Col. Thomas Talbot was a controversial figure in early Ontario settlement. In the early 1800s in what was then called Upper Canada, Talbot was allowed to dole out land in Elgin County. Every time he gave, at his whim, 50 acres to a settler, he received land for himself.
He made decisions arbitrarily based on who he liked, and single-handedly managed to create a lot of discontent among early settlers. He was often accused of erasing a settler's name from a previous land allotment and assigning the land to someone else, if the original settler displeased him. In fact my own ancestor's brother suffered such a fate under Talbot's despotic rules.
In 1819 Jacob Peer submitted a petition stating that Talbot had granted him land, and promised that he, Jacob, could extend to the land bordering his in order to build a mill. Then Talbot denied that promise, forcing Jacob to purchase the land. To make things worse, Talbot then assigned the land that Jacob owned to another settler.
Here is an interesting excerpt from some of the letters exchanged during Peer's petition.
Letter dated 20 Dec. 1819 from York from T. Rideout to the Surveyor General's Office stating that "how far Colonel Talbot was authorized to remove a settler when once located I am unable to say." Another letter from William Powell to Sir Peregrine Maitland points out that if the petitioner Jacob Peer wins his suit, it could have other consequences and that it is doubtful that Talbot would consider himself accountable to the Board. He therefore recommends that the petition from Jacob be directed to Talbot personally and that Talbot report on it. Talbot writes a letter dated 30 April 1819 to Wm. Myers stating that "in consequence of your not having moved on the Lot 75 west on the North Branch of Talbot Rd. in Westminster, I have located the said lot to Mary Schram" and that the lot is estimated to be worth 50 dollars which will be paid to him. FN2
Jacob filed many petitions and affidavits from other settlers who swore they had been present when Talbot promised the land freely to Jacob but it was all in vain. Jacob lost his case and was ruined financially, having built a grist mill and saw mill at his own expense on the land he purchased, and which was taken from him and given to another settler. All because he displeased Talbot.
However Talbot's maps are an invaluable source for genealogists! Thanks to the Elgin County Archives and the Archives of Ontario, Talbot's maps are now onlline. The Archives of Ontario lent the maps to Elgin County Archives so that they could be digitized and made available to the public.
Talbot made note of villages, First Nations settlements and
footpaths, industrial sites such as mills, and early transportation routes
throughout the region. The documents also include the names and
locations of landowners. FN1. This gives us names and locations of early settlers and will be extremely useful to genealogists.
Each of the 45 documents, registered between 1802
and 1849, are available to the public at the
archive's website. The complete listing of Talbot's maps is available to historians and genealogists. Elgin County Archives tells us that
"The fonds includes 45 large-format plans (registered 1802-1832;
incorporating annotations dated 1810-1849) and a lease settlement
register (created and maintained 1842-1846; includes retroactive entries
dated 1825-1836) documenting land distribution in the Town of London
and 30 townships in 6 Counties throughout southwestern Ontario in which
Talbot controlled land allocation. The plans show survey grids, clergy
and school reserves, town sites (including London), first nations
villages, mill seats, footpaths, trails, waterways and crossings, local
and regional roads. Most significantly, perhaps, the plans include
personal land settlement information, with the names of grantees and
dates of occupation pencilled in by Talbot on individual lots."
FN1: Source: http://www.stthomastimesjournal.com/2016/03/15/snapshot-of-talbot-settlement-life-now-online
FN2: UCLP P12/152: Petition from Jacob Peer of Flamboro West in Gore District dated 21 Dec. 1819