Augustus Jones Finishes the Road
One of the most important surveyors in Upper Canadian history, Augustus Jones was born about 1757 in the Hudson River Valley of New York. He moved with other members of his family to Loyalist settlements in Saltfleet Township of the Niagara Peninsula in the mid-1780s, and was appointed a Crown surveyor in 1787. During the 1790s, in addition to his work on Yonge Street and Dundas Street, the energetic Jones surveyed townships and town sites throughout the central part of Upper Canada. He was always close to the native population of the province, employing Indians in his survey parties, learning native languages, and establishing family ties and fathering children with both Mohawk and Mississauga women.
"The work of the early surveyors was difficult and dangerous," writes his biographer, Donald Smith. "Often Jones surveyed in the middle of winter, for, when the ground was hard and the leaves were gone, it was easier to see through the dense forest. Clearly he was a vigorous man with an iron constitution, as agile on snowshoes (with a pack on his back) as in a loaded birchbark canoe. In summer he frequently contracted ague or swamp fever. Once, his horse threw him, the fall fracturing his breastbone." 15
Jones resumed his Yonge Street work on January 4, 1796. More than a surveyor now, Jones was functioning as a master road builder, directing the cutting and clearing work of the soldiers. The crew reached Holland Landing on February ,16 after forty-three days of work, and Jones arrived back in the capital on February 20, to inform the governor that Yonge Street was completed from York to the Holland River.
Although contemporary accounts described it as a road or street, Yonge Street in the late 1790s was little more than a pathway through the woods, frequently detouring away from the surveyed route to avoid swamps. North of Bond's Lake, or Bond's Pond, as it was known, all the way from Oak Ridges to the Holland River, the way remained a "pioneer route." 16
Still, the road was being used. Elizabeth Simcoe noted in her diary in March 1796 that "an Indian & a Canadian" travelled the Yonge Street route all the way from Georgian Bay to the village of York "in five days, & said they could have travelled the journey in four." 17 The governor himself was delighted at Jones's accomplishment. "The Road from York to the Head Waters of Lake Huron has been opened," Simcoe informed his superiors in Britain, and "by these means, a very excellent Tract of Country is rendered available to future settlers." 18
Copyright © Richmond Hill Public Library Board, 1991