The regeneration and dominance of northern red oak (Quercus rubra L.) has been associated with fire throughout eastern North America. Red oak in central Ontario grows near the northern edge of its distribution in mixed hardwood - coniferous forests under mesic conditions where it competes with more shade-tolerant species. We hypothesized that the abundance of red oak in these stands was largely the result of anthropogenic burning and natural fires, which would favor the regeneration and recruitment of northern red oak over such shade-tolerant species as sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh). Fire histories dating from the mid-1600s were constructed by dendrochronological methods from fire scars on stumps, trees, and natural remnants of red pine (Pinus resinosa Ait.), white pine (Pinus strobus L.), and red oak at six sites in south-central Ontario. Fire histories of the sites are characterized by abrupt changes in fire interval. As much or more variance in fire interval is found within sites as is found among sites. Differences in the mean fire interval among sites are related to the density and migration of historic aboriginal and European populations. The mean fire interval varied from more than 70 years to six years depending on site location and historic period. The occurrence and abundance of red oak is linked to anthropogenic fire regimes.