Prince Edward Island History & Geology
Jul 29, 2004
|The Island nestles in the Gulf of St Lawrence, separated from the mainland by the Northumberland Strait. It stretches 139 miles and is from 4 miles to 40 miles across. The coastline is broken up by a mass of bays and inlets, and its highest point is 492ft, is in Queen Country.
Prince Edward Island is very young in geological terms. Is sandstone was formed by sediment deposited about 250-300 million years ago. The oldest sediments were found in the Miminegash region and the striking redness of the soil is due to the high iron oxide content.
The most striking changes taking place are currently along the coast line where the erosive forces of wind and rain, waves and frost have created long beaches and sandbanks, and vulnerable sandstone can be worn away at the rate of several inches a year.
About 90% of the land is farmed. Potatoes are the main crop but some cereals and other vegetables are grown as well. There are sizeable orchards, but no real woodlands.
The Mainland Micmac Indians came to the Island about 2000 years ago and named the island ‘Abegweit’. As nomadic people they lived in small groups, fishing in summer and hunting on the mainland in winter.
France made claim to the island as early as 1523. Jacques Cartier sailed here in 1534. He was fascinated by the glorious beauty of the island. The French named it Ile St Jean, and the first French arrived in 1663. In 1719 the first influx of immigrants of any size settled in Port de la Joie, now Fort Amherst. Other settlements followed particularly French Acadians driven out of Nova Scotia by the British.
After the French fortress of Loiusbourg on Cape Breton, NS fell into British hands in 1758many of the local French settlers fled to Prince Edward Island, prompting the British to occupy the island and deport the Acadians because of their questionable loyalty to the British Crown. They were sent to British North America, or to England to be returned to France after the war. The few who remained on the island escaped deportation by fleeing into the woods.
Under British rule, St John’s Island (as the British called it was annexed to the colony of Nova Scotia in 1763. In 1764/5 General Samuel Holland divided the island into three administrative districts and 67 lots, each of 20,000 acres, and these were drawn for in London by wealthy Englishmen at a grand lottery for the district colony. This led to a century of struggle against absentee landlords and harsh rent collectors until finally in 1853 the Land Purchase Act enabled the island government to buy back most of the land. When Prince Edward Island joined the confederation in 1873, the rest of the land was acquired and sold. In 1769 the island won independence from Nova Scotia and became a British colony in its own right. In 1798 the legislative assembly named the island Prince Edward after the Duke of Kent who was later to become the father of Queen Victoria.
The Conference of Charlottetown was held in 1864 to discuss Canadian Confederation, but it was 1873 before the islanders reluctantly decided to join the Union, after the still relatively new federal government had promised to set up communications with the mainland and pick up the debt for the PEI railway.