General Information about P.E.I.

Shipbuilding on Prince Edward Island

From the late 1700's until about 1870, P.E.I was one of the most productive shipbuilding areas in the world. In the early years, ships were required to carry lumber to Britain. These ships were often built here on the Island, loaded with timber and sailed to Britain. Some vessels were then sold in the British Isles, while others were used to ferry immigrants to the Maritimes. As the Island's agricultural output grew with the clearing of forests, so did the need for coastal trading vessels. These vessels would sail Maritime waters carrying oats and potatoes to Halifax, Newfoundland, and the Eastern United States. In addition to this Newfoundlanders wanted vessels for 'sealing' and 'fishing'. These smaller sailing vessels were quicker to build and provided ready cash for Island boat builders. Schooners were by far the chief type of vessel built on the Island. Although ocean going vessels like Brigs, Brigantine and a few ships were built. 267 Sailing vessels were built in the St.Peters area. 15 were hauled to the shore on the ice, due to the sand bar which restricted access to the bay itself for large vessels. This was done using 200 to 300 horses hauled on a 60 - 70 foot sled. The ships built on P.E.I were mostly Schooners, built for one or two purposes: 1.) Coastal Trade - these boats were the trucks of yester year. Picking up potatoes, timber, and fish, and taking them to Charlottetown to trade for other items. 2.) To haul Cattle and other goods to Newfoundland which had very little agriculture.

In the late 1800's steamships became more prevalent, their advantage being that they did not have to depend on wind directions or strength. The use of steamers overtook that of sailing ships. One such steamer was the HeatherBelle. Later, the steamers carried goods and passengers from Charlottetown to Mt .Stewart two days a week. The first steam powered ice-breaker was made with a wooden hull and was not that successful, often getting stuck in the ice. Later ships had a steel hull and were designed to knife through the ice. Where as modern ferries are designed to ride up on the ice and break it with their weight.

Transportation on P.E.I

The Morell / St.Peters area was one of the earliest areas involved in trade on the Island. Due partially to the fact that the area around St.Peters Harbor had shipyards, stores, and other commercial ventures. Among the first roads on the Island was one from St.Peters Bay to Dingwell's Mills. This was followed by a road from Mt.Stewart to Morell.


The first P.E.I roads were built in the late 1760's. In the 1800's road building was accomplished by using horse drawn road graders and plenty of pick and shovel work done by local men. In the 1920's the first Caterpillar tractors were used. Montague had its own stage live. Morell had a floating bridge which could be moved to allow schooner ships to go up the river in order to load lumber or potatoes from the riverbank. These schooners went up as far as Indian Bridge.


The first automobiles appeared in large numbers in about 1910. There was a red flag law that stated there had to be a man with a red flag in front of the car. Cars were not allowed on the roads on certain days, and certainly not on market days; when horses were present in large numbers. By 1917 you could drive a car anytime on the road.


Railway buildings began in 1870 and in 1873 the first train ran. Everyone used trains, and meeting the train at the station was a method of entertainment. They would gather at the station to see who was coming and going. When there was a picnic in Scotchfort, they sent a train from Charlottetown to Scotchfort to bring the relatives of people at the picnic and others who were friends. The trains used to get stuck in the snow and men were paid to get them out.

Written by Christopher Green (taken from notes in Island History Grade 12) 1998.

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