People have been living in this general area for centuries. Archaeological evidence confirms that native peoples had hunting camps and small villages along the Credit and Humber river valleys from about 8000 B.C.E.
European settlers began arriving in Ontario by the early 1780s. But, even into the early 1800s, Brampton was still wilderness, largely untouched by settlement. To prepare for the eventual influx, lands in Chinguacousy and Toronto Gore Townships were surveyed in 1818. Surveyors described the region as low, swampy and covered with dense hardwood forest. Slowly land was cleared, cabins built and fields were ploughed for farming.
The historical heart of modern Brampton has always been the intersection of Queen and Main Streets, later known as the "four corners". This urban focal point has existed since the 1820s. Only a handful of people lived in the community at this time.
Another defining feature of the new settlement was Etobicoke Creek. The creek played its part in Brampton's development but because it was slow-moving and meandering, it could never sustain large-scale milling operations. The Brampton settlement grew more slowly as a result.
In the early 1820s, John Elliott settled in the village. He and another settler named William Lawson were staunch members of the Primitive Methodist movement and they established a strong Methodist presence in the area. Both were from Brampton, Cumberland, England. In 1834, they named the settlement Brampton in honour of their English home. Elliott also had village lots surveyed for sale to help attract other settlers. John Scott established the first industrial venture with an ashery used to produce potash.
By 1846 the village had two stores, a tavern, tannery, cabinetmaker, two blacksmiths and two tailors and the population had reached 150 people.
In 1853, Brampton was officially incorporated as a village. The population had grown to more than 500 people. Several churches were built, along with a grammar school, distilleries, several stores and John Haggert's agricultural implements factory. The local economy was growing and the village supported the surrounding farms and rural hamlets.
The Grand Trunk Railway constructed a rail line and a station in Brampton in 1856. In the mid-Victorian era, the arrival of a railway line usually triggered an economic boom and Brampton was no different. By the 1860s the village was growing fast. In 1867, Brampton was selected as the Peel County seat. The County Courthouse, Jail and other public buildings were constructed. Kenneth Chisholm built Alderlea, a massive estate in the heart of the Village. Large homes were built near the Courthouse. Extensive land holdings surrounding the four corners were subdivided to build houses for the many new arrivals. Brampton was incorporated as a town in 1873 and John Haggert was elected the first Mayor.