St. John's Island becomes Prince Edward Island


At the end of the Eighteenth century, St. John’s Island received a name change. It was being confused with St. John’s Newfoundland and Saint John in New Brunswick which had been founded by Loyalist refugees from the United States in 1785. Walter Patterson, the colonial governor had suggested “New Ireland” as an appropriate name in 1780, but this was vetoed by the British government.

Ashby Map

Ashby Map – 1798

In late November 1798, during the term of Governor Edmund Fanning, approval was granted to change the name to Prince Edward Island, in honour of the Duke of Kent who was the commander-in-chief of British forces in North America and was living in Halifax. He would later be the father of Queen Victoria. The official name change did not happen until 1799, but was anticipated in a map created in 1798 by H.A. Ashby.

This map is significant not only because it is the first to feature the name “Prince Edward Island”, it is also noteworthy because we begin to see evidence of the emerging settlement patterns in the Island.

In Prince County, the Loyalist settlements at Bedeque Village and Tryon Village are noted. A settlement at Lewis Town south of today’s Alberton is also labelled. This was named for Edward Lewis, the proprietor of Lot 5. In Queens County, the road to Great Rustico is shown which would become a focal point of a renewed Acadian population composed of those who had escaped the deportation. Stanhope, a settlement sponsored by Sir James Montgomery, the Lord Advocate of Scotland in 1770, is shown on the north shore. Near Tracadie in 1772, the Glenaladale settlers would arrive. Across the Hillsborough River from Charlottetown is Mermaid Farm named for the ship HMS Mermaid whose captain, James Smith, would give Belfast Village its name around 1770. Belfast would later become the home of the Selkirk Settlers who arrived as part of an early wave of Highland Clearance migration in 1803. Another Loyalist community at Cherry Valley near Pownal Bay is also indicated, having been established by Joseph Beers in 1785.

In Kings County, Stukely Town is still shown prominently, Five Houses is noted on the road to Bay Fortune. This was the place where Holland had discovered a “ruined village of five houses” during his survey. St. Andrew’s Farm is noted across the bay from Georgetown. This would later also become known as Wightman’s Point. Most of these settlements are located along the coast of the Island where access to water transportation was possible. This was a nautical world and it was important to identify all of the coves and inlets along the coast. Much of the interior remains unsettled. There are few roads evident. Major ones go from the capital to Prince Town or George Town. Bay Fortune and Murray River are also connected by single roads. The western end of the Island appears largely unsettled.

Another important feature of this map was the inclusion of the location of mills. These were essential for settlers to convert their corn or grain crops into flour and providing them was part of the responsibility of the proprietors to their tenants. The noting of so many mills indicates the growing agricultural production in the colony and was part of the incentive to lure new arrivals.