Robert Young

From Alberta's Land Surveying History
Jump to: navigation, search

Robert Young was born in Georgetown, Halton County, Ontario on March 17th, 1861 and was the son of James Young, a one-time manager of the Toronto Paper Company at Cornwall, and brother to C.W. Young at The Cornwall Free Holder. He was educated in Stratford and Belleville and served his articles with the firm at Evans and Boljer in Belleville.

Quoting from the annual report of the Association of Dominion Land Surveyors, sixth annual report:

"He went to Winnipeg in the early 80s and his first work was in laying out townships in southern Manitoba, which now is the most thickly populated part of the West. At that time, during the whole summer, they saw only one white man not of their own party. He was a painstaking and thorough surveyor and to his credit stand the re-survey of Winnipeg, rendered necessary by the adoption of the Torrens System and the re-survey of the old trails, in neither of which to this day, has a single error been found. After some hard work in the mountain regions of British Columbia, he was called to Ottawa by the Hon. Clifford Sifton, and was soon put in charge of the railway and swamp lands. He was appointed chief geographer in addition to his other duties in 1909, and represented Canada at the Geographical Congress in London, England in November of that year. By the introduction of a thorough system he, in a few years, succeeded in patenting all of the lands earned by railway companies in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta, and settled forever a most troublesome question. With a great faith in the value of maps as an aid to the development of a country, he devised and published the homestead map of the West, which has gone through a number of editions, and is probably in more general use by everyone interested in land than any other government publication. The cereal map, the elevator, banking and milling maps, also creations of his busy brain, met with immediate recognition. Of these maps, it was remarked at the International Conservation Conference at Washington, of which Mr. Young was secretary, a few years ago, that they were the finest issued by any government, and rivalled the work of the Chinese in their microscopic accuracy.

For a few years, Mr. Young turned his special attention to the hinterland of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and by the publication of Canada's Fertile Northland, and other kindred works, and the initiation of a thorough exploration policy, drew the attention of the world to the vast heritage of the Dominion in the far north.

A most enthusiastic Canadian, with an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Canadian facts and figures, Mr. Young addressed Canadian clubs and other bodies frequently on the Canadian West. His addresses before the Canadian Club and the Cornwall Club are remembered with great pleasure. As chief geographer, Mr. Young was appointed to represent Canada at the International Geographical Congress meeting at Rome, Italy during the present month but was prevented from going by the press of official business."

Mr. Young qualified for his PLS (British Columbia) in April 1899 but apart from work in the BC railway belt about 1907, no other work has yet come to light. In 1887(*) Mr. Young married Winefred Frances, eldest daughter of Henry Lawe, DLS, Dunnville, Ontario (now of Ottawa) who died in July 1908 leaving behind her, four daughters. At the time of Mr. Young's death, he was survived by Misses Winefred, Edith, Patricia and Elizabeth Young. He also left two brothers, C.W. Young of Cornwall and W.C. Young, manager, Union Bank, Brampton, Ontario and one sister, Mrs. Alfred Chambers, The Elms Stroud, Gloucester, England.

Mr. Young was thought by his friends and colleagues to have had a brilliant and useful career. Just prior to his death on a Tuesday in December 1911, he appeared to be in excellent health and it was presumed that he had died of a heart attack. Mr. Young attained the position of chief geographer and superintendent of railway lands for the Department of the Interior, Ottawa. In 1902, he also served with the 90th Rifles in the North West Rebellion and was considered an amateur photographer of some note. He is the author of several publications, perhaps the best known is his Canada's Fertile Northland, 1909.


  • Thanks to the Canadian Institute of Surveying & Mapping for supplying part of this difficult to obtain publication
  • Annual Report, Association of Dominion Land Surveyors 6th Annual Meeting Ottawa, 1912, p.149
  • G.S. Andrews, Professional Land Surveyors of BC, 4th Edition, 1978, p. 36
  • Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba: Manitoba Library Association, Winnipeg

(*)Annual report gives marriage date 1888; Pioneers and Early Citizens gives it as 1887.

Early Surveyors of British Columbia, 1991