At the time of the arrival of the Europeans in the 1600s, both Iroquoian and
Algonquian speaking peoples already lived in the Credit River Valley area. One
of the First Nations groups the traders found around the Credit River area was
called the Mississaugas, a tribe originally from Lake Huron. By 1700 the
Mississaugas had driven away the Iroquois.
In 1805, government officials from York, as Toronto was then called,
bought 340 kmē (84,000 acres) of the Mississauga Tract and in 1806 the
area was opened for settlement. The various communities settled include:
Clarkson, Cooksville, Dixie, Erindale (called Springfield until 1890),
Port Credit, Sheridan, and Summerville. This region would become
known as the Toronto Township.
Toronto Township was formed on August 2, 1805 when officials from York (what
is now Toronto) purchased 84,000 acres (340 kmē) of land from the Mississaugas
for 1,000 pounds. After the land was surveyed, much of it was given by the Crown
in the form of land grants to United Empire Loyalists who emigrated from the US.
More than a dozen small communities grew in this area, most of which were
located near natural resources, waterways for industry and fishing, and routes
leading into York. In 1873, in light of the continued growth seen in this area,
the Toronto Township Council was formed to oversee the affairs of the various
villages that were unincorporated at that time. The Council's responsibilities
included road maintenance, the establishment of a police force, and mail
In 1820, a second purchase was made and additional settlements established
including: Barbertown, Britannia, Burnhamthorpe, Derry West, Elmbank, Malton,
Meadowvale Village, Mount Charles, and Streetsville. This led to the
eventual displacement of the Mississaugas and, in 1847, they were relocated to a
reserve in the Grand River Valley near present-day Hagersville. Except for small
villages, some grist mills and brickworks served by rail lines, most of
present-day Mississauga was agricultural land, including fruit growing orchards
through much of the 19th and first half of the 20th century. Toronto residents
would travel to the township to pick fruits and garden vegetables.
Cottages were constructed along Lake Ontario in the 1920's as weekend getaway
houses for weary city dwellers.
Malton Airport opened in 1937, which would become Canada's busiest, Toronto
Pearson International Airport.
The Queen Elizabeth Way highway, one of the first controlled access highways
in the world opened to Hamilton and later Niagara in 1939. The first
prototypical suburban developments occurred around the same time, in the area of
the Dixie Road and the QEW. Development in general moved north and west from
there over time and around established towns. Large scale developments such as
in Meadowvale and Erin Mills sprung up in the 1960s and 70s.
With the exception of Port Credit and Streetsville, the township settlements
were amalgamated by a somewhat unpopular provincial decree in 1968 to form the
Town of Mississauga. The town name was chosen by plebescite over
"Sheridan". Political will, as well as a belief that a larger city would be a
hegemony in Peel County, kept Port Credit and Streetsville as independent island
towns encircled by the Town of Mississauga. In 1974, both were annexed by
Mississauga when it reincorporated as a city. That year, the sprawling Square
One shopping centre opened.
On November 10, 1979, a 106 car freight train carrying explosive and
poisonous chemicals was derailed at the intersection of Mavis Road and Dundas in
Mississauga. The resulting fire was allowed to burn itself out, but a ruptured
chlorine tank was the main cause for concern. With the possibility of a deadly
cloud of chlorine gas spreading through suburban Mississauga, 218,000 people
were evacuated. Within a few days Mississauga was practically a ghost town,
later when the mess had been cleared and the danger neutralized residents were
allowed to return to their homes. At the time, it was the largest peacetime
evacuation in North American history. Due to the speed and efficiency in which
it was conducted, many cities later studied and modeled their own emergency
plans after Mississauga's. For many years afterwards, the name "Mississauga" was
to Canadians associated with a major rail disaster.
North American telephone customers placing calls to Mississauga (and other
post 1970 Ontario cities) may not recognize the charge details on their
billings, as Bell Canada continues to use the former community names, rather
than "Mississauga", to identify exchanges in the city: Clarkson, Cooksville,
Malton, Port Credit, Streetsville. These former villages, some incorporated for
a long time retain strong community identities.