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P.E.I. Geographical Organisation Explanation

Prince Edwards Island Constitutes a special case

Many of the geographic patterns seen on contemporary maps of Prince Edward Island still bear the mark of the original survey and division of the Island in 1767 into proprietary lots (estates) and royalties. The reason for this peculiar division of the landscape is quite historical. The Island was taken from the French as a spoil of war in 1759, and eight years later it was divided by the British into 67 lots and 3 royalties. The royalties were eventually reserved as town sites, while virtually all the lots were disposed of by the Crown in one single day in 1767 as private estates given to military and naval officers to whom the Crown owed favours.

These lots were the backbone of the Island's proprietary system (complete with lords and rent-paying tenants) - an unfree system of land holding which lasted until 1875 when it was finally dismantled. This division of the Island into lots influenced not only the physical geography of the Island, such as the northeast-southwest orientation of most secondary roads follow the old proprietary divisions, but also the human geography of the Island as it was organised for administrative purposes such as census taking which was based on the lot divisions. The Island was also divided into three counties of nearly equal size: Prince (western PEI), Queen's (central PEI) and King's (eastern PEI). One of the best and easily accessible historical sources illustrating the division of the Island into lots is J.H. Meacham & Co., Illustrated Historical Atlas of the Province of Prince Edward Island (Philadelphia, 1880, reprint, The PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation, 1995). There is a more contemporary work by Alan Rayburn entitled Geographical Names of Prince Edward Island (Ottawa: 1973), wherein virtually every town on the Island and its corresponding lot or royalty location is provided. For a detailed history of the division of the Island into lots, see JM Bumsted, Land, Settelement, and Politics on Prince Edward Island (Kingston and Montreal, 1987), and on life within the proprietary system see MG Hatvany, "The Proprietary Burden?", The Island Magazine , 44 (1998): 3-7. Further information about the geographic organization of Prince Edward Island has been also provided by Matthew G. Hatvany of the Département de Géographie, Université Laval in his book The Historical Geography of Prince Edward Island.

Last updated: 9/1/2010

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