Early in the 19th century, after America declared independence and Britain had to turn to Canada as a source of timber instead, timber became a major Canadian export. Various wars in Europe further increased demand for timber to be used in naval vessels, and much of this timber came from Ontario.
At the same time, agriculture became increasingly important in the province, partly due to the influx of labourers and technologies from the United States, including the cast iron plow, which made tilling significantly more efficient after it was introduced in 1815. Specifically, wheat played the largest role and was mainly sold to other Canadian regions, Britain, and the United States. Innovation in transport system technologies facilitated these sales of Ontario wheat, and exports increased from 1 million hL (Hectolitres) in 1840 to 2.25 million hL in 1850.
Improved industrialization also led to the milling of abundant Canadian wheat and wood, with simpler and more efficient automated mills (such as the one built by William Jones in Delta) emerging in the 1800s. These modern mills, which took advantage of rivers to generate steam and hydro power, helped turn Canadian resources into finished and semi-finished goods, like flour and timber. Founded just north of London in 1819, the Arva Flour Mill is still in operation and is one of the last mills to use much of its original equipment and techniques.
As other regions’ dependency on Ontario agriculture grew, new innovations and technologies developed concurrently, completely altering the makeup of Ontario’s economy and transforming the region into an industrial power.
Read part 3 of The History Of Ontario’s Manufacturing Industry here