Port Credit: The Very Beginning:
The story of Port Credit begins long before the arrival of non-Native settlers. Archaeological evidence suggests that both Iroquoian and Algonkian-speaking peoples were attracted to the Credit River Valley over a period of thousands of years. By 1700 the Ojibwa, an Algonkian tribe, had driven the Iroquois from the North Shore of Lake Ontario, and a group of Ojibwa, known as the Mississaugas, had settled around the mouth of the Credit River. The Mississaugas themselves referred to the river as “Missinihe” or “Trusting Water”, but the river came to be known as the Credit River, a name derived from the custom of trading on credit.
In the 1720s, French fur traders are known to have exchanged goods with the Mississaugas near the mouths of the Humber and Credit rivers. After the decline of French power in this region, the British established their own trade with the Mississaugas, building a trading post and Government Inn on the east bank of the Credit River around 1798. On August 2nd, 1805, at the mouth of the Credit River, the Mississaugas signed a land treaty with the British Crown. The Mississaugas reserved a one-mile strip of land on either side of the River (currently running from Rhododendron Gardens to Hiawatha Park). The Mississaugas signed another treaty in 1818, and further treaties in 1820. The result was that the Mississaugas were left with a 200 acre reserve of land. In an effort to assimilate the Mississaugas, the Government built a village for them, north of Port Credit in 1826, at the site of the Mississaugua Golf and Country Club.
Founding the Village of Port Credit:
Old Port Credit Village was surveyed in 1834, in part by the Mississaugas, and construction of a harbour began almost immediately. In 1847, the Mississaugas, whose numbers had been severely reduced by disease, relocated to the New Credit Reserve near Brantford, Ontario. The departure of the Natives opened up the Credit River to commercial expansion and Port Credit went through a period of tremendous economic growth as a harbour. This prosperous period ended in the mid-1850s as a result of both a great fire, which destroyed the west end of the harbour, and the construction of the Grand Trunk and Great Western Railways, which diverted commerce away from the village.
Towards the end of the century, the stonehooking trade kept the port alive, and Port Credit slowly began to recover. The arrival of the St. Lawrence Starch Company, in 1889, and other large industries, such as the Port Credit Brickyard, revitalized Port Credit’s economy. Port Credit soon became a shopping area for tourists and travellers. Port Credit became a police village in 1909 and was formally incorporated as a village in 1914. The Port Credit Fire Hall, a two-storey red brick building, is the oldest fire hall remaining in Mississauga. The fire hall was officially opened on December 12, 1955. Built by local builders H. Lee & Sons, the building originally served as a combination fire hall and police hall for Port Credit.
Port Credit acquired Town status in 1961 and was amalgamated into the City of Mississauga in 1974.
The Old Port Credit Village Today:
Port Credit has changed countless times over the last two centuries, with distinct areas of growth carved out on both sides of the Credit River. The commercial core of the village stretches along Lakeshore Road, largely on the East bank of the River, while the historic residential section of Old Port Credit Village is found on the West side. Much of Old Port Credit village has retained its architectural character and heritage, as well as its early street names. Peter Street is named after Peter Jones (Kahkewaquonaby) who was both a Methodist Minister and a Mississauga Chief. Peter helped to shape both the Native and non-Native communities around him. John Street was named after John Jones, Peter’s brother, who was also an influential leader of the community. Mississauga Road South was originally called Joseph Street after Mississauga Chief Joseph Sawyer. The district also includes J.C. Saddington Park, which is largely a man-made park and is named after the former Port Credit Mayor. In 2005, Old Port Credit Village was designated as a Heritage Conservation District.
The Lighthouse and the Harbour:
One of the most familiar sights near any harbour is a lighthouse, and Port Credit has had its share of them. The first was constructed in 1863 by Frederick Chase Capreol. The lighthouse, which was built out in the harbour, was taken over by the Ontario government in 1882. A 1908 flood separated the lighthouse from the mainland and in 1918 the lighthouse closed. The old lighthouse burned in 1936. The present lighthouse was constructed in 1991 and, while not an historic structure, is a reminder of Port Credit’s marine heritage. It is a Peel Region pumping station and the home of the Port Credit BIA. From its deck one can get a very good view of the Credit River and Port Credit harbour.
The Port Credit harbour proper began when the Port Credit Harbour Company was founded in 1834. The construction of two wharves and a warehouse allowed for the export of goods by loading them onto larger boats that could go long distances to other parts of Canada and the world. The harbour reached its peak between 1880 and 1900 with the advent of stonehooking; one of the primary building materials for construction in Toronto was shale from the bottom of Lake Ontario. The vessels that raised this stone were called Stonehookers and a great many of them were based at Port Credit. The trade started in the mid 1800s and lasted till about 1910 when inland quarries opened up. The peak of the trade was in 1881 when 23 stonehooking vessels operated out of Port Credit. Today the historic harbour is home to recreational activities.