Only 200 years ago, the Sydenham River was surrounded by swamp, forest and marsh. The only permanent settlement before the War of 1812 was Baldoon (near present-day Wallaceburg). 180 years ago, surveyors began tramping through the bush, marking out townships, lots, and concessions. Whole townships were planned before any Europeans arrived to build them. Pioneers didnít come to the area and "stake a claim," their plot was predetermined before they arrived.

This stretch of land once belonged to Samuel Smith.
This stretch of land once belonged to Samuel Smith.
This level of organization would not have been possible without surveyors like Samuel Smith. Smith was a veteran of the War of 1812 who was hired by Colonel Talbot to survey much of the Talbot Settlement. Smith mapped roads, right-of-ways, lots and concessions through Sombra, Euphemia, Brooke and Bosanquet townships. Smith surveyed much of this area in the 1820’s, before building his home in Euphemia Township. Smith built a mill where the Sydenham River widens before going over a drop; hence the name of the settlement: Smith’s Falls (between Florence and Shetland).

Surveyors used very simple tools to map out the distances they were traveling. Among Smithís gear would have been a survey chain, an axe, a tent, a compass, and posts. Surveyors would use the chain, which was 66 feet long, to measure out lots. They used the posts to make sure the chain was straight.

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