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RUSSELL, ANDREW, surveyor and public servant; b. 29 June 1804 in Glasgow, Scotland, son of Alexander Russell and Janet (Jeanette) Jamieson; m. 16 May 1834 Lucy Chandler Lord, and they had three sons, two of whom became surveyors, and four daughters; d. 24 Feb. 1888 in Toronto and was buried in Ottawa, Ont.

Andrew Russell received his education in Glasgow before coming to Canada with his parents, sister, and brother Alexander Jamieson Russell in May 1822. The family settled in Leeds Township, Mégantic County, Lower Canada. In June 1829 Andrew was appointed superintendent of roads and settlement on crown lands in the county. He received a commission as surveyor of lands in Lower Canada in August 1830, and on 14 May of the following year he was named census commissioner for Mégantic County; he conducted the census taken there that year.

In November 1839 Russell was hired as a draftsman in the surveyor general’s office in Lower Canada. Following union of the Canadas in February 1841, he became a surveyor and draftsman in the surveyor general’s department, and then in 1842 senior surveyor and draftsman in the Canada West division of the surveying branch of the Crown Lands Department. At this time large areas of Canada West were being opened for settlement, and the senior surveyor had an important position, being responsible for preparing maps of the province, organizing surveys of public lands, and instructing surveyors as well as examining and reporting on their work and preserving their plans and reports. As head of the surveying branch he also examined candidates for licences as surveyors.

Under Russell’s direction improvements were made in the system of surveying in Canada West. Before the union, surveying was done by compass; he instituted a system based on astronomical observation and during his tenure of office the transit theodolite replaced the compass in determining angles. Experiments were made in the method of laying out townships; the areas along the north shore of Lake Huron were surveyed in a system employed in the United States, with townships six miles square divided into 36 sections of one square mile and these subdivided into quarter sections.

Russell became assistant commissioner of crown lands in July 1857. The department had several branches dealing with many things: surveying; land claims; Jesuits’ estates, the crown domain, and the seigneury of Lauson in Canada East; accounts; woods and forests; fisheries; ordnance lands; colonization roads in Canada West; and Indian lands. Although Russell seems to have exercised direct control over only those areas of the department’s business with which the commissioner chose not to concern himself, he was involved in a movement towards consolidation of authority in the central office, which was resisted by the local agents who foresaw a reduction in their numbers. In 1862 Russell testified before a royal commission investigating the workings of the department and reported a lack of “well-ordered distribution of labour and responsibility.” A modern study has noted that “shortcomings continued to plague the unwieldy Department until 1867.” After confederation, when the Crown Lands Department was reorganized and divided by province, Russell assumed the position of assistant commissioner for Ontario. Suddenly, on 20 Aug. 1869, he was asked to resign by the commissioner, Stephen Richards. Richards immediately replaced Russell with one of his own friends, Thomas Hall Johnson, gave no explanation for the dismissal, and made no charges of wrong-doing or incompetence against Russell. Russell was appointed resident agent for the sale of public lands in Wellington County, a position which happened to be vacant at the time.

He moved immediately from Toronto to Elora, but it was not with the intention of staying. In September 1869 he applied for a position in the land department of the northwest. He did move to Ottawa in 1870 where he was “engaged in the topographical labour” connected with the Canadian census of 1871. In March 1874 he joined the new Department of the Interior as chief clerk in the Dominion Lands Branch. The next year a board of examiners, consisting of the surveyor general of Canada and eight others, was established in May to examine applications for commissions as deputy land surveyor of dominion lands; Russell was appointed to this board the same year and served on it until January 1885. He retired from the Department of the Interior on 31 Dec. 1883. On this occasion the deputy minister of the department declared that “to him perhaps more than to any other man, living or dead, we owe the perfection which has been attained in our system of public land surveys.”

Russell had been a long-time member of the Canadian Institute, serving on its council in 1858–59 and 1867–68 and as first vice-president in 1869–70. He was named an honorary member of the Association of Dominion Land Surveyors at the time of its first meeting in February 1884. The following March a group of its leading members called upon him to present him with an illuminated address expressing the esteem in which he was held for his “high standard of public morality, integrity and faultless character” and his substantial contribution to the development of the profession of surveying. “Rightly may we style you the Father of Astronomic Surveying in Canada and proud are we of so worthy a progenitor.”

Margaret Coleman

PAC, RG 68, 107: f.315; 108: f.424. Can., Parl., Sessional papers, 1875–86, Annual reports of the Dept. of the Interior, 1874–85; Prov. of, Legislative Assembly, App. to the journals, 1846, III, app.E.E.; 1854–55, X, app.M.M.; 1857–59, Reports of the commissioner of crown lands, 1856–58; Parl., Sessional papers, 1860–66, Reports of the commissioner of crown lands, 1859–65; February–May 1863, IV, no.11. Globe, 21, 25, 31 Aug. 1869; 25 Feb. 1888. Cyclopædia of Canadian biog. (Rose, 1886). Hodgetts, Pioneer public service. R. S. Lambert and Paul Pross, Renewing nature’s wealth; a centennial history of the public management of lands, forests & wildlife in Ontario, 1763–1967 ([Toronto], 1967).

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Margaret Coleman, “RUSSELL, ANDREW,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 3, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/russell_andrew_11E.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:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/russell_andrew_11E.html
Author of Article:   Margaret Coleman
Title of Article:   RUSSELL, ANDREW
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1982
Year of revision:   1982
Access Date:   June 3, 2023