History & Heritage

In Prince Edward Island, history speaks French, and this language is intimately linked to our culture and intangible heritage. This history is set out below in the form of key dates and multiple births serving as a roadmap of the ambitions and struggles of our forbears. The Island’s history is remarkable and inspiring for both Acadia and our entire country. It was planted in the red soil with the arrival of the first colonists, with the ensuing centuries giving rise to many exceptional figures: pioneers, visionaries, enthusiastic members of a new society. These women and men have created and shaped economic, political, social and cultural movements that continue to influence life today. Our history is rich, and we are its proud heirs!

17201720

1720

Founding of the colony of Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island)

The colony of Île Saint-Jean was founded in 1720 by the first colonists arriving from France with the Compagnie de l’Île Saint-Jean. They settled mainly along Prince Edward Island’s north shore in the Havre-Saint-Pierre (today St. Peters Bay) area. Very few of these early French settlers stayed on the Island, and none of their descendants remain today.

That same year, two Acadian families from Nova Scotia settled on Île Saint-Jean. Michel Haché dit Gallant and Anne Cormier, who had been living at Beaubassin, near Amherst, N.S., came to Port-la-Joye. The other family, from Port-Toulouse (St. Peters) on Île Royale (Cape Breton, N.S.) was Pierre Martin and Anne Godin, who settled near the Mount Stewart marsh. Many descendants of both these pioneer families still live on the Island today.

17521752

1752

Île Saint-Jean had 2,223 French and Acadian inhabitants

Less than 30 years after the founding of the colony of Île Saint-Jean, the Acadian and French population was just 735. It grew over subsequent years with the arrival of more Acadian families seeking to escape the deportation from Nova Scotia. Based on census information, the Island’s population grew from 2,223 in 1752 to 4,250 by 1758.
17581758

1758

Deportation of inhabitants of Île Saint-Jean

After seizing the Fortress of Louisbourg from the French, the British deported to France a large number of French and Acadian settlers from Île Royale (Cape Breton, N.S.) and Île Saint-Jean. Between August 31 and November 4, 1758, some 3,000 of the Island’s 4,250 inhabitants were driven off the Island and banished to France. More than half of these deportees lost their lives during the Atlantic crossing through drowning or illness. Another 1,250 or more people escaped deportation, the majority of whom sought refuge elsewhere in North America.
18151815

1815

Opening of first Acadian school in PEI

Father Jean-Louis Beaubien opened the first Acadian school in Rustico in 1815. François Buote, the schoolmaster, became the very first Acadian teacher. This pioneer in teaching led classes for more than 40 years, first in his home village of Rustico and then, beginning in 1822, in Miscouche for another dozen years. In 1834, he finally moved to Tignish, where he continued teaching through his retirement in 1857. École François-Buote in Charlottetown, established in 1980, proudly bears his name.
18541854

1854

Stanislas Poirier, first Acadian member of the Legislative Assembly

In 1854, Stanislas-François Poirier (Perry), a justice of the peace, farmer and schoolmaster in Tignish, left teaching to enter politics. Over the next 43 years, he ran in 13 provincial and eight federal elections, all in the riding of Prince. He was the first Acadian in Prince Edward Island to be active on the provincial or federal political stages, and his career in politics lasted five decades.
18611861

1861

First cooperative project and first bank in Canada: the Farmers’ Bank of Rustico

The Farmers’ Bank of Rustico was founded in 1861 and incorporated in 1864 under the leadership of parish priest Georges-Antoine Belcourt. Seeing the difficulties faced by the farmers, he sought to foster in his parishioners a spirit of economy and enterprise to assist them in controlling a greater share of their economy. The Bank printed its own currency for 30 years until its charter expired in 1894. This institution played a leading role in the economic sector. Although the smallest chartered bank in Canada’s history, it was the precursor of the country’s first savings and credit unions.
18931893

1893

Founding of L’Impartial, the Island’s first French-language newspaper

Gilbert Buote, with support from his son François-Joseph (a teacher and printer), launched the Island’s first French-language newspaper, L’Impartial, in 1893. During its two decades in print, L’Impartial served as a voice for the Acadian nationalist discourse, publishing a great number of articles about the French language, education, religion, Acadian history, agriculture and colonization. It championed the Acadians’ interests and promoted the French language. 

“To advance the Acadian cause in social, intellectual and moral domains, such is the goal of L’Impartial. The interests of our people will form the object of our most active vigilance whenever there is a question of gaining recognition of our rights,” he wrote in the first issue.

Who was Gilbert Buote? Gilbert Buote was born in Miscouche, the son of François Buote, the Island’s first Acadian teacher. He taught for more than 40 years and advocated for the teaching of French. In 1893, he made his most important contribution to the Island’s Acadian community with the publication of L’Impartial, serving as editor of the newspaper until his death.

This teacher, writer, publisher and author by profession was also an amateur historian and genealogist and was the first Acadian on the Island to publish his research. He also wrote the first Acadian novel, Placide, l’homme mystérieux, under the pseudonym Paul. At the end of his life, he was working on a history of the Acadians of Prince Edward Island. 

L’Impartial went on without him, with some difficulty, until 1915 when, burdened with serious financial challenges exacerbated by the First World War, the newspaper ceased publication, leaving a huge void in the Island’s Acadian community that would not be filled again for another 60 years.
19171917

1917

Aubin-Edmond Arsenault becomes Premier of the Island

Aubin-Edmond Arsenault (1870–1968), born in Abram-Village, was the first Acadian to become the premier of a Canadian province. He ascended to the position in 1917 following the resignation of Premier John Mathieson. After two years as premier, he went on to serve as leader of the opposition. In 1921, he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of PEI, a role in which he remained for 25 years.
19191919

1919

Foundation of Société Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin

The Société Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin (SSTA) was established in 1919 at the annual conference of the Island’s Acadian teachers’ association. While its immediate objective was to raise funds toward the education of Acadian youth, its overall aim was to promote a thriving French and Acadian community. More than a century after its founding, the SSTA has expanded its reach and actions to become the leading voice of the Island’s Acadian and Francophone community.
19641964

1964

Acadian Museum of Prince Edward Island opens its doors

The Acadian Museum of Prince Edward Island is located in Miscouche. A log building, it was operated by Sister Antoinette DesRoches who, over a 14-year period, oversaw the acquisition of a major portion of the Museum’s current collection. The Fondation de l’Association du Musée Acadien was also established in 1964 with Dr. J.-Aubin Doiron as founding president and Sister DesRoches as secretary. The Acadian Museum is today one of the seven sites of the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation.
19751975

1975

Launch of La Voix acadienne

The inaugural issue of the newspaper La Voix acadienne hit the stands on June 27, 1975, or 60 years after L’Impartial ceased publication. This newspaper project was initiated under a summer employment initiative of the Société Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin (SSTA) through which four students published a total of five issues. The newspaper raised so much interest in the Acadian and Francophone community that by fall, the SSTA had decided to continue publication on a monthly basis. In June 1976, La Voix acadienne became a weekly newspaper.
19881988

1988

Island Francophones acquire right to manage own schools

In 1988, the Island’s government amended its School Act to grant Francophones and Acadians the right to operate their own schools. Two years later, it officially made the Commission scolaire de langue française (French Language School Board) responsible for administering and promoting French-language education across the province. This led to the opening of French-language schools in the West Prince, Summerside-Miscouche and Rustico regions. Following years of determined struggle among parents, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously in 2000 that under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Island parents had a right to primary instruction in French. In 2002, the school in Summerside finally opened its doors. In 2019, a total of 1,043 elementary and secondary students were attending six schools, and five Francophone early years centres (EYCs) were operating across the province.
19911991

1991

First Francophone school-community centre opens

The Carrefour de l’Île Saint-Jean was the Island’s first school-community centre. Inaugurated in 1991, it rallied the resources of Francophones and Acadians throughout the greater Charlottetown area with the goal of preserving their culture and language. Five more centres have since been added in the Evangeline, West Prince, Summerside, Rustico and Eastern Kings regions. Their presence has become essential to community development. All Islanders, Francophones and Anglophones alike, have acknowledged the vital role of school-community centres.
1720
Founding of the colony of Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island)
The colony of Île Saint-Jean was founded in 1720 by the first colonists arriving from France with the Compagnie de l’Île Saint-Jean. They settled mainly along Prince Edward Island’s north shore in the Havre-Saint-Pierre (today St. Peters Bay) area. Very few of these early French settlers stayed on the Island, and none of their descendants remain today.

That same year, two Acadian families from Nova Scotia settled on Île Saint-Jean. Michel Haché dit Gallant and Anne Cormier, who had been living at Beaubassin, near Amherst, N.S., came to Port-la-Joye. The other family, from Port-Toulouse (St. Peters) on Île Royale (Cape Breton, N.S.) was Pierre Martin and Anne Godin, who settled near the Mount Stewart marsh. Many descendants of both these pioneer families still live on the Island today.
1720
1752
Île Saint-Jean had 2,223 French and Acadian inhabitants
Less than 30 years after the founding of the colony of Île Saint-Jean, the Acadian and French population was just 735. It grew over subsequent years with the arrival of more Acadian families seeking to escape the deportation from Nova Scotia. Based on census information, the Island’s population grew from 2,223 in 1752 to 4,250 by 1758.
1752
1755-Deportation
1758
Deportation of inhabitants of Île Saint-Jean
After seizing the Fortress of Louisbourg from the French, the British deported to France a large number of French and Acadian settlers from Île Royale (Cape Breton, N.S.) and Île Saint-Jean. Between August 31 and November 4, 1758, some 3,000 of the Island’s 4,250 inhabitants were driven off the Island and banished to France. More than half of these deportees lost their lives during the Atlantic crossing through drowning or illness. Another 1,250 or more people escaped deportation, the majority of whom sought refuge elsewhere in North America.
1758
1815
Opening of first Acadian school in PEI
Father Jean-Louis Beaubien opened the first Acadian school in Rustico in 1815. François Buote, the schoolmaster, became the very first Acadian teacher. This pioneer in teaching led classes for more than 40 years, first in his home village of Rustico and then, beginning in 1822, in Miscouche for another dozen years. In 1834, he finally moved to Tignish, where he continued teaching through his retirement in 1857. École François-Buote in Charlottetown, established in 1980, proudly bears his name.
1815
1854
Stanislas Poirier, first Acadian member of the Legislative Assembly
In 1854, Stanislas-François Poirier (Perry), a justice of the peace, farmer and schoolmaster in Tignish, left teaching to enter politics. Over the next 43 years, he ran in 13 provincial and eight federal elections, all in the riding of Prince. He was the first Acadian in Prince Edward Island to be active on the provincial or federal political stages, and his career in politics lasted five decades.
1854
1861
Première expérience coopérative et première banque au Canada : la Banque des fermiers de Rustico.
The Farmers’ Bank of Rustico was founded in 1861 and incorporated in 1864 under the leadership of parish priest Georges-Antoine Belcourt. Seeing the difficulties faced by the farmers, he sought to foster in his parishioners a spirit of economy and enterprise to assist them in controlling a greater share of their economy. The Bank printed its own currency for 30 years until its charter expired in 1894. This institution played a leading role in the economic sector. Although the smallest chartered bank in Canada’s history, it was the precursor of the country’s first savings and credit unions.
1861
1893
Founding of L’Impartial, the Island’s first French-language newspaper
Gilbert Buote, with support from his son François-Joseph (a teacher and printer), launched the Island’s first French-language newspaper, L’Impartial, in 1893. During its two decades in print, L’Impartial served as a voice for the Acadian nationalist discourse, publishing a great number of articles about the French language, education, religion, Acadian history, agriculture and colonization. It championed the Acadians’ interests and promoted the French language.

Qui est Gilbert Buote ? Gilbert Buote est natif de Miscouche, fils de François Buote, premier instituteur Acadien de l’Île. Il fait la classe pendant plus de 40 ans et milite pour l’enseignement du français. En 1893, il fait sa plus importante contribution à la communauté acadienne de l’Île : Il publie le journal L’Impartial et en sera le rédacteur jusqu’à sa mort.

Cet instituteur, rédacteur, éditeur et auteur de profession est aussi historien amateur et généalogiste. Il est le premier Acadien de l’Île à publier le fruit de ses recherches. Il publie aussi le premier roman acadien intitulé Placide, l’homme mystérieux, sous le pseudonyme de Paul. À la fin de sa vie, il préparait l’histoire des Acadiens de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard.

Le journal L’Impartial lui survécut, non sans peine, jusqu’en 1915. Aux prises avec de sérieux problèmes financiers, aggravés par la Première Guerre mondiale, le journal cesse de paraître en laissant un grand vide au sein de la communauté acadienne de l’Île, vide qui ne sera comblé que 60 ans plus tard.
1893
1917
Aubin-Edmond Arsenault becomes Premier of the Island
Aubin-Edmond Arsenault (1870–1968), born in Abram-Village, was the first Acadian to become the premier of a Canadian province. He ascended to the position in 1917 following the resignation of Premier John Mathieson. After two years as premier, he went on to serve as leader of the opposition. In 1921, he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of PEI, a role in which he remained for 25 years.
1917
1919
Foundation of Société Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin
The Société Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin (SSTA) was established in 1919 at the annual conference of the Island’s Acadian teachers’ association. While its immediate objective was to raise funds toward the education of Acadian youth, its overall aim was to promote a thriving French and Acadian community. More than a century after its founding, the SSTA has expanded its reach and actions to become the leading voice of the Island’s Acadian and Francophone community.
1919
1964
Acadian Museum of Prince Edward Island opens its doors
The Acadian Museum of Prince Edward Island is located in Miscouche. A log building, it was operated by Sister Antoinette DesRoches who, over a 14-year period, oversaw the acquisition of a major portion of the Museum’s current collection. The Fondation de l’Association du Musée Acadien was also established in 1964 with Dr. J.-Aubin Doiron as founding president and Sister DesRoches as secretary. The Acadian Museum is today one of the seven sites of the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation.
1964
1975
Launch of La Voix acadienne
The inaugural issue of the newspaper La Voix acadienne hit the stands on June 27, 1975, or 60 years after L’Impartial ceased publication. This newspaper project was initiated under a summer employment initiative of the Société Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin (SSTA) through which four students published a total of five issues. The newspaper raised so much interest in the Acadian and Francophone community that by fall, the SSTA had decided to continue publication on a monthly basis. In June 1976, La Voix acadienne became a weekly newspaper.
1975
1988
Island Francophones acquire right to manage own schools
In 1988, the Island’s government amended its School Act to grant Francophones and Acadians the right to operate their own schools. Two years later, it officially made the Commission scolaire de langue française (French Language School Board) responsible for administering and promoting French-language education across the province. This led to the opening of French-language schools in the West Prince, Summerside-Miscouche and Rustico regions. Following years of determined struggle among parents, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously in 2000 that under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Island parents had a right to primary instruction in French. In 2002, the school in Summerside finally opened its doors. In 2019, a total of 1,043 elementary and secondary students were attending six schools, and five Francophone early years centres (EYCs) were operating across the province.
1988
1991
First Francophone school-community centre opens
The Carrefour de l’Île Saint-Jean was the Island’s first school-community centre. Inaugurated in 1991, it rallied the resources of Francophones and Acadians throughout the greater Charlottetown area with the goal of preserving their culture and language. Five more centres have since been added in the Evangeline, West Prince, Summerside, Rustico and Eastern Kings regions. Their presence has become essential to community development. All Islanders, Francophones and Anglophones alike, have acknowledged the vital role of school-community centres.
1991

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