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Prince Edward Island, Canada

PRANCE EDWARD ISLAND, formerly called ST. JOHNS ISLAND, a Province of the Dominion of Canada, situated in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, between 46 and 47 7 N. lat., and 62 and 64 27: W. Ion. It is washed by the Gulf on the N. and separated by Northumberland Strait from New Brunswick on the E. and Nova Scotia on the S. Greatest length 130 miles; breadth, 34 miles in its narrowest part, near the centre, it is only 4 miles wide. Area, 2,134 miles, or 1,363,760 acres. The coast line presents a remarkable succession of large bays and projecting headlands. Of the latter the most prominent are North Cape en the N.W., West Cape on the S.W., and East Cape on the N.E.; the largest hays are those of Richmond on the N.W , Egmont on the S.W., Hillsborough on the S , and Cardigan on the E. These bays, by penetrating into the land from opposite directions, form narrow isthmuses which make a natural division of the Island into three distinct peninsulas. This natural division has been adopted as the basis of a nearly corresponding civil division into Prince's county in the W., Queen's county in the centre, and King's county in the E.

The surface of Prince Edward Island undulates gently, nowhere rising so high as to become mountainous or sinking so low as to form a monotonous fiat. At one time the whole Island was covered with a dense forest of beech, birch, maple, poplar, spruce, fir, hemlock, larch and cedar; and though destructive fires, lumbering and cultivation have made large gaps in it, a considerable part of the original forest still remains. The whole Island is eminently agricultural and pastoral. The soil consists generally of a light reddish loam, sometimes approaching, to a strong clay, but more frequently of a light and sandy texture. The prevailing rock is a reddish sandstone, but a large part of the surface is alluvial and entirely free from stone. No minerals of the least consequence have yet been discovered, and even limestone nod gypsum appear to be wanting. The climate is much milder than that of the adjoining continent, and the air, generally free from the fogs which spread along the shores of Nova Scotia, is remarkably salubrious. The winter is long and cold; but the summer, without being oppressively hot, 13 eminently fitted to promote the growth and maturity of all the ordinary cereals. The principal crops are wheat, barley and oats, all of these abundant and of excellent quality; pease and beans are equally good, and potatoes and turnips are nowhere surpassed. The laud not cultivable consists of soft, spongy turf, or a deep layer of wet, black mould, which may prove valuable for fuel. The fisheries are very valuable, especially on the north coast, which is much frequented by mackerel and cod. The manufactures are chiefly far domestic use. Shipbuilding is prosecuted with considerable enterprise. The public affairs of Prince. Edward Island are administered by a Lieutenant Governor, an Executive Council of 9 members, a Legislative Council of 13 members, and a Legislative Assembly of 30 representatives. Justice is administered according to the laws of England.

The total population of the Island in 1871 was 94,021, an increase of 13,160 since 1861, and of 89,921 since it first became a British possession (1758.)

The following table shows the counties, with the capital of each:

Counties Capital
Queens Charlottetown
Kings Georgetown
Prince Summerside

These counties are divided into 67 townships and three royalties. The inhabitants consist of descendants of Scotish, Irish, Acadian, French, English, and other settlers.

The free school system was introduced in 1853. There are about 373 district schools, 13 grammar schools, various private schools, a normal and model school, and two colleges, Prince o of Wales (Protestant), and St. Dunstan's (Roman Catholic.) It is the law of the Island that the Bible be read in the public schools.
The Lord Bishop of Nova Scotia exercises Episcopal authority over the Island. The Roman Catholics have one Diocese, Charlottetown.

The religious denominations in the province, according to the census of 1871, are as follows:

Church of England 7,220
Church of Rome 40,705
Presbyterians 29,570
Wesleyan Methodists 8,361
Baptists 4,371
Bible Christians 2,709
Other Protestants 1,003
Quakers 8



Prince Edward Island has telegraphic communication with the continent of America and Europe by means of a sub-marine cable, 11 miles in length, connecting the Island with New Brunswick.

In 1872 the building of a railway to connect Charlottetown with the principal places on the Island was commenced. This railway will be all completed in 1874, and will be 200 miles in length: Trunk line, from Cascumpeque to Georgetown, 147 miles; Western extension, from Cascumpeque to Tignish, 13 miles; Eastern branch, from Must Stewart to Souris, 40 miles. The gauge is 3 ft. 6 in.; minimum radius of curves, 600 ft.; maximum gradient, 1 in 80; estimated cost of road and equipment, $16.000 per mile. That portion of the line between Charlottetown. and Summerside is cornplated. The following is the rolling stock. 14 locomotives, 14 first-class passenger cars, 9 second-class passenger and baggage cars (combine),  5 postal cars, 125 box freight cars, 43 platform cars, and 4 snow ploughs. The Prince Edward Island railway will traverse nearly the whole length of the Island from Tignish on the north to Georgetown and Souris on the cast, connecting also with Summerside (Bedeque harbor) and Charlottetown on the south. Summerside is about 3 hours run by steamer from Point du Chen, the northern terminus of the New Brunswick railways. Charlottetown is about 60 miles or 5 hours run by steamer from Pictou, the northern terminus of the Nova Scotia railways. Tignish and Cascumpeque are depots of the Gulf fisheries. Georgetown and Souris harbors are open in the fall generally for two or three weeks after the other ports are closed by ice. The construction of this railway will enable shippers in all parts of the Island to take advantage of this important addition to the open season. Should an attempt be made at any time to keep up winter steam communication between the Island and the mainland, Souris on the former and Gape George on the latter (Nova Scotia) will probably be found the most available points for the purpose.

During the season of navigation, there is tri-weekly communication with Pictou, Nova Scotia, and Shediac, New Brunswick, in addition to which there are steamers connecting with Quebec and the Gull' Ports to the north and Halifax and Boston to the south. What is known as the Baie Verte Canal, now projected, will greatly facilitate communication with the Bay of Fundy and the New England ports. Navigation generally closes about the middle of December, and is resumed about the end of April or beginning of May. During this time 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. The passage is not at all times safe, and it is believed that powerful steamers might keep the navigation open nearly all, if not all, the year round.

Charlottetown, the capital, is situated at the confluence of the York and Hillsborough rivers and contains nearly 10,000 inhabitants; Georgetown and Summerside are the other chief towns, the latter, however, from its situation monopolizes the business of the district, owing to its better harbor.

This Island was amongst the early discoveries of Cabot, but no claim was ever made by the English on that account. The French afterwards assumed it, as part of the discoveries of Verazino; and, in 1663, a grant was made of it to Sieur Doublet, a French naval officer. Little progress was made in settling the Island till after the peace of Utrecht in 1715, when its fertility and natural advantages allured great numbers of Acadians from Cape Breton. It was taken by the British in 1755, restored by the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, retaken and finally ceded to Great Britain in 1758. It was then placed under the government of Nova Scotia. In 1768 it was erected into a separate government, though at the time it did not possess five resident proprietors, nor did its total number of inhabitants exceed 150 families. In 1773 the first House of Assembly met, and the constitution of the colony was definitely settled under the administration of Governor Patterson, which lasted from 1768 to 1789. In 1799 the name of the Island was changed from St. John to Prince Edward, in compliment to the Duke of Kent, who in that year honored the Island with a visit. In 1873 it was admitted into the Dominion of Canada, on the following terms:

In consideration of the large expenditure of Canada in railways and canals, and the prospective readjustment of the public debt of the Dominion, the Island is allowed a debt equal to $50 per head of its population, amounting in the aggregate to $4,701,050. The Island not having actually incurred at present a debt equal to this amount is to receive 5 per cent. per annum on the difference between the first mentioned amount and its actual indebtedness. As the Island has no revenue from public lands, it is to receive $45,000 for the maintenance of public works, less 5 per cent. per annum upon any sum not exceeding $300,000, which the Dominion may advance to the Island Government for the purchase of lands held by the large proprietors. In consideration of its right to levy taxation, now transferred to the Dominion, the Island is to receive $30,000 per annum and a grant equal to 80 cents per head of its population as shown by the census returns of 1871. The Dominion undertakes to establish regular steam communication between the Island and the mainland of the Dominion at all seasons of the year, to establish telegraphic communication with the Island, and to purchase the railways in the Island in course of construction and tinder contract. The Island is entitled to be represented by six members in the Dominion House of Commons and four in the Dominion Senate.

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND, an island of Ontario, on the W. side of Lake Ontario, separated from the mainland by the Bay of Quinte; length 36 miles, breadth very irregular and varies to 20 miles.

Lovell's Gazetteer of British North America, Edited by P.A. Crossby, 1873


Lovell's Gazetteer of British North America

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