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Samuel Holland

Samuel Johannes Holland (1728 – 28 December 1801) was a Royal Engineer and first Surveyor General of British North America.


Life in the Netherlands

Holland was born in 1728 in Deventer,[1] the Netherlands. He was baptized on 22 September 1729 in the small Lutheran Church in the Dutch town of Deventer in the Province of Overijssel. In 1745, he entered the Dutch artillery and served during the War of the Austrian Succession. He was promoted lieutenant in 1747.

In 1749, Holland married Gertrude Hasse. They had one daughter who is thought to have died in infancy. In 1754, having possibly made contact with the Duke of Richmond and leaving his wife behind in the Netherlands, Holland emigrated to England to seek advancement under the British flag.

Early years in British North America

In 1756, Holland, probably with Richmond's aid, became a lieutenant in the Royal Americans, coming to British North America where he would spend the rest of his life. Among his first assignments was the preparation of a map of New York province; this map would be widely used for twenty years.

In 1757, during the French and Indian Wars, he was promoted captain lieutenant and assigned to reconnoitre Fort Carillon near Ticonderoga, New York, but in early 1758 he was transferred as assistant engineer to the expedition against Louisbourg. There, Holland made surveys of the surrounding area and prepared plans and give engineering advice under the command of Brigadier-General James Wolfe. Following Louisbourg's capitulation, Holland was strongly commended by Wolfe to the Duke of Richmond.

That winter, Holland and his new pupil, James Cook, drew charts of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and Saint Lawrence River in preparation for an attack on Quebec. He also supervised the construction of Fort Frederick in Saint John, New Brunswick. He was promoted captain in 1759 and participated actively in the siege of Quebec, narrowly escaping death on one occasion when his boats were nearly run down by a schooner.

Holland was later employed in surveying the settled parts of the Saint Lawrence River valley and in drawing up new plans for a citadel in Quebec after the French siege was lifted.

Surveyor General

In 1762, Holland took his maps to London where he submitted them to the Board of Trade, proposing a survey of all British possessions in North America in order to facilitate settlement, a proposal which was accepted in 1764.

On March 6, 1764, Holland was appointed surveyor general of Quebec. On March 23, he received instructions to survey all British possessions north of the Potomac River, which included St. John's Island (Prince Edward Island), the Magdalen Islands and Cape Breton Island, because of their importance for the fisheries.

Holland arrived in October of 1764 on St. John's Island after the territory was ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Paris (1763). The task of mapping the island lasted two years. Holland's survey divided the island into a series of townships known as "lots", parishes, counties, and "royalties" (shire towns) in advance of a feudal land system which was established on the island over the following century. Holland was later given a parcel of land on the St. John's Island, Lot 28, settled by farmers. Holland charged very little as an absentee landlord.

In 1767 he proposed that British explorers look for a Northwest Passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, but his proposal was never taken into great consideration.

Personal life

Holland had begun living in Quebec as early as 1762 with then 21-year old Marie-Joseph Rollet. Their first son, John Frederick, was born on St. John's Island.

Although his separation from Gertrude Hasse had been amicable, he still paid her an annual allowance between 1756 to 1780. In 1784 Hasse petitioned the British government to force him to renew payments, but she was refused.

In about 1772 Holland's marriage to Marie-Joseph Rollet was contracted as legal. The couple would eventually establish a family of ten children.

Samuel Holland died at Quebec, Lower Canada in 1801.


The community college system for Prince Edward Island, Holland College, is named for Samuel Holland, as is the community of Holland Landing, Ontario.


External links



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