HURD, SAMUEL PROUDFOOT, office holder, politician, and militia officer; b. 30 Nov. 1793 in Bermuda, son of Thomas Hurd and Elizabeth Proudfoot; m. first 2 Feb. 1815 Frederica Wynyard (d. 1824), and they had two sons and two daughters; m. secondly 18 Nov. 1837 Anne Mary Pratt, and they had one daughter; d. 10 Aug. 1853 in Toronto.
Samuel Proudfoot Hurd’s father was an officer in the Royal Navy and hydrographer to the Admiralty from 1808 to 1823. Samuel joined the 1st Foot Guards as ensign in March 1814, served in the 1815 campaign against Napoleon, and was awarded the Waterloo medal. He went on half pay in 1817 as captain of the 60th Foot and retired completely in 1825, when he was appointed surveyor general of New Brunswick. In this capacity Hurd was responsible for allotting all locations of land, ordering the necessary surveys, and preparing plans and descriptions of the allotments. When Lieutenant Governor Sir Howard Douglas* asked for comments on a British parliamentary report on emigration, Hurd prepared an impressive memorandum, accompanied by a plan for laying out hamlets for emigrants, for the New Brunswick Agricultural and Emigrant Society. His memorandum was approved and forwarded to the Colonial Office, but no action was taken on it.
In 1826 Douglas appointed Hurd to the Council; however, the surveyor general’s position was weakened the following year when the Colonial Office introduced a new land policy, designed to raise funds. Public land was to be sold by auction, though some grants would still be allowed. Douglas found the system impractical. Hurd disliked the new policy, for under it his fees were reduced while the increasing demands on his office necessitated additional staff whom he had to pay out of his own salary and emoluments. But the commissioner of crown lands, Thomas Baillie*, favoured the policy. Baillie, who prior to Hurd’s appointment had also been surveyor general, reported to the Colonial Office in 1828 that he had been handicapped by Hurd’s neglect in issuing warrants for land sales and his delay in making surveys, and he suggested that the offices of crown lands commissioner and surveyor general should again “be performed by the same individual.” On his part, Hurd submitted proposals to Douglas for improving the land disposal system, stating that capitalists would not be attracted by the current policy. These plans were not put into effect. Douglas returned to England in March 1829 and later that year the offices of surveyor general and commissioner of lands were reunited under Baillie. Hurd was transferred to Upper Canada to succeed its late surveyor general, Thomas Ridout*.
Hurd’s new appointment was to begin on 1 Nov. 1829 but, unable to settle his debts in New Brunswick, he remained there two years more. Even then, because of a combination of circumstances (changes in shipping schedules, the difficulties of winter travel, and the illness of his children en route), he did not reach York (Toronto) until early in May 1832. Although the colonial secretary, Lord Goderich, had instructed Lieutenant Governor Sir John Colborne* to dismiss Hurd if he did not arrive by 1 January, Colborne accepted Hurd’s explanations and issued his commission on 16 May 1832. Goderich decided to let the appointment stand.
Hurd’s delayed arrival in Upper Canada, his lack of knowledge of the province and its land practices, and the dissatisfaction of some staff members over the appointment of an outsider did not bode well for his success. The acting surveyor general, William Chewett*, a surveyor of many years’ experience whom Colborne had recommended to succeed Ridout, retired on Hurd’s arrival. Hurd declared later that he was “considered as an Interloper.”
Nor were his relations with Colborne as smooth as they had been with Douglas. Mistrustful of Hurd’s ability to control speculation in loyalist and militia land grants and disturbed by complaints about the delay and “want of System” in the Surveyor General’s Office, Colborne in February 1834 requested that the Executive Council investigate what steps, if any, might be taken to render the department “more efficient.” In March the lieutenant governor wrote to the Colonial Office that Hurd’s appointment had been “a sad mistake” and that he was “not fit for this very important post.” Colborne limited Hurd’s authority to locate lots, required him to report weekly on locations assigned, and ordered him riot to give work to surveyors without the lieutenant governor’s written instructions. Differences were aggravated that spring over a lithographic machine, used to speed up the reproduction of plans and maps. Colborne insisted that Hurd install in the Surveyor General’s Office the press bought for that purpose which had been made available for use by lithographer Samuel Oliver Tazewell*. However, the senior draftsman, James Grant Chewett*, balked at operating the press, and the machine fell into disuse. Then in the fall of 1835 the senior clerk, John Radenhurst, was accused by a fellow clerk of conducting a private land agency, although an 1832 order-in-council forbade such activities. At Colborne’s urging, Hurd questioned Radenhurst, who answered evasively. Concluding that Radenhurst did conduct an agency but only outside office hours, Hurd merely advised him to obey the order-in-council or risk suspension.
Shortly before he left the province in January 1836, Colborne complained to Colonial Secretary Lord Glenelg that he could not speak of Hurd’s qualifications “without mortification and pain.” Yet he did not discharge him. Colborne’s successor, Sir Francis Bond Head*, lost no time in doing so. Within a week of taking office, Head suggested to Hurd that he retire or risk being dismissed. Hurd then requested a six-month leave of absence on grounds of ill health, with a view to retirement afterwards. But within three weeks Head appointed John Simcoe Macaulay surveyor general. The lieutenant governor justified his removal of Hurd by saying he was incompetent and that, owing to his “unfortunate habit of drinking,” he had latterly been unable to attend the office. Hurd was a man of honour and “very gentlemanlike,” but, Head stated, he could not let his sympathetic feelings interfere with his “painful duty.” The appointment of Macaulay, however, was unexpectedly opposed, mainly by friends of Radenhurst, who had applied for the vacant post. Macaulay submitted his resignation, which Glenelg accepted, though the colonial secretary supported Head in his refusal to reinstate Hurd or, because of his land agency, to appoint Radenhurst. In October 1836, John Macaulay of Kingston was named surveyor general. Hurd, no longer able to hope for reinstatement, told Head that “the Injury I have received is incalculable.” His request to the House of Assembly for a retirement allowance on the grounds that he was “totally destitute” was not granted. Head made one gesture: he appointed Hurd’s 17-year-old son, Thomas Gladwin Hurd, second clerk in the office of the Executive Council.
Samuel Proudfoot Hurd never again held an important position. He did serve in the militia, as a major in the Queen’s Rangers during the abortive Patriot raid at Short Hills on the Niagara frontier in June 1838 [see Linus Wilson Miller*] and briefly as deputy assistant quartermaster general in 1838–39. Although he owned some property, Hurd was in debt to various creditors and, two years before his death, he stated that he was “entirely dependent” on his family for support. His misfortunes were caused partly by circumstances – the merging of the two New Brunswick offices and his transfer to Upper Canada. He was, however, inefficient, a procrastinator, and a weak administrator. No doubt Hurd’s alcoholism was an important factor in his incompetence. Letters from friends hinted at the “habits that have been the destruction of your prospects,” “old charges,” and “injurious rumours.” The gentlemanly Hurd was apparently marked for failure: his career was disturbed to an extraordinary degree by bad luck, disappointment, and frustration.
Samuel Proudfoot Hurd’s name appears on the pamphlet Information, for the use of persons emigrating to Upper Canada; containing an explanation of the various modes of application for land . . . (York [Toronto, 1832]), an official publication of the Surveyor General’s Office of Upper Canada.
AO, RG 1, A-I-1, especially 66–71; A-I-2, 28–30; A-I-3, 1. PAC, MG 23, HI, 4, vols.5–6; MG 24, A3, 4; A40, 3–4 (mfm.); RG 1, L6B, 22; RG 5, A1, 96–204; RG 7, G1, 65, 67–69, 77–78; G8B, 2–4, 7–11. PRO, CO 42/388–438; CO 47/146–52; CO 188/32–41; CO 193/8–12 (mfm. at PAC). Arthur papers (Sanderson). U.C., House of Assembly, App. to the journal, 1839–40, 2: 201–47. Daily Leader (Toronto), 11 Aug. 1853. Mackenzie’s Weekly Message, 18 Aug. 1853. North American (Toronto), 12 Aug. 1853. Cowdell, Land policies of U.C. Norman Macdonald, Canada, 1763–1841, immigration and settlement; the administration of the imperial land regulations (London and Toronto, 1939), 312–463. “Biographical sketch,” Assoc. of Ont. Land Surveyors, Proc. (Toronto), 1897: 157–60. H. P. Gundy, “Samuel Oliver Tazewell, first lithographer of Upper Canada,” Humanities Assoc. Rev. (Kingston, Ont.), 27 (1976): 466–83.
© 1985–2023 University of Toronto/Université Laval
Cite This Article
Ruth McKenzie, “HURD, SAMUEL PROUDFOOT,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 25, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/hurd_samuel_proudfoot_8E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||Ruth McKenzie|
|Title of Article:||HURD, SAMUEL PROUDFOOT|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1985|
|Year of revision:||1985|
|Access Date:||March 25, 2023|