HISTORY    

MISSISSAUGA'S LOST VILLAGES

The “Preserving Our Places” research project attempts to offer a glimpse into Mississauga's "Lost Villages”. We have compiled information for Elmbank, Frogmore, Hanlan, Lisgar, Mount Charles, Palestine, Summerville here continue >>

Lost Villages

- Catholic Swamp
- Elmbank
- Frogmore
- Hanlan
- Lisgar
- Mount Charles
- Palestine
- Summerville

New research on Mississauga's lost villages

 

MISSISSAUGA'S PEOPLES: PROFILES OF THE PAST

Click here>> for the list of profiles

RESEARCH ON THE HISTORY OF MISSISSAUGA

Information on the Heritage Research Centre, Cataloguing, Oral Histories, Heritage Mississauga Plaques and Mississauga's Lost Villages. Click Here>>

 


HISTORY OF MISSISSAUGA


The following is a brief history of Mississauga from the time of native inhabitants to the early settlers through today. Scroll through the history, or click on the map to be taken directly to the desired subject.

Canada's sixth largest city, nestled along the banks of the Credit River in Peel Region, has been described as a "city of communities trying to grow from the outside in." Behind its modern facade, Mississauga is a community whose civic identity and character has been shaped by the histories of its constituent communities. Where most cities develop around a focal point or key industry, Mississauga evolved from the marriage of several towns, villages, and hamlets into an urban centre with a diverse economy and heritage.

EARLY HISTORY

Archaeological evidence suggests that Native peoples had been attracted to the Credit River Valley over thousands of years. At the time of European contact in 1615, both Iroquoian and Algonquian- speaking peoples inhabited this area. By 1700, an Ojibwa (Anishnabe) group known as the Mississaugas had driven the Iroquois from the north shore of Lake Ontario. The name "Mississauga" is believed to mean "river of the north of many mouths," referring to a river in Northern Ontario which drained into Lake Huron. It was from this part of Ontario that the Mississaugas had traveled in the late 17th century.

In the 1720s, the French established many trading posts around Lake Ontario, one of which was located near the mouth of the Credit River, so named from the custom of trading with the Mississaugas on credit. After a decline of French power in the region, the British continued to trade with the Natives. It did not take long for the introduction of European cultures, technology and diseases to prompt an end to the Mississauga's way of life.

The fertile agricultural land of the Credit River valley attracted settlers to the area which was to become Mississauga. Much as it does today, world politics and immigration created a demand for land. This prompted the European settlement of the "Home District" out of which "Toronto Township", and later Mississauga, was formed. In 1806, the British government purchased land in the "Mississauga Tract", an area extending from Burlington Bay to the Etobicoke Creek, from the Mississaugas. In this "First Purchase", the Mississaugas retained some fishing rights and one mile of land on either side of the Credit River.

In 1806, Samuel Wilmot completed the survey of the southern half of Toronto Township, and the area opened up for settlement. Many of Mississauga's earliest settlers were United Empire Loyalists, so called because they received land grants for their loyalty to the British during the American Revolution. Regardless of background, the early settlers shared the challenge of creating communities amid daunting conditions. With the "Second Purchase", on February 28, 1820, the Mississaugas ceded the remainder of their land. This area, referred to as Block D, excluded a 200-acre reserve on the northeast bank of the Credit River, about 1/4 mile north of Port Credit. The proceeds of any sale or surrender of lands in this Block were intended to go toward the provision of some buildings and some religious and educational instruction. Until this time, the Mississaugas had been a hunting and gathering people. By the 1820s, they had adopted a more settled, agricultural lifestyle. In 1826, after petitions from Rev. Peter Jones to government officials, the Mississaugas began building a village which was called the "Credit Mission." It is not clear why this village was located on the south bank of the River, rather than on the north, the location of the reserve they had retained. Numbering only about 260 by this time, the Mississaugas petitioned frequently, between 1833 and 1847, for rights to land in Block D. In 1847, the Mississaugas relocated to a reserve in the Grand River Valley near present-day Hagersville. An historic plaque outside the gates of the Mississauga Golf Club is the only visible reminder of the Mississaugas' settlement.

By 1820, the New Survey had been completed and the northern part of Toronto Township was now fully open to new immigrants fleeing a variety of circumstances such as war, famine, overpopulation, and economic depression, to seek opportunities in Upper Canada, as Ontario was then known.

Streetsville

One such enterprising individual was Timothy Street, after whom the former Town of Streetsville was named. In payment for his surveying work, Street received a substantial grant of land, which he used to establish industries on the banks of the Credit. His house at 41 Mill Street, built in 1825, is believed to be the first brick house constructed in Peel County; it remains at the site of his former milling complex. Like most early Ontario communities, Streetsville relied heavily on its proximity to water for the power to operate its grist, saw, carding, and planning mills. Water power remained the key factor in Mississauga's early industrial development of the 19th century, particularly in Streetsville. In addition to meeting the village's needs, Streetsville manufactured items for export at a early stage with its Woollen production at the Barber Woollen Mills, for example, once located (1840s-1880s) on the site of the present-day Reid Milling complex. After the railway development of the 1850s bypassed Streetsville and the village lost the county seat to Brampton in 1867, it never fully regained the economic momentum it had begun to enjoy. It was not until 1879, with the arrival of the Credit Valley Railway, that Streetsville benefited from better links to Toronto and beyond. Streetsville, which has the highest concentration of heritage buildings in the City, incorporated as a village in 1858 and a town in 1962. Amid the hesitation o f many people, Streetsville amalgamated with the City of Mississauga in 1974. The Mayor of Streetsville at the time, Hazel McCallion, went on to become the Mayor of Mississauga, and remains one of Canada's longest serving and best-known mayors.

Port Credit

The former Town of Port Credit earned a reputation for its excellent harbor, through which grain and lumber were exported. The first permanent structure to be built in the village was the Government Inn (1798-1861), once located on the east bank of the River. Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe had ordered construction of the Inn to serve as a way station for travelers by land and lake, and it was leased to a succession of residents until its destruction by fire. The village plan was laid out in 1834 and for several years, Port Credit was a thriving harbor community. Later in the 19th century, it became known for its stonehooking trade. For years, a unique craft called a "stonehooker" plied the waters of Lake Ontario, near t he shore, collecting stones for use in local building trades. Other industries such as the St. Lawrence Starch Works (1889-1989) and the Port Credit Brick Yard (1891-1927) provided employment for many local residents. By the 20th century, particularly after the paving of the Lakeshore Highway 1915, Port Credit had become an attractive location for tourists and travelers. It acquired the status of "police village" in 1909, town status in 1961, and joined the City of Mississauga in 1974.

Lorne Park

Other communities like Clarkson, Lorne Park, Erindale, Meadowvale Village, Malton, Cooksville, Dixie, and Malton have similarly contributed unique chapters to Mississauga's story. Located south of Dundas Street, the old Lake Iroquois shoreline, villages like Cooksville, Dixie, Lorne Park, and Clarkson could take economic advantage of their geography. Unlike the area north of Dundas, where there is a lot of clay, the earth in the southern part of Toronto Township, is a mix of "Dundas shale" and sand. Together with the protection from frosts by Lake Ontario, these conditions encouraged a market gardening economy here for over a century. Crops such as apples and strawberries provided many farmers with a livelihood, and, for many, the strawberry socials and apple harvests are still among their fondest memories. By the early 20th century, for example, Clarkson was known as the "Strawberry Capital of Canada". The apple orchards, particularly those of Cooksville and Dixie, which had been planted in the 19th century were, by the 1950s, being replaced by subdivisions to accommodate a rapid population increase in Toronto Township.

Clarkson

Clarkson was named after Warren Clarkson, a United Empire Loyalist who, along with others (Thomas Merigold and Lewis Bradley, for example) arrived here in c.1808 from New Brunswick. They settled in a portion of the Old Survey which became known as "Merigold's Point". The Clarkson family operated the general store and post office for many years and their old homestead, built 1819, still stands on Clarkson Road. Today, people can experience a glimpse of different periods in Clarkson 's history by visiting the Bradley House, c.1830, The Anchorage, c.1839, or Benares, 1857, all historic properties which are open to the public.

Cooksville

Cooksville was once known as "Harrisville" after Daniel Harris, one of its earliest settlers. The village was renamed in 1836 in honor of its leading entrepreneur, Jacob Cook, who operated the first stagecoach mail service and operated local businesses. Located at the heart of Toronto Township, Cooksville had been the centre for civic, industrial, commercial, and educational interests for over a century. Mississauga's first municipal offices were located at the corner of Dundas and Hurontario Streets, as was the Central Library, the offices for the public and separate school boards and various Federal and Provincial ministries. In 1852, a major fire destroyed much of the village, and by 1873, when it was selected over Streetsville as the site of the new Town Hall, it was in need of an economic boost. Very little of pre-1940 Cooksville remains. Even the remnants of the old Cooksville Brick and Tile Yard, which provided employment to hundreds of local people from 1912-1970, have recently disappeared beneath new development.

Dixie

One of the first settlers to Dixie, located east of Cooksville along Dundas Street, was Philip Cody, who arrived in 1806 and operated a tavern for many years. The village, which developed around a government-owned toll booth, was named in 1865 after
Dr. Beaumont Dixie, a well-known local doctor.  Dr. Dixie had donated money to the Union Chapel, a non-denominational Protestant place of worship which was central to the social and cultural life of the village. The Dixie Union Cemetery, established in 1812, is the final resting place of many of Mississauga's pioneers and even of a premier of the Province of Ontario - Thomas Laird Kennedy. The home of Jane and Joseph Silverthorn, who arrived in 1807, survives as a local restaurant today . It is still called "Cherry Hill" after the family estate which once occupied most of what is now the Mississauga Valleys subdivision.

Erindale

West of Dixie, where Dundas Street meets Mississauga Road, lies the village of Erindale. It began in 1822 when Thomas Racey, a land speculator, bought the centre block of land to build a sawmill and establish a village on the east bank of the Credit. Racey sold his land to settlers in 1827 and a thriving village called "Toronto" soon developed around mills, farms, the post office, a chair factory, a brewery, and taverns. By the time the Credit Valley Railway opened a station on Erindale Station Road in 1879, however, the village's hopes for prosperity had already been lost to the path of the Great Western Railway further south. The quiet village, which had become a favorite stop for travelers between Toronto and Hamilton, had al so become known as "Springfield." In 1890, it was renamed "Erindale" after the estate of the first minister of St. Peter's Anglican Church, Rev. James McGrath who had helped settle the area. St. Peter's still commands a scenic perch atop a hill in Erindale, and has 170 years of involvement in the community.

Meadowvale

Further north along the Credit River, where Derry Road and Second Line meet, is the Village of Meadowvale, established c.1820 with the arrival of Irish settlers from New York. Meadowvale is one of Ontario's few remaining enclaves which has reduced the flavor of a 19th-century village. Accordingly, it became the first heritage conservation district in Ontario in 1980. In addition to its long association with agriculture and milling - remains of the Silverthorn mill are still in evidence - Meadowvale became a popular gathering place for artists during the late 19th and early 20th century. Since 1996, the quiet solitude of Meadowvale has changed dramatically as new residential neighborhoods are developing around it.

Malton

East of Meadowvale is Malton, located in the northeast corner of Mississauga, at the intersection of Derry and Airport Roads. While most people are acquainted with Malton as the home of Pearson International Airport, few are aware of Malton's agricultural past and its historic role as a distribution hub for grain shipments during the 19th century. Malton was named during the 1840s after the native village of Richard Halliday, one of Malton's earliest settlers, who had arrived c.1819 from England. The introduction of the Grand Trunk Railway in 1854 allowed better access to Toronto markets for local farmers. The village of Malton was subdivided in 1855 and became the county seat in 1859, if only for a year. Its economic prosperity in the 1860s was short-lived, however, and did not return until the late 1930s with the construction of the airport. Malton acquired some measure of self government in 1914 when it incorporated as a "police village". In 1937, the Toronto Harbor Commission selected 13 farms adjacent to the village for an international airport. Consequently, Malton experienced a major shift from an agricultural to an industrial economy. The airport provided wartime prosperity during the 1940s and continued to be an integral part of the economy in the post-war years, when Malton acquired an international reputation as a leader in aeronautical design and manufacturing. Many know Malton as the home of the famous "Avro Arrow", a fighter plane still believed to have been years ahead of its time in the 1950s. The development of the Arrow was scrapped by the Federal government of the day. While Malton's product has changed, it remains a hub of commercial and industrial activity.

Even a quick glance at old maps of Mississauga would reveal the presence of many other villages and hamlets in the 19th century, many of which have disappeared without a trace. The Home District, which was the initial unit of government, was abolished in 1852 and Toronto Township became part of Peel County. By this time, the "pioneer" days were over, land was settled, and industry was in full gear. Late 19th-century politics and community developments were characterized largely by the presence of transportation and communication links and, in some cases, debate over the county seat, which Brampton won in 1867. Most of Toronto Township was farmland during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was not until the huge post-war influx, which began in the 1940s, of people from all over the globe, that this pattern changed significantly. The villages of Toronto Township amalgamated to became the "Town of Mississauga" in 1968, excluding the Towns of Port Credit and Streetsville. In 1974, Mississauga incorporated as a City, this time including Port Credit and Streetsville. While still a young city with a growing urban character, Mississauga has a rich, and diverse history stretching back almost 10,000 years.