Fearing invasion from the new neighbours to the south (which came in 1812), the Crown felt it vital to secure a military communication route from Lake Ontario to Lake Huron that did not utilize the vulnerable routes through Niagara, Lake Erie and past Detroit. In 1785, Lieutenant Governor Hamilton sent out John Collins, the Deputy Surveyor General, to explore the passage from the Bay of Quinte, up the Trent River to Lake Simcoe and then on to Lake Huron and to determine what lands would need to be purchased from the Mississaugas and Chippewas. Collins apparently went ahead and made “Treaties” with both the Mississaugas, for a rite of passage, and with the Chippewas for land from Lake Simcoe to Lake Huron. The passage proved unsatisfactory and the Crown looked for a better route.
In 1787, Sir John Johnson, head of the Indian Department, called a council of the Mississaugas at the Bay of Quinte to distribute “presents” (trade goods such as blankets, kettles and gunpowder) to reward the Mississaugas for their loyalty to the British during the American Revolution. In total £1,700 worth of trade goods was distributed to all of the various Mississauga groups at three different locations across southern Ontario. At that Council, Sir John Johnson discussed a number of potential land sales along the north shore of Lake Ontario and in particular they discussed a potential purchase of the “carrying place” from Toronto to Lake Simcoe.
Although these discussions were later characterized as the “sale” of Toronto, and the £1,700 worth of presents were later characterized wrongly as payment for the Toronto Purchase, in actual fact, nothing was sold at the Council in 1787. The deed to the land that was “found” many years later was blank, with the marks of three Chiefs from the Toronto area on separate scraps of paper wafered onto the blank deed.
Although these discussions were later characterized as the “sale” of Toronto, and the £1,700 worth of presents were later characterized wrongly as payment for the Toronto Purchase, in actual fact, nothing was sold at that Council in 1787. The deed to the land that was “found” many years later was blank, with the marks of three Chiefs from the Toronto area on separate scraps of paper wafered onto the blank deed. There was no description of the land “sold” in the deed.
The only record which remains of the lands discussed in 1787 is contained in a letter written by Sir John Johnson twelve years after the fact in 1798:
ten miles square at Toronto, and two to four Miles, I do not recollect which, on each side of the intended road or carrying place leading to Lake Le Clai (Lake Simcoe), then ten miles square at the Lake and the same square at the end of the water communication emptying into Lake Huron this deed was left with Mr. Collins, whose Clerk drew it up to have the courses inserted with survey of these Tracts were completed and was never returned to my office…
It is important to note that Sir Johnson considered the purchase to be “ten miles square.” He is not certain about the width of the strip up to Lake Simcoe, but he was clear that is was either two or four miles on either side of the Carrying Place. It is also important to note that the boundaries of the land as discussed with Sir John Johnson and the Mississaugas did not include the Toronto Islands. “Ten miles square” at Toronto would not have captured what was then the Toronto peninsula (the Toronto Islands did not become islands until a great storm later in the 1800’s).
Click here to view the Toronto Purchase Specific Claim – Arriving at an Agreement booklet