The New Student's Reference Work/Ontario, Can.

Onta′rio, Can., the wealthiest and most prosperous province of British America, is a triangle between St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers whose western base rests on Lake Huron.  Its extreme length is 1,400 miles, its breadth 900 and its area 407,262 square miles since extension of 1912.  Ontario is larger than either France or Germany and over twice the size of the United Kingdom.  It is bounded on the north by Manitoba and Quebec; on the east by Quebec and New York, from which it is separated by the St. Lawrence, Lake Ontario and Niagara River; on the south by Lake Erie; and on the west by Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, St. Clair River and Lakes Huron and Superior, while Minnesota impinges on Ontario from Lake Superior to Manitoba.

The population of Ontario is (census of 1911) 2,523,274, having been 2,182,947 in 1901.  Eighty-seven per cent. or 1,858,787 were natives of the province. Of those born out of the province the most numerous were natives of the United Kingdom.  The province contains about two fifths of the entire population of the Dominion, and, in contrast with Quebec, is an English and Protestant province.  The Methodists in 1901 numbered 666,388; the Presbyterians 477,386; the Roman Catholics (chiefly French) 390,304; the Church of England 367,937; and the Baptists 116,320.  There also were 32,600 Dunkards and Mennonites.  Toronto (q. v.) is the provincial capital.  Other important towns are Ottawa (q. v.), the capital of the Dominion; Hamilton; London; Kingston; Brantford; Guelph; and St. Catherine’s.  (See articles under these names.)

Surface and DrainageEdit

Distinctive features are the Great Lakes the St. Lawrence and Hudson Bay.  The surface is an undulating plateau without considerable elevations.  The Laurentian Hills, 1,200 feet high at most, run westward from the St. Lawrence near Kingston to north of Lake Simcoe and form the watershed that separates the streams flowing into the Great Lakes from those entering Hudson Bay and from Ottawa River and the St. Lawrence.  The chief rivers are the St. Lawrence and the Ottawa, with the Albany that enters Hudson Bay and the Niagara between Lakes Erie and Ontario.  Besides the Great Lakes, which lie partly in the United States (Michigan wholly), Ontario’s lakes include Nipissing, Nipigon, Simcoe, Rideau, Muskoka and (western boundary) the Lake of the Woods.  The Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence, its rapids, Niagara Falls and the myriad islands of Georgian Bay are world-famous scenic features of Ontario.  The northern coast of Lake Superior also is remarkable for beauty.

Natural ResourcesEdit

Ontario has five leading sources of wealth: agriculture, mining, fisheries, forests and manufactures.  About half of the province is covered with timber, chiefly pine, spruce, tamarack, oak and hickory.  These and the waterways, both natural and artificial, make lumbering one of the most important of all its great industrial interests.  The quantity of white pine, it is claimed, exceeds that on any other area in North America.  The Canadian spruce, the great pulpwood tree, is superior to the European variety.  Fur-bearing animals, as the beaver, occur in considerable numbers in northern Ontario, where caribou, moose and other large game abound.  Fisheries are important, the annual catch of whitefish, trout, pickerel, herring, etc., being valued considerably in excess of $2,000,000.  The province is rich in minerals, as antimony, arsenic, copper, iron, lead and plumbago.  Bounties are paid on the production of iron.  Building-stone, gypsum and marble abound.  Gold and silver exist, the latter very extensively along Lake Superior.  The silver of Cobalt (q. v.) has attracted worldwide attention.  The nickel deposits of Sudbury (q. v.) are the greatest in the world.  The iron and the copper deposits are extensive.  West of Lake Superior lies a gold region that is considered promising.  The province is rich in salt wells, petroleum and natural gas.  It has set 10,000,000 acres of forest aside as reserves.


Ontario’s climate is said to resemble that of central Europe.  It inclines to the extremes of cold in winter and heat in summer, but the dry air makes a bracing climate.  Extreme cold is experienced only in the north, the Great Lakes in the south modifying the extremes of temperature.


In the south soils of black loam are of excellent quality and highly productive.  Eastern Ontario, having the best land, is the garden of the province.  The peninsula between Ottawa River and Lakes Ontario, Erie and Huron is the richest, most densely peopled and most productive part of Ontario.  Northern or New Ontario covering 141,000 square miles or 100,000,000 acres, was until twenty years ago left to the trapper, the lumberman and the miner.  Recently it has been found to have thousands of acres as fertile as any farms in old Ontario.  This new district is north of the Canadian Pacific and of the Height of Land.  It is in the vicinity of Lake Nipissing.  Beyond it lies the great clay-belt extending from Lake Temiskaming almost across the province to James Bay and Albany River.  It contains 15,680,000 acres of tillable land, is well-watered, and has forests of vast commercial value.  The climate favors agriculture, for, though Ontario’s winter is severest at the Height of Land, the cold diminishes as more northern latitudes are approached—as far as James Bay.  Ten thousand immigrants a year—farmers, lumberers, miners—have for so many years been streaming into northern Ontario that it now has within its borders 2,500,000 inhabitants.  It has approximately 300 cities, towns and villages, including Ottawa, the Capital of the Dominion.  It is now traversed and developed by the Grand Trunk Pacific (q. v.), a new road.  Other fertile sections are Rainy River Valley, the Temiskaming district and Wabigoon Valley.  The crops of Ontario, the old as well as the new regions, are wheat, barley, oats, Indian corn, potatoes and some tobacco.  Niagara Peninsula is a vast fruit-farm, apples, grapes, peaches, pears and plums abounding, and grape-growing succeeds exceptionally well along Lake Erie.  Stock-raising, dairy-farming and bee-culture are comparatively recent industries.  Over a billion dollars have been invested in agriculture, the farmers number 235,000 and their annual return exceeds $200,000,000.

Commerce, Manufactures and TransportationEdit

Numerous manufactures exist, chiefly due to the abundant water-power. The falls of the Ottawa and the rapids of the St. Lawrence are the chief sources of power, and the works at Decen and Niagara Falls (q. v.) give Ontario the most extensive water-power works in the world.  The power-plants at Niagara and at Decen can cheaply supply all power required by every place within 100 miles of each.  The principal manufactures are lumber and its by-products, agricultural implements, iron and woodware, wagons, carriages, locomotives, railway cars, cottons, woolens, leather, furniture, flax, hardware, paper and soap.  Her industrial growth has been greatly stimulated by the agricultural development of provinces further west.  Ontario has a network of railways, which in summer are supplemented by the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence and the system of canals. The Sault Ste. Marie and the Welland are Ontario’s principal canals, the former and the American one in seven months carrying three times the tonnage of Suez Canal, and the latter connecting Lakes Erie and Ontario, while the St. Lawrence connects Ontario with Europe as the Great Lakes link it to Duluth and Chicago.  These waterways provide cheap transportation and economical distribution.  The railways still more facilitate distribution.  The Grand Trunk and the Canadian Pacific traverse Ontario, linking it to all Atlantic seaports of eastern North America and to Chicago, Minneapolis, Winnipeg and Victoria, B. C.  A strong feature of her industrial life is that almost her entire output is sold in the Dominion.  America and Britain share the bulk of Ontario’s external trade, and its chief import is coal.  It has a large number of sound and successfully managed banking institutions, a factor so important in her permanent growth and prosperity.


The school system seems admirably adapted to Ontario’s educational requirements.  The public schools are free.  (It is optional with the trustees of high schools to impose fees.)  Their teachers receive professional training in country model schools and provincial normal schools.  Toronto, Ottawa and London Normal Schools have long rendered service, model schools for observation purposes being attached to them, and four more are ready for work.  A faculty of education has recently been established in the University of Toronto, taking the place of the normal school.  The university has appointed a professor of education, and will study the schools of the city.  In places without high schools their work is performed by continuation classes.  The Roman Catholic schools are supported by their patrons but also share, pro rata, in grants made by the government for school purposes.  The Kindergarten system is widely established in city schools.  Less than 9% of her inhabitants over five years old are illiterate and the homes have the best books and periodicals.  Among the institutions for higher education are McMaster, Ottawa, Queens, Toronto, Trinity and Victoria Universities; Knox, Ridley, Royal, St. Michael, Upper Canada and Wycliffe Colleges.  There are colleges at Sandwich and Woodstock; women’s colleges at Brantford, Hamilton, London, Oshawa, St. Thomas and Whitby.  There is also an agricultural college at Gvelph.  There also are schools for Indian children, schools of art and many free libraries under the care of the board of education.  A minister of education, who always is a member of the provincial cabinet, controls the whole system.

Government and HistoryEdit

Government is administered by a lieutenant-governor appointed by the Canadian governor-general for five years and assisted by a responsible ministry.  There is a legislative assembly, of one house only, elected by ballot for four years.  Steam and electric railways are under provincial regulation to some extent.  Ontario enjoys the distinction of having a municipal system on which have been modeled the systems of the other provinces.  It is more like the English city systems than those of American cities.  Many cities are beginning to own and operate their own electric light and power plants.  Ontario was explored by Champlain in 1615, hunted over by the French and visited by missionaries to its Indians.  In 1763 Ontario passed from France to England, which in 1774 organized Quebec province, and in 1791 made Ontario Upper Canada or Canada West.  In 1783 Ontario then mainly a forest wilderness, received the Americans who preferred allegiance to Great Britain instead of the United States, and its actual career began.  In 1841 it was united with Quebec, but was separated again when the Dominion was formed in 1867.  It played an active part in the Anglo-American War of 1812.  It developed responsible government and English institutions.  It rose in 1837, not against England, but against colonial grievances.  It suffered from Fenian outrages in 1866.  It prospered greatly during 1854–66.  It has grown phenomenally since 1883.  Its municipal governments closely approach civic perfection.