Grand River Branch

United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada





Selected Reprints from the

Grand River Branch Newsletter, Branches

"Ontario History Outline to 1867"

Doris Lemon, August 1992, Vol.4 No.2, Pages 12-14


  This brief date outline of the history of early Upper Canada -- Ontario -- is culled from several sources.  However, the major credit must go to Mary V. Nelles, who compiled a very similar 'timeline' for the Grand River Historical Society.  I have drawn upon her effort and accepted her wording for many entries, including the introduction on aboriginal history prior to the arrival of the Europeans.

 For many years, the Algonkian linguistic family of Native people, including Cree, Ojibway and Algonquin tribes, lived in the north of what is now Ontario.  They were hunter-gatherers, living mainly by hunting and fishing.  The Iroquoian linguistic groups, including the Hurons around Lake Simcoe, the Tobacco Nation in the Bruce Peninsula and the Neutrals along Lake Erie.  These tribal groups had semi-permanent villages and practiced maize agriculture.

 1610  Etienne Brûlé wintered in Huronia with the Hurons.

              Henry Hudson entered Hudson's and what is now James Bays in the Discovery.

 1613  Samuel de Champlain explored the Ottawa River.

 1615  Father Joseph le Caron of the French Recollet order arrived in Huron country.  Champlain and five companions wintered with the Hurons through to 1615, initiating the exploration of the southern Ontario area.

 1626  Recollet Father de Larouche-Daillon with two others, visited some Neutral villages.

 1634  Father Brébeuf, a Jesuit and other French missionaries arrived to live among the Hurons until 1649.

 1640  Father Brébeuf and Father Chaumont visited eighteen Neutral villages in the vicinity of present-day Brantford.

 1648  In 1648 and 1649, Iroquois south of Lake Ontario destroyed the Hurons, Tobacco and Neutral nations.

 1669  Etienne Joliet returned from Lake Superior by way of Lake Erie.  He crossed overland to Burlington Bay where he met LaSalle and two Sulpician priests, Dollier de Casson and de Gallinée, who shortly explored the Grand River to the area of modern-day Port Dover.

 1670  Hudson's Bay Company chartered May 2, 1670.

 1673  The French established a fur-trading post at Fort Frontenac (Kingston).

 1697  From 1697 through 1698, the French captured English trading posts on Hudson's Bay.

 1702  From 1702 to 1713, France and England fought the War of the Spanish Succession or Queen Anne's War.

 1713  The Treaty of Ultrecht was signed, ceding the Hudson's Bay posts to England.  France acknowledged that the Iroquois were British allies.

 1751  The French built Fort Rouillé on the site of present-day Toronto.

 1756  The outbreak of the Seven Years' War (French and Indian War).

 1758  The English capture Fort Frontenac.

 1759  The English took Fort Niagara (New York).  The French burned and evacuated Fort Rouillé.  Combined British and colonial American forces under General Wolfe defeated General Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham at Québec.

 1763  Until 1763, the southern part of our province was part of New France.  In 1763, by the Treaty of Paris, New France was ceded to Great Britain.  New France was renamed Québec.

 1774  The Québec Act was passed.  It extended the boundaries of the province to the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.  The northern territories around Hudson's Bay were called Rupert's Land.

 1775  Outbreak of the American Revolution.  It came to an effective conclusion with the defeat of General Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781.

 1780  The first Butler's Rangers and families settled on the west side of the Niagara River.  Butler's Barracks were built at what later became Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake).

 1783  The Treaty of Paris was signed, recognizing the independence of the American colonies.  The southern boundary of Québec became a line drawn through the centre of the Great Lakes with respect to our geographic section of British North America.

 1784  The Six Nations allies under Joseph Brant, settled along the Grand River.  Many Loyalists, forced to flee the new American Republic, re-settled in the Maritimes, in Québec and what would soon become Upper Canada.

 1785  The Mohawk Chapel, St. Paul's Anglican Church, was completed.  It was the first church built in what was to become Ontario.

 1788  The region of the old Province of Québec, comprising modern Southern Ontario, was divided into four districts: Hesse, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg and Nassau.  Our district was Nassau.

 1789  Lord Dorchester (Sir Guy Carleton) instituted the only hereditary order in Canada, the "U.E." an abbreviation of "Unity of Empire", for the descendants of the United Empire Loyalists.

 1791  Canada was divided into two provinces by the Constitutional Act of 1791; Lower Canada (Québec) and Upper Canada (Ontario).

 1792  The first parliament of Upper Canada was held at Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake).  The four districts were renamed: Hesse to Western, Lunenburg to Eastern, Mecklenburg to Midland, Nassau to Home.  On July 16, Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe issued a proclamation in Kingston creating 19 counties in Upper Canada.

 1796  Government seat was moved in 1796-97 to York (Toronto) from Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake).

 1800  The districts were divided in counties.

 1803  Thomas Talbot initiated the Talbot Settlement in the Thames River region.

 1812  Outbreak of the War of 1812.  President James Madison of the United States signed the proclamation of war on June 19.  General Isaac Brock forced the surrender of Detroit by mid-August of 1812, but was later killed (October 13), at the Battle of Queenston Heights.

 1813  American forces invaded Upper Canada.  York (Toronto) fell on April 27, with heavy casualties to the U.S. troops.  Parliament buildings, Government House and military buildings are burned, before they began evacuating on May 1.  Americans under Winfield Scott lay siege to Fort George in late May.  British forces and Canadian militia retreated to Burlington Bay.  On May 28-29, the British attacked Sacketts Harbor with limited success, then withdrew.  Laura Secord crossed through American lines on June 22 to warn Lieutenant James Fitzgibbons of an impending American attack by 575 cavalry and infantry under U.S. Army Lieutenant-Colonel C. G. Boerstler.  Caughnawaga and Mohawk allies attacked the Americans on June 24.  U.S. forces surrendered to Major P. W. De Haren.  July 31, York was occupied for a second time by Commodore Chauncey, the U.S. Navy commander on Lake Ontario.  Master-Commandant O.T. Perry, U.S.N., defeated the British Lake Erie fleet on September 9, near Amherstburg.  A large American army under Major-General Harrison recaptured the western forts and Detroit and invaded Upper Canada.  The Battle of the Thames (or the Battle of Moraviantown) occurred on October 13.  The British troops, badly outnumbered, were defeated.  Some 240 British officers and men managed to escape and retreated to Lake Ontario.  The famous Native leader, Tecumseh, was killed in this battle.  Harrison's army shortly withdrew to Detroit.  The Battle of Châteauguay occurred on October 26, in Lower Canada about 50 kilometers south of Montréal.  The invading American army under Major-General Wade Hampton was forced to withdraw, by the tactics of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles de Salaberry and his Voltigeurs.  The Battle of Crysler's Farm on November 11, was a resounding victory for about 800 British, Canadian and Native defenders, over a U.S. invasion force of some 4000 soldiers.  On December 19, British-led forces crossed the Niagara River and by late December, had burned the villages of Buffalo and Black Rock.

 1814  The Burning of Dover Mills by an American raiding party occurred on May 14.  At the Battle of Chippawa on July 5, an American army under Brigadier-General Scott scored a victory over opposing British-led forces.  The Battle of Lundy's Lane on July 25-26 again forced the U.S. invaders to withdraw.  In early August, British forces invested Fort Erie with no success and heavy losses.  The Treaty of Ghent was signed on Christmas Eve 1814, ending the Anglo-American War of 1812.

 1816  The Brant District was formed from parts of the Home and Niagara Districts.

 1829  The Welland Canal was opened.

 1830  Haldimand Constituency was created.

 1835  The Grand River Navigation Company was instrumental in the construction of five dams along the river for the purposes of navigation.

 1837  The 1837 Rebellion signaled the beginning of the end for the "Family Compact".

 1839  The Durham Report was released in February.  Lord Durham (John George Lambton) advocated responsible government in Upper Canada, the assimilation of the French-Canadians in Lower Canada through a legislative union of the Canadas in which the English-speaking majority would dominate, and the formation of municipal governments and a supreme court.

 1841  The Act of Union created the Province of Canada.  Lower Canada became Canada East and Upper Canada became Canada West.  The first parliament of the united Canadas met in Kingston.  The District Councils Act was passed in Canada West (Upper Canada).  Rural townships were governed by an appointed warden and an elected council.

 1844  The capital of the Province of Canada was moved to Montréal.

 1849  The Municipal Corporations Act was passed.  All officials were elected and the districts were abolished in favour of the counties.

 1865  American overtures to seize Canada after the Civil War were rebuffed, but the pressure increased the move towards confederation of the British North American colonies.

 1866  Raids by the Fenian Brotherhood from the United States were repulsed.

 1867  On July 1, the four colonies of Canada West, Canada East, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, formally united under the British North America Act to become the Dominion of Canada.  Ottawa was selected as the new capital.  Canada West became Ontario and Canada East became Québec.  The name "Ontario" is from one of the Aboriginal languages and may mean "shining waters".