PEI Settlement History

P.E.I. (Ile Saint-Jean) was a French overseas possession, as a result of the first documented discovery by explorer Jacques Cartier in 1534. The point of land he viewed was a cliff east of St. Margarets, at Campbell's Cove. His first landfall was near Alberton in Prince County. The colony welcomed its first inhabitants who were French fishermen, survivors of a shipwreck at Naufrage. There was a cemetery established on the west side of the bridge at that time. In 1758, during the War of Austrian Succession, Ile Saint-Jean was invaded by the British, and the French inhabitants for the most part, were deported.

P.E.I. was turned over to the British.  In 1765, Capt. Samuel Holland arrived with a work party and conducted an extensive survey.  He divided the Island into three counties, 15 parishes and 67 lots.

 The lots averaged 20,000 acres apiece. These lots were auctioned off to friends and supporters of the King, with the agreement that the individuals were to recruit settlers of British descent to develop and populate the Island. J. M. Bumstead wrote an article for the Island Magazine, entitled "Captain John MacDonald and the Island", which illustrates the era well. Another reference is the James P. Lawson article for the Island Magazine, regarding the immigrant ship Alexander, entitled "Passengers on the Alexander".

The geographic illustration of parishes did not suit the needs of the era. The sea, the shore-line waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, was the first highway. Therefore the first "boundaries" served by this cemetery, probably stretched from the Cable Head area to the Bayfield area - Lots 41, 42, 43, 44 and 45. In 1798 a rudimentary census was conducted naming the heads of household. The names from listed in Lot 41Lot 42 and from John McPhee to Allan McDonald in Lot 43 would apply to the St. Margaret's parish. Unfortunately, records are not available for Lots 44 and 45.

North Side

The initial area settled was the northside of the Lots, probably no more than a mile of two from the Gulf. The first Scottish settlers may have used the French cemetery at Naufrage, but the area is small and it would appear that there was probably little usage of this area. This, now known as the St. Margaret of Scotland Pioneer Cemetery, was probably established well before 1792. There are no records to offer why this particular piece of land was selected.

In Campbell's Cove, the Scottish Catholic settlers of the East Point area developed a similar area, almost an identical distance from the shoreline, about the same time period. They did not use the French ground in the Elmira area. In 1804 they abandoned the ground in Campbell's Cove, and established a parish entitled St. Columba and a cemetery in present day Fairfield.

St. Peter's, St. Charles and other Parishes

With the establishment of the St. Peter's Parish in St. Peter's Bay in 1830, the parish boundaries were reduced significantly to the west. The parishioners of the community of Goose River were for a period of time divided, with most of the residents worshiping in St. Peter's but several families continued to look towards St. Margaret's. This boundary eventually moved eastward to the present day dividing line between Goose River and Monticello. The life and times of several of the parishoners may be found in the Island Magazine article entitled, "Tales From A Ledger, Scots On The North Side 1812-1843",  prepared by the late Dorothy M. Morris. As settlement increased in the area, land ran out along the shore. New roads and eventually farms were developed, leading into present day Selkirk, St. Charles, Bear River North, New Zealand and the Souris Line Road, as far as Harmony Junction.

A group of settlers of French Acadian origin settled in the interior area which they named St. Charles. Due to connections, they looked to St. Alexis parish in Rollo Bay, rather than the much closer St. Margaret's parish. Once established, the St. Charles parish, grew rapidly but took few from the St. Margaret's or St. Peter's congregations. Sometime in the late 1870's, the community of Rock Barra turned their spiritual sights towards St. Columba parish in Fairfield. The parish was again reduced when the people from Harmony Junction on the Souris Line Road travelled south to St. Mary's in Souris. In 1890 a parish census was conducted, which may be found on the Island Register.

The names of many area residents, at rest in this cemetery, are not recorded. Given the geographic boundaries, this cemetery definitively has very early roots in the British era of Prince Edward Island. Conditions for the pioneer settlers were very harsh. Babies were born, marriages were conducted and individuals died for a variety of reasons at all ages. There could be upwards to 1,200 individuals interred here, from as far west as the present day Cable Head.

Source:  Waldron Leard