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Prince Edward Island History

Jacques Cartier, acting on behalf of the French government, laid claim to the island in 1534 that the French would come to call Isle St. Jean. This was the first recorded European visit to Prince Edward Island. The first European name of the island was Isle St. Jean (1534 - 1763), then the British renamed it Island of St. John (1763 - 1798), and finally when British renamed it in 1798 to Prince Edward Island.

Isle St. Jean at first was used only as a base for French fishing fleets in the area. As the nations of Europe intensified their struggle to acquire shares of the New World, the Island took on increased importance. Its importance was further enhanced in 1713, after the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht, when Isle St. Jean was designated as a source of provisions for the new French fort at Louisbourg.

It was not until 1719 that Comte de Saint-Pierre established the Island's first permanent settlement at Port La Joie. Although Comte de Saint-Pierre's enterprise was not completely successful, many of the settlers he brought to Isle St. Jean remained. Over the years other settlement efforts were undertaken, including that of Jean-Pierre de Roma in 1730, and in 1755 the Island's population was thought to be approximately 3,000.

In 1758, with the fall of their fort at Louisbourg, the French domination of the area came to an end, and Isle St. Jean was occupied by British forces. At this time, Acadian settlers on the Island were deported and their settlements were destroyed. It was not until 1763, with the Peace of Paris, that the Island of St. John (Isle St. Jean), then a part of Nova Scotia, officially came under the British sphere of influence.

Early British Settlement

In 1764, Captain Samuel Holland was given the task of surveying British North America, in particular those areas which had recently been ceded by France. His first port of call was the Island of St. John, and he arrived on October 5, 1764. For the following two years, Holland, from his base at Rocky Point, near Charlottetown, explored and mapped the Island. He used canoes for transportation in the summer, and dog teams during the winter months.

As a result of Holland's efforts, the Island of St. John was divided into 67 townships of 20,000 acres each. Holland also defined three counties and suggested sites for the county seats: Georgetown, Charlottetown, and Princetown (now known as Malpeque).

After they received the results of Holland's survey, the British government undertook to distribute 66 of the townships (one was retained for use by the government) to worthy recipients, who the authorities hoped would settle and develop the Island. Since the number of applicants for these land grants exceeded the number of available townships, the government screened the applications and eliminated all by 66 of them. After this procedure was completed, the assignment of specific townships was done arbitrarily by lottery.

In return for their land grants, each grantee was obligated to meet certain conditions set by the Board of Trade and Plantations. Although numerous regulations were specified, there were two main ones. The first of these stipulated the payment of quit rents to the Crown at the rate of either two, four, or six shillings per 100 acres. The original grantees also agreed to settle their land inside of ten years with a least one European Protestant for each 200 acres. The failure of most of the proprietors to meet their obligations, with regard to quit rents and settlement, proved a great cause of turmoil throughout P.E.I.'s history. The problem was not finally solved until after the Island entered Confederation in 1873.

While most of the grantees did not make any concrete effort to establish permanent settlements in their townships, some were more conscientous. Included in this latter group were: Sir James Montgomery (Lord Advocate of Scotland), and Lieutenant Colonel Robert Stewart. In 1770, these two men arranged for 120 families, in two parties, to travel to the Island. This was to constitute the second significant immigration to P.E.I. from Europe.

The first group, sponsored by Montgomery, left Greenlok, Scotland in April, 1770, aboard the "Falmouth," and with little difficulty reached Montgomery's land holdings in the Stanhope - Covehead area. Later that same year Stewart's party set sail aboard the "Anabella" bound for Princetown where Lt. Colonel Stewart had his property. This second expedition was more eventful than the first. While attempting to enter Richmond Bay, the "Anabella" ran aground and was sunk. The settlers lost a large portion of their clothing and food. If it were not for the native Micmac population and the remaining French settlers (who had escaped the expulsion in 1758), these newcomers probably would not have survived the ensuing winter.

Most of these first settlers hailed from Argyllshire, Scotland, and were, with a few exceptions, adherents of the Presbyterian faith.


George Hardy was the first settler in the Cascumpec (Alberton) area of Prince Edward Island. He lived at what is now known as Port Hill, the sole European known to have been settled in the western part of the Island in 1769. By 1775, only one other settler, Donald Ramsay, had come to join him, and theirs were the only two houses within reach of the Elizabeth brig shipwrecked off the northern shore. The vessel had been conveying settlers and stores for Robert Clark's settlement at New London, and Hardy was of great help to the passengers in their attempts to recover the cargo some months after the disaster.

He was an overseer of roads in the 1780's. In August 1787, he and George Penman, who had been paymaster for the Island's first British garrison and had recently settled on the site now known as Old Port Hill Farm, purchased the schooner "Mary," built two years before. The partners sold her in 1788.