Historic Timeline

Pre-Contact Indigenous peoples live in harmony with the land, practicing traditional ways of life that have been established for millennia. The Sault is a gathering place for many tribes of Indigenous peoples, including the Three Fires Confederacy (Ojibway, Odawa, and Potawatomi). They gather to fish from the abundant St. Marys River, to trade, and to visit friends and relatives. History is shared through stories, creating strong bonds between the generations.
1610 At 17 years old, Étienne Brûlé is sent out by Samuel de Champlain to explore the interior of Canada.
1623 Étienne Brûlé arrives in the Sault. This initiates contact between Indigenous peoples in Sault Ste. Marie and European newcomers. Over the years, this will result in the introduction of new clothes, objects, foods, diseases, social practices, religions, and languages, as well as the displacement of Indigenous communities and repurposing of the land. The French refer to the Indigenous peoples living in this area as “Saulteurs,” or “People of the Falls.”
1632 Champlain marks the Sault on his map of New France, making it one of the first named places on any European map of the New World.
1660 Battle at Iroquois Point; the Ojibway surprise the Iroquois in a pre-dawn battle. French explorer Pierre Radisson describes the Sault area as an “earthly paradise” abundant with bear, moose, and beavers. Already an important gathering place for Indigenous peoples, Sault Ste. Marie becomes an essential trading post for European trappers and explorers as well.
1661 The Hudson Bay Company is founded by Radisson and Grosseillers.
1669 Jesuit priests Fathers Claude Dablon and Jacques Marquette rename the area Sault Ste. Marie or Sainte-Marie-du-Sault, establishing a mission in the area.
1671, June 4 St. Lusson erects a large cross in the presence of people from sixteen First Nations, taking possession of the lands in the name of the King of France. (300 years later, this event was commemorated by the erection of the Moffley Hill Cross.)
1689 The Sault Ste. Marie mission is abandoned because of frequent wars between the Ojibway and the Iroquois.
1700s The Métis begin to identify as a distinct Nation. Europeans such as Alexander Henry and his associates establish copper mines in the Sault area, but their efforts prove unprofitable.
1701 The Great Peace of Montreal is signed by New France and 40 First Nations of North America. This brings an end to the many years of fighting between the Hurons and Algonquins (supported by the French) and the Iroquois (supported by the Dutch and later the English). These conflicts are now known as the “beaver wars” because of the role of the highly lucrative and competitive fur trade.
1734 The first decked vessel to sail Lake Superior is built at Pointe aux Pins, just a few kilometres west of the rapids.
1750 A French fort is established in the Sault by Louis Legardeur de Repentigny and Louis de Bonne de Missegle. Fur trader Jean-Baptiste Cadot lives there as Louis Legardeur’s agent, along with his Nipissing wife Athanasie, a relative of Ojibwa chief Madjeckewiss. The Cadot family speaks only Ojibwa at home. His oratory skills earn Cadot the position of chief with the local band of about 50 warriors.
1754 War breaks out between France and Britain. Conflict escalates across the world until most of the great powers of the time are involved. This conflict would become known as the Seven Years’ War.
1762 The French settlement at Sault Ste. Marie is attacked and defeated by British troops, ending French government here. Jean-Baptiste Cadot and his family acquaint themselves with fur trader Alexander Henry and the small British garrison.
1763 The Seven Years’ War ends. Through the Treaty of Paris, France loses almost all of its North American colonial possessions to Britain and Spain.
1775 Sault Ste. Marie grows in importance as a provisioning post, in part because of the efforts of Jean-Baptiste Cadot and Alexander Henry.
1783 The American Revolutionary war comes to an end. A second Treaty of Paris establishes the border at Sault Ste. Marie, although this boundary is not yet strictly enforced. The North West Company builds a post in Sault Ste. Marie and develops the fishery as a major food source for the fur trade.
1794 The Jay Treaty is established and signed by the U.S. and Britain. It recognizes the right of Indigenous peoples to travel freely across the international border.
1797 The North West Company blockhouse is built on the north shore of the St. Marys River.
1798 The North West Company digs the first canal past the St. Marys River rapids to move small boats and canoes.
1812 War between Britain and the United States breaks out after relations deteriorate.
1812, July Fort Michillimackinac is captured without a fight after the fort is surprised by 70 Indigenous war canoes and 10 bateaux. Participants in the voyage include local Indigenous communities and Charles Oakes Ermatinger.
1813 Chief Shingwauk fights alongside Chief Tecumseh and Isaac Brock in the Niagara region, leading 700 warriors in defence of Ojibway homelands. He is later recognized with three medals from the British government.
1814, July 14 Americans raid the North West Company post at Sault Ste. Marie, burning houses, stores, and sheds belonging to John Johnson on the south side of the river.
1814 Fur trader Charles Ermatinger builds his home on the north side of the St. Marys River. The War of 1812 ends with the Treaty of Ghent.
1840 English missionary and amateur linguist James Evans invents the writing system now known as Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics (or simply “syllabics”). Its use spreads across Canada, with Indigenous peoples using it to leave messages for one another on birch bark.
1846 Despite Indigenous claims, mining in the region continues to increase, especially with the discovery of copper deposits at Bruce Mines. This becomes Canada’s first commercially successful copper mine.
1849-1850 Métis and First Nations from Sault Ste. Marie and area protest trespassing by the Quebec Mining Company at Mica Bay. Company agents surrender and the Robinson-Huron Treaty is signed by Chief Shingwauk. The Treaty establishes 17 reserves, including Garden River. Shingwauk advocates for the Métis but their concerns are not included in the Treaty.
1850 The first Catholic Church is built in Sault Ste. Marie, in front of the present-day Precious Blood Cathedral on Queen Street.
1859-1868 Charles Ermatinger’s house is used as a prison and courthouse.
1870 The “Chicora incident.”Captain Wolseley’s ship, on its way to bring troops to the Red River rebellion, is denied passage through the American locks at Sault Ste. Marie, prompting the construction of a lock system on the Canadian side of the river. The Red River rebellion is led by Louis Riel and the Métis to protest the purchase of Rupert’s Land by Canada without first consulting the Métis and other First Nations.
1871 Sault Ste. Marie is incorporated as a village.
1872 Chiefs Augustin Shingwauk and Buhkwujjenene Shingwauk and Reverend Edward Wilson begin fundraising to create a “teaching wigwam.”
1875 A residential school is opened on the property of present-day Algoma University.
1880s Finnish immigrants begin to arrive in the Sault area. Many of them migrate north from the United States to work on the Sault canal.
1887 Sault Ste. Marie is incorporated as a town with William Brown as its first mayor. The international rail bridge is constructed over the St. Marys River and a Canadian Pacific train station is built.
1888 Telephones and electricity arrive in the Sault.
1889 The International Hotel is built in the Sault between Bruce and Elgin Streets, across from an opera house. It is later called one of the finest hotels in the Dominion of Canada.
1894 Francis H. Clergue arrives in the Sault by steamship. He founds the Lake Superior Power Company and the Sault Ste. Marie Pulp and Paper Company Limited. He adds a wooden upper storey to the old North West Company blockhouse and spends the majority of his time there.
1895 The Canadian lock is completed. It is the longest lock in the world.
1898 The Sault’s first hospital is established on Bay Street by the Soeurs Grises de la Croix d’Ottawa.
1899 The General hospital on Queen Street is constructed. It is managed by the Soeurs Grises until 1926.
1900s Métis in Ontario are reluctant to self-identify, and practice their culture in secret.
1900 Algoma Steel Company is established.
1901 Francis H. Clergue builds Tagona Village as an area for his employees to live. It isn’t very successful, as many workers prefer to live downtown closer to shopping.
1902 The bilingual St.-Ignace Parish is established by the Jesuits. They establish the first separate school in the municipality of Steelton. Clergue constructs his mansion on Moffley Hill, named Montfermier.
1902, February 13 The first steel is made in the Sault Steel Plant at 3:15pm. It is the first steel made in Ontario.
1903 A Francophone school-chapel is constructed on the corner of Cathcart and Huron. Francis H. Clergue runs out of money for wages, and workers riot in the streets. Many of his buildings are damaged.
1905 Treaty 9 is signed by the Government of Canada and various First Nations in northern Ontario. Also known as the James Bay Treaty, later additions include the Missinabie Cree First Nation.
1906 A post office opens on Queen Street. This will later become the Sault Ste. Marie Museum.
1908 Sault Ste. Marie lawyer William Howard Hearst is elected as an MPP. He is a leading spokesman for northern Ontario. The town of Hearst is named after him.
1909 The last member of the Clergue family leaves Sault Ste. Marie.
1912 Sault Ste. Marie is incorporated as a city, and the Sault Star newspaper is established.
1913-1914 Les Soeurs de la Sagesse arrive in Sault Ste. Marie, settle on Beverley Street and Huron Street. They take over the management and direction of St.-Ignace School.
1914 The First World War begins. Over the next four years many Saultites, residents of nearby communities, and Indigenous people will contribute to the war effort.
1916 The International Hotel burns down.
1918 The First World War ends. The community of Steelton merges with the Sault. Following the devastation of the First World War and the death of Tom Thomson, the Group of Seven painters make their first trip to Algoma, where they find inspiration for some of their most beloved works.
1920s The first wave of Italian immigration to Canada. Many Italians settle in Sault Ste. Marie using networks of family and friends.
1924 The Provincial Air Service is established here. Sault Ste. Marie becomes globally recognized as a centre for firefighting technology and techniques.
1934 Montfermier burns down. Almost 10,000 people watch as flames shoot 50 feet into the air. Houses along John, Bush, and Morin streets are covered in ashes.
1935 Sir James Dunn takes over the flagging Steel Plant, bringing unprecedented expansion and prosperity to the area.
1938 Sault Ste. Marie’s fire services begin using automobiles rather than horses.
1939 The Second World War begins.
1946-1983 Further waves of Italian immigration to Canada.
1950s The Social Club is created to promote French-Canadian culture in the community; will eventually be replaced by the Club des Copains, and then Le Centre francophone.
1950s and 1960s Immigrant populations are concentrated in the neighbourhoods near present-day Carmen’s Way. This includes Little Italy, le quartier francais, and Hakkisen Maki. Many of the families living here are employed by the nearby steel plant and pulp mill. They contribute significantly to the City’s economy and culture.
1954 Napoleon Dubreuil opens a lumber yard on Cathcart Street. He and his brother later found Dubreuilville.
1957 The Provincial Air Service develops aerial water bombing in Sault Ste. Marie.
1962 The international border opens to traffic.
1965 Korah and Tarentorus merge with Sault Ste. Marie. Sault College is established (then Sault Ste. Marie Ontario Vocational School).
1967 Algoma University is established (then Algoma University College).
1970 The Shingwauk Indian Residential School closes.
1971 Algoma University moves into Shingwauk Hall.
1987 The Canadian lock closes and is designated as a National Historic Site.
1998 The Canadian lock reopens for recreational traffic. After a five-year case involving the Sault Ste. Marie Métis community, the Métis Nation is officially included as one of the “Aboriginal peoples of Canada.”
1999 St.-Ignace church closes, forever changing the face of the local Francophone community. The parishes of St.-Ignace and St. Croix merge to form Sainte-Marie-du-Sault.
2006 Carmen’s Way is built.
2008 Sault Ste. Marie sets its sights on becoming the Alternative Energy Capital of North America. Algoma University becomes an independent degree-granting institution.
2009 Jackie Fletcher and Shirley Horn, sisters and elders from Missinabie Cree First Nation, establish the Echoes of the World Drum Festival in Sault Ste. Marie.
2010 The local Bear Creek drum group is nominated for a Grammy Award.
2012 Sault Ste. Marie celebrates its centennial year.

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