Fort George National Historic Site of Canada

Loyalists

Before the Loyalists

Established Water Routes to the interior
Established Water Routes to the interior
© Parks Canada / Gavin Watt

The area that became Upper Canada was a focus of Aboriginal culture long before Europeans came to North America. As explorers, traders and settlers from England and France negotiated the Canadian inland, they used trails and water transportation that had been part of the Aboriginal experience for generations. For European explorers, traders and colonials, the wider and calmer the water route, the easier the access for moving bulk materials. Larger calmer rivers and lake systems were the highways of their day, while routes that required extensive portaging or had rapids (and required that all materials had to be carried) saw less traffic.

1783 British and US Continental Territories
1783 British and US Continental Territories
© Parks Canada / Gavin Watt

Almost every river system represented a mode of transportation into the interior of the continent. Hudson's Bay and the Great Lakes System,(accessed by the St Lawrence or up the Hudson to the Mohawk River and Lake Champlain routes) gave access from the North and East. The Mississippi gave access to the interior from the south.

Following the American Revolution, the Treaty of Paris gave the newly established United States complete control of the 13 colonies, and an additional parcel of land from Georgia to the Mississippi and up the Mississippi to the south of the Great lakes.

As the Loyalists came north to resettle in Canada, they came up the Atlantic coast or up the Hudson to Lake Champlain and then to Quebec. After the Loyalists came north they were settled in areas purchased for the government by the Indian Department, areas chosen for their strategic location along the inland transportation routes of the Great Lakes. In the hope of preserving the military nature of the colony the Loyalists were settled in existing regimental groups [ see charts 3 & 4 ] . By 1812 the inland supply route looked like this:

Major Transportation Routes for goods sent to Upper Canada
Major Transportation Routes for goods sent to Upper Canada
© Parks Canada / Gavin Watt

They came to a land that was vast and sparsely occupied. Before the American Revolution, (from the Quebec border down through southern Ontario) there were nomadic Algonkian Mississaugas living there. They travelled to different areas of Southern Ontario according to season and the movement of the game that sustained them. In addition, there were small pockets of French settlers (near Windsor), remnants of the New France colony (settlers and traders) abandoned by France and left under British control after France's defeat in 1759 at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and the surrender of New France in 1760.

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