Prescott, Ontario

Prescott, Ontario is a small town on the north shore of the Saint Lawrence River in the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, Canada. In 2016, the town had a population of 3,965. The Ogdensburg–Prescott International Bridge, 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) east of Prescott at Johnstown, connects the town with Ogdensburg, New York. The town is about an hour from both Ottawa and Kingston.

Town of Prescott
Prescott 045.jpg
Prescott is located in United Counties of Leeds and Grenville
Prescott is located in Southern Ontario
Prescott is located in Canada
Coordinates: 44°43′N 75°31′W / 44.717°N 75.517°W / 44.717; -75.517Coordinates: 44°43′N 75°31′W / 44.717°N 75.517°W / 44.717; -75.517
CountyLeeds and Grenville
 • MayorBrett Todd
 • Federal ridingLeeds—Grenville
 • Prov. ridingLeeds—Grenville
 • Land3.11 km2 (1.20 sq mi)
 • Total3,965
 • Density1,273.5/km2 (3,298/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
Postal code
Area code(s)613

The town was founded in the early 19th century by Edward Jessup, a Loyalist soldier during the American Revolution, who named the village after a former Governor-in-Chief, Robert Prescott. Before 1834, the town was a part of Augusta township; however, in that year the town became a police village and severed its ties with Augusta.[2] The land here was ideal for settlement during the 18th and 19th centuries as it was situated between Montreal and Kingston along the St. Lawrence River at the head of the rapids.


French periodEdit

1760 French map depicting Fort de Levis near Prescott, Ontario

Before the arrival of Europeans to the Grenville County area, it was inhabited by the St. Lawrence Iroquois. The French began occupation of the area in the late 17th century, starting with a supply depot and fortified outpost named La Galette en route to Fort Frontenac (Kingston),[3] which was built in the 1670s.[4] Some sources place La Galette at Prescott,[5] while others place it at neighbouring Johnstown.[4] Fort de La Présentation was later built in 1749 on the other side of the river, at Lighthouse Point near present-day Ogdensburg, New York. This was soon abandoned in favour of Fort Lévis, which was located on Isle Royale (Chimney Island) in the centre of the river.

The area became a battleground during the 1754−1763 French and Indian War between Britain and France, as both parties wanted to control what was a strategic stretch of the Saint Lawrence River. This led to the 1760 Battle of the Thousand Islands, when a 10,000-strong British–Iroquois force besieged the French at Fort Lévis. Despite a spirited defense by the 300-strong French garrison, the British took the fort after an extensive artillery bombardment. Afterward, the British occupied the fort, renaming it Fort William Augustus,[6] though they soon abandoned it in favour of the older Fort de La Présentation, which they renamed Fort Oswegatchie.[6] The ruins of Fort Lévis, and the island the fort stood on, were later submerged during the creation of the Saint Lawrence Seaway.

Arrival of the LoyalistsEdit

British settlement in the area began with a group of United Empire Loyalists led by Edward Jessup. During the American Revolutionary War, Jessup fought with the King's Royal Regiment of New York and later led his own Loyal Rangers, which served in a defensive capacity along the Saint Lawrence. After the war, members of the regiment were resettled in what would later become Eastern Ontario. Jessup, his son, and their followers settled in Augusta and Edwardsburgh townships. Johnstown in Edwardsburgh Township was an initial landing place and was the town site to be settled, in 1789.[4] In 1792, it was briefly the administrative seat for the Eastern District before a more permanent administration was established at New Johnstown (now Cornwall); later, it was the seat of the eponymous Johnstown District before again losing its position, this time to Elizabethtown (Brockville).[7] In 1796, provisions of the Jay Treaty led to a British evacuation from Fort Oswegatchie, as the land had legally become a part of the United States. Within months, this area was soon occupied by American settlers, who named it Ogdensburgh (later Ogdensburg) after Samuel Ogden, a prominent landowner and speculator.

Fort WellingtonEdit

In 1810, Jessup and his son laid out a townsite within Augusta Township[8] near Johnstown, which they named Prescott in honour of General Robert Prescott, who had been governor-in-chief in The Canadas and had participated in British campaigns in the area, being the aide-de-camp tasked with delivering the news of the fall of Fort Lévis fifty years earlier.[9] Jessup began to take the first steps toward building a concentrated settlement by constructing a log schoolhouse along with a teacher's residence, which was built from stone.[8] With the outbreak of the War of 1812, American troops began using Ogdensburg and Fort Oswegatchie as a base to raid settlements in Upper Canada. Soon, the two Jessup home plots were expropriated by the British Army for use as a barracks.[8] The army also later constructed a purpose-built fort, which was named Fort Wellington. The fort served its intended purpose of impeding American use of the Saint Lawrence for military purposes, and was never directly attacked. Following the end of the war, the fort was soon abandoned and began to deteriorate.

A woodcut depicting the Battle of the Windmill

During the Upper Canada Rebellion, Fort Wellington was repaired and reactivated. It became the main supply base for government forces in the region, which made it a tempting military target. In 1838, a group of Hunter Patriots attempted to land at Prescott, hoping to use Fort Wellington as a beachhead for an invasion of Upper Canada. They were repelled by the town militia and fled downriver, then landed at the small hamlet of Newport, which afforded them a strong defensive position dominated by a large stone windmill. The Battle of the Windmill ensued, leading to the defeat of the Hunter Patriot group.[10]

Transport industryEdit

Prescott's harbour developed considerably in the early 19th century, supporting the growing Great Lakes shipping industry. It became notable for its freight forwarding businesses, as local forwarders shuttled Great Lakes freight between Prescott and Montreal. This was commemorated at the Forwarders' Museum, which was housed in a building originally constructed in the 1820s by local forwarder William Gilkinson.[11][12]

By the mid-19th century, however, the forwarding industry began to decline. Navigability of the Saint Lawrence had improved, allowing more Great Lakes ships to reach Montreal directly.[13]: 293  Soon, Upper Canada experienced a railway boom, which provided competition for the maritime shipping industry.[14]: 18  The Bytown and Prescott Railway began operating in 1854, connecting Prescott to Bytown (now Ottawa).[15]: 7  This was followed by the construction of the Grand Trunk Railway mainline between Toronto and Montreal, which connected to the Bytown and Prescott Railway at Prescott Junction.[16] With parallel railway development occurring across the river in Ogdensburg, railway car ferry services began between the two towns,[14]: 18  which later evolved into the Canadian Pacific Car and Passenger Transfer Company.[14]: 93  Freight traffic declined abruptly during the Great Depression, though a recovery took place after the outbreak of the Second World War. Traffic volumes slowly declined again after the war, and ferry service ended entirely in the early 1970s.[14]: 97 

Project JerichoEdit

Project Jericho, which was one of the largest and most highly publicized sexual abuse investigations in Canada, took place in the 1980s–1990s and focused on a case of multi-generational child sexual abuse in Prescott which was "staggering in its reach and its routine violation of hundreds of victims."[17] When the investigation concluded, the total victim count was 275 (including 113 adults who disclosed that they were abused as children), and the total perpetrator count was 119.[18] The case was sensationalized as an example of Satanic ritual abuse, though it was never linked to a satanic cult, but rather, "a group of adults of limited intelligence who lived on the margins of society."[18] Many of both the perpetrators and the victims were developmentally handicapped.[18] By 1994, of the cases which went to trial, the conviction rate was 91%.[18] However, the Prescott case bears many similarities to other instances of "Satanic Panic" that happened in the 1980s and 1990s.[19]

St Lawrence Shakespeare FestivalEdit

The St Lawrence Shakespeare Festival (SLSF) runs annually in Prescott, Ontario in July and August, attracting thousands of audience members each season. SLSF contracts professional actors through Canadian Actors Equity Association, is a member of PACT (the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres), and a member of the Shakespeare Theatre Association.[20] The offerings of the Festival are based on two mainstage shows that run from mid-July to mid-August (often, but not always, both plays by Shakespeare) as well as additional productions that are presented in shorter runs of fewer performances.[21]


Prescott contains two cemeteries, Prescott Cemetery (known as Sandy Hill) and St. Mark's Roman Catholic Cemetery. Prescott Cemetery is located along Edward Street across from South Grenville District High School and is one of the oldest burying grounds in the area.[22] The land for this cemetery was given to the town in 1830, in Edward Jessup III's will, which stated the area then known as Sand Hill was to become a “burial ground for the different churches in the town of Prescott.”.[22] Prior to becoming the town's cemetery, the area was already used as a burial ground for the Jessup family. The earliest-known burial was that of Susannah Jessup's father who died in 1798.[22] Edward Jessup I, the original recipient of the land here was also buried in the cemetery early, in 1816. Along the south side of the front of the cemetery are many unmarked graves of pioneers who died of cholera.[22] In 1929, the cemetery was expanded and the entrance gates added. In 1967, the stone steps leading up the hill to the Jessup family graves were placed.[22] This cemetery is still in use today.

The Roman Catholics of Prescott were originally buried in Prescott cemetery, which had a reserved area specifically for Roman Catholic burials. In the mid-1800s, the population of Roman Catholics felt as though they needed their own cemetery, and land was purchased from a local for $1 by a local reverend to become a new cemetery in 1859 with additional land purchased in 1875.[22] This cemetery is located north of the 401 on the west side of County Road 18 and is known as St. Mark's Cemetery. The older, back section of the cemetery was blessed in 1860, and the newer part in 1935.[22] The earliest legible tombstone in the cemetery dates to before the land was purchased, and belongs to a Thomas Allen who died in 1845.[22] This cemetery is also currently still in use.


Currently, Prescott contains six churches, all of which are still in operation. The town contains a Presbyterian, Anglican, Roman Catholic, United, Pentecostal and an Evangelist church. The Pentecostal church, called Seaway Christian Church is located on Churchill road and the Evangelist church, called Harvest Church, is located on Edward street; services are currently held in these churches regularly.[23][24]

King Street, Prescott

St. Andrew's Presbyterian church is located on the corner of Centre and Dibble street in Prescott. The first St. Andrew's Presbyterian, located on the same site as the current church, was constructed in 1821 and dedicated in 1822. The first church was a frame structure built on land donated by Susannah Jessup. This church was replaced in 1850 by a stone church which burned in 1892. The present building replaced it in 1893. Prior to this church, the Presbyterian congregation met in the schoolhouse at the corner of West and King street. St. Andrew's is still in use today.[25]

View of the original St. Paul's Church Prescott in 1890

St. John's Anglican church in Prescott is located at the corner of James and Centre street. The first church to be erected on this site as St. John's was a frame building, erected in 1821 on land donated by Susannah Jessup. The present, gothic-style church was erected in 1860 to replace the frame building. This building is still in use as a church, with parts of it currently being renovated into apartments.[25]

The Roman Catholic church, known as St. Mark's Roman Catholic Church was built in the 1830s on land purchased from the Jessup family. Prior to its construction, a Roman Catholic priest served the area out of homes or community buildings. The present church stands on the same location as the original St. Mark's on Dibble street.[25]

Currently, St. Paul's United Church is located on George street; however, the former site of the St. Paul's United Church was on Dibble street, near St. Mark's church. Between the years 1854 and 1856, the Wesleyan Methodist congregation in Prescott planned, financed and erected their own church. This church became known as St. Paul's United church. On July 28, 1979, the church was burned beyond repair, and demolished.[26] Sometime after the fire, a new St. Paul's United Church was built to serve the congregation; this school is still used today.


Historical populations

In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Prescott had a population of 4,078 living in 1,889 of its 1,993 total private dwellings, a change of -3.4% from its 2016 population of 4,222. With a land area of 4.94 km2 (1.91 sq mi), it had a population density of 825.5/km2 (2,138.1/sq mi) in 2021.[28]

Canada census – Prescott, Ontario community profile
Population3,965 (-1.1% from 2011)4,284 (+2.5% from 2006)
Land area3.11 km2 (1.20 sq mi)4.95 km2 (1.91 sq mi)
Population density1,273.5/km2 (3,298/sq mi)865.3/km2 (2,241/sq mi)
Median age50.9 (M: 49.2, F: 52.5)
Total private dwellings1,9982,063
Median household income$46,393
References: 2016[29] 2011[30] earlier[31][32]

Mother tongue:[31]

  • English as first language: 91%
  • French as first language: 4%
  • English and French as first language: 0%
  • Other as first language: 5%
Prescott waterfront and marina

Notable peopleEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Prescott census profile". 2016 Census of Population. Statistics Canada. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
  2. ^ Goldie A. Connell (1985) Augusta: Royal Township Number Seven. St. Lawrence Printing Co. ltd. p. 262
  3. ^ "About the Township". Township of Edwardsburgh-Cardinal. Archived from the original on February 24, 2018. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c "Grenville County History". Grenville County Historical Society. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  5. ^ O'Callaghan, Edmund Bailey, ed. (1853). Documents relative to the colonial history of the state of New York. Vol. 9. Albany, New York: Weed, Parsons and Company. p. 195.
  6. ^ a b "Fort History". Fort de la Presentation. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  7. ^ "Johnstown 1789". Ontario Heritage Trust. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  8. ^ a b c "Prescott Barracks". Canadian Register of Historic Places. Parks Canada. Retrieved March 28, 2021.
  9. ^ Bowler, R. Arthur (1983). "JESSUP, EDWARD". In Halpenny, Francess G (ed.). Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. V (1801–1820) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
  10. ^ "History of the Windmill". Parks Canada. August 16, 2020. Retrieved March 28, 2021.
  11. ^ "Forwarding Trade at Prescott, The". Ontario Heritage Trust. Retrieved March 29, 2021.
  12. ^ Lowrie, Wayne (March 6, 2019). "Forwarder's Museum may be history". Brockville Recorder & Times. Retrieved March 29, 2021.
  13. ^ Corley, Nora (1967). "The St. Lawrence Ship Channel, 1805–1865" (PDF). Cahiers de géographie du Québec. Department of Geography, Université Laval. 11 (23): 277–306. ISSN 0007-9766.
  14. ^ a b c d Ashdown, Dana (1988). Railway Steamships of Ontario, 1850–1950. Erin, Ontario: Boston Mills Press. ISBN 0-919783-80-5.
  15. ^ Churcher, Colin J. (February 2005). Roberts, Earl W. (ed.). "The First Railway in Ottawa" (PDF). Branchline. Vol. 44, no. 2. Bytown Railway Society. pp. 6–9. ISSN 0824-233X.
  16. ^ Churcher, Colin J. (June 2003). Roberts, Earl W. (ed.). "Break of Gauge at Prescott Junction" (PDF). Branchline. Vol. 42, no. 6. Bytown Railway Society. p. 16. ISSN 0824-233X.
  17. ^ Steed, Judy (1994). "Prescott: Breaking the Cycle". Our Little Secret. Random House. pp. 107–130. ISBN 0394223187.
  18. ^ a b c d "The Prescott Case: Key Dates and Events". Care for Kids – Jericho. Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit. Archived from the original on February 3, 2017. Retrieved October 5, 2012.
  19. ^ "Ritual Abuse Cases in Prescott, Ontario, Canada". Retrieved December 24, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. ^ "St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival Opens for the 2016 Season". Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  21. ^ "The Festival". Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h Goldie A. Connell (1985) Augusta: Royal Township Number Seven. St. Lawrence Printing Co. ltd. p. 211-213
  23. ^ "Seaway Christian Church".
  24. ^ "Harvest Church Prescott Ontario".
  25. ^ a b c McKenzie, R. (n.d.). Leeds and Grenville: Their First 200 Years. McClelland and Stewart.
  26. ^ McGaughey, E. (1980). A Firm Foundation: A History of St. Paul's United Church. Kingston: Brown and Martin.
  27. ^ Statistics Canada: 1996, 2001, 2006 census
  28. ^ "Population and dwelling counts: Canada, provinces and territories, census divisions and census subdivisions (municipalities), Ontario". Statistics Canada. February 9, 2022. Retrieved March 30, 2022.
  29. ^ "2016 Community Profiles". 2016 Canadian Census. Statistics Canada. August 12, 2021. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  30. ^ "2011 Community Profiles". 2011 Canadian Census. Statistics Canada. March 21, 2019. Retrieved February 15, 2012.
  31. ^ a b "2006 Community Profiles". 2006 Canadian Census. Statistics Canada. August 20, 2019.
  32. ^ "2001 Community Profiles". 2001 Canadian Census. Statistics Canada. July 18, 2021.

External linksEdit