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Essex County, First to be Settled in Ontario

  • Essex was the first county to settle in Ontario
  • Settlers were French
  • Gathered in an area around Fort Ponchartrain, Detroit
  • Settlers were former soldiers from Old France who remained and became farmers, minor officials, craftsmen, merchants, or fur traders
  • 1747 settlement began on Canadian side of the river which was the beginning of Essex County
  • Canadian side was populated by aboriginal people
  • Farms on the Detroit side were too distant from town and the protection of the Fort so settlement was made on the nearest available land on Canadian side, which became Turkey Creek
  • Land lower down the river, which later became townships of Anderdon and Malden was occupied by the Wyandots or Hurons with the Mission of Bois Blanc as a main settlement area, opposite the island of the same name
  • Above but near the present site of Windsor, was a village of the Ottawas
  • The Mission at Bois Blanc was moved to a site which later became the Town of Sandwich
  • Sandwich was closer to the Fort at Detroit and safer from attacks of pagan aboriginal people who were in conflict with the Christian aboriginal people
  • The Mission at Sandwich became the basis of the present parish of Assumption
  • Settlement of Turkey Creek became known as Petite Cote because of its smaller coast compared to that on the Detroit side
  • Towns of LaSalle and Ojibway grew from the old settlement of Petite Cote
  • First road in Ontario was laid out in Petite Cote
  • That road eventually became known as King's Highway No. 18 until 1997 when the Province gave the control of that road to the County of Essex, now known as Essex County Road 20
  • A settlement, referred to as the Assumption settlement, moved toward Lake St. Clair when there was little river frontage left in the Petite Cote settlement
  • Many residents in Essex County can trace their roots to Pottawatomie, Ojibway, Ottawa or Wyandot ancestry since many French settlers married aboriginal women
  • Recognition of equality of races was a benefit to a trader in obtaining favour with the aboriginal people
  • From the mixture of French and Aboriginal people came most of the interpreters and minor officials of the Indian Departments successfully operated by France, Great Britain and the United States in that region
  • In the late 1700's and early 1800's, the French travelled east along the shore of Lake St. Clair and settled in what is known today as Lakeshore (formerly Belle River, Rochester and Stoney Point)
  • These communities still have a large francophone population.