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ROCHE, JOHN KNATCHBULL, land surveyor; b. 15 March 1817 in London, third son of Lieutenant John Roche, rn; m. Annie Elizabeth —, and they had three sons and one daughter; d. 13 Sept. 1859 in Balsam Lake, Upper Canada.

John Knatchbull Roche was educated at Christ’s Hospital in London before coming to Upper Canada about 1832 with his parents, who settled in Peterborough. He received his licence as a land surveyor on 1 Dec. 1841 and went on to conduct numerous government and private surveys in Upper Canada, especially in the counties of Northumberland, Durham, Peterborough, Victoria, and Haliburton, and in the district of Muskoka. His government assignments included surveys in the township of Hope (1845); park lots adjacent to the town plot of Lindsay (1846); surveys in the townships of Hamilton (1847), Murray (1848), Belmont (1852 and 1856), Draper (185758), Carden (1858), and Laxton (1859); and finally a road line from Bobcaygeon to Lake Nipissing (1859).

In 1849 the Province of Canada had set up a board to examine the qualifications of persons applying for licences as land surveyors. Two years later, owing mainly to the differences in regulations concerning landholdings in Upper and Lower Canada, the board was divided into two sections, one to meet in Quebec, the other in Toronto. The Board of Examiners of Surveyors for Upper Canada, established on 30 Aug. 1851, consisted of the commissioner of Crown Lands and eight competent persons appointed by the governor to examine candidates and decide on complaints against members of the profession. The board met four times a year and members were paid for their services. Roche was appointed to the Upper Canadian board on its establishment, was present at the first meeting in April 1852, and during the remainder of his life was influential in regulating and upgrading survey work in Upper Canada. He himself conducted a number of resurveys of areas which had been inadequately or only partially subdivided.

In the 1850s the government decided that the land lying between the Ottawa River and Georgian Bay should be opened for settlement and planned a system of east-west and north-south roads. One of these, the Bobcaygeon, was to extend north from Bobcaygeon to Lake Nipissing. Work began in 1856 and by 1858 it had been opened for traffic from Bobcaygeon to Burnt River and surveyed as far north as St Nora Lake, where it intersected the east-west line which had been laid out by Robert Bell* in 184748. On 19 May 1859 Roche was instructed to continue the survey to Lake Nipissing. He began work in July and by early September had reached the Magnetawan River. At that time he found it necessary to return south to report progress and obtain further supplies. While he was crossing Balsam Lake on 13 September, his bark canoe overturned in a storm and, although his canoemen escaped, Roche was drowned. Crosbie Brady, who was sent to replace Roche, was hampered by severe cold and snow as well as an outbreak of scurvy which claimed the life of Roche’s brother David, who had served as picketman. The road, surveyed at the cost of two lives and much suffering, was not opened north of Dorset.

For several years before his death J. K. Roche had made his home in Port Hope. He died intestate and the administration of the estate, valued at $5,612, was granted to his wife. He was survived by at least three brothers, one of whom, George Molyneux Roche, was Crown Lands agent for part of Victoria County.

Florence B. Murray

AO, RG 1, A-I-6: 17509–10, 21214–17, 21486–90, 21805–7, 23732–34, 28208–9, 28228–29; A-VII, 49; B-IV, 1845–46, no.3; 1848, no.7; 1852, no.30; 1857, no.18; 1858, no.4; CB-1, J. K. Roche, Belmont diary and field notes; Hamilton Township field notes; Hope diary; Lindsay diary; RG 22, ser.187, administration of J. K. Roche estate. Ont., Ministry of Natural Resources, Surveys and Mapping Branch (Toronto), Instructions to land surveyors, V (mfm. at AO). Trent Univ. Arch. (Peterborough, Ont.), B77-1016 (G. M. Roche, corr. relating to the death of his brother John, October 1859; William Bell, diary extracts, July 1859–April 1860) (transcripts). Can., Prov. of, Statutes, 1849, c.35; 1851, c.4. Canada Gazette, 6 Sept. 1851: 11324. Muskoka and Haliburton, 1615–1875; a collection of documents, ed. F. B. Murray ([Toronto], 1963), lxviii, lxxii–lxxiii, 203–5. Globe, 17 Sept. 1859. Weekly Guide (Port Hope, [Ont.]), 17 Sept. 1859. “John Knatchbul Roche,” Assoc. of Ont. Land Surveyors, Annual report (Toronto), 1916: 61–62.

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Florence B. Murray, “ROCHE, JOHN KNATCHBULL,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 19, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/roche_john_knatchbull_8E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/roche_john_knatchbull_8E.html
Author of Article: Florence B. Murray
Title of Article: ROCHE, JOHN KNATCHBULL
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1985
Year of revision: 1985
Access Date: April 19, 2014