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By the late 1700s settlers began congregating around the western tip of Lake Ontario, drawn by the crystalline waters of a large sheltered harbour first discovered by the French explorer La Salle in 1669. By 1816 the Legislature of Upper Canada saw fit to form a government in the area (then known locally as Head-of-the-Lake) called the District of Gore. As with any District it required law and order, so a court house and gaol was erected and formed the basis of a new town to be named Hamilton after George Hamilton, a local politician.
During the 1800s the harbour served as a launch pad for settlers looking to head west but, as is the case with most port cities, many chose simply to stay where they landed and thus the population of Hamilton grew steadily through the century. By the 1890s Hamilton Harbour served a new purpose: industry. As a port situated between the vast iron ore deposits of Northern Ontario and a plentiful coal supply south of the border, Hamilton was an obvious location for the production of steel on a very large scale. Chimneys replaced ship masts and massive mills sprawled out into the harbour, gradually reducing its size by almost half.
Though steel was and still is the lifeblood of the city, there is more to Hamilton than just metallic alloys. In the 1910s Hamilton incorporated “The Mountain,” a community atop the scenic Niagara Escarpment just south of the city. Originally rural and rich in open space, Hamilton Mountain has always been distinct from the “Lower City.” In 1930 McMaster, one of Canada’s larger Universities, relocated to West Hamilton from Toronto. In 1963 Hamilton also became home to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. In 1974 Hamilton merged with surrounding Wentworth County to form a Regional Municipality, and in 2001 Wentworth (including Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Glanbrook, and Stoney Creek) was fully amalgamated with Hamilton, making it Canada’s 10th largest city.