Fixing Ownership: Land Agents, Settlers, and Property Relations in Two Eastern Townships, 1840–1865
The general fluidity and ambiguity of property relations during colonization meant settlers, who were often “squatters,” relied on land agents to fix their relationship with property-owners. In turn, the latter needed the agent’s on-the-ground expertise to manage their affairs and responsibilities for “improvements.” Land agents thus became intermediaries between cash-poor settlers and absentee owners. George Bonnallie, active in the northern part of Stukely Township and western Orford Township had a repertoire of routine practices he pursued. Organized in a typology, they provide detail about late colonization and reveal the part played by entrepreneurial intermediaries in fixing property relations in areas still peripheral to the market economy. With in-coming settlement completed in these townships by the mid-1860s, after municipal reform, and with the arrival of speculation by local notables, neither property-owners nor settlers needed the suite of routines deployed to enable settlement. A standardized market for land transfers had developed.