Erie was first settled by the French, who built Fort Presque Isle in 1753, as part of their effort to garrison New France against the encroaching English. Presque Isle means "almost an island" in French. The fort was surrendered to the British, along with the rest of New France, at the end of the Seven Years' War in 1763.
The City of Erie was part of the Erie Triangle that was claimed by the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut (as part of its Western Reserve), and Massachusetts. It officially became part of Pennsylvania in 1792, after all four states renounced their claims and the federal government sold the area to Pennsylvania. The city was founded in 1795.
During the War of 1812, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry built his fleet that successfully fought the British in the historic Battle of Lake Erie.