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Visiting Gros-Cap, in Prince Township, Named for an Erstwhile Crown Gangster With Blood on His Hands: In Scenic Ontario

Updated on April 16, 2019
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Gros Cap, Prince Township, Ontario, Canada
Gros Cap, Prince Township, Ontario, Canada | Source

With scenic and natural riches; named for a notorious killer

At a rocky, forested location near where Lake Superior narrows into St Mary's River, the named community of Gros-Cap lies within the Township of Prince. Here, the rocky Canadian Shield outcrops close to the shoreline of Lake Superior.

Gros-Cap, together with other names such as Sault-Ste-Marie and Goulais, testify the historic influence of Francophone people in the area, although today the region is overwhelmingly English-speaking.

Visitors frequently come to Gros-Cap by vehicle because there is a much used turning point at the western end of Highway 550, close to which there is a scenic look-out point over Lake Superior.

Also not far from Gros-Cap is Shore Ridges Conservation Area (1). Features include various trails, including Indian Ridge, Beaver, Dear and Grouse Trails. Fauna seen in the Conservation area include squirrel, chipmunk, deer, and even Canadian lynx and black bear. The Provincially significant — and protected — trillium is present, as are tree species such as aspen, cedar, pine and maple, of among some of which there is more than one variety.

The Township of Prince, within Algoma Discrict, is named for John Prince (1796-1870). A highly controversial figure, he was born in England but lived for much of his life in what was successively Upper Canada, Canada West and then Ontario, Canada. A lawyer by profession, and heavily involved also in the development of railroads, he served in the militia during the Upper Canada Rebellion, and participated in the Battles of Fighting Island and Pelee Island, and in the capture of the Patriot schooner 'Anne', and by the end of the conflict had been appointed Colonel of the 3rd Essex militia.

On December 4, 1838, Colonel John Prince achieved notoriety, when as commander of the Sandwich militia post he ordered the execution of 5 prisoners from among Patriot force which had captured Windsor, soon retaken by Crown forces (2).

This disreputable action on the part of John Prince might have been thought to have necessarily led to severe punishment on the part of the British military or civil authorities.

In fact, it did not.

While Lieutenant Governor Sir George Arthur (1784-1854)(3) professed to be shocked at John Prince's actions in executing in cold blood 5 prisoners without trial, investigative measures seemed to peter out in the face of the public reaction to the killings.

John Prince's actions amounted to the behaviour of a gangster.

Far from becoming the cause of notoriety, however, John Prince's killing of 5 prisoners in cold blood made him a highly popular figure. He continued to serve in the Upper Canada House of Assembly and in the militia; indeed he was successful in parliamentary re-elections in 1841, 1844, 1847 and 1851.

In 1844 he was appointed Queen's Counsel, and in 1860 was appointed judge in Algoma District — hence the connection with the District.

(And so it goes...)

April 8, 2019


(1) See also:

(2) See also:

(3) Sir George Arthur served as Superintendent of British Honduras (1814-22), Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land (1824-1836), Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada (1838-1839) and Governor of Bombay (1842-1846).

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

Canadian Shield rock outcrop near Gros-Cap, Prince Township
Canadian Shield rock outcrop near Gros-Cap, Prince Township | Source

Also worth seeing

In Sault-Ste-Marie, Ontario (distance: 16.7 kilometres), sights include the the Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site, Sault-Ste-Marie National Historic Site, and many others; in the wider area are various Provincial Parks with spectacular scenery.

In Sault-Ste-Marie, Michigan (distance: 21.4 kilometres), the River of History Museum is at 531 Ashmun Street; there is a number of notable examples of church architecture; the Chippewa County Courthouse is a striking, domed building; the Soo Locks, which enable shipping to pass between Lakes Superior and Huron, are a US National Historic Landmark.


How to get there: Air Canada and Porter Airlines fly from Toronto, with wide North American connections, to Sault Ste. Marie Airport (distance from Prince Township: 9.3 kilometres), where car rental is available. SkyWest/ Delta Connection flies from Chippewa County International Airport (distance from Prince Township, Ontario, Canada: 50 kilometres) , near Sault-Ste-Marie, Michigan, to Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan Airport, with wide North American connections; car rental is available from Chippewa County International Airport. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Given the proximity of the US-Canada border, international travellers should refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

Algoma District, Ontario
Algoma District, Ontario | Source

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