History of Immigration to Peterborough
Peterborough has a rich history of immigration. However, before the first immigrants arrived, the region was already settled by people indigenous to the area.
Nogojiwanong - the place at the end of the rapids
Peterborough sits on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe (Ojibway) and was originally named and known as Nogojiwanong (“place at the end of rapids”). For thousands of years this region was known as a gathering spot where different first nations, families and leaders would come together to exchange ideas and knowledge. Sites such as the Petroglyphs and Serpent Mounds Park and Indigenous oral traditions confirm this regional history. The First Nations who originally lived in this region include the Haudenosaunee (Mohawk) and the Anishinaabe.
The Peterborough area is still home to several First Nations communities including Hiawatha First Nation, Curve Lake First Nation, Alderville First Nation., and the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation. Peterborough also neighbours Burleigh Falls where Anishinaabe, Métis and non-Indigenous people who live and work together helping to make a multicultural community.
Within the city of Peterborough many Indigenous people continue to live, work, learn and celebrate their traditional cultural practices every day. There are a number of local Indigenous landmarks and places of honour within the City, including the traditional burial grounds located at Brock St. between Aylmer St. and George St. Look out for local First Nations cultural events and initiatives held throughout the year such as the Ode'min Giizis (Strawberry Moon) Festival and its two-day traditional gathering/Pow Wow and Community Procession, the Trent University Native Association’s Pow Wow and annual conferences including the Elders' and Traditional Peoples' Gathering and the Indigenous Studies at Trent University.
Early Immigration to Peterborough
By choosing to move to Peterborough, you will be following a long tradition. Immigrants had an important role in creating the city over 200 years ago.
In 1818, Adam Scott settled by the Otonabee River and built a sawmill and gristmill. In 1825, Irish immigrants arrived from the city of Cork, led by Peter Robinson. These first immigrants cleared the swampy land to build their houses. Thousands of their descendants remain in the Peterborough area today.
In 1845, Sandford Fleming, the inventor of standard time, came to the area with Dr. John Hutchison, one of Peterborough's first doctors. Their home has been turned into a museum.
In 1850, Peterborough was incorporated as a town with a population of 2,191.
One of the most famous families to come to Peterborough came from England. Susanna Moodie, her sister Catherine Parr Trail, and her brother Samuel Strickland all wrote books about their experiences. The most well known are Roughing it in the Bush, Twenty-Seven Years in Canada West, and Backwoods in Canada.
Although life was difficult, those first immigrants helped to build a prosperous community. New Canadians from around the world continue this tradition today. You can learn more about the importance of immigration to Peterborough’s history at the Peterborough Museum & Archives.
While early immigrants to Peterborough were mostly of Irish and British descent, people from all over the world now call Peterborough home. In 2015/16, the New Canadians Centre served clients from 95 different countries. Following in the footsteps of early settlers, immigrants to Peterborough continue to contribute to our consistent prosperity as a community. We invite you to join us and make Peterborough your home too!