The Legend of Captain Michael Grass: The Logic of Elimination and Loyalist Mythmaking in Upper Canada, 1783-1869

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Date
2021-08-25
Authors
Esford, Avery
Keyword
Loyalist , Michael , Grass , Captain , Legend , Mythmaking , 1784 , Kingston , Cataraqui , Mississauga
Abstract
This essay explores the “Legend of Captain Michael Grass”, the origin story for the community of Kingston, Ontario, which christened Michael Grass as being the founder of the settlement in 1784 after leading Companies of Associated Loyalists from New York City to Cataraqui. The aim of this study is to denaturalise the mythologized “founding” of the community by testing the legend’s three main claims that; first, the Kingston region was barren and uninhabited prior to the arrival of the Loyalists; second, that the idea to settle at Cataraqui originated with Grass; and third, that Grass was the foremost leader in the settlement. In order to accomplish this, I conduct a comparative analysis between the representation of Grass in the legend and how the historical figure is preserved in the archival evidence. The results suggest that Michael Grass played a far more limited role in the Loyalist migration to Cataraqui in 1784 while the British colonial authorities arranged for nearly all aspects of the settlement project. Thus, the Legend of Michael Grass is a settler society fiction which justified the dispossession of the local Indigenous Mississauga and accounted for the sudden presence of settlers on the north shore of Lake Ontario.
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