecumseth Township
  • James Dallas, North and South Orillia Township
  • John Garbutt, West Gwillimbury Township
  • Robert Jeffs, Tiny Township
  • Henry McCullough, Adjala Township
  • Henry Morris, Essa Township
  • Robert Ross, Vespra Township
  • George Snell, Mono Township
  • Edward A. Walker, Vespra Township
  • Alfred Wilson, Innisfil Township
  • George Wilson, Medonte & Flos Township

Several of Simcoe’s townships were united for administrative purposes only to be separated later once their populations increased. These townships then elected distinct local councils.  At that time the District Council met only three times a year. The first meeting was held at the Court House, in Barrie, on February 14, 1843.

968-40 Original Simcoe County Court House, ca 1868, Livingstone Collection;
968-40 Original Simcoe County Court House, ca 1868, Livingstone Collection; Copyright: Public Domain

The Council’s first order of business was to formulate the By-Laws and Regulations necessary for the governance of the Council.  Following the adoption of the Rules and Regulations, Council moved to nominate three persons, one of whom the Governor General would select to fill the role of District Clerk.   Standing Committees were struck to consider matters pertaining to Roads and Bridges; Finance and Assessment; Education; and Contingencies.  One of the first petitions addressed to the Council was from Thomas West and others, asking for a division of School District No. 4, West Gwillimbury Township. 

995-03 Petition to Simcoe District Council regarding S.S. #11 West Gwillimbury.
995-03 Petition to Simcoe District Council regarding S.S. #11 West Gwillimbury; Copyright: Simcoe County Archives

Wondering what else happened at Council? Minutes of meetings held between 1846 and 1952 have been digitized and can be accessed here.

Following the passing of the Municipal Corporations Act, better known as the Baldwin Act, in 1849, the Province did away with Districts and established the County system of municipal government.