Baby Point Heritage Foundation
Iroquois origins of modern Toronto
Aug 5th, 2006 | By C. M. W. Marcel
Old Fort Rouille or Fort Toronto 1750's
Many who take an interest in this topic
have come to see that the deepest origins
of the place stretch further back into
the middle of the 17th century.
The earliest founders were the same Great Lakes Iroquois who are protesting unsettled land claims in Caledonia, Ontario, some distance to the south and west, in the summer of 2006.
Where to start - 1793
The early human settlement where Simcoe his tent in the summer of 1793 was already about a century and a quarter old.when the British party's sailing ship arrived at the entrance to Toronto harbour. Simcoe's wife reported in her diary that at the end of July 1793, "St. John Rousseau, an Indian trader who lives near, came in a boat to pilot us." The family of Jean Baptiste Rousseau had done business in what was then called Toronto for a few decades at that juncture.
Ancestors of his immediate Mississauga neighbours had been in the area for perhaps as long as a century.
In 1793 Rousseau's house and fur-trade outpost was on the east bank of what is now known as the Humber River, not too far south of an old Iroquois village and fur-trade outpost called Teiaiagon (now Baby Point)
This was established sometime in the 1660's or 1670's - along with another Iroquois village and trading post called Ganatsekwyagon, at the Lake Ontario mouth of what is now called the Rouge River.
Both of these Villages guarded access points to the Toronto Carrying Place Portage to Lake Simcoe, Lake Couchiching, the Severn River and onwards into Georgian Bay. Teiaiagon ultimately came to be the dominant access point to this route to northern hinterlands and the furs that were harvested there.
In any long view, it was the Iroquois trading villages of Teiaiagon and Ganatsekwyagon, perhaps as many as 130 years before Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe, that planted the very first seeds of modern Toronto.
The villages themselves lasted for no more than a generation. But they set in motion a chain of events whose initial "Indian-French culmination was the outpost at Fort Rouille, or Fort Toronto, in the early 1750's.
This old French fort was burned to the ground by its fleeing 15-man garrison, in the face of invading British forces in the summer of 1759. Yet the resilient Toronto trading outpost of Jean Baptiste Rousseau and his Mississuaga neighbours in the early 1790's shows how the continuing economic and geographic logic of Teiaiagon and Ganatsekwyagon had survived the final military defeat of the old French empire in America, a generation before.
Governor Simcoe himself was lured to the location by his own perceptions of this same logic.
So it was, as the pioneering and still engaging early Toronto historian Percy Robinson explained in the 1930s, "from the house of Jean Baptiste Rousseau, at the foot of the Toronto Carrying-Place on the east bank of the Humber, that Simcoe and his party set out on the morning of September 25, 1793, on an exploring trip to Matchedash Bay" - due north of Toronto on the alluring sidebar to Lake Huron known nowadays as Georgian Bay.
If you really want to know how and why the modern Toronto metropolis got started, the story of Teiaiagon and Ganatsekwyagon in the 17th century is the serious place to begin. And in a number of ways it may have more to do with the story of Toronto today, in the early 21st century, than John Graves Simcoe and Captain Cook's canvas tent erected in York in 1793.
Of particular interest is the relationship between the two Indian Villages of Teiaiagon (now the present site of Baby Point) and Ganatsekwyagon and the establishment of the "Toronto Carrying Place" Portage to Lake Simcoe, Lake Couchiching, the Severn River and west through Gloucester Pool to Georgian Bay.