By Robert Allan Rankin – Author of “Down at the Shore; A History of Summerside, Prince Edward Island (1752-1945)” published by the PEI Heritage Foundation, 1980
The birth and development of Summerside, Prince Edward Island, “Green’s Shore, the Swamp,” is a fascinating story of nineteenth century mercantilism and the influence of water and rail transportation. As a community caught up in the excitement of two great speculative industries, shipbuilding and fox farming, and as the trading centre of a prosperous agricultural district, Summerside’s history from earliest settlement to civic organization and identity is expectably fertile.
Lot 17, the Township in which Summerside is situated, was owned in 1800 by an Englishman, Colonel Harry Compton. The Comptons took up residence on his land in 1804 and a village evolved. St. Eleanors was to hold the status of Shiretown for Prince County from 1834 to 1876.
The American Rebellion indirectly resulted in the inhabiting of the lands around Bedeque Bay by non-Acadians. When in 1784-86, grants of land were made to disbanded troops and loyalist refugees who had remained true to the King throughout the struggle for independence, several families from the American colonies settled in Lots 17, 25 and 26. The nucleus of the loyalists was at “Bedeque.” By 1830, Bedeque was the most densely populated agricultural district in the county and a rising place of exportation.
Among the Loyalists who came to Prince County were the families of Daniel Green, Benjamin Darby, George Linkletter, John Small and others. They took up land in Lot 17. The Green’s 500-acre tract, stretching northward from the bay, acquired the name of “Green’s Shore.” As more people moved into the isthmus area and purchased or rented lands, Green’s Shore haphazardly took on the configuration of a village, even though in 1800 it was hardly that, merely a handful of buildings shrouded by primeval forest. The cultivation of an acre or two of oats, the extracting of shellfish from the bay and the hunting of wild geese and brant in the woods, was an all absorbing life-style, which left the pioneer subsistence farmer with little time for anything else. Enterprise, by necessity, was aimed at survival rather than economic gain.
About 1840, lots of land in the township began to sell. The new arrivals included some of Summerside’s founders – Thomas Hunt, Samuel Green, the Gourlies and McEwens. Also in 1840, Queen’s Wharf was constructed and a road opened up from the shore to St. Eleanors.