History of Summerside
Summerside has a rich history built by the entrepreneurial and working class spirit of its people who have drawn on the resources of land and sea.
The city is situated on Bedeque Bay on the south side of Prince Edward Island. The early Mi’kmaq, who summer-camped and fished in the area, named it Eptek, meaning “hot place” in reference to the warmer waters of the south side in comparison to those on the north side of the Island.
040.007 Aerial View of Summerside Waterfont c1930 MHCA
The 1763 Treaty of Paris saw the French give up their lands in North America to the English. In 1765, Captain Samuel Holland began his survey of eastern North America on the Island. He divided it into sixty-seven townships (lots) of approximately 20,000 acres each. The area that would one day become known as Summerside fell within Lot 17. The first British settler in the area was United Empire Loyalist, Daniel Green. The area became known as Green’s Shore.
The first Europeans in the area were Acadians (French) families, who rendered the word Eptek as Bedeque. They settled along the shorelines and inlets of Bedeque and Malpeque Bays, fishing and farming wheat and peas, and harvesting marsh hay. Their individual fates are not entirely known in the Acadian deportation of 1758.
By the early 1850s, the natural harbour of Green’s Shore gave rise to a thriving wooden ship building industry. Ships could easily be launched in the bay that flowed directly into the Northumberland Strait leading to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean. Farmland gave way to a shipbuilding village that grew to be a town incorporated in 1877.
Surrounded by farming communities and fishing villages, Summerside became the main service centre for Prince County. The harbour became a gateway to exporting the harvest of land and sea. Summerside’s survival and prosperity over the decades has depended on embracing new ways and industries.
Summerside was designated a city in 1995. Its people are primarily drawn from Acadian (35 %), Scottish, Irish, English, and Loyalist stock. It is becoming more diverse in the 21st century.
The name Summerside came about when Joseph Green, a son of Daniel Green, named his inn, Summerside Inn, following a conversation with Major Compton of the north shore. The story goes that Mayor Compton travelled to Green’s Shore on a cold March day, and commented to Joseph Green that he lived on the summer side of the Island.