Prince Edward Island DescriptionPrince Edward Island History
Prince Edward Island (PEI) is often referred to as "the birthplace of Canada" as the capital city, Charlottetown, is where the idea of creating the nation was born.
PEI history traces back 10,000 years, when ancestors of the Mi'kmaq people were believed to have arrived. These natives foraged and hunted in the area, which was connected to the mainland. Approximately 5,000 years passed before the sea levels rose, removing the land bridge and transforming the region into an island.
Upon settling on the land, the Mi'kmaq named it Epekwitk, which translates to "resting on the waves."European arrivals eventually changed its prounounciation to Abegweit.
Although Europeans did not settle permanently on the island until the 18th century, Jacques Cartier became the first European to discover the area in 1534. It was not until 1720 that the first French settlement, Port La Joie, was established on what Cartier described as "the most beautiful stretch of land imaginable."
The colony at Port La Joie was followed by the fishing port of St. Peters, which represented the main settlement over the next 20 years. During these early times, the island's population ranged from about 300 to 450 people.
In 1755, the population skyrocketed to 5,000 after the British expelled the Acadian settlers from Nova Scotia, leaving many to relocate on PEI Three years later, the British seized the Fort at Louisbourg and drove out the French settlers.
The island officially became British property in 1763, when only about 300 Acadians remained. The following year, British Captain Samuel Holland arrived to conduct a survey of PEI, and ultimately divided its land into 67 parcels.
Since Holland distributed these parcels mainly to absentee landlords, many problems arose as the population boomed and available land diminished. Land-ownership issues, like landlords refusing to sell their lands and tenants not paying inflated rental rates, plagued the island.
Although these problems persisted for years, change occurred in 1769 when the island was officially established as a British colony with its own government, separate from Nova Scotia, which previously possessed control. With this colonial status came the creation of Charlottetown as the island's capital.
Over the years, new settlers continued to arrive, and the first British census taken in 1798 reported a population of 4,372 people. In 1799, the island was given its current name of Prince Edward Island, in honor of England's Prince Edward.
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This page was last modified on September 29, 2015.