The original battalion of the Queen's Rangers, composed of Loyalist volunteers and commanded by Colonel Rogers, was established in 1776 during the American Revolution. The following year, Colonel John Graves Simcoe reorganized the regiment. The Queen's Rangers were on active service until the end of the American Revolution in 1783 and forged a reputation as a formidable fighting force. At the end of the war, the regiment disbanded.
The British government officially established the colony of Upper Canada in 1791. John Graves Simcoe was the first lieutenant-governor. He saw a need for some means of defence for the colony but also realized that it would be totally lacking in infrastructure like government buildings and roads. Upon his appointment, he insisted on the formation of a unique military force for the security of the colony. As soldiers, the members of the force would be able to defend the colony, but they would also be used to build roads, buildings, and other government infrastructure. As a result of Simcoe's submissions, a regiment was created. Named the Queen's Rangers in commemoration of its Revolutionary War predecessor, the regiment was raised in England in December 1791 and posted to Upper Canada. Once there, additional soldiers were recruited, largely from the population of Loyalist settlers.
The Queen's Rangers played a major role in improving the defences of Upper Canada. Since transport in the colony was totally dependent upon waterways, Simcoe gave the Queen's Rangers the task of constructing roads to link the settlements in Upper Canada. Yonge Street in Toronto (then York) is a prominent example of their efforts. They built Yonge Street and extended it north all the way from York Harbour to Lake Simcoe. They also built many other roads as well as fortifications at Fort York.
Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe regarded the United States as the main threat to Upper Canada. In the mid-1790s, border disputes occurred on the southwest frontier area (Niagara and Detroit rivers) and the Rangers became permanently deployed building fortifications and manning the frontier posts. Simcoe was chagrined: he still had ambitious plans for the young colony, and his Rangers were the key to achieving them. However, Simcoe was reassigned to St. Domingo in the West Indies. The Queen's Rangers languished on the border garrisons until being disbanded in 1802, and they never saw active service in the War of 1812.