The area known today as Montreal was inhabited for some 8,000 years by Algonquin peoples prior to the arrival of Jacques Cartier in 1534. When Cartier arrived he bumped into Donnacona’s village of Hochelaga; however, when Samuel de Champlain returned to the area some seventy years later to establish a trading post the native settlement had all but disappeared. Historians believe that either Donnacona’s people left on purpose to avoid the French or they were pushed out of the area by the Iroquois Confederacy.
MONTREAL, NEW FRANCE
Established by: France
Champlain’s trading post (~1608) failed due to the local Iroquois unwillingness to tolerate its presence. A permanent settlement would not be attempted until 1639. In that year, a Christian mission called Ville Marie was built to convert the local natives. Though the settlement’s main purpose was missionary work, a profitable fur trade emerged with Ville Marie at the center. Nonetheless, the colony was prevented from expanding due to constant attacks by the Iroquois; and by 1651 there were fewer than fifty total colonists at Ville Marie.
In 1653, a second wave of settlers arrived that proved harder for the Iroquois to intimidate. Over the course of the next fifty years Ville Marie’s population grew and for no known reason the settlement’s name changed to Montreal. Despite the name change the people of New France used both names to describe the settlement until the 1800s.
During the French and Iroquois Wars (1648-1701), Montreal was constantly harrassed by the Five Nations (especially the Mohawk). The settlement did not enjoy real peace until the Great Peace of Montreal was signed (1701). The Great Peace enabled the colony to develop without constant worry of Iroquois raids. In 1725, Montreal became a fortified town.
The French-Indian War (also called the Seven Years’ War) broke out in 1755. Quebec City to the north was attacked and captured by the British in 1758 (a relief force from Montreal arrived too late to be of any help). The next year a French from Montreal marched on the British held Citadel of Quebec. The French won the subsequent Battle of Saint-Foy; however, the English retained control of the citadel. In 1760, Governor Vaudreuil was forced to surrender Montreal to the English army under the command of Jeffrey Amherst.
In 1775, Canada was invaded by the Americans and Montreal was occupied. The Americans left when it became apparent they could not defeat the British-Canadians. Britain encouraged English people to emigrate to Montreal. Consequently, the majority of people in Montreal are either bi-lingual or speak English as the primary language.
In 1779, the North West Company formed in Montreal. This company competed with the Hudson’s Bay Company for fur in Rupert’s Land (Northwest Territories). The two companies, although both English in origin, fought one another in several skirmishes on the Great Plains for control of the trade. The two companies were eventually forced to merge in 1821.