"Oil Mania": Colonial Land Policy, Land Speculation, and Settlement in Enniskillen Township, 1830s-1860s | Histoire sociale / Social History

Christina Ann Burr, University of Windsor


Geography, plus the economic and social conditions of oil resource extraction, shaped settlement and land speculation in Enniskillen Township in southwestern Ontario from the opening of the township to settlement in 1835 through the “oil boom” of the 1860s. Colonial land policies were intended to encourage settlement by loyal, industrious British subjects, but did not prevent land speculation. During the early stages of the development of the oil industry, the activities of land speculators in the township were part and parcel of the normal workings of capitalism. Land speculation involved both settlement and improvement of land holdings. An analysis of settlement and land speculation in Enniskillen Township over this period demonstrates the continued usefulness of micro-studies in unravelling the nuances of colonial land-granting policies in Upper Canada.