Aboriginal populations travellers going westward on the lake would often camp at the mouth of the Highland Creek rather than attempt a passage along the base of the Bluffs in darkness or bad weather.
Iroquois moved into the area to establish a number of large villages along the north shore of Lake Ontario for the exploitation of the local fur resources. One such village was Ganatsekiagon, located on the Rouge River.
By about 1700, the Iroquois had left their Rouge River village and were replaced by the Mississauga Indians. This new community continued to trade furs with the French. Although there were reportedly two main Mississauga villages along the Lake Ontario shoreline in the 1780s, a number of small seasonal encampments elsewhere indicate that they maintained their traditional subsistence strategies of fishing, hunting, and the trading of furs.
When early Port Union settlers needed a large barn, a barn raising was organized by an experienced builder. Attendance was mandatory to keep in good community standing with approximately 100 men and their families needed for food preparation and labour.
Ships like those built on the beach by Thomas Adams of Port Union in 1834, carried legitimate cargoes by day and contraband by night. The Scarborough, Markham and Pickering Wharf Company, which built a dock at the foot of Port Union Road closed down in 1895.
Port Union was, at one time, an actual port for shipping. It was so named because the road itself was the original dividing line between Scarborough and Pickering Townships (or where the two united). The wharf ceased to exist around 1895 as the railway took away its business and cut it off from the mainland and roads.
By 1865, Port Union's population had reached 100 people and it was granted its own post office and two hotels. Some of the early settlers were the Annis, Adams, Closson, Hetherington, Brumwell and Laskey families.
In late 19th Century, the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada was the major railroad in the Province of Canada (Ontario and Quebec), connecting Toronto to Montreal. The Port Union station opened in 1865 adding importance to the waterfront village.
In the 1800's, Port Union was a booming waterfront village attracting new settlers with thriving ship building and commercial fishing industries, two hotels, a commercial wharf, and a variety of small businesses. By the late 1800's Port Union's shipping industry had lost most of it's business to the railway and subsequently shut down.
Built in 1861, the Laskey hotel boasted a kitchen, a dining room, the required barroom, six rooms for guests and a large second floor ballroom. Its clientele came from local farmers and fishermen, but mainly from railway passengers and staff,
Local employees lived nearby in small homes on a grid of streets or in the Laskey Hotel. In 1859 they handled a peak of 511 tons of freight and 2,600 passengers.
With the dieselization of engines in the 1950's, the function of the shunter and other facilities at Port Union were no longer needed and the rail yard was abandoned. The automobile brought an end to passenger service and the station and water tower demolished. Laskey's hotel became a private residence and burned down in 1994.
The public can now enjoy recreational activities in the waterfront park and enhanced shoreline, which provides a stunning water’s-edge route to walk, cycle or skate through the area.
A unique and accessible urban escape, the sprawling park not only enhances the area and connects the local community to the lake, but also helps to establish Port Union as a recreational destination.
In place of the Grand Trunk Railway are GO trains stopping at Rouge Hill and although commercial shipping is gone, the water is alive with boaters, swimmers and wildlife. Waterfront trails and nature paths are ready to be explored while parks and natural beach areas serve the community.
To learn more about the Port Union-Rouge Park mural, donate to the project and follow its progress over the summer, visit www.muralroutes.ca/port-union-mural or add your name to the CCRA email list to stay informed (using the form located at the bottom of this page), and visit CCRA's Facebook page for more mural updates and add your comments.