Yonge Street was a military road from Lake Ontario to Lake Simcoe planned by Colonel John Graves Simcoe, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada from 1791-1796. It opened on January 29, 1796, and provided a route to Penetanguishene, a naval base on Lake Huron.
Another well-known thoroughfare in Toronto is Dundas Street. It was also a military road, which Simcoe hoped to build all the way from Detroit to Kingston, Ontario. In those days, Detroit belonged to Britain, which was at war with France.. Simcoe, convinced that the United States would help France by attacking Canada, built Yonge and Dundas Streets to enable him to move troops quickly to strategic points.
He was so sure the United States would attack that he moved the capital of Upper Canada from Niagara to Toronto which was farther away from the American border. There was no settlement in Toronto then, except the remains of old French Fort Rouille, built in 1749. Simcoe did not like the Indian name “Toronto” and changed it to “York” to commemorate the Duke of York’s victories in Flanders. It was changed back to Toronto when it became a city in March 1834.
Simcoe’s activities might have brought the United States into war against Britain in 1794. Acting on instructions from Lord Dorchester, Governor-in-Chief of British North America, Simcoe built Fort Miami near Toledo, Ohio. Its purpose was to prevent the Americans from marching on Detroit. The British Government was horrified because it did not want to be involved in a war with the United States as well as France. Detroit and other posts were returned to the United States on June 1, 1796.
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