History of Toronto

The history of Toronto, Canada begins several millennia ago. This city holds a rich history and has witnessed many changes over the centuries. In an bid to capture the cities history and learn about its past, historical artifacts are collected and available to view at many museums in Toronto. This has been done for decades now.

Pre-European Period & Early European Settlement

Archaeological finds relating to the First Nations settlements date back several thousand years. The Wyandot people were likely the first group to live in the area, followed by the Iroquois. A small village on the edge of the Humber River called Teiaiagon is believed to be where any Europeans settled when they arrived into Toronto. Eventually the Iroquois moved south of Lake Ontario and the Mississaugas settled along the north shore of the lake.

York Town

It was the French who first set up trading posts in the area, including Fort Rouillé in 1750. However, when the British conquered North America the French were forced to abandon their posts. In 1788, it was the British who negotiated the first treaty to take possession of the Toronto area from the Mississaugas.

After the United States War of Independence, the area north of Lake Ontario was held by the British who set up the province of Upper Canada in 1791. It wasn’t until 1793 that the capital of Upper Canada was moved to Toronto by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe. Not wishing to use an aboriginal name, Simcoe named it York. It was later named the permanent capital of Upper Canada. With little persuasion the Mississaugas set up a settlement reserve in the area of Port Credit to the west of York, and eventually moved further to the west.

Simcoe only lived in York for 3 years. He directed its initial settlement on a gridiron layout near the mouth of the Don River. In 1797, the garrison which became Fort York was built at the entrance to Toronto Harbour. Unfortunately, in 1812 tensions between the British and Americans persisted and war broke out. In 1813, the British were forced to retreat due to an attack on the garrison by the Americans. The Americans, who lost their commanding officer in the battle, sacked the town and burned down the government buildings, but did not take possession of York.

It took 2 long years of war to eventually bring some peace to York. During peacetime, the town adopting the nickname ‘Muddy York’ due to its awful lagging infrastructure, but the towns population was steadily growing nonetheless. As the village grew, tensions grew between the ruling class in York and growing merchant and worker classes who advocated for reforms.

Early Toronto

In 1834 York was incorporated and renamed Toronto. This then lead to the first Toronto elections. Toronto’s first mayor William Lyon Mackenzie, a reformer, worked tirelessly to reform Upper Canada. This later lead to his organization of a rebellion in 1837.

During the early 19th century peace returned once again to Toronto. The city steadily grew and became a major port of distribution as Upper Canada was settled. The meat packing became big business in Toronto, which lead to the nickname ‘Hogtown’.

A new influx of immigrants arrived into the city soon after World War II. The high number of immigrants lead to the surrounding villages growing considerably in size but Toronto at this time did not have the infrastructure to support such growth. To assist with this positive change to the region, it was necessary for the Government of Ontario to set up Metropolitan Toronto, a regional government encompassing Toronto and its suburbs. From 1954 onward, the regional government built roads, water treatment and highways in Toronto.

20th Century Onward

It wasn’t long before Toronto was Canada’s largest city and economic capital. In 1998, the ‘megacity’ of Toronto was formed by the dissolution of the regional government and the amalgamation of the Toronto municipalities into one municipality.

In the 21st Century, Toronto has integrated the core and the suburbs under one government, although many bylaws enacted by the former municipalities remain in effect. For many years a divide has persisted between those who live in the former suburbs surrounding the city and those in central parts. Central regions has been dominated by rapid office growth and residential homes, especially luxurious condominiums. Former suburbs and outlying areas have seen mostly industrial improvements that have benefited communities.

Significant events in more recent history include the 2003 outbreak of SARS disease. Toronto was affected by the epidemic and a a result tourism dropped significantly. Although the outbreak was predominantly confined to hospitals and health care workers, the media advised visitors against all travel to Toronto. A large concert was held the following July in help recover losses the city suffered in tourism due to the epidemic.

Toronto hosted the G-20 summit on June 26–27, 2010, but it was not without protests. The protests were met with one of the most expensive temporary security operations seen in Canada and resulted in the largest mass arrests in Canadian history.

With a current population of over 2.6 million, Toronto is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world. All of this growth took place on the lands of the original Toronto Purchase, of which final agreement was only finally reached between the Mississaugas and the Government of Canada in 2010.