Historical Timeline of Peterborough

A Historical Timeline of Peterborough – Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

Credit to : Shawn Hughes (Teacher at Crestwood Secondary School)

9000 BC to 5000 BC:

  • Paleo-Indians lived in the area.

5000 BC to 1000 BC:

  • Laurentian people lived in southern Ontario.

1000 BC to 1000 AD:

  • Woodland peoples in the area.
  • Initial Woodland had no contact with Europeans.
  • Petroglyphs completed between 1000 and 1400 AD by First Nations.
  • Point Peninsula people build sacred mounds on shore of Rice Lake (Serpent Mounds).
  • Terminal Woodland made contact 1000 AD.

ca. 1615:

  • Samuel de Champlain brought through Peterborough area by Huron; used ancient portage between Chemong Lake and Little Lake (now Chemong Road); stayed for a short period of time in Bridgenorth area.

ca. 1700

  • Mississauga people forced Iroquoians out of Kawartha region.

ca. 1740

  • Mississauga settle in area.


  • Adam Scott settles on the west shore of the Otonabee River at foot of King Street.
  • “Milburn Colonists” settle area north of modern day Parkhill Road.
  • Peterborough town site is “set aside”.


  • Adam Scott signs agreement to build grist and sawmill on site of future town of Peterborough.
  • Future town of Peterborough is established as “Scott’s Plains”.


  • Charles Rubidge and family arrive as second settlers in Otonabee Township.


  • Stewart and Reid families arrive in area and settle in Duoro.


  • Richard Birdsall surveys the area for a town site.
  • Market Block between George and Water and Charlotte and Simcoe Streets is established.

From 1825 to 1850


  • 2000 Irish immigrants transported from Cork to Peterborough by Peter Robinson, (pictured right). “Scott’s Plains” renamed Peterborough in honour of Peter Robinson.


  • First school opens in Peterborough.
  • Sir Peregrine Maitland, Governor of Upper Canada town.


  • First bridge over Otonabee River is constructed.


  • There are now roughly 12 mills and 20 buildings in Peterborough.
  • Doctor John Hutchison and family arrive in Peterborough.
  • Samuel Dickson arrives in Peterborough.
  • The first post office in Peterborough is established.


  • Charles Rubidge is appointed Immigrant Agent for Peterborough.


  • Botanist and author, Catharine Parr Traill and family, settle in area.


  • Early pioneer Adam Scott dies in winter storm.
  • Peter Robinson dies.
  • First militia in Peterborough is founded (7th Provincial Battalion).
  • Construction of St Peter’s In Chains Roman Catholic Church is completed.
  • Cornerstone for Peterborough County Courthouse and Gaol is laid.
  • Construction of St. John’s Anglican Church is completed.


  • Samuel Dickson begins logging operations north of Peterborough and builds mill.


  • “Peterborough Chronicle” newspaper begins publishing.


  • Robert Nicholls opens local Bank of Montreal branch – first bank in Peterborough.


  • Sandford Fleming arrives in Peterborough; lives at home of Dr John Hutchison.
  • Surveyor John Huston dies.


  • Port Hope, Lindsay & Beaverton Railroad started.
  • Sandford Fleming publishes lithographic map of Peterborough.
  • R.D. Rogers builds sawmill along banks of Otonabee River in Ashburnham.


  • Typhus outbreak kills many – including local doctor John Hutchison and Thomas A. Stewart.


  • Peter Hamilton Company established in Peterborough.
  • First brick house in Peterborough is constructed for Sheriff James Hall (Hunter and Brock Streets).


  • Peterborough incorporates as a town.
  • Cemetery in modern day Confederation Park is closed with establishment of Little Lake Cemetery.
  • Thomas Benson was 1st mayor of the town of Peterborough.
  • Population 2,191.
  • Town forms Peterborough Fire Brigade.

From 1851 to 1875


  • Cornerstone laid for Peterborough’s first Town Hall, design by architect, William Thomas.


  • Grand Junction Railroad is launched.


  • Cobourg and Peterborough Railroad is launched.
  • Route of Port Hope-Peterboro Railway surveyed.


  • Henry Calcutt opens his first brewery in the Village of Ashburnham.


  • Thomas Benson killed with 57 others, in railway disaster near Hamilton.
  • Decimal or ‘dollar’ currency adopted in Peterborough – replacing English pound.
  • First Bank of Montreal branch built (s-e corner of Simcoe and Water Streets) later “Peterborough Club” and more recently “The Trash” (a bar/nightclub).1858
    • Port Hope, Lindsay & Beaverton Railroad reaches Peterborough.
    • Ashburnham is proclaimed a village.
    • Sir Joseph Flavelle, future president of Simpsons and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, is born in Peterborough.
    • First traveling circus arrives in Peterborough.
    • George A. Cox moves to Peterborough.
    • Union School (later known as Central School) is opened on Murray Street.
    • “Scotch Village” officially incorporates as the Village of Ashburnham.
    • John Stephenson designs molded strip canoe, later known as the “Peterborough Canoe”.
    • Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) visits Peterborough.
    • Local militia is formed (57th Regiment).
    • Central School is opened.
    • Future painter and sculptor, Katharine E. Wallis is born in Peterborough.
    • Dr. George Burnham is first Peterborough doctor to use chloroform.
    • Population 3,841 in Peterborough; 993 in Ashburnham.
    • Peterborough Horticultural Society is formed.
    • Large downtown area destroyed by fire.
    • By-law passes restricting use of wood for construction; brick preferred material.
    • Calcutt Brewery opens in Ashburnham.
    • Thomas Darcy McGee delivers lecture entitled, “The Future of Canada”.
    • Peterborough Petroleum Co is formed to start drilling for oil in Town. Oil derrick is erected at Blythe Mill. No oil is discovered.
    • Large wooden drill shed is constructed on present site of Armoury.
    • YMCA starts in Peterborough.
    • First Gas Works is established in Peterborough – used for lighting.
    • “Inverlea” was built for Judge Robert Dennistoun on site of modern Inverlea Park.
    • First ‘floating bridge’ over Chemong Lake is built.
    • 20 gas lights erected on George, Hunter and Simcoe Streets.
    • Town hires its first ‘Lamp Lighter’ to light downtown gas streetlights.
    • Lumber baron Samuel Dickson is killed.
    • Local “Strong Man” Daniel Macdonald dies after lifting 1600-pound anchor.
    • Sir John A. Macdonald visits Peterborough for rally.
    • Ontario Canoe Company establishes in Peterborough.
    • Early settler, Charles Rubidge dies.
    • Architect John Belcher designs Morrow Building in classic Second Empire style.

From 1876 to 1900


  • Bradburn Opera House and Town Hall is opened; designed by John Belcher.


  • Head offices of Midland Railway of Canada established in Peterborough.
  • Post Office is opened in the Morrow Building.
  • The “Telephone” is exhibited and demonstrated at Bradburn Opera House.


  • Peterborough gets its first telephones.
  • Ontario Canoe Company is formed under James Z. Rogers.


  • Bell Telephone Company arrives in Peterborough.
  • First train of Grand Junction Railway arrives in Peterborough


  • Peterborough gets its first water works and pump house on site of Auburn Dam.


  • “Hazelbrae” donated by G.A. Cox to shelter Bernard children.
  • First bicycle club is established in Peterborough.
  • Robert Nichols dies.


  • First Bernard children arrive in Peterborough.
  • Peterborough’s first Park Commission is started.
  • Peterborough becomes first town in Canada to have electric (arc) lights along its streets.
  • Salvation Army establishes in Peterborough.
  • Electric street lighting is introduced on George, Hunter and Simcoe Streets.
  • George A. Cox owns 10 percent of Peterborough real estate.


  • Riel Rebellion. Peterborough sends militia to Red River.
  • Charlotte Nichols donates Moira Hall for local hospital.
  • Peterborough Lock Manufacturing Company is established.


  • Lt. Gov. Sir John Beverley Robinson opens Exhibition in Peterborough.
  • General Booth, founder of Salvation Army visits Peterborough.
  • Sir John A. Macdonald visits Peterborough for event in Bradbury Opera House.


  • Adam Scott cottage burns to ground.
  • Ned Hanlon, World Champion rower, visits Peterborough (guest of Rowing Club).
  • Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Station is opens (now Chamber of Commerce).
  • New post office opened on northeast corner of Hunter and Water Street.
  • Bishop Dowling lays cornerstone for St. Joseph’s Hospital.
  • Salvation Army temple is dedicated on Simcoe Street.


  • Cornerstone for Market Hall and Clock Tower is laid.
  • Cornerstone for new Town Hall/Police Station (Simcoe and Water Streets) is laid.
  • Peterborough Board of Trade is established.


  • Ontario Telephone Company starts.
  • Market Hall (designed by John Belcher) officially opens.
  • St Josephs Hospital is established.
  • Peterborough’s first Town Hall (designed by William Thomas in 1851) is demolished.
  • Charlotte Nichols dies, leaving entire estate to Town of Peterborough.
  • Sisters of St Josephs are established in Peterborough.


  • Edison Electric builds a major plant in Peterborough later becomes Canadian General Electric (CGE).
  • Peterborough & Ashburnham Street Railway is launched.


  • Ontario Canoe Company becomes Peterborough Canoe Company.
  • Peterborough Customs House is built on Charlotte and George Streets.


  • Waterworks Pumping Station is completed.
  • Peterborough Street Railway system is created.
  • Peterborough Canoe Company opens factory on Water Street.
  • Jackson Park is established.


  • Nichols Oval Park is established.


  • Peterborough Radial Railway Company barns are built on King Street.


  • Construction begins on Lift Lock, designed by R.B. Rogers.


  • Peterborough Historical Society opens Victoria Museum at “Inverlea” house.
  • Queen Victoria knights former Peterborough resident Sandford Fleming.
  • Peterborough gets its first cement sidewalks.
  • Archaeologists and other scientists study Serpent Mounds, located near Rice Lake.
  • Buffalo Bill Cody and his “Wild West Show” perform in Peterborough.
  • John Phillips Sousa (composer of “Stars and Stripes Forever”) performs at Bradburn Opera House.


  • Catharine Parr Traill dies.

From 1901 to 1925


  • Winston S. Churchill, future Prime Minister of Britain, visits Peterborough to make speech about Boer War.


  • American Cereal Company establishes a plant on the shore of the Otonabee River. The plant is renamed Quaker Oats Company.


  • First radio is demonstrated at George Street Methodist Church.
  • Work accident on Lift Lock results in death of William Craig (Craig falls 35 feet).
  • First gasoline powered motor car is driven in Peterborough by F.R.J. MacPherson.
  • Ashburnham citizens vote to join Town of Peterborough.


  • Peterborough and Ashburnham amalgamate.
  • Fire destroys Roy Photography Studio, many early images lost!
  • World’s highest hydraulic Lift Lock is completed for Trent Canal.
  • First ‘jail break’ recorded at Peterborough County Jail occurs.
  • Prime Minister Laurier visits City during election campaign.
  • Fred Tuggey builds Peterborough’s first concrete block house at 633 Aylmer Street.


  • On July 1st, Peterborough officially proclaimed a City.
  • T.A.S. Hay, designs Seal for the City.
  • The new YWCA building is officially opened on Aylmer Street.
  • Grand Opera House opens.


  • Brinton Carpets opens in Peterborough.


  • Rev. Edwin Pearson becomes minister at George Street Methodist Church. His son, future Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, begins attending Central Public School.
  • Cornerstone of Peterborough Collegiate is laid my James Stevenson.
  • Conservative Party leader Robert Borden delivers speech at Grand Opera House.
  • The “Bessie Butler” is launched.
  • Tom Longboat participates in an indoor harrier competition at Brock Street rink.


  • Peterborough Fire Department is formed; replacing old volunteer brigade.
  • Peterborough Normal School is opened as one of Ontario’s new teacher’s colleges.
  • Classes begin at Peterborough Collegiate (later Peterborough Collegiate and Vocational School or “PCVS”).


  • Peterborough Armoury is officially opened
  • Band of Gypsies visit City.


  • New Filtration Plant replaces 1893 waterworks pumping station.
  • Construction of Auburn Power Generating Plant begins.


  • American statesman, William Jennings Bryan visits Peterborough.


  • City establishes Titanic Relief Committee in wake of terrible maritime disaster.


  • Turnbull Building (north-east corner of Simcoe and George streets) collapses, killing 6 people.
  • Peterborough’s Frank O’Connor opens Laura Secord Chocolate Company in Toronto, after borrowing $500 from Louis Yeotes.


  • Peterborough Utilities Commission is formed.
  • Peterborough financier George A. Cox dies as wealthiest man in Canada!
  • Empress Hotel is opened under management of George N. Graham.


  • Peterborough architect John E. Belcher dies.


  • Quaker Oats is swept by fire. 23 people killed. The fire also damages the County Court House. $2,000,000 in damage.
  • Peterborough becomes second Canadian city (after Ottawa) to install chlorine purification system to water supply.


  • City engineer and architect T.A.S. Hay dies.


  • First bona fide real estate business in City is established by Timothy Hurley.
  • Pioneering female aviator, Katherine Stinson, performs in flying show at Peterborough Ex.


  • Western Clock Company moves to Peterborough and starts production of clocks on George Street.
  • Former US President William Howard Taft visits Peterborough.


  • Construction of Peterborough Clinic (Reid and Charlotte Streets) is completed.
  • Study shows that Peterborough has one doctor for every 761 citizens.
  • Peterborough’s population is 19,890.
  • Future Hollywood star, Tyrone Power performs at Grand Opera House in “Servant on the House”.
  • Michael Bahri and Tom Konek (members of “Russian Gang”) hanged at County Jail.


  • New Hunter Street bridge is completed. Known as the longest “single pour” concrete bridge in the world.
  • Local marathon runner Albert Smoke, joins Canadian Olympic Team for games in Antwerp, Belgium.


  • Western Clock Co. becomes Westclox and moves to new plant in Ashburnham.
  • Board of Trade re-named Peterborough Chamber of Commerce.
  • Peterborough Humane Society is formed.
  • Birmingham Motors unveils the first “Made-in-Peterboro” automobile at local car show.
  • Highway #28 linking Peterborough to Port Hope is officially opened by Premier Nixon.
  • Hazel Brae, the local Barnardo Home, closes.


  • Baseball Hall-of-Famer, Tris Speaker and his “All Stars” play exhibition game in Peterborough.


  • Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King officially opens Peterborough Ex.

From 1926 to 1950


  • Bus service begins in Peterborough.
  • Some 600 homes now connected to City sewage system.
  • Terrible fire destroys Canadian Canoe Company factory on Rink Street.


  • Electric Street Railway ceases operation.
  • R.B. Rogers, designer of Lift Lock, dies.
  • Major expansion of Peterborough Collegiate with a new Vocational School opening.
  • City population stands at 21,768 people.


  • Johnson Motors (later Outboard Marine) opens plant in Peterborough.
  • Traffic lights installed for the first time at intersection of George and Charlotte Streets.


  • Citizens’ War Memorial opens in Confederation Park; designed by Walter S. Allward.


  • Thousands see giant airship, R-100 fly over City.


  • “Give a Man a Job” campaign is launched by Mayor Roland Denne.
  • Hazel Brae, the old Barnardo home, slated for demolition.


  • Ontario Premier, George Henry, officially opens local section of Highway #7.


  • Edward “Stonewall” Jackson is last person hanged in Peterborough County.


  • John Smith’s famous attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a 16 foot Peterborough Canoe (“Pride of Peterborough”) begins and ends in his death in the Gulf of St Lawrence.


  • Iva Fallis is named to the Canadian Senate by Prime Minister R.B. Bennett- only the second woman in Canada to be appointed to the Senate.
  • Nucleus of City Zoo is established at Water Pumping Station with acquisition of two baby alligators.
  • Senator Rupert Davies purchases Peterborough Examiner newspaper and becomes its publisher.
  • Prime Minister R.B. Bennett makes ‘whistle-stop’ in Peterborough during federal election.


  • Violent labour riots break out at Bonner-Worth and Auburn Mills.


  • Harold Morrow deeds 30 acres of property on Lansdowne Street to Peterborough Agricultural Society – used as exhibition grounds.


  • Ralph Sharpe Staples a Farm cooperative leader from Cavan, marries Belva Woodsworth, daughter of J.S. Woodsworth, founder of CCF Party – later renamed, NDP.
  • W.G. Morrow dies leaving his estate (worth over 1 million dollars) to City of Peterborough.
  • Auburn Mill is demolished.


  • Morrow Park converted from exhibition grounds to War Training Centre.
  • London Street footbridge is constructed after much debate at City Hall.


  • CHEX Radio goes on the air.
  • 16 ton-armoured tank demolishes old Band Shell in Victoria Park as Victory Bonds stunt.
  • Robertson Davies arrives in Peterborough and becomes Editor of Examiner newspaper.
  • Fisher-Gauge is opened with introduction of metal eggbeater and other die cast products.


  • Pansy Forbes establishes Peterborough Ornamental Swimmers.


  • Dr. Eugene Faludi releases major urban planning study for Peterborough.


  • Construction of Civic Hospital begins.
  • Parkway bypass first proposed in Peterborough to relieve traffic congestion.


  • Population 35,165.


  • Cornerstone for new City Hall laid by Premier Leslie Frost.
  • Civic Hospital opens.
  • Professional photographer Fred L. Roy dies.

From 1951 to 1975


  • New City Hall opens on George Street. Built in the “City Beautiful” style.
  • “Zaks Store Fire” kills four Peterborough Fire Fighters as roof falls in.
  • Steamship, “Bessie Butler” makes last trip on Trent system.


  • Peterborough adopts landfill disposal method to deal with garbage.
  • Hockey great Bob Gainey is born in Peterborough.
  • City civil defense plan is drafted in the event of nuclear war.


  • Paul Sweetman and Lester Bissell, survey Peterborough Petroglyphs site.
  • Peterborough Ornamental Swimmers are Canadian champs at British Empire Games in Vancouver.
  • Fire Department run civil defense drills in preparation for possible atomic war.


  • Post office on Water and Hunter Streets is demolished as new one opens on Charlotte Street.
  • Robertson Davies becomes publisher of Peterborough Examiner.
  • Peterborough Lock Manufacturing Company closes.
  • Residents begin moving into homes in Valleyview Cooperative Sub Division.
  • City children get inoculated with polio vaccine.
  • CHEX Television begins broadcasting.
  • City Engineers draw up plans to convert George and Water Streets to “one way” traffic.
  • Examiner reports only 50 horses remain in the City of Peterborough.
  • Robertson Davies awarded Leacock Medal for Humour.


  • Former Peterborough resident, Lester Pearson wins Nobel Peace Prize (Suez Crisis).


  • Artist Katharine E. Wallis dies in California; family donates large art collection to City.


  • Otonabee Regional Conservation Authority (ORCA) is established.


  • City workers find 2000 year old native burial on Brock Street while installing parking meters.


  • Peter Demos, a Peterborough native, receives PhD in nuclear physics at MIT and is appointed advisor on nuclear science to US President John F. Kennedy.
  • CGE Peterborough engineer, Hubert Sills, wins Engineering Institute of Canada’s highest award for design work.


  • IBM automated billing system launched at Peterborough Utilities Commission.
  • Aileen Holt is appointed Peterborough’s first female Mayor.


  • World heavy weight boxing champion, Rocky Marciano attends sportsmen dinner at Club Aragon.


  • Jazz vocalist, Ada Lee arrives in Peterborough.


  • Trent University is opened.


  • Capitol Movie Theatre on George Street is demolished.
  • Peterborough Ornamental Swimmers represent Canada at Pan American Games in Mexico City.


  • Peterborough hosts Canadian Figure Skating Championships at Memorial Centre.
  • Petra Burka wins ladies title at Canadian Figure Skating Championships in Peterborough.


  • Peterborough Centennial Museum and Archives opens.
  • Peterborough Centennial Committee purchases a jet water fountain for Little Lake.
  • Lang Pioneer Village opens.
  • Sir Sandford Fleming College opens in former Bonner-Worth Mill on McDonnel Street.
  • Champlain College at Trent University Nassau Campus opens.


  • Lester B. Pearson visits Peterborough; one of his last stops before Trudeau becomes PM.


  • Old Ashburnham Town Hall is sold by City, demolished and replaced by Becker’s convenience store.


  • City Council officially abandons Parkway proposal.


  • Archives at PCMA formally acquires “Peter Robinson Papers” – original records documenting Robinson Irish settlements of 1823 (Lanark County) and 1825 (Peterborough County).
  • Peterborough hosts North American Figure Skating Championships. Karen Magnussen wins ladies singles crown over Janet Lynn of the United States. Toller Cranston wins men’s title. Winners go on to Worlds.


  • Cluxton Block (downtown landmark) is demolished. A modern bank replaces it.
  • Bradburn Opera House and other heritage buildings demolished on Market Block, for Peterborough Square development.
  • Rene Levesque visits Peterborough to deliver lecture on the Quebec separatist movement at Fleming College.


  • Peterborough Square is constructed.
  • The Peterborough Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (PACAC) is created by City, to help protect heritage buildings.


  • 150th anniversary of Robinson settlement is celebrated.

From 1976 to Present


  • The Peterborough Petes hockey team wins the Memorial Cup.
  • Old Fire Hall on Aylmer Street (built in 1908) is demolished for a new public library.


  • New Peterborough Public Library on Aylmer Street is opened.


  • Half of a downtown Charlotte Street block is destroyed by fire.


  • Festival of Lights is launched.


  • Peterborough Sustainable Development Program plants 10,000 trees in City.


  • Four-lane expansion of Highway 115 is completed.>


  • Del Crary Park redevelopment is completed.
  • Peterborough and District Sports Hall of Fame is opened in Memorial Centre.


  • YWCA building gutted by fire on February 15th.
  • Sun Life Building (130 year old commercial block on Hunter & Water Streets) gutted by fire.
  • Old Methodist Meeting House, built in 1843 is demolished for funeral home parking lot. Timbers salvaged and transported to PCMA for a “heritage pavilion”.
  • Rotary Greenway Traill officially opens.
  • Showplace Peterborough opens on George Street.
  • Ministry of Natural Resources Building opens on Water Street
  • Peterborough hosts Memorial Cup for first time.


  • Canadian Canoe Museum opens on Monaghan Road.
  • Morrow Building at northeast corner of Brock and George Streets is restored.


  • Peterborough hosts Ontario Winter Games.
  • Peterborough hosts Nokia Cup.


  • Peterborough and Lakefield police forces merge (Peterborough Lakefield Community Police).
  • Waterfront Development is launched.


  • City celebrates a new year, a new century, and a new millennium!
  • City acquires the Roy Studio photograph collection.
  • Millennium Walkway is officially opened at the foot of King Street at the Otonabee River.
  • First Mayor’s Levy ever held in Peterborough occurs on New Years Day.
  • Peterborough celebrates 150th anniversary.
  • Citywide smoking bylaw comes into force.


  • Market Hall Restoration fundraising campaign wraps up.
  • Trent University sells Peter Robinson College campus into private hands.


  • Big band leader Bobby Kinsman dies.
  • Westclox closes up all remaining operations in Peterborough.
  • Peterborough Paper Converters (formerly Nashua Paper) closes.
  • City cleans up after heavy rains trigger major flood damage.
  • Noted Canadian artist, David Bierk of Peterborough dies.
  • City considers Parkway option again – proposed route may fall on edge of Jackson Park.


  • Main Charlotte Street Post Office closes.

Credit and special thanks goes to Shawn Hughes
(Teacher at Crestwood Secondary School)