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I drafted up this timeline of early Toronto history (muddly little York) in order to get my ducks in a row for a paper I'm working on for school about Toronto art identity. Disclaimer! this was pulled together from variously credible sources and all info should be fact-checked.
Note: there are two different stories about where the name Toronto came from:
1) Toronto is a Huron people's word meaning 'Meeting Place'.
2) Toronto is from a Mohawk word tkaronto meaning "where there are trees standing in the water," referred to native fishing weir pole thingies in one end of Lake Simcoe, which was on the fur trading route.
Note: the Mississauga nation has a current land claim before the federal government about Toronto land, going back to the messed up Toronto Purchase of 1787.
Note: there was slavery in early Canada. Even Joseph Brant, the famous Iroquois leader for whom Brantford is named, was a slaveowner. For more info see 1799 below.
1450 - 1600
- "The Great Peace," Iroquois confederacy established between five nations: Cayuga, Mohawk, Onandaga, Oneida, Seneca (now Six Nations, Tuscarora joined in 1722), negotiated by Deganawida and Hiawatha (Hiawatha name used for poem by Longfellow, no relation)
mid 16th century 1550s
- Five nations south of Lake Ontario
- Huron along North Shore of Lake Ontario
- Neutral at West end of Lake Ontario
- European goods start showing up in Iroquoi sites of this era
- Jacques Cartier exploring St. Lawrence
- Iroquois contact with French and Dutch - trading furs for European goods
- French on St. Lawrence, Dutch on Hudson
- establishment of Fort Frontenac, French Trading post near the site of present-day Kingston
- battles, raids & coalitions between native nations for fur trade
- conflicts between Iroquois (especially Mohawks) and French
- conflicts within 5 nations
- various battles between French and English
- lots of fighting, Iroquois involved
- Tuscarora, moving north from North Carolina, were admitted to Iroquois confederacy as 'junior member' making up Six Nations
- Pierre Robineau de Portneuf built Fort Toronto on the east bank of the Humber River; also Fort Rouilé at exhibition grounds.
- Seven Years War between France & England, extended to colonies, battle for fur trade
- Iroquois confederacy tries to stay neutral
- 1759 Plains of Abraham where British (Wolfe) defeated French (Montcalm) and both died
- France cedes its North American posessions to Britain by the Treaty of Paris
- Algonquins were pissed off at English (did lots of trade with the French). Under Chief Pontiac they tried to drive English out, but failed
- American War of Independence
- Mohawks joined British
- Joseph Brant went to Fort Niagara
- Oneida sympathetic to American Revolutionaries, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca more sympathetic to British. But because of Iroquois fighting for Britisn under Brant, Washington invaded Iroquois territory in 1779 to attack them. Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca abandoned villages which Americans burned. Transformed them into British allies. Many went to Niagara and joined the fight.
- British Victorious, another Treaty of Paris (why is it called that?? again??) signed in 1783.
- some Mohawks (fighting under Captain John Deserontyon) were given land near Bay of Quinte. Those under Brant went to Grand River area, along with some of other 5 nations. Others went back to their old homelands, some Oneida went to land they'd purchased near London Ontario.
- lots of United Empire Loyalists came to Canada
- Toronto Purchase: the Mississauga Nation purportedly surrendered the lands north of Lake Ontario to British Crown (intiated by Lord Dorchester). In 1792 deed was found to be blank, investigated by Governor Simcoe. Nothing done about it until 1805, when Brits got nervous and wrote up a new deed. But this deed was for less land than originally agreed upon. Also, Toronto Island was not included. Mississauga’s have a land claim currently before the government of Canada asking for compensation.
- the Constitution Act divides Quebec into Upper and Lower Canada.
From Paul Williams article in Akwasasne notes, 1995...
- Joseph Brant went to meet George Washington to try and negotiate peace between US and Iroquois. Was offered bribes, which...Brant told the British he turned down all the offers as "inconsistent with the principles of honour".“It is the contrasts between the two men, though, which break the stereotypes. Washington's formal education ended around what we would now call the third grade. He'd started work as a surveyor's assistant. Brant was far better educated. Washington had left North America once, accompanying his dying brother Lawrence to Barbados -- and never mentioned the trip in any of his later writings. Washington hadn't seen a city until his first visit to Philadelphia at the age of twenty-three. Brant had received his schooling in New England, knew New York and Boston as a teenager, and had just returned from several months in London. Washington spoke only English. Brant spoke all six Iroquois languages, English, Latin, classical Greek, and probably Dutch and French. By all measures, Brant was more urbane, more sophisticated, more complex.” - Williams, Paul. Akwesasne Notes. Rooseveltown: Dec 31, 1995. Vol. 1, Iss. 3; pg. 74
- Governor Simcoe arrives as Lieutentant-Governor of Upper Canada and starts clawing back land from Grand River reserve from Six Nations
- captial of Upper Canada moved by Simcoe from Niagara on the Lake to York, safer from Americans (Simcoe wanted it to be London Ontario, but England didn't go for it)
- abolitionists in US, England and Canada start coming forth to oppose slavery
- Toronto had a population of 200, 25 of whom were black
- There was slavery in Canada. First black person in Upper Canada was Sophia Burthen, who was kidnapped at the age of 7 in NY state and sold to Joseph Brant as a slave in 1770 where she was beaten and scarred by her mistress, Catharine Brant. Her memory of hunting with Brant's children...Quote from The Queen's Bush Settlement: Black Pioneers, 1839-1865, By Linda Brown-Kubisch..."We would let the hounds loose, and when we heard them bark we would run for the canoe — Peggy, and Mary, and Katy, Brant's daughters and I. Brant's sons, Joseph and Jacob, would wait on the shore to kill the deer when we fetched him in. I had a tomahawk, and would hit the deer on the head — then the squaws would take it by the horns and paddle ashore. The boys would bleed and skin the deer and take the meat to the house."1812
- war with USA, Americans invade York and big fire
- slavery starts to be phased out in Britain and the Colonies (not abolished all at once for fear of contravening property rights)
- many black slaves fled to Upper Canada via Underground Railroad and settled in Toronto, some working as labourers, some as merchants, some as preachers, doctors and lawyers. Unlike other settlements in Canada, Toronto schools were open to black children.
- civic government in Toronto, middle class appears
- name of York changed back to Toronto
- William Lyon MacKenzie the mayor
- Society of Artists and Amateurs of Toronto
- Upper Canadian Rebellion
- Toronto Society of Artists
Fugitive Slave Law in USA, lots of free blacks came to Toronto
Toronto population 50,000 of whom 1200-1600 were black
American civil war, ended slavery in USA