1902 Encyclopedia > Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND, formerly called Isle St See Jean, a province of Canada, in British North America, plate lies between 45° 58' and 47° 7' N. lat. and 62° and 64°"" 27'W. long., on the south side of the Gulf of St Lawrence. It is separated from Nova Scotia on the south and from New Brunswick on the south and west by Northumberland Strait, which varies from 9 to 30 miles in width* Its greatest length is nearly 130 miles, its general breadth 34 miles, and the area 2133 square miles (1,365,120 acres).

Physical Features.—Prince Edward Island resembles a crescent in its northern outline, the two horns being North and East Capes, and it is altogether irregular in form. Its surface is slightly rolling, the elevations of land, however, rising nowhere higher than 500 feet. The coast-line' is indented with numerous bays and projecting headlands, the more prominent of the latter being North Cape on the north-west, West Cape on the west, East Cape on the east, Cape Bear on the south-east; others are Stewart, Bell, Prim, Gallas, Black, Amherst, and Fifteen on the south, Kildare, Aylesbury, Turner, Cablehead, and Campbell on the north, Durell and Bruce on the east, and Seal Point on the west. The principal bays are Richmond on the north, Egmont on the south-west, Hillsborough on the south, and Cardigan o*n the east. These inlets, piercing the land from opposite directions, form narrow isthmuses which divide the island into three distinct peninsulas. Other bays are St Peter's, Grenville, Harrington, and Tignish on the north; Colville, Rollo, Fortune, and Bough-ton on the east; Orwell and Pownal on the south. Along the coasts there are several small islands, viz., Grover, Fish, Burnbury, Lennox, Bobinson's, Boughton, Panmore, Wood, Governor, St Peter's, and Brae. The chief rivers are North, Elliott or West, Hillsborough or East, Ellis or Grand, Percival, Trout, Boughton, Murray, Dunk, and Morrell. The Grand river is the seat of a large and in-creasing oyster and codfish trade. The Dunk is a fine salmon and trout stream. The principal harbours are Charlottetown, Georgetown, Bedeque, Port Hill, Cascum-peque, Souris, Murray, Savage, Bedford, and Westmore-land. The island is well watered, and by the disintegration of the soft red sandstones a bright red loamy soil of great fertility is produced. To this the province owes its re-markable productiveness as an agricultural district, and the gently undulating surface, the rich fields, and pretty homesteads embowered in trees give variety and beauty to the landscape.

Geology.—The oldest geological formations in Prince Edward Island are represented by beds of brown, grey, and red sandstone and shale, with layers of coarse concre-tionary limestone and fossil plants. These are of newer Carboniferous (or in part of Lower Permian) age, and have been named by Sir William Dawson the Permo-carbonifer-ous series. They appear in the peninsula between Orwell Bay and Pownal Bay, in Governor's Island, in Hillsborough Bay, and on the coast between West and North Capes, as well as in other localities on the south and west. But the prevalent rocks are bright red sandstones with calcareous cement, alternating with beds of red and mottled clay, and with occasional white bands and layers of concretionary jmestones and conglomerate, which in mineral character resemble the Trias or New Bed Sandstone of Nova Scotia. The formation may be divided into two sections: " the lower, representing," says Dawson, "the Bunter Sandstein of Europe, is characterized by the prevalence of hard concretionary calcareous sandstones and obscure fossil plants, while the upper (representing, perhaps, the Keuper of Europe) has softer and more regularly bedded sandstones and clays." Owing to the similarity of the Permo-carboni-ferous and Triassic beds, and the general covering of soil, it is not possible definitely to mark the limits of the two formations. Drift deposits, viz., boulder clay, stratified sand and gravel containing in some places sea-shells of species now living and occasional boulders (this deposit comparatively rare), and loose boulders, overlie the surface of the more solid rocks in the greater part of the island. Beds of peat, dunes of drifted sand, alluvial clays, and mussel mud (valuable as a fertilizer) occur in creeks and bays. The portions of country occupied by the Upper Carboniferous series are generally flat, and this applies, observe Drs Dawson and Harrington, to a portion of the Triassic region north of Bedeque, where the beds seem to have been subjected to severe aqueous denudation. The minerals are unimportant, neither coal, gypsum, nor gold being found in any part of the island.

Climate and Vegetation.—The climate of Prince Edward Island is much milder than that of the adjacent provinces, and, though the winter is severe and cold, the air is in-, vigorating and salubrious. The coldest month is January, when the thermometer registers a daily average of 15°'9. Fogs seldom occur. In the summer the heat is less extreme than in Quebec, the mean being 62°'3, and the pleasant autumn months attract visitors from all parts of the American continent. Vegetation develops rapidly, and agriculture is extensively prosecuted. Wheat, barley, oats, pease and beans, potatoes, turnips, and other crops ripen to perfection.

The amount of land under crop in 1881 was 467,211 acres, and in pasture 126,935 acres. The chief pro-duce raised in that year was 546,986 bushels of wheat, 119,368 of barley, 3,538,219 of oats, 90,458 of buckwheat, 8,042,191 of potatoes, 1,198,407 of turnips, 42,572 of other roots, 143,791 tons of hay, and 15,247 tons of grass and clover seed. Of live stock there were 31,335 horses, 45,895 milch cows, 44,743 other horned cattle, 166,496 sheep, and 40,181 swine. 1,688,690 K> of butter, 196,273 of cheese, 14,945 of honey, and 25,098 of maple sugar were made during the year. Prince Edward Island does not grow much fruit, but the apple crop is usually good, though not large, and grapes, plums, and currants are grown in small quantities. The land which is not cul-tivable consists of soft spongy turf which may be used for fuel.

Commerce.—The forests of the island used to be very extensive, hut lumbering operations, destructive fires, and the needs of the husbandmen have reduqed them, though many trees still remain, the principal being beech, birch, pine, maple, poplar, spruce, fir, hem-lock, larch, cedar, &c. The exports in 1883 were valued as follows :— produce of the forest, $28,385 ; agricultural produce, $377,614; animals and their produce, $238,952 ; manufactures, $183,986, the total being $1,318,549 ; that of the imports (manufactured goods, iron, hardware, wines, spirits, tobacco, tea, coffee, sugar, molasses, &c.) was $682,170.

Industries.—Shipbuilding in. former years was a very active industry. It is still carried on, but to a considerably smaller extent,—the number of vessels built in 1883 having been only seventeen, with a tonnage of 5343. On the 31st of December 1883 the vessels registered in the province and remaining on the registry books of the several ports amounted to 241, with a tonnage of 40,400. In that year there were engaged in the coasting trade (including steamers) 1162 vessels, representing a tonnage of 113,117. The manufactures are chiefly for domestic use, and include the making of woollen cloth, saws and files, saddles and harness, sashes, doors, and blinds ; there are also saw-mills, starch factories, tan-neries, tin and sheet-iron works, tobacco-pipe factories, &c. In 1881 the amount of capital invested in industries was $2,085,776, giving employment to 5767 hands, and the value of the products was $3,400,208.

Fisheries.—The fisheries are exceedingly valuable, particularly those on the north coast, the catch being chiefly mackerel, haddock, cod, hake, and herrings, though other kinds are taken. Of late years increased impetus has been given to this industry, and many men and boats are employed in conducting it. Enormous quan-tities of lobsters and oysters are annually shipped to all parts of the American continent as well as elsewhere. The value of the fisheries in 1883 was nearly half a million dollars.

Game, &c.—Wild ducks, teal, brant, wild geese, woodcocks, partridges, pigeons, and snipe occur in great abundance. Birds number 260 species. Of wild animals the principal are bears (found occasionally only), lynxes, foxes, musk-rats, hares, squirrels, &c. In the summer and autumn seals in large numbers frequent the shores.

Communication.—Good waggon roads are to be found wherever there is a settlement. The Prince Edward Island Railway, 200 miles long, runs from one end of the island to the other, and branches off to every town or point of importance. The main line extends from Souris and Georgetown on the east to Tignish on the north-western extremity, connecting with Summerside and Charlottetown, the capital. During the season of navigation regular communication is had by steamer with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Boston. Navigation usually closes about the middle of December and opens before the first of May. In winter the mails and passengers are conveyed across the strait in ice-boats, which ply between Cape Traverse in Prince Edward Island and Cape Tormentine in New Brunswick. A steamer runs between Georgetown and Pictou, Nova Scotia, nearly the whole season. There is a post-office to every 400 of the inhabitants. Tele-graphic communication is maintained with America and Europe by means of a submarine cable about 10 miles in length, connecting the island with New Brunswick. Telegraph offices are established throughout the province and along the line of railway.

Population.—The province is divided into three counties, viz., King's, Queen's, and Prince, which are subdivided into sixty-seven townships and three royalties. The population is of mixed origin, a large proportion being emigrants from Great Britain, and the remainder natives of the country, descendants of the French Aca-dians, Scottish, English, and Irish settlers, and the loyalists who went to the island after the American revolution. The Indians number 281. In 1881 the population was 108,891 (54,729 males and 54,162 females). The Roman Catholic diocese is situated at Charlottetown, and authority over the spiritual affairs of the Episcopalians is exercised by the bishop of Nova Scotia. The following table shows the chief religious denominations and the number of their adherents:—
Church of Rome 47,115
Church of England 7,192
Presbyterians 33,835
Baptists 6,236
Methodists 13,485

The chief towns are Charlottetown (11,485), the capital of the island and the county town of Queen's, Summerside (2853), capital of Prince county, and Georgetown (1118), capital of King's county. Princetown is a nourishing seaport on Richmond Bay, and Rustico, famous for its bathing facilities, is a place of popular summer resort. Tignish and Alberton are stations much frequented by fishermen, and Souris, 60 miles east of Charlottetown, well furnished with harbour accommodation, is the outlet for the exports of the greater part of King's county. Other rising villages are Mount Stewart, Kensington, Montague, Breadalbane, and Crapaud.

Administration, Finance, &c.—The affairs of the province are administered by a lieutenant-governor and an executive council consisting of nine members, three with portfolios and six without, assisted by a legislative council of thirteen members and a legisla-tive assembly of thirty members, both elective. The lieutenant-governor is appointed by the governor-general of Canada in council. A system of responsible government has existed in the island since 1851. Prince Edward Island returns six members to the Canadian House of Commons, and four senators are appointed to the Canadian Senate by the crown. All males owning a freehold or leasehold property to the value of $400, or partly freehold and partly lease-hold amounting together to $400, and in possession of the same for at least twelve months previous to election, have the right to vote for a member of the Legislative Council. The franchise for the House of Assembly'is practically residential manhood suffrage.

In 1882 the public revenue was $233,464 and the expenditure $257,228. The chief source of revenue is the yearly subsidy granted by the Dominion Government under the terms of the British North America Act. In 1883 it amounted to $164,674. The remainder of the receipts is derived from the sale of Government lands, licences, and miscellaneous fees. The provincial legislature meets at Char-lottetowh, where the public offices are situated. The judiciary con-sists of a supreme court with one chief and two assistant judges ; a court of chancery, of which the lieutenant-governor is ex officio chancellor, and the judicial powers of which are exercised by a master of the rolls and vice-chancellor; a court of marriage and divorce, of which the lieutenant-governor and members of the executive council are judges; a court of vice-admiralty with one judge and two deputies; a court of probate and wills with one judge; three county courts with one judge for each ; and stipendiary magis-trates and justices of the peace. The province has authority to make its own civil laws, but in all criminal cases the form employed in the courts is the criminal law of the Dominion. Prince Edward Island is the twelfth military district in the militia of Canada. The established strength of the active force, by arms, is composed of three batteries of garrison artillery, one company of engineers, and ten companies of infantry,—total, 54 officers and 608 non-commis-sioned officers and men. The period of service in time of peace is three years.

Education.—The free-school system has obtained in the island since 1852. Previous to that date the schools were mainly supported by voluntary subscription and such local assistance as could be obtained. In 1877 the Public Schools Act—an ample and liberal measure—was passed, and a department of education was instituted. Two years later ladies were admitted to Prince of Wales College, an institution established in 1860, and amalgamated in 1879 with the normal school, and since then the department has introduced many improvements into the system. The total number of teachers in 1883 was 473, of school districts 419, and of schools 424. The number of pupils enrolled was 21,495, and the average daily attend-ance was 11,759. The total expenditure for education was, by the provincial Government $101,193, by the school districts $35,624, total $136,817. The Bible is read in all public schools. Besides the institutions named there are St Dunstan's College (exceedingly well conducted, and Roman Catholic in religion), a model school, thirteen high schools, and several private schools and academies. The local government maintains a hospital for the care of the in-sane, and the marine hospital is under the control of the Dominion authorities.

History.—Sebastian Cabot is said to have discovered this island in 1497, but the authority on which this statement rests is at least doubtful. Certain it is that Jacques Cartier had the credit of naming it Isle St Jean when he discovered it on 24th June 1534 during one of his voyages up the St Lawrence. That name clung to it for 265 years. Champlain, early in the next century, took possession of it for France, and in 1663 a grant was made of it to Captain Doublet, an officer in the army, who, however, failing to make settlements in the colony, soon afterwards lost his grant. Little attention was paid to the island until after the peace of Utrecht, when the French, allured by its fertility, made efforts to colonize it. In 1719 it was granted, en seigneurie, to the count of St Pierre, who tried to establish fisheries and a trading company. He lavished considerable means on his enterprise, but the scheme proved unsuccessful and his grant was revoked. In 1755 the island was captured by the British, but after the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle it was restored to France, from which it was again wrested in 1758. It was afterwards placed under the administration of Nova Scotia, and some years later it was erected into a separate government. The first parliament was called together in 1773, and a constitution was given to the colony. In November 1798 the legislature passed an Act changing the name of the province to Prince Edward Island, out of compliment to the duke of Kent, who was at that time com-mander of the forces in British North America. In February 1799 the Act was confirmed by the king in council.

After the peace of 1763 a plan was agreed to by which the island was divided into townships of about 20,000 acres each. Grants of these lands were made to individuals supposed to have claims on the Government. They were to pay a small sum as quit rents, and the conditions imposed provided for the establishment of churches and wharves, and bona fide settlement. The grantees, however, were in most cases mere speculators, who had no mind to brave the trials of colonization in a new country. Many promptly dis-posed of their "lots," and the lands fell into the hands of a large number of non-residents. The land question remained a vexed point of contention until 1860, when the Government was compelled to appoint a commission to appraise the rights of the absentee owners, and to formulate a scheme of adjustment. The commission advised the Government tb buy the lands and resell them to the tenantry. A Bill for that purpose was passed, but the imperial authorities dis-allowed it. A second attempt proved more successful, and a measure, having the same object in view, was agreed to. The agitation was silenced, and the tenants eagerly availed themselves of their privi-leges. At the close of 18S2, out of the 843,981 acres of land acquired by the Government, only 142,011 acres remained to be disposed of. Of that amount about 75,000 acres represented land held by parties who had not yet purchased.

Prince Edward Island declined to accept the Act of Confederation in 1867, but in July 1873 it entered the union of American colonies which constitute the Dominion of CANADA (q.v.). (G. ST.)

The above article was written by: George Stewart, Jun.

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