In 1787, Edward Jessup came to settle here on the 1,200-acre land granted to him by King George of England. Major Jessup decided to have a portion of this grant surveyed as a town site in the year of 1810. He named the new settlement "Prescott" in honour of General Robert Prescott who had been governor of Canada between 1796-1799. The founding father, Major Jessup, died in 1816.
Prescott was a strategic military site for the protection of the Canadian border against the American and French invasions. Therefore, Fort Wellington was built between 1813 and1814 to defend the St. Lawrence River and the town.
The first town limits extended from East to West Streets with Water Street, along the river's shore, recognized as the main street. King Street became the main street a few years later. Many of the streets bear the names of members of the Jessup family. The town of Prescott was incorporated in 1834.
Located at the head of the rapids, Prescott quickly became a busy bustling, transfer port for commercial cargo, thus the Forwarding Trade was born. Also travelers and settlers would arrive by stagecoach or horse from Montreal and board a schooner bound for the West or stayed to build stately homes and establish successful businesses. From a population of one family and command of soldiers, the town grew to 3,000 by 1887. In addition to the Fort, Barracks and Military Hospital, there were also 23 Hotels, 24 Taverns a Distillery, 2 Breweries, 2 Foundries, 2 Tanneries, 2 Potters, a Bank, a Sawmill, a Quarry, a Brick Factory, a Shipyard, a Grain Elevator, and a Farmers' Market Building. Smaller establishments and services included: a Bowling Alley, a Theatre, several Newspapers, a Telegraph Office, Bakeries, General Merchants, Doctors' Offices, a Dentist, a Library, a College, 2 Schools, 4 Churches, many Docks and Wharves with large storage buildings, and a Ferry Service to Ogdensburg, New York. The town administration buildings were a Town Hall, a Land Registry, and a Customs House. In 1854, the Bytown (Ottawa)-Prescott Railway line was completed, running north to south, and traveling east to west, the Canadian National Railroad, known as the Grand Trunk, and its depot came to town.
The history of this prosperous town and its people, who were courageous, adventurous and industrious, can still be found by walking through the streets of Prescott and viewing the wonderful buildings still in existence. Be transported back in time by reading the stories behind each one by visiting our walking tour.