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Tenancy as a family strategy in mid-nineteenth century Ontario.


The scholarly discussion of tenancy focuses, for the most part, on issues of tenure systems and their political context, agricultural efficiency, economic development, and class relations. While such issues are of utmost importance in understanding tenancy, why and how individual farm families might use tenancy, for their own family-related goals, has been largely overlooked. I would like to look at tenancy, therefore, from the perspective of the family historian. This analysis goes beyond the general explanations usually advanced by economists about why tenancy exists, such as the agricultural ladder, transaction costs, and risk sharing, and takes into account the family economy. Here rather than assuming that one rents out a farm or becomes a tenant farmer based solely on short-term, rational, profit-oriented reasons, such factors as responsibility to one's kin, balancing the needs of family members and maintaining the family farm over the generations will be considered. This paper, therefore, examines how farm families - both owners and tenants - used renting as a "family strategy" for survival and economic advancement.(1) In revealing how tenancy was used in the life course transitions of individuals and the collective needs of the family unit at different stages in its life cycle, a deeper understanding of the role of tenancy is revealed.

Several useful theories and models exist, within the framework of conventional economic theory which argue that tenancy emerges as individuals motivated by profit logically respond to the market forces of supply and demand. Scholars using these models argue that owners opt for renting out their land when the transaction costs of supervising, paying and getting labourers to honour their contract becomes too high, and tenancy becomes a more profitable arrangement.(2) Either landlords profit from the rental income or, acting as speculators, they have their tenants improve the land and then sell it as the market in land escalates. Other economic models such as risk sharing and the agricultural ladder have been advanced that help shed light on tenancy from the tenant perspective. It is often argued that in agricultural systems where the risks of yields and prices are high, farmer owners and/or tenants will opt to share the risk through a tenancy arrangement.(3) Related to risk sharing, the agricultural ladder posits that settlers, especially young farmers and immigrants, use tenancy as a rung on the agricultural ladder between labouring and ownership, and that renting makes economic sense until such time as they acquire the requisite capital and knowledge of land and farming techniques to make ownership a less risky and more viable enterprise.(4)

These economic models, however, do not fully explain the existence and utility of tenancy. Several anomalies exist that are not adequately explained within a purely economic context. For one thing, a few American studies, namely those of Diller, Winters, Pederson, and Salamon and O'Reilly, have found that landlords were often ordinary retired farmers who were related to their tenants.(5) Their findings imply that the motives farm owners had for renting out their farms may have been more complex, encompassing not just economic considerations but a variety of concerns intimately related to the needs of the family unit as a whole and its individual members. Second, the model of the agricultural ladder has fostered a lively debate on whether or not tenants actually climbed the ladder.(6) This debate has focused discussion on economic motives and measurements, and on one age cohort of tenants - the young. Lost in the discussion are non-economic motives and the fact that, while the young may have been over represented in the tenant population, families at various stages of the developmental cycle resorted to tenancy - not just young farmers. Many families were just starting to have children, but others were near maturity or retired. Can their motives and experiences still be explained by the agricultural ladder? Climbing the ladder, moreover, was sometimes not possible in one generation but often took two or three generations to achieve. In the meantime, how did tenant families maintain their careers on the land and provide for the next generation? My work addresses these anomalies by placing them within a family context.

The literature on tenancy in Canada is still in its infancy, and the issues that I wish to address in this paper have not been explored. Very little has been written about tenancy in Canada save for Prince Edward Island where the system of foreign absentee landlords has received recent attention.(7) The oversight is partly owing to an ingrained animus toward tenancy and its corollary - the worship of the freeholding yeomanry. Such an attitude was pervasive in the nineteenth century and buttressed by the folk tradition of landlord/tenant hatred that British and European immigrants brought with them to the New World. Historians have generally accepted this attitude and have assumed that, outside of Quebec where the seigneurial system operated and Prince Edward Island where absentee English landlords owned extensive estates, tenancy was unusual, anachronistic and unsuccessful.(8) Those writing about Ontario have been content to focus on land ownership while in fact even a cursory examination of the statistics indicate that tenancy was common, and therefore, needs to be taken more seriously. Occasionally scholars of land speculation in Ontario discuss tenancy but their emphasis is on the speculators (ie the owners) and not the tenants.(9) Only recently has attention been focused specifically on tenants, and a more positive picture been presented. William Marr has demonstrated that in certain counties the agricultural ladder was in operation, and he has tested the influence of the agricultural ladder, risk sharing and transaction costs on tenancy rates in the late nineteenth century. My own work on landlords and tenants on Amherst Island has shown how the Irish system of tenancy was transplanted into Ontario and served the economic and family interests of both landlords and tenants.(10) These works, however, have examined tenancy from a largely economic perspective.

This paper focuses on tenancy as a family strategy of survival and economic advancement. In doing so it explores the topic in three ways. First it examines how owners became landlords renting out their farm in order to weather family crises and hold their patrimony together for the succeeding generation. Second it explains how tenant families used renting and especially leasing not just as a step on the agricultural ladder but as a way of life that provided the means for achieving long-term family goals of supporting the current and successive generations on the land. Finally it examines how the landlord/tenant relationship was often an intergenerational arrangement existing outside the usual land market and playing a central role in father-son succession.


The first systematic counting of tenancy in Ontario begins with the 1871 census. In Ontario that year, the tenancy rate was 15% rising to a high of 23% around Lake Ontario, and increasing there as the century progressed.(11) Reliable statistics do not always exist for the early part of the century, but tenancy was likely more prevalent. The government began leasing out land as early as 1799, long before the free grant era ended in 1827.(12) Various local studies on landholding covering the period from the 1820s to the 1850s suggest that a quarter to a half of the farming population rented their land.(13) According to the aggregate figures for the 1848 census, 43% of the rural population in Ontario were classified as tenants.(14) In the first half of the nineteenth century, therefore, tenant farmers likely represented a quarter to a half of the farming population.

While freehold was the most common form of landholding and the goal of most immigrants, tenancy was popular because it had economic relevance for many cash-poor immigrants. Most writers advised immigrants to rent so they would have enough money left over to farm productively and buy good horses, stock, and implements, which could be taken with them or sold when they moved on. Otherwise the interest on a mortgage, which could amount to from seven to fifteen shillings per acre, was actually a heavy cost in addition to the purchase price. Renting was also recommended as an important way to learn about farming and to check out land before buying. It was sensible to rent partially cleared lots close to town rather than travel into the backwoods to purchase land far from help, social amenities, markets and transportation routes.(15) In short, renting was an economically rational strategy for many farmers.

A wide range of rental arrangements existed in Ontario. In the older settled districts and close to towns, cash rents were common. In the backwoods where farming and markets were more uncertain, the rent was usually paid as a portion of the crop or sometimes by clearing a specified number of acres per year. Along with these various modes of payment were several gradations of security. The least secure were tenants "at will" who were subject upon notice to quit the land at any time, and following them were yearly tenants who were subject to removal at the end of the year. More secure were tenants who held leases for a specified number of years anywhere from 1 to 999, for life or in perpetuity. Once again a geographic pattern can be observed. In 1840 leases were uncommon in the newly settled districts such as Bathurst and Brock, whereas in the older settled areas along the Great Lakes and inland water routes the short lease of 1 to 7 years predominated.(16)

This variety of arrangements created a hierarchy within the tenant class itself. Those at the bottom had the least security and faced the greatest risk of rackrenting, distraint, and eviction. Those at the top with long leases had as much security as owners of heavily mortgaged property so that the lines between tenancy and ownership were blurred. As long as those with long leases paid their rents, and these had been established at the signing of the lease, they could not be evicted.

Generally the longest leases offered were those on Crown and clergy reserves. Under the Constitutional Act of 1791 which brought Upper Canada (Ontario) into existence, each township was surveyed before settlement proceeded, and one-seventh of the land was set aside as Crown reserves and one-seventh was set aside as clergy reserves.(17) By 1837, 361,000 acres of clergy reserve land were being leased representing some 1,805 leases.(18) The lease for Crown and clergy reserves was for twenty-one years and the rent was pre-set to rise at seven year intervals. Rents were deliberately low and leases long so as to be attractive to settlers during the free grant era, to ensure their loyalty to the state, and to encourage their improvement of the land and, thus, increase government revenue in the form of rent and increasing land values. Not surprisingly such leases were amongst the best rental arrangements to be had in the settled areas and were greatly sought after. Indeed lessees often found it much more advantageous to farm until their lease ran out rather than purchase land.(19)

Of central importance in understanding tenancy in this time period was the fact that tenants with long leases had a legal interest in the property just short of actual ownership. Indeed, one could say that the landlord and tenant were both owners - the first of the freehold and the second of the lease.(20) The landlord had the right to the rent and to the legal title to take back the land after the lease expired. The tenant had the right to the use, management, possession, income, security, capital, and transmissibility of the property. Further blurring the lines between tenancy and ownership was the little known practice of selling the lease, which could take many forms but in its broadest sense meant an outgoing tenant was able to sell his interest in the property to the incoming tenant.(21)

Very little is known about the practise of tenants selling their interest, and it does not factor into economic models. It figures largely in this article, however, because of its critical role in assisting tenant families in their long-term goal to maintain themselves on the land and eventually become owners. Since the practise was rarely recorded except on government reserves, and then not consistently, a precise estimate of the frequency of selling is impossible. It would seem from surviving records, however, that tenants on valuable lots near urban centers or main roads behaved much like speculators and tended to sell their interest after five or ten years to new tenants. Other tenants further inland sold their interest less frequently - tending to keep it within the family for years, sometimes generations, and selling it only when a specific need arose.(22) Just what was being sold in the transaction was sometimes difficult to discern or evaluate in monetary terms. Sometimes tenants with leases on reserves or private land sold the remaining years in their lease, acquiring some of the future profits that could be expected if agricultural prices rose while rents remained the same. In other cases involving long leases, such as occurred on Amherst Island, the lease was sold for near the fee simple of the property itself, and the price represented the discrepancy between the actual rents and what the landlord might have charged given current land values.(23) On clergy reserves, starting in 1827 when they were opened for sale, the value of a leasehold interest increased. At that time lessees acquired the "favour" (not the legal right) of preemption which meant that they had the first opportunity, before all other applicants, to purchase the freehold of the property when their lease expired, if and when the government decided to sell.(24) As such their leasehold interest increased in value as lessees now sold not only their improvements and other rights but also the right of preemption.

Of more widespread importance was the fact that tenants, whether leaseholders or not, could sell their unexhausted improvements such as the cleared land, the seed, manure and labour applied to the land, the crops in the field, and buildings and livestock in which they had invested capital. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the most valuable of these improvements, and most important in terms of the process of capital creation for pioneer families, was cleared land, with buildings being in second place. It was cleared land that increased the capital value of a farm, not cash crops or farming per se. A clearing of fifty acres could take over thirty years to make, but promised a comfortable living and upward social mobility.(25) This was true not only for freeholders but also for tenants whose improvements were their most valuable asset and could be sold by them or, in the case of leaseholders, transferred to the next generation. Despite the strict legal claim that all fixtures and improvements became part of the property and, hence, belonged to the landlords, in these transfers the buildings and clearings and other improvements were sold as the private property of the tenant. This was the case because often the settlers' improvements were more valuable than the land itself in its wild state, and to deny tenants the chance to sell their improvements was believed by settlers and government officials to be unduly harsh, and detrimental to advancing the settlement and improvement of the country.(26)

Whatever interests tenants were selling, the government and other landlords recognized that selling this interest in the land represented an important source of capital to tenants who were thereby able to use their profits to pay off creditors, avert family crises, set up a business, or purchase land elsewhere.(27)

Tenancy, it is clear, was common in mid-nineteenth century Ontario due to the economic realities of the era and the needs of countless farm families who were trying to establish and maintain themselves and their children on the land. With such a wide variety of rental arrangements and the lucrative practise of selling one's interest, farm owners and tenants eagerly sought out the agreement that would best suit their needs.


The aims of this article have been met by using evidence from archival sources pertaining to farms across the province and especially through the use of a local case study. Aggregate statistics do not capture the relationships between people, let alone over the generations and, therefore, have little to say about how tenancy was used in the life course transitions of individuals and the collective needs of the family unit at different stages in its life cycle. Furthermore, individual cases gathered from across the province are useful but without a local context. Cramahe township, in Northumberland County, Newcastle District, was, therefore, chosen as the case study for this paper. It is one of only a few townships in Ontario where the 1842 and 1848 censuses (the first to note tenancy) have survived and were carefully filled out. The census taker in 1842 noted tenants' rental arrangements, their landlords, their agricultural products and family characteristics. Furthermore, an unusually complete collection of census and assessment data for Cramahe survive for nearly every year from 1803 until the beginning of the decennial censuses in 1852. Cramahe, therefore, provides a rare opportunity to reconstruct the lives of individual tenant families over the generations and to reveal how renting fit into and shaped their overall life experience within a specific set of local circumstances.

Cramahe Township is situated on Lake Ontario between the present day cities of Cobourg and Brighton. It is well-watered with numerous small streams that irrigate the soil and provide water power, and the soil is generally a sandy loam. Settlers from the United States and the British Isles first began entering Cramahe in the early 1790s. Since the township was easily accessible by schooner or steam boat, the village and port of Colborne soon developed as the major entry point for other immigrants entering the township.(28) Up until the mid-1850s, Cramahe, like many other areas in Ontario, experienced extensive growth characterized by a rising population, settlement and land clearance. By the 1840s it was considered to be one of 75 townships that could be classified as "settled" or having a population of over 2,000 people with over 5,000 acres in cultivation.(29) In 1842, 3,043 people lived there, and 15,380 acres were cultivated. The average farm size was 116 acres with an average of 38 cultivated acres.(30) Timber and wheat were the principal products of its inhabitants.(31) With the coming of the railroad in the 1850s, population growth slowed, agriculture diversified, and growth became more intensive in nature.(32)

In many respects tenancy in Cramahe was typical of tenancy in other settled townships throughout the province. In the first place, it was common: in 1820, 53% of the landholders in Cramahe were tenants; by the 1842 census, 38% of the occupiers of land who farmed were tenants; and by the 1871 census that percentage had declined to 29%.(33) Second, as one would expect in a settled township, cash rents were more common than share rents. In 1842 only 15% of farm tenants had share arrangements, whereas 47% held the land for "at-will," yearly, or short leases, and 34% held long leases of usually twenty-one years.

The profile of landlords was also similar to that elsewhere. Throughout the province, excluding the government reserves and a few landlords with substantial holdings, landlords were generally ordinary farmers, often retired farmers, residing in the area and disinterested or unable to farm the land themselves.(34) In Cramahe township in 1842, 36 out of 97 tenant farmers, or over one-third of the tenants, held leases directly from the Crown and clergy reserves or were undertenants of the leaseholders.(35) Two-thirds or 62.9% of tenants rented from private individuals. Of these fifty private landlords, only two could be considered large landholders as they rented out over 600 acres and had seven to eight tenants each. The rest were mostly farmers who owned on average 129 acres and had only one tenant each. Of the fifty landlords only forty-one could be identified with specific lands. Of these forty-one landlords, 51% owned their land outright, 17% had mortgages, 19% owned and leased additional land, and 22% did not own at all but were tenants themselves.(36) Landlords, therefore, were ordinary farming folk whose own security on the land was often somewhat insecure.

As has been noted elsewhere, especially in the American midwest, the ages of landlords and tenants, and their family connections, suggest that in nearly a third of the cases the landlord/tenant relationship was actually a family arrangement. Landlords in Cramahe, not surprisingly, tended on average to be older than tenants, as they had acquired ownership through the benefits of early arrival, experience and accumulated savings. Those over the age of fifty represented 29% of the landlords in Cramahe, whereas only 19% of the tenant households in Cramahe were headed by men over the age of fifty years. In fifteen cases the landlord and tenant shared the same last name and were therefore likely relatives. In these cases the rental contract was one in which the older generation attained security in their old age and the younger generation access to the land.

Finally when one looks at the careers of individuals it is clear that tenants often became owners and sometimes even landlords themselves, and that landlords had often been tenants at the beginning of their careers and sometimes even at various times throughout their lives. Thirty-two percent of the tenants in Cramahe in 1842, for example, eventually became owners there, and 20% of the landlords in Cramahe in 1842 had started out as lessees on Crown or clergy reserves. The important role tenancy played in the lives of farm families - both owners and tenants - will now be examined.


Farm owners rented out their farms for several reasons. They were not just looking for a speculative venture or short-term profit but to maintain a career on the land for their families over the generations. For some the decision to become landlords was precipitated by a family or financial crisis and renting helped tide the family over. Others rented out the homestead when they were disinterested or unable to farm it themselves but wanted to retain ownership for the security it would provide in times of trouble or old age. Still others used renting as a way to finance their retirement.

Renting out one's land was often resorted to by families who had purchased property but owing to heavy mortgages and other debts ran into serious financial difficulty. John and Margaret Ianson of Reach Township, for example, had been settled in Greenbank since 1835 and over the decades had become the largest farm operators in the area. By 1861, however, after several suits in Chancery greatly reduced their standing and strained their financial resources, they decided to rent out 270 acres rather than sell their 370 acre farm. By renting they managed to maintain their equity, raise some income, and hold the estate together until such time as they divided the land between their sons.(37)

It was also common for widowed farm women to rent out their farm especially if no sons were able or willing to work it. In fact, studies have shown that women landowners were more dependent on rental income than men.(38) The widow Margaret Fowlie of Usborne Township in Huron County, for example, decided to rent out the home farm in 1865 when her only son took up teaching instead of farming as a career. Meanwhile her sister-in-law, who was widowed and left with four boys between the ages of five and twelve, thought that renting out her farm was a good idea until her sons reached the age when they could farm the place productively.(39) When Alexander Leask of Reach Township died in 1872, leaving his wife of 42 years of age with six children and 650 acres to tend, Mrs Leask found tenants for the various farms and held the whole estate together for ten years until her son James inherited it.(40)

The decision to rent out one's farm was not always precipitated by a financial or family crisis. The case of William and James Ianson, of Greenbank, illustrates how farmers might rent out their land at various times in their lives to support themselves, always holding onto the estate itself as the best assurance against a rainy day or support for their old age. William and James Ianson inherited their father's farm in Reach Township and farmed it rather begrudgingly until their mother died. Finally released from what to them was an obligation of farming the homestead, they rented out the place while they tried their hands at various business ventures. In 1893 they resumed farming, and then when they turned age sixty-three and seventy respectively and could no longer farm the place productively themselves, they rented it out again, retaining part of the property to support themselves.(41)

Renting out one's farm was a sensible way of bridging time until the owner or their heirs wanted to farm the property themselves. The young bachelor, David Dougall, for example, of Usborne Township, Huron District rented out his own farm and lived with his brother for a while. With the proceeds from custom thrashing he was able to build a new house on his property, so that shortly after he married in June 1865 and the tenant left, the newlyweds moved onto their own farm.(42) Likewise, the Stewarts of Douro, near Peterborough, let out their farm to a Scotsman in the 1840s who looked after it for a few years until their son William had finished school and was able to take possession of it.(43) Letting out one's farm as a way of bridging between the generations was quite common amongst the non-farm population too. A frequent writer for The Canada Farmer wrote in 1872, that too often mechanics and tradesmen bought land near town and, finding they lacked the skill or capital to farm it, rented it out for shares or on a lease. Such property was sometimes just a speculative sideline but other times it was their way of establishing children on the land - and until such heirs were able to farm it themselves, renting made sense.(44)

Renting out one's farm was also a very important way to finance retirement. Francis A. Evans in The Emigrants Guide to Obtain Lands and Effect a Settlement in the Canadas (1833) reported that often the elderly, who either had no children or had settled them already, made their old age comfortable by renting their farms.(45) In 1847 at the age of sixty-nine, for example, James Reid of Gore (near present day Etobicoke) had three of his sons settled on farms of their own and one daughter married. He rented out the home farm to his remaining son and namesake who was only two years married. He said the farm could be rented to a stranger for [pounds]80, but that he wanted his son to "have it cheap" at [pounds]50. James Reid reported to his relatives back in Ayrshire, Scotland, that he and his wife were living very comfortably because of this arrangement. Nine years later his son had moved on, and James Reid and his wife were renting out the farm to non-family for three times the rent. Thus James Reid and his wife were able to live comfortably on their own farm in old age as well as help set up a son likely sooner and more cheaply in money terms than had the young man been without family assistance. Clearly, in such a situation, the short term gains that might have been had by entering the land market were traded off against the long term goals of establishing family members.(46)

The cases presented above illustrate how throughout their lives farm owners rented out their farms in response to financial or family crises, and in doing so maintained their equity, raised some income, achieved some freedom to try their luck elsewhere, retained their status as landowners, and held the estate together until such time as they chose to sell or hand over the farm to someone else. They rented out their farms as a means of keeping the farm an active operation between the periods when one generation finished farming and another started. Finally, farm owners used tenancy as a way of assuring financial security in their old age.


Just as tenancy proved to be a useful strategy for farm owners it also responded to the needs of tenant families in their quest to support and improve themselves. Using tenancy as a means of moving up the agricultural ladder to ownership was a common and viable strategy used by Cramahe farmers. Thirty-two percent of the tenants in Cramahe in 1842 became owners of property there within their own lifetime.(47) Fully 61% of these purchased the property they had been renting and, thus, were able to keep the farm they had built and improved within the family. Those who continued to rent all their lives found tenancy useful in attaining a wide variety of family goals such as securing continuity on the land and meeting the needs of various members of the family over several generations.

Using the land to attain long-term family goals is usually considered to be the preserve of the landowning class. In contrast, the tenant class is viewed as transient and having only a short term interest in the land and its profit potential. Indeed it is usually assumed that tenants had no property to transfer or will. In most cases this was true of tenants who held yearly, at will or had short leases, but in mid-nineteenth-century Ontario the reverse was true of tenants who held long leases from private landlords or the Crown and clergy reserves. Long leases gave tenants a significant long-term interest in their property and a greater independence from their landlords. As a result of both of these factors, tenants were able to use leased land in their strategies to achieve long term, family goals in much the same way owners did. Tenants assigned or sublet their interest in leased land to deal with financial and family troubles. They also used the land to support the next generation through pre-death transfers of the lease, and willing the lease. They even on occasion employed their leased lots for the purpose of maintenance agreements to support the elderly.

It was possible to use one's leasehold interest to assist families through periods of financial trouble. Ebenezer Sammis, for example, signed the lease and paid the patent fees for a twenty-one year lease on 200 acres of Cramahe wild land in 1832. Despite having seven small children, over the next twelve years, he and his wife managed to clear fifty acres and build a log house. In 1839, after the first seven-year term of their lease, the rent increased. Too financially pressed to meet the increase, Ebenezer assigned, in a very quaint document, twenty-five acres south of the "Crick" to William Kelly for the price of half the rent. He then gave the possession of the north half to his son, Ebenezer Jr. In the early 1850s Ebenezer Sr died and William Kelly assigned his twenty-five acres back to another son of the late Ebenezer, Silvester Sammis. By 1856 the Sammis boys, Silvester and Ebenezer, had regained title to the 200 acres, and then they sold their rights to the lease and became freeholders nearby.(48) By assigning his interest in the lease to another, Ebenezer Sr had avoided falling into the trap of mounting arrears, salvaged the family farm, and put his boys back on the track to someday owning land of their own. In this case and others, tenant families sold their rights to the uncleared portion of the lot and kept the part of the property which had benefitted directly from their labour and was in actuality "the working farm." In such a manner, it was possible to keep the family farm and one's improvements, weather a tough period, recoup, and live to see the day when one's family entered the ranks of freeholders.

In much the same manner as freeholders, therefore, leaseholders were able to hand over the rights and responsibilities invested in their property to the next generation in various pre-death transfers. Evidence of ten such transfers has survived for Cramahe Township spanning the period 1826-1860. Up until the mid 1840s the transfer of a lease between generations usually went unrecorded. Thereafter various formal legal instruments were used such as assignments or quit claims. Five formal pre-death transfers of a lease exist, and in each case the son purchased the lease from his father who was in his sixties for a minimal price of anywhere from 2%-18% of the assessed value of the property. Like freeholders, therefore, leaseholders were able to hand over the responsibilities of active farming to their children within their own lifetime, and watch them benefit from and build upon the improvements they had made on the land.

In the case of the Dickinson family, one leased lot was transferred down three generations, with each generation benefitting from the labour of their predecessors. The Dickinsons first appeared on clergy reserve lot 31 in the third concession of Cramahe in 1817 when Jeremiah and his family unsuccessfully applied for the lease of 200 acres. The family remained on the lot as squatters and nine years later Jeremiah informally transferred his interest in the lot - and what was now fifty cultivated acres - to his son, Theron. Over the next several years the farm supported Theron and his growing family and his two aged parents. Together they cultivated another fifteen acres and built a one and a half storey frame house. By 1830 Theron was successful in getting a lease for the property, and eight years later when he died, he bequeathed the lease in a formal will to his eldest son, Erastus. By then the leasehold property was described as an "excellent farm" with improvements worth [pounds]195 including a house and barn and 120 cleared acres.(49)

In several cases this passing on of the leasehold interest, improvements and moveable goods from one generation to the next constituted a successful long term strategy for eventual ownership. In 1829, David and Catharine Reddick acquired the lease of a well-located Crown reserve close to the main road through Cramahe and the market town of Colborne. In 1840, some eleven years later, when a survey was done of the lot for King's College, David and Catharine were in their late forties with seven children. Together they had built a log barn and cleared sixty acres on their 100 acre farm. These improvements were valued at over twice as much as the property itself. David told the inspector that he would like to purchase the lot eventually, but at the time he had very little money. It must have been with a certain amount of pride, therefore, that David first assigned in 1853, and later bequeathed, to his son Wellington the farm of what was by then eighty cleared acres. The inspector who surveyed the lot prior to 1879 commented favourably that Wellington appeared to be "comfortably off."(50) Such a clearing allowed Wellington the opportunity to raise sufficient crops and livestock to provide for his family and eventually buy the freehold of the farm in 1879.

In many, but not all, of these pre-death transfers, it was common for the old couple to reside with the new leaseholders; thus the transfer not only set up the next generation but also provided for the older generation's retirement. One surviving transfer even included a maintenance clause. Shortly before he died, David Bradd Sr. of Cramahe made out an assignment of his clergy reserve leasehold to his youngest son and namesake, David, upon his death. David Jr. was to pay [pounds]50 for the leasehold and promise to support his mother. After his father died in 1857, David paid his mother a lump sum of [pounds]60, purchased the freehold of the farm, and sold half of the lot to his Brother John. The two brothers and their families continued to farm side-by-side for decades.(51) These pre-death transfers of land between generations have been proven elsewhere to be the most likely means for farm owners to keep the family on the farm over the years and, thus, maintain continuity.(52) Clearly leaseholders on the Crown and clergy reserves were able to achieve the same kind of continuity.

Indeed the family found it possible to operate as an initiator and stabilizer of careers in agriculture and was able to use renting in all its forms to achieve those ends. For three generations the Cox family used a variety of rental arrangements to support their farming careers. In this family no formal pre-death transfers or wills of leases were employed, but rather a great deal of shifting around between properties. Tenancy is usually associated with transiency, but in this case it was not a fruitless moving about that resulted in wasted resources and downward social mobility. Essentially the Cox family created two small settlements of rented farms - one on the waterfront near Colborne and the second further inland. As the needs of individual branches of the family changed, they moved between these properties and thus kept their improvements within the family. At various times in the first and second generation, their leased and rented land supported the current and future interests of several different branches of the Cox family. By the second and third generation they had become landowners.

William Cox Sr. and his family first rented a partially cleared waterfront lot in 1825 from Joseph Keeler, landowner and speculator in several properties. As William's sons reached maturity, he rented adjoining lots from Keeler to expand his holdings so that by 1832 he had 211 acres in a prime location, sixty-five acres of which he cultivated.(53) By that time some of his sons had started out on their own on rented or leased farms. Edward moved to a neighbouring clergy reserve lot and William Jr. journeyed north to a rather remote lot on the fifth concession where he and his new wife created the hub of a new inland Cox settlement. They rented a partially cleared lot from Willet Casey until 1836 when William Jr. got an opportunity to buy the lease of a 100 acre Crown reserve just down the road. It had fewer acres cultivated, but with fifteen years left in the lease it provided greater security and the possibility of eventual ownership.(54) He and his family moved onto this lot, and his father, nearing or over the age of sixty and well past the point of clearing land, rented the cleared west half of the old Willet farm. His brother Aaron rented the east half of the Willet farm and took over the task of clearing. Even another brother, George, rented the Willet farm for a short while in 1837.(55) In this manner, William Jr's improvements were kept in the family and enlarged.

Meanwhile back on the waterfront settlement, Edward found he could not buy his clergy reserve, and so he moved closer to Colborne on an eighty-acre lot where he worked as a shoemaker and farmed on the side. His brother John, who was recently married, took over Edward's clergy reserve and stayed there for eight years. Meanwhile Edward, the shoemaker, perhaps looking ahead to the time when his own son would need land, purchased the lease in 1839 to 100 acres of wild land on a clergy reserve lot on the third concession close to the inland Cox settlement. This also proved to be a useful way of helping his brother George, for while Edward made shoes in Colborne, George and his young family settled on the lot. George gradually cleared fifteen acres, managing to support his own family and at the same time improve the value of his brother's leasehold.(56) From the late 1830s to the mid 1840s then, the Cox's rented 400 acres in the neighbourhood of the third and fifth concessions, lots 22-25, and at various times supported the current and future interests of at least five different branches of the family. John, who had stayed on the highly valued waterfront, eventually purchased a fine farm on the first concession.(57)

The next generation of Coxes continued the tradition of renting. The three Cox families to appear in the Assessment of 1869 were all tenant farmers. William (the third) was renting Edward's old clergy reserve lot on lot 25 in the third concession, having doubled the cultivated acres. During the next ten years, both William (the third) and Henry became land owners on land that neighboured the old inland Cox settlement, and Edward inherited his father's freehold farm on the waterfront.(58)

By shifting back and forth on the same and adjoining properties, the Coxes were able to keep their improvements in the family and give several young families the opportunity of farming. The risks associated with moving into an unfamiliar environment - where a landlord of unknown character might exploit them, where the capabilities of the soil were unknown, and the farm buildings, fences etc. might have been run down by previous tenants - were avoided. The incentive to keep the farm in good repair and make improvements was high, for the family would benefit in the end either by passing on their improvements to the next generation or selling them. Some branches of the family ultimately faced failure but others had the satisfaction of seeing their offspring become landowners.

Tenant families were able to use renting and especially leasing not just as a step on the agricultural ladder but as an effective means for meeting their family goals of maintaining a career on the land, weathering family and financial crises, and supporting the needs of the old and new generations.


So far this paper has examined the family circumstances of landlords and tenants separately, but to fully understand the relationship as it frequently existed they need to be looked at together. For one-third of the tenants in Cramahe Township in 1842 the landlord/tenant relationship was a family arrangement and played a central role in father-son succession. As owners aged they rented out their farm to their son or sold the property to him and became tenants on it themselves. In this manner the older generation attained security in their old age and the younger generation access to the land.

Farm owners in their fifties and sixties had reached the age when they could no longer farm their properties efficiently using their own labour, but required the efforts of the younger generation who could maximize the production and thus the income potential of the farm from which everyone could then benefit. Few had any savings tucked away for their old age or for setting up their children but depended on the productive capacity of the land itself to support them or the power that property could yield in securing the help of others. In short, the time had come to transfer the responsibilities of active farming to the younger generation and ensure security for old age. At the heart of this process was the transfer of land. Property rights and other durable assets accumulated over a lifetime were now traded for welfare services in old age. The timing of inter-generational transfers often occurred when the farmer, owing to illness or physical inability brought on by age, could no longer extract the productive worth from the land, pay his debts and support himself. The precise timing of the transfer could also be influenced by the marriage of an heir, or his restlessness or desire to set up elsewhere. In effect, the property was used to serve two generations in important but different ways - it allowed the elderly to retire from productive work with financial security and enhanced the economic prospects of the younger generation.(59)

The elderly used their ownership and control of property as leverage in acquiring the support of children. The most common strategy was the promise of inheritance upon the death of parents that served as an inducement to children to assist their parents in old age. But such arrangements trusted a lot to the good will of both parties and while waiting for the older generation to die, the farm was not always kept in good operation, and probate or other court costs could be steep. The best inheritance strategies were those where both generations could benefit within their lifetime with the farm maintained as a going concern. Farmers used a variety of pre-death transfers of land to accomplish these ends, some of which concerned renting.

Father-son succession generally occurred in several stages rather than a rapid transfer of authority, and in the process, renting played an important role. The first stage was a testing period where the father owned or rented the land and made all the decisions and the son contributed his labour. In the second stage, the son often established his independence on land he rented elsewhere. The third stage occurred when the father retired and the son rented the whole farm from him. The father contributed his labour but the operational control was now in the hands of the son. Finally the son might inherit the farm.(60) As the cases that follow illustrate, no one process prevailed, and parents and children came to a variety of arrangements.

Renting one's farm to a son with the promise or expectation of eventually handing over ownership was one method employed by landowners to satisfy the needs of both generations. In the early 1840s, Nathan Gould, for example, rented out all 150 acres of the home farm to his youngest son, Burr, who was twenty-six at the time and married with three children. Burr paid a paltry $0.77 annually for the cleared acreage when cleared land in the area generally rented for $1.00-$2.40 per acre. The expectation, though not stipulated in Nathan's will drawn up at the same time, was that Nathan and his wife, Abigail, would live with Burr's young family, and that if he paid the rent and saw to their needs that Burr would inherit the whole farm. These intergenerational arrangements were quite common but not always satisfactory to either party. Burr, in this case, resented the arrangement and was dissatisfied with his father's farm. Recognizing his growing restlessness, his father sold him 100 acres of the farm in 1845, but, hesitant to relinquish all of his leverage in the relationship, Nathan retained the last fifty acres and only bequeathed these to Burr after both he and his wife had died. Finally released from his obligation, Burr left and acquired a farm of his own liking elsewhere.(61)

Such arrangements meant that the old couple gave up the responsibilities of farming and in exchange acquired a retirement income. They kept their leverage in the relationship by retaining ownership and the power of bequeathing it, but they had no legal right or guarantee of being properly looked after. Children were also somewhat vulnerable in these arrangements. They could perhaps begin farming earlier than they would have without parental assistance, but they had no guarantee of eventual ownership.

The Gleesons of March Township, near Ottawa, learned of the problems associated with such arrangements the hard way. Prior to 1875, Michael Gleeson, in an unregistered agreement, turned over his land to his son Joseph for a rent charge. Joseph soon fell badly in arrears and Michael refused to hand over the property to him. The whole affair had to be settled in Chancery in 1875. Following the suit, their situation was rectified so that Michael acquired security for his old age and Joseph acquired possession of the property through three legal instruments. First the father sold his son the property and the son took out a mortgage with him, then the son leased his father two acres and a house on the farm for what was essentially a life lease.(62) A lawyer in Haldimand Township in 1888 noted that such life leases were a "very common occurrence among farmers. . . . In this way both are sure. . . . The son is sure to get the property and the father and mother are sure to get their support and maintenance."(63)

Life leases demonstrate the role tenancy could play in the life cycle of farm owners. Tenancy was not only useful in the starting up stage but also in the winding down stage. In Cramahe Township at mid-century, nine life leases were formally recorded and entered in the land registry books. In these life leases, the farm owner, usually in his sixties, sold his property to a son and on the same day the son took his parents on as tenants for the rest of their natural lives on all or part of the property. These legal instruments marked the transfer of property responsibilities to the younger generation who paid for the property, usually at a reduced price, and then became the legal owners. At the same time, although the older generation had given up the responsibilities of paying taxes and being legally responsible for suits against them, they still had access to and use of the land and its produce, and were guaranteed peaceful possession for the rest of their lives. Such arrangements were especially good for the older couple who still wanted to farm actively but knew it would soon be beyond their physical capabilities, while their sons were ready for land of their own. The life lease was also useful for the couple with no children to care for them and who no longer wanted the full responsibility of farming yet disliked the idea of being fully dependent on non-family for their food and shelter. Finally, it was also useful to have such legal expedients for families where relationships were strained and a legal agreement was necessary to protect both parties and their interests. These life leases then, rather than holding children hostage to the promise of future inheritance or the old folks hostage to the son's earning power, placed inter-generational understandings on a firmer foundation. The young generation acquired legal title to the property and so were more apt to stay on it, and conflict was reduced as expectations were clear, though not so detailed as to be inflexible.(64)

Elderly farm owners ended up as tenants in their old age not because of failure but as part of a carefully planned retirement strategy. Agreements varied greatly, according more to individual family circumstances than to the dictates of the market in any given year. In three cases elderly farm couples, in exchange for handing over the freehold to their farm, were given large lump sums of cash nearly equal to, or on occasion, exceeding the assessed value of the property.(65) In one case the property was virtually a gift to the children. In two cases the elderly farm couples were more demanding about their living conditions and in return paid an insignificant rent of one shilling a year, or a larger lump sum upon making the agreement.(66)

Covenants in life leases illustrated the priority of family responsibilities and relations over financial concerns. In the 1840s and 1850s the standard covenant guaranteed the elderly lessees quiet possession and enjoyment of the property, stipulating that the younger generation would "warrant and defend" any lawful claims against them. As the problems associated with such vague covenants became apparent, the rights of both parties became more explicit. In 1857, 61 year-old John Crandell of Cramahe, for example, sold each of his three sons 50 acres and then the sons gave him a life lease to the 150 acres. In addition to peaceful possession, John Crandell made it clear he could not be evicted, troubled, or fined in any way if he let the farm go to waste or did not farm efficiently.(67) The life lease that Richard and Ann Haynes had with their son, John, in 1862, was even more specific. For the nominal sum of one shilling annually the elderly couple insisted that John provide them with all their food and clothing out of the farm's profits. Although they had sold him the freehold of the property for a small sum, they had retained ownership of the livestock. The lease clearly stipulated, however, that John was allowed to use the livestock and was eventually to inherit it. In the meantime all produce raised or grown on the land was considered to be John's with the profits used to pay for the care of his parents.(68)

It is interesting to note that the Haynes had started out as tenants using tenancy as a way of moving up the agricultural ladder to become owners, and then became tenants once again in their old age. Their story and others presented in this section highlight the inadequacy of economic models such as the agricultural ladder for fully explaining the existence and utility of tenancy. Tenancy was an important strategy used by families not only for starting up but for winding down their careers on the land. Moreover, for at least one-third of the families in Cramahe, tenancy was not so much a business relationship as an intergenerational arrangement, one that existed outside the usual land market and one that played an essential role in father-son succession.


Tenancy, therefore, was common in the first half of nineteenth century Ontario not only because of the economic realities of the era but also because it was useful in meeting the needs of farm families - both owners and tenants - as they struggled to maintain their careers on the land over successive generations. As such, tenancy played an important role not only in the lives of people temporarily passing through the countryside but also in creating a permanent population on the land. By renting out their farms, farm owners, facing family or financial crises, were able to raise some income and hold onto their equity until they were able to return to farming or their children took it up. Tenant farmers were also concerned about establishing a secure life on the land for the current and succeeding generations. Acquiring freehold status was not always possible within one generation, but making valuable improvements and keeping them in the family, using one's leasehold interest to weather hard times, and passing on one's improvements and interest to the next generation could be a successful strategy for eventual ownership. Finally tenancy was important in the various phases of father-son succession. In these cases, the landlord/tenant relationship was as much a family arrangement as a business relationship that served the different needs of two generations and in the process promised continuity on the land. In short, tenancy was an essential part of the strategies used by individual families to maintain and improve their life on the land, and hence, it played a significant role in the development of the province.

By the 1871 census the proportion of tenants had declined from mid-century highs of 25% to 50%, to only 15% of the farming population. Tenancy would never again attain the same prevalence or be used by families in quite the same manner. In part, the decline can be explained by the wider range of employment opportunities and the opening up of land in the West which lessened pressure on Ontario farm land to provide careers for the current and future generations. Furthermore, as the frontier ended in Ontario, government and private landlords found it unnecessary to use long leases to attract settlers. The issuing of new leases on clergy reserves ended as early as 1833. As old leases ran out on these reserves and private property, and the land was settled and cleared, the practise of selling one's interest slowly died too. Farm owners would continue to rent out their farm in times of crisis and parents would still set up their sons with advantageous rental terms, but the short-term rental contracts that now prevailed between most landlords and tenants did not confer on tenants the right to transfer their property or sell their interest. Thus, the usefulness of tenancy in family strategies for establishing the next generation or accumulating capital declined.

The findings in this article have significance beyond Ontario, for they highlight the limitations of understanding tenancy only through the framework of conventional economic theory. Profit, while undoubtedly important, was often part of a broader range of motives that encompassed family goals of maintaining a career on the land, providing security in old age and a future for the next generation. Indeed in many cases, especially those where the landlord/tenant relationship was a family affair, tenurial agreements were premised more on family circumstances and on the careful balancing of the needs of different generations than on market forces.

Department of History Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1


Sources frequently cited have been identified by the following abbreviations: C = Manuscript Census for Cramahe Township; A = Assessment for Cramahe Township; C&A = Census and Assessment for Cramahe, as in some years these were taken together. The three sources above are available at the Archives of Ontario, RG1 Newcastle District Census and Assessment (1803-1850) MS 16 Reels 2 & 3. The Census of 1842 for Cramahe is available at the University of Guelph, Reel C-1344. AID = Abstract Index to Deeds, Cramahe Township, Archives of Ontario, GS.4727, Reels 1 & 2.

I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada in the research of this paper which is part of a larger project currently in progress. I also thank the following people for their assistance and helpful suggestions: Marty Pullin, Jamie Snell, Bill Marr, and Kris Inwood.

1. Tenant is defined as one who rents all the land they farm. Where farmers own and rent land at the same time, they have been classified as owners. For a discussion on "family strategy" see L. P. Moch et al., "Family Strategy: A Dialogue," Historical Methods 20:3 (Summer 1987): 113-125.

2. See for, example: R. Higgs, "Patterns of Farm Rental in the Georgia Cotton Belt, 1880-1900," The Journal of Economic History 34 (1974): 469-470; L. J. Alston and R. Higgs, "Contractual Mix in Southern Agriculture since the Civil War," The Journal of Economic History 42 (1982): 327-354; and L. J. Alston, "Tenure Choice in Southern Agriculture, 1930-1960," Explorations in Economic History 18 (1981): 211-232.

3. Cheung and Reid and others have written extensively on risk, see for example: Steven N. S. Cheung, The Theory of Share Tenancy (Chicago, 1969); idem, "Transaction Costs, Risk Aversion, and the Choices of Contractual Arrangements," The Journal of Law and Economics 12 (1969): 23-42; and J. D. Reid, "Sharecropping as an Understandable Market Response: The Post Bellum South," The Journal of Economic History 33 (1973): 106-130; idem, Sharecropping and Agricultural Uncertainty," Economic Development and Cultural Change 24 (April 1976): 549-76; idem, "Sharecropping and Tenancy in American History," in J. A. Roumasset, J. Boussard, and in Singh, eds, Risk, Uncertainty and Agricultural Development (New York, 1979).

4. The first person to posit the theory of the agricultural ladder was Richard T. Ely, "Landed Property as an Economic Concept and as a Field of Research," American Economic Review 7 (1917): 18-35. Since then several scholars have elaborated on his work. See, for example, A. G. Bogue, From Prairie to Cornbelt (Chicago, 1963); Jeremy Atack, "The Agricultural Ladder Revisited," Agricultural History 63, 1 (Winter 1989): 1-25; Donald Winters, Farmers Without Farms (Westport, CT, 1978); idem, "The Agricultural Ladder in Southern Agriculture: Tennessee, 1850-1870," Agricultural History 61, 3 (Summer 1987): 36-52; and recently C. F. Heller Jr. and J. T. Houdek, "Farm Tenants and Landlords in Nineteenth-Century Southern Michigan," Agricultural History 70, 4 (Fall 1996): 598-625.

5. Robert Diller, Farm Ownership, Tenancy, and Land Use in a Nebraska Community (New York, 1979), 52-53; Winters, Farmers Without Farms, 18-19, 78; Jane Marie Pederson, Between Memory and Reality: Family and Community in Rural Wisconsin 1870-1970 (Madison, 1992), 29-30, 265; and Sonja Salamon and Shirley M. O'Reilly, "Family Land and Developmental Cycles Among Illinois Farmers," Rural Sociology 44, 3 (1979): 529.

6. For a review of this debate see: D. L. Winters, "Agricultural Tenancy in the Nineteenth-Century Middle West: The Historiographical Debate," Indiana Magazine of History 29 (June 1982): 128-153.

7. Ian Ross Robertson, The Tenant League of Prince Edward Island 1864-1867 (Toronto, 1996).

8. The following books give surprisingly little attention to tenancy: Douglas McCalla, Planting the Province: The Economic History of Upper Canada 1784-1870 (Toronto, 1993); Peter Russell, Attitudes to Social Structure & Mobility in Upper Canada 1815-1840 (Lewiston, NY, 1990); and Gordon Darroch and Lee Soltow, Property and Inequality in Victorian Ontario (Toronto, 1994).

9. See R. W. Widdis, "A Perspective on Land Tenure in Upper Canada: A Study of Elizabethtown Township, 1790-1840," M. A. Thesis, McMaster University, 1977; Leo A. Johnson, "The State of Agricultural Development in the Western District to 1851," and John Clarke, "Geographical Aspects of Land Speculation in Essex County to 1825," both in K. G. Pryke and L. L. Kulisck, eds., The Western District (Windsor Ont., 1983).

10. William Marr, "Tenant vs Owner Occupied Farms in York County," in Canadian Papers in Rural History 4 (1984): 50-70; idem, "The Distribution of Tenant Agriculture: Ontario, Canada, 1871," Social Science History 11, 2 (1987): 169-186; and idem, "Nineteenth Century Tenancy Rates in Ontario's Counties, 1881 and 1891," Journal of Social History 21 (1988): 753-764; and Catharine Anne Wilson, A New Lease on Life: Landlords, Tenants and Immigrants in Ireland and Canada (Kingston/Montreal, 1994).

11. Census of Canada 1870-713 (Ottawa, 1875); and Marr, "Tenant vs Owner Occupied Farms," 51.

12. Edward A. Talbot, Five Years Residence in the Canadas (London, 1824), 179.

13. Clarke, "Geographical Aspects of Land Speculation," 93; Widdis, "Perspective on Land Tenure," 96; Johnson, "State of Agricultural Development," 130; and David Gagan, Hopeful Travellers (Toronto, 1981), 34, 36.

14. Table V, Censuses of Canada 1665-1871 4 (Ottawa, 1876). How "tenant" was defined in 1848 is unclear. The aggregate version of the census lists "owners" and "tenants." The manuscript version of the 1848 census had no such category as "tenant" but called those not owning their land "non-proprietors." Non-proprietor included tenants as I have defined them in this paper, plus squatters, and perhaps others as well. Each census taker seems to have interpreted the category as he saw fit and no specific guidelines have survived.

15. The prices in this paper, unless in dollars, are given in Halifax currency. The dollar was made the official currency on 1 January 1858. In 1853 $4 = [pounds]1 sterling, [pounds]1 sterling - [pounds]1/4/4 Halifax currency. Completed Emigration Questionnaire 1840-41, National Archives, RG5, B21, vol. 1, Newcastle District (hereafter Questionnaire 1840-41); W. H. Smith, Canada: Past, Present and Future II (reprint, Belleville 1974; original, 1851), 522-3; The Canada Farmer 4 (15 April 1867): 121-2; Canadian Agriculturalist (July 1854): 196; Journal and Transactions of the Board of Agriculture of Upper Canada 1 (Toronto 1856): 328.

16. Questionnaire 1840-41; J. F. W. Johnston, Notes on North America (London, 1851), 275; George Easton, Travels in America (Glasgow, 1871), 98-99; Canada Farmer 4 (15 April 1867): 121-22; and 1 (15 Sept 1864): 270.

17. What we call southern Ontario today was known as Upper Canada for much of the nineteenth century. At Confederation in 1867 it became Ontario. The name Ontario will be used here.

18. Alan Wilson, The Clergy Reserves of Upper Canada (Toronto, 1927), 37; Lillian F. Gates, Land Policies of Upper Canada (Toronto, 1968), 199; and "Report of the Clergy Reserves" by R. B. Sullivan, Commissioner of Crown Lands, 28 March 1837, submitted to John Joseph Esq., the Civil Secretary, copy enclosed in Sir E Bond Head's dispatch to Lord Glenelg, 24 April 1837, Colonial Office Papers, National Archives, CO. 42, vol. 437, Reel B 341 (hereafter Sullivan Report 1837), 438.

19. Wilson, Clergy Reserves, 31-34, 42, 44; and Donald H. Akenson, The Irish in Ontario: A Study in Rural History (Kingston/Montreal, 1984), 160-161.

20. Conventional wisdom holds that the person to whom the property will revert at the end of a lease is the "owner" but usually no single owner exists, and lawyers do not talk of "ownership" at all. Andrew Reeve, Property (New Jersey, 1986), 13-14, 19-21.

21. Selling one's interest in rented property, or "tenant right" as it is usually known in Ireland and England, has recently received the attention it has long deserved, see: W. E. Vaughan, Landlords, and Tenants in Mid-Victorian Ireland (Oxford, 1994); Timothy W. Guinnane and Ronald I. Miller, "Bonds without Bondsmen: Tenant-Right in Nineteenth-Century Ireland," The Journal of Economic History 56, 1 (Mar. 1996): 113-142; Wilson, A New Lease on Life; and William Dowling, "Tenant Right: Agrarian Capitalism and Traditional Agriculture in Rural Ulster 1600-1850, Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1994.

22. See for example, Cramahe Township Papers, Crown Land Papers, Archives of Ontario, RG1, A-IV, Reel MS658.

23. Wilson, A New Lease on Life, 214-15.

24. Sullivan to His Excellency, 14 Sept 1839; Clergy Reserve Legislation and Sales, 01006-8; and Wilson, Clergy Reserves, 249. In order to acquire the freehold, a lessee had to submit an application to purchase, prove that they legally possessed the leasehold by presenting the lease or an assignment or other documentation, have no arrears of rent, and have made substantial improvements. In Alan Taylor's, "'A Kind of Warr': The Contest for Land on the Northeastern Frontier, 1750-1820," William & Mary Quarterly 46, 1 (1989): 3-26, settlers' improvements were often seized or destroyed in the contest to prove title to the land.

25. McCalla, Planting the Province, 28-9; and Peter A. Russell, "Upper Canada: A Poor Man's Country? Some Statistical Evidence," Canadian Papers in Rural History 3 (1982): 130, 136-8.

26. Even when a tenant purchased the freehold of his clergy reserve from the government, his improvements were not included in the purchase price. Sullivan Report 1837, 440; and R. B. Sullivan to His Excellency the Governor of Upper Canada, 14 September 1839, Clergy Reserve Legislation and Sales, Crown Land Papers, Archives of Ontario, RG1, A-I-7, vol. 3, env. 2, Reel MS 892 #1, 01011-12. See also "Farm Capitol," The Canadian Agriculturalist 14 (Nov. 1862): 647, where selling improvements were considered part of a tenant's farm capital.

27. Sullivan Report 1837, 437-54; and Wilson, A New Lease on Life, 127-8.

28. In 1851 Cramahe was divided into two townships. For the purposes of my work Cramahe Township consists of the post-1851 description namely lots 11 to 35 in concessions Broken Front to the tenth. For a description of it at mid-century see: William Haw, Fifteen Years in Canada (Edinburgh, 1850), 20; Illustrated Historical Atlas of the Counties of Northumberland and Durham (Toronto, 1878, reprint Belleville, 1972); Sutherland & Co's Gazetteer and Directory for Northu'd & Durham, 1865-6 (Woodstock, 1865); and Cobourg Star, 21 July 1841; and 3 and 17 Sept 1845.

29. Peter A. Russell, "Upper Canada: A Poor Man's Country?" 130, 133.

30. C1842; and Appendix to the Third Volume of the Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada (Kingston, 1844), Appendix DD, Table 13.

31. Questionnaire 1840-41; and Henry Ruttan, Sheriff of Newcastle District, Response to Lord Sydenham's Circular Letter, 1840, Trent University Archives, 92-1000.

32. The pattern of Cramahe's growth was typical of Ontario in this era, see McCalla, Planting the Province, 3-4, 218.

33. These figures for Cramahe are for farm tenants and do not include urban tenants. The 1820 figure was calculated by matching the 1820 Assessment with the Abstract Index to Deeds. C1848; and Census of Canada 1870-71 3 (Ottawa, 1873), 36.

34. Some notable exceptions come to mind such as Archibald, laird of McNab's estate in Renfrew County and the Earl of Mountcashel's estate on Amherst Island. At least one contemporary commented on how landlords were usually ordinary farmers: "Renting Farms," The Canada Farmer 2 (15 Feb 1865): 57-8. Robert Diller called this type of tenancy "functional" as opposed to tenancy resulting from "functional derangement in farm property" brought on by depression etc., Diller, Farm Ownership, 52-3.

35. C1842; "Return of Inspection, Newcastle District 1844 Clergy Reserves," Crown Land Papers, Archives of Ontario, RG1, A-VI-8, vol. 16 (hereafter: Inspection 1844); and "Land Survey of 1840 Newcastle District," Office of the Chief Accountant, University of Toronto Archives, A68-0010, I, Group B, 1, vol. 129.

36. Compiled from C1842; A1842; and AID.

37. W.H. Graham, Greenbank (Peterborough, 1988), 164, 179.

38. Anne B. Effland, Denise M. Rogers and Valerie Grim, "Women as Agricultural Landowners: What Do We Know About Them," Agricultural History 67, 2 (Spring 1993): 250.

39. Margaret Fowlie to Brother, 7 May 1865, and 21 August 1865, Dougall Family Papers, University of Guelph Archives.

40. Graham, Greenbank, 291.

41. Graham, Greenbank, 191-2.

42. Dougall Family Papers, 15 January 1857, 22 March 1864, 2 June 1865, and 8 August 1866.

43. Letter 12 October 1840, in Frances Browne Stewart, Our Forest Home (Montreal, 1902), 166.

44. "Leasing Small Farms," The Canada Farmer 4 (January 1872): 19.

45. Francis A. Evans, The Emigrants Guide to Obtain Lands and Effect a Settlement in the Canadas (Dublin, 1833), 78.

46. James Reid Papers, letters 1 March 1847 and 20 September 1856, Archives of Ontario, MU 2382. Liam Kennedy examines the assets and costs for heir and donor, see "Farm Succession in Modern Ireland: Elements of a Theory of Inheritance," Economic History Review 44, 3 (1991): 478-9; M. Friedberger in his study of inheritance in the cornbelt 1870-1950 argues that real estate was heavily discounted for intra-familial purposes: "The Family Farm and the Inheritance Process," Agricultural History 57 (1983): 12.

47. Another 42% of tenant families in 1842 moved out of the area and whether they eventually owned or not is uncertain. Twenty-five percent left their rented farms because of old age or death.

48. "Inspection 1844," lot 20, concession 8; and Cramahe Township Papers, Crown Land Papers, Archives of Ontario, RG1, A-IV, Reel MS-658, (hereafter: Township Papers), #1062-1073.

49. "Reports on Leases No 2 1823-57," RG1, A-II-1, vol. 5; C&A1826 and 1830; "Dockets of Leases of Clergy Reserves, 1802-1835," Crown Land Papers: Leases: Misc Records, Archives of Ontario RG1, C-II-3, vol. 1; and "Inspection 1844."

50. Office of the Chief Accountant, University of Toronto Archives, A68-0010, Section III, Group B, Cramahe Township, lot 21, concession 1; and "Land Survey of 1840 Newcastle District," Office of the Chief Accountant, A68-0010, Section I, Group B, 1, vol. 129.

51. Township Papers, lot 15, concession 1, #78-90, #99; and AID Lot 15, concession 1.

52. David Friedberger, Farm Families and Change in Twentieth Century America (Lexington, 1988), 82; and Diller, Farm Ownership, 136.

53. A1825, C1842, and C&A 1832.

54. Edward: C&A 1827. William Jr., C&A 1831; and Office of the Chief Accountant, A68-0010, III, B, lot 24, concession 4.

55. C&A 1836 and 1837; A1840.

56. Edward: "Inspection and Valuation reports, Newcastle District 1831-37," Crown Land Papers, Archives of Ontario, RG1 A-VI-8, vol. 4, Cramahe, 1833; A1839; and "Inspection 1844." John: C1842. George: C&A 1837 and A1844.

57. A1869; and AID lot 28, concession 1.

58. Illustrated Historical Atlas, 81-82, and AID lot 23 and 24, concession 2, and lot 28, concession 1 and Broken Front.

59. The following two articles are very useful in understanding inter-generational transfers: James G. Snell, "Maintenance Agreements for the Elderly: Canada, 1900-1951," Journal of the Canadian Historical Association New Series, 3 (1992): 197-216; and Kennedy, "Farm Succession," 477-499.

60. Sonya Salamon, Kathleen M. Gengengacher, and Dwight J. Penas, "Family Factors Affecting the Intergenerational Succession to Farming," Human Organization 45, 1 (1986): 29-30.

61. Will of Nathan Gould, Cramahe Copybooks, Archives of Ontario, Deed Book A, Instrument 171, Reel GS-4730; C1842; AID lot 19 conc. 2; Township Papers, #92, 362; and obituary of Seth Burr Gould, 1894, Scrapbook, Colborne Public Library.

62. Bruce S. Elliott, Irish Migrants in the Canadas (Kingston/Montreal, 1988), 212. Although the parties involved are called landlord and tenant, and the landlord holds the right to take back the land when the lease expires as in regular landlord/tenant relations, the life lease is not legally considered to create a "tenancy" but is considered to be a full conveyance of land.

63. Fish vs Leary, 1888, Court of Common Pleas, Court Records - United Counties of Northumberland and Durham, Trent University Archives, 84-020/88/2.

64. Maintenance agreements usually only concerned food and shelter, and generally fell into disrepute in the twentieth century in Europe and America where the stipulations were found to be too rigid. Better results, in Wisconsin, resulted from agreements that were contingent upon the transfer of land, such as those being discussed here. In Ontario, however, the land registration process made no specific provision for the registration of such land-based maintenance agreements. As a result, many agreements were never registered, or appear as agreements, bonds, trust deeds, and life leases in the records. Friedberger, Farm Families, 74-75; Elliott, Irish Migrants, 211-12.

65. Deed Book A, Instruments 14, 56, 291, Reel GS 4730; Deed Book B, Instruments 624-626, 206 and 560, Reel GS 4731; Deed Book C, Instrument 51, Reel GS 4732.

66. Deed Book A, Instruments 372 and 373, Reel GS 4730; and Deed Book C, Instrument 498, Reel GS 4732.

67. Deed Book B, Instrument 626, Reel GS 4731.

68. Deed Book C, Instrument 498, Reel GS 4732.
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Author:Wilson, Catharine Anne
Publication:Journal of Social History
Date:Jun 22, 1998
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