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Pioneers of Canada - Ontario

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Pioneers of Canada - Ontario

History

Aboriginal Settlement

The first residents of Ontario arrived during the last ice age, approximately 10,000 years ago. As the ice retreated Ontario's paleo-Indian inhabitants moved into the northern region of the province. For many years Ontario's Aboriginal peoples probably lived by fishing and hunting; deer, elk, bear and beaver could be found in the south, and caribou in the north. By 1000 BCE pottery had been introduced, and archaeological sites show a far-flung trading system with importations from as far as the Gulf of Mexico. By 100 CE the inhabitants of the province can be identified with the Algonquian tribes (Ojibwa, Cree, and Algonquin), and with the Iroquoian tribes of the south (Iroquois, Huron, Petun, Neutral, Erie and Susquehannock).

Exploration

The first Europeans known to have approached the present frontiers of Ontario were Henry Hudson, who was cast adrift off the north coast, and Étienne Brûlé and Samuel de Champlain, who travelled along the Ottawa River in 1613 and reached the centre of the province in 1615. Brûlé was likely the first European to see lakes Huron and Ontario. Champlain allied the French with the Huron. After the dispersal of the Huron in the late 1640s, the Ottawa took the role of middlemen in the fur trade. The Iroquois Confederacy, located across lakes Ontario and Erie in what is now New York State, dominated the region without significantly settling it. Despite the hostility of the Iroquois, the French continued their penetration of the Great Lakes region, utilizing both the Ottawa-French River-Lake Huron route to the west and the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes path. French explorer René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle built and sailed the Griffon on the Great Lakes, and the Ontario region became a vital link between the French settlements in Québec and their fur trading posts on the Mississippi. During the 18th century the main French posts in the Great Lakes region were Fort Frontenac [Kingston], Fort Niagara, Fort Detroit and Fort Michilimackinac. France's rivals, the British, did not successfully penetrate the region until 1758–59 when they burned Fort Frontenac and captured Fort Niagara. British occupation was not secure until the Aboriginal allies of the French were defeated after an uprising in 1763–64. The Great Lakes region also served as a base of operations for British forces during the American Revolution. A series of bloody campaigns and raids did not shake the British hold over their Great Lakes forts, but did result in the arrival of Loyalist and Iroquois refugees displaced from the American frontier. The Treaty of Paris (1783) divided the Great Lakes down the middle, and created the southern boundary of what is now Ontario.

European Settlement

The modern settlement of Ontario began with the arrival of some 6,000 to 10,000 Loyalists during and after the American Revolution. After them came other Americans, attracted by cheap land; crown land was available for sixpence an acre plus survey costs and an oath of allegiance. Under the Constitutional Act (1791), the old Province of Québec was divided and Upper Canada created. A regular colonial government was established, with a lieutenant-governor, an elected legislative assembly, and appointed legislative and executive councils. The first lieutenant-governor was John Graves Simcoe, an English veteran of the Revolutionary War, who aimed to turn Upper Canada into a bastion of the British Crown in the heart of the continent. Upper Canada continued to mark the northern fringe of the American frontier, but by 1812 approximately 80 per cent of the estimated 100,000 settlers in southern Ontario were of American origin. When the War of 1812 broke out with the US, the attitude of parts of the province's population proved highly ambivalent, and a few Upper Canadians actually sided with and fought alongside the invaders. The British army, with assistance from Aboriginal peoples and local militia, succeeded in defending most of the province, repelling American invasions along the Niagara frontier in 1812 (Queenston Heights) and 1813 (Beaver Dams and Stoney Creek). In 1813 American forces thrust into southwestern Ontario and raided the provincial capital, York (Toronto), where the government buildings were burned. After several more bloody battles in 1814 the war drew to an end. The peace treaty that ended the war stipulated that the Americans and British each hand back what they had conquered, and the boundary remained unchanged. Between 1825 and 1842 the population of Upper Canada tripled to 450,000, and by 1851 it had doubled again. Most of the immigrants came from the British Isles, made up roughly of 20 per cent English, 20 per cent Scottish and 60 per cent Irish immigrants. Settlement generally spread from south to north, moving away from the lakes as land along them became settled. Accessibility to land away from the lakes depended on roads — usually of terrible quality — many of which were built by the settlers themselves. Rampant land speculation added to the irregularity of early settlement patterns. Southern Ontario's fertile land was substantially occupied by the mid-1850s, by which time the form of government had changed again. In the aftermath of the Rebellions of 1837, led in Upper Canada by Toronto "firebrand" William Lyon Mackenzie, the British government brought Upper and Lower Canada together in the united Province of Canada. A further decade of fractious politics resulted in a measure of responsible government in 1848–49, by which time immigration, combined with a high birthrate, had raised Upper Canada's population to about 60,000 more than its partner, Lower Canada. The agitation for representation by population was led by George Brown. Representation by population would mean that Upper Canada would receive additional representation in the legislature, and this movement led to the increasing paralysis of the province's political system. The crisis was finally resolved in 1864 by the formation of a joint-party regime (see Great Coalition) to seek a union of the British North American colonies. This Confederation was gained in 1867, and Ontario became a province of the new Dominion of Canada.

Development

In the 1850s Ontario's economy was primarily agricultural with an emphasis on wheat growing. Over time the balance shifted to dairy, fruit and vegetable farming. At the same time there was a drift away from farming areas, as emigration to the US, to the Canadian West or to the cities increased. Urban and industrial growth increased from the 1850s through the 1860s with the development of textiles and metalworking, farm implements and machinery. Toronto in particular grew as both a railway and manufacturing centre, and as the provincial capital. Ontario's successive governments thereafter took up developing the province's natural resources — lumber, mines and later, hydroelectricity. There was a lengthy series of quarrels with the federal government over patronage, waterpower and the northern boundaries of the province — a problem settled in 1889, at the expense of Manitoba, by confirming Ontario's western boundary at the Lake of the Woods. The final boundary was drawn in 1912.