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Fort Rouillé

In the summer of 1750 the first Europeans settled in the area of Toronto. Fort Rouillé was built by the French on what are now the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition, next to Lake Ontario.

Apparently a Jarvis connection began at the very beginning of the European era. Mr. Michael Richards, a Jarvis math teacher until his retirement in 2003, has undertaken extensive research into his family history and reports, "One of my ancestors, with 3 brothers, named de Quindre or Dagneau, built Fort Rouillé, and then my ancestor later burned it to the ground rather than leave anything for the Brits." In addition, during the first decade of the twentieth century Mr. Richards' grandmother was a student at Jarvis Collegiate.


Artist's impression of Fort Rouillé.
An armed trading post for about 10 soldiers.
A small number of traders and other civilians lived around the fort.
Underwater rocks gave protection from attacks from the lake.

      Fort Rouillé was one of a chain of French forts from the St. Lawrence River to the Gulf of Mexico. It was built in the same year as the larger, more important Fort Niagara. Rouillé served mainly to support the fur trade on the rivers flowing into Lake Ontario in the area, the Don, the Humber and the Credit. It gave the Toronto region its first tiny claim to importance as a node in the French fur trade.


Native people and the French trading at Fort Rouillé

      It was small and lasted only ten years. In fact, it was more of a fortified trading post than a military fort.
      Although officially it was named Fort Rouillé, after the French colonial minister, in the area it was known as Fort Toronto.
      No more than a satellite of the important French forts, Forts Frontenac and Niagara, it never held more than a handful of soldiers-- in 1754 only seven and, in 1757, only fiftenn, even in the middle of the Seven Years War.

T he final struggle between France and Britain for supremacy in North America, known as the Seven Years War, spelled the end of Fort Rouillé. In 1759 the French lost the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and, with it, Quebec. Then in June a British naval force laid siege to Fort Niagara. Realising that they were too small to resist a British attack, the fifteen troops at Fort Rouillé burned the fort and retreated to Montreal.
      The British were not interested in the Toronto area at first. Even though the French had abandoned the area, the British were content to run their fur trade from their new post at Fort Niagara, Toronto being regarded as too remote.
      The burnt ruins of Fort Rouillé were left as a memento for nearly a century of early Toronto history, until 1878, when they were cleared to make way for the grounds of the Toronto Exhibition. Archaelogical digs on the fort began in the 1980s.


More stories about the history of Jarvis Collegiate, early Toronto and William and Samuel Jarvis.


Armstrong, Frederick H. Armstrong, Toronto: The Place of Meeting, Windsor Publications (Canada) Ltd., 1983.

Dendy, William, and William Kilbourn, Toronto Observed, Oxford University Press, Toronto, 1986. ISBN 0-19-540508-0

Hounsome, Eric, Toronto in 1810: The Town and Buildings, Coles Publishing Company Limited, Toronto, 1975.