Hastings County was established in 1792 and named for military leader Francis Rawdon-Hastings. The county is the second largest in Ontario in terms of area.
Early settlers were mainly Loyalists who arrived in 1784. Among the first were members of the Mohawk Tribe from New York's Mohawk Valley. By the 1850's the southern part of the county was fairly well settled so the northern part was opened for settlement. Gold was discovered near Eldorado (Madoc Twp) in the 1860's. The county seat is at Belleville.
The map of Hastings County circa 1951 from Ontario Archives locates the individual municipalities, townships, towns and villages of the county.
The municipalities within the county are:
The cities of Belleville and Quinte West are separated municipalities, meaning that they are within the boundaries of the county and included in the census division, but not under the administration of the county government.
The first boundaries of Hastings County were established 1792 by Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe. The southern boundary was the Bay of Quinte, the eastern boundary was Lennox County and the western boundary ran from the Trent River to the Ottawa River, in a triangular shape. The County consisted of Sidney, Thurlow, Rawdon, Huntingdon and Hungerford townships as well as the Mohawk Tract. The area was named for Francis Rawdon-Hastings.
Three new townships; Elzevir, Madoc and Marmora were created in 1821 and on Monday, October 1, 1821 the first Hastings County fair was held in Belleville . The largest prize paid was to Captain Daniel Ostrom of Sydney at $20 and Ruliff Purdy of Sidney received the most prizes totaling $106.50.
While in this time agriculture was the most important industry in Hastings County, by 1822 (when the Marmora Iron Works was approaching its peak production) mining was playing an increasingly more important role in the area's economy.
Prominent citizens of Hastings County and Ameliasburgh Township unsuccessfully petitioned the provincial government for district status during 1817, 1818, 1823 and 1825. After Prince Edward County successfully achieved its own government in 1831, Hastings County continued to send petitions throughout the 30s before finally achieving the status of a separate district in March 1837. Belleville was named the county's District Town.
From 1839 until 1849, Hastings County was renamed Victoria District after Queen Victoria. By 1841 the district had access to local courts but no local government was in place. On February 8, 1842 the Victoria District's first council met under warden William Hutton. During much of this time roads and bridges were the most important issues the council dealt with.
Edward Fidlar became the first warden of Hastings County with their first meeting on January 28, 1850. By this time the Hastings County Council was also interested in education and the building of the railroad.
On October 27, 1856 the first railroad train arrived in Belleville and by 1864 around 100 people were employed by the railroad.
In August 1866, discovery of gold at Eldorado, near Madoc, caused great excitement throughout Hastings County as people flooded to the area from all over North America. The railroads and of good gravel roads opened these areas to settlement by 1880.
In 1889 the Belleville Waterworks was created as a private company, which was then bought by the city of Belleville in 1889. In 1911, Hastings County was the first in the province to appoint a reforestation committee, which was instrumental in passing laws around county forests. Postal service began in the area in 1913.
The primary source for basic documents (vital statistics, land records, wills) for people who lived in the Province of Ontario is the Archives of Ontario, 134 Ian Macdonald Blvd, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M7A 2C5.
Civil registration did not begin in the province until 1869. Before then there may be church records of baptisms and burials. For the most part these are still held by the denomination who recorded them. Copies of marriage records made pre-1869 had to be sent by individual clergymen to the registrar of the county in which the marriage took place. These marriage records are available through Ontario Archives, on micorfilm through LDS libraries, and on paid and unpaid websites, but because they were copied at the registrars' offices, they cannot be considered a primary source.
Vital Records after 1869
Birth, marriage and death registrations are not open to the public until a specific number of years after the event occurred. Births to 1914 are now available [October 2012]; dates for marriages and deaths are later. Birth and death registration was not universally carried out in the early years after its adoption. Deaths were more apt to be reported than births for several years. The more rural the area, the less likely it would be that these happenings were reported to the authorities.
Land Records and Wills
Information on how to access land records and wills is best sought on the Archives of Ontario website. An ancestor's land holding might be found on Canadian County Atlas Digital Project if he was in occupancy circa 1878.
Association for the Preservation of Ontario Land Registry Office Documents (APOLROD). A list of Land Registry Offices for all Counties of Ontario.
The original censuses are in the hands of Library and Archives Canada. All of the original census (1851-1911) images are online with the exception of that for 1861. Not all of them are indexed. Later censuses are not yet available. Census divisions were redrawn as the population increased and more land was inhabited.
E-books and Books
Some websites with more local information on Hastings County