The Western District was called Hesse District from 1788 to 1792. The Western District originally consisted of that part of Upper Canada west of a line running north from Long Point on Lake Erie to Georgian Bay. The remaining boundaries were all bodies of water: Lake Erie, Detroit River, Lake St Clair, St Clair River, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. The district town was Sandwich, later renamed Windsor.
The Western District originally consisted of the area that is now found in the counties of Brant, Bruce, Dufferin, Elgin, Essex, Grey, Huron, Kent, Lambton, Middlesex, Norfolk, Oxford, Perth, and Wellington. The southern part of the county had been settled by French settlers during the time of New France (pre 1763). After 1800, as population in the district increased, so did the demands on administration. The London District was formed in 1800 leaving the Western District with Essex, Kent, Lambton and Huron (which was not settled till later). Oxford, Brant and Perth were not carved out of their neigbouring counties until later. There were further re-arrangements of the areas making up the individual districts in the 1830s. When the district system was abolished in 1849 the Western District only included the counties of Essex, Kent, and a part of Lambton.
Maps of the Early Ontario Districts
The Archives of Ontario provides two Maps of the original Districts of Upper Canada as they were in 1788 before Upper Canada was created and three years later in 1792. The orignal counties of western Ontario had been laid out by the time of the second map; they were to change a great deal over the next two centuries.
A further series of maps illustrate the growth of the District system across the province.
Ontario Districts: an Explanation
When Upper Canada was formed in 1788 it was immediately divided into four districts: Hesse, Nassau, Mecklenburg and Lunenburg. In 1792 these names were changed to Western, Home, Midland and Eastern respectively. The expansion in population of the province, and in the area settled, obliged the number of Districts to increase. By 1849 there were twenty individual districts, each with a number of counties under its jurisdiction.