First description of Charlottetown Harbour and Hillsborough Bay 1752

Contrary to common belief Samuel Holland was not the first to make a detailed study of what is now Prince Edward Island, although he was the first to measure it accurately.  During the French period a number of visitors left accounts. One of the most important of these was by Sieur de la Roque who carried out a detailed census in 1752, twelve years before Holland set foot on the Island.  De la Roque left an account of the communities and all the families encountered on the  visit. He was not however alone on his expedition. With him were Jean-Louis Raymond, Governor of Louisburg, and Raymond’s secretary Thomas Pichon. The party travelled along the north shore as far west as Malpeque, crossed to Bedeque, back to Port La Joie then to Vernon River (Grand Ascension),  to Pisquid (possibly overland) and then down the Hillsborough River.

Eight years later Pichon published his account from which the following is excerpted.  Originally published in French the English translation has some irregularities; “ance” is translated as “creek” when really cove or bay would have been more appropriate.  There are also a few irregularities or errors regarding direction  Readers should be aware that a league is about three miles and a fathom is six feet.


Detail from a French map of Ile Saint Jean ca. 1722

We are now returned to Port de la Joye, of which I shall give you a sketch. This harbour, called the creek [bay] of Point prim, is formed by a point of this name, situate on the lands south south-east of the entrance of the port and by the north-west point situate on the lands north north-west of the said entrance. These two points are the south-east and north-west. The distance from one to the other in a direct line is seven leagues and a half, with two in depth and seven in circumference.

The channel is situate north north-east, and south south-west of the entrance, and runs up to Port de la Joye. The depth is general from seven to eight fathoms at low water, and in some places nine. The breadth, though variable, a reckoned a quarter of a league.

The most skillful pilots of the country affirm, that when you are in five fathoms water, you have not yet entered the right channel, but that you should sail near the wind, according to what direction you are in. Upon your entrance you leave the Governor’s island to the right, but take care of the shoals, which run out considerably into the main, and are large cluster of rocks. The Governor’s island is of a round figure, about a league and half in circumference and half a league in breadth. There is a great deal of timber of different sorts and vast plenty of game.

Detail from place name map by Georges Arsenault 2008. Copyright Acadian Museum of Prince Edward Island.

Detail from place name map by Georges Arsenault 2008. Copyright Acadian Museum of Prince Edward Island.

To the left also upon your entrance you leave the island of the Count of St. Peter, which is much more accessible than the Governor’s island, the shore being very level. It is a quarter of a league long, and four hundred fathoms broad, being covered with pine and fir trees. You may even wade over the bar, as it is quite dry at low water, beginning from the north-west point. Upon this bar and all along the banks of the island, there is a prodigious quantity of bustards, crevans, and woodcocks.

Port de la Joye is situated at the bottom of the creek [cove] of La Joye, five leagues from Point prime, making the circuit from point to point. It is formed by the Rasberry point, situate on the lands to the eastward, and by a point A la flame, situate on those to the west. These two points lie east north-east and west south-west. The distance between them is but a quarter of a league. The channel that runs just in the middle between the two points, may be three hundred fathoms, where it is widest at low water.

The road [anchorage] is a quarter of a league from the entrance, between those two points, distant one from the other  a quarter of a league,. There is good holding ground in nine fathoms and a miry bottom. Three rivers disembogue themselves into this road, from the west, north and north-east.

The mouth of the west river is formed by one of the latter points, situate to the left ascending, and by the north point at the distance of a quarter of a league. This river runs four leagues into the land and is almost everywhere of the same breadth.

The mouth of the north-east [north?] river is formed by the north point of the west river, and by the east point of this north river, distant from each other about a quarter of a league. It runs four leagues up the country

The north-east river is formed by a point towards the entrance to the right, and by the east point of the north river. These points are north west and south east and the distance from one to another is nine hundred fathoms. This river runs nine leagues up the country. It is one of the best planted [settled] streams and not without good reason, for the soil being light and somewhat sandy, is the more proper for culture.


Title page from English edition of Pichon’s account 1760

After taking  view of all those places, we arrived at the river of the Grand Ascention, three leagues south [south-east] of Port de la Joye. It is formed by the west point and that of the birch-trees, situate on the lands to the eastward. They are distant from each other by a quarter of a league. This river divides itself into three branches, which run east, north and west, about three quarters of a league. They are navigable for small vessels. At the further extremity of the north-west branch, a little rivulet joins this stream, and is of sufficient rapidity for erecting a sawmill upon this spot, especially as there is plenty of wood at hand. All these places are more or less inhabited, in proportion to the goodness of the soil; but as the people live some distance from one another, as well as from Port de la Joye; when I have concluded my account of such places as merit attention I shall give you our calculation of the number of inhabitants. After surveying the rivers above mentioned , we went into the little river of Peugiguit, and thence to the river of the Saw-mill and thence to the River of Whites, and in each place we took notice of the habitations till at length we arrived at the Bush-creek, situate on the river to the north-east, and from thence to the Dead-creek, to the Little Ascension, and to the Pirogues.

Leaving the Pirogues, we set sail for the Count of St. Peter’s creek [cove], doubling the points of Marguerite and Framboise, and arrived there in half an hour. The country round this place is pretty good, but there are no pasture grounds, consequently no cattle. They have the same want at the creek of the Pirogues, which is supplied from the Little Ascension.

At a small distance from Count St. Peter’s creek we found that of the Seamen. They are both situated on the south side of the Bay of Port de la Joye. I do not intend to send you a description of them , since they are remarkable only for their popularity.

Pichon continues along the shore of the bay, then around Point Prim and to Pinette. He then moves to a discussion of the climate of the Island. Following his tour of Cape Breton and Ile St.–Jean, Pichon was stationed at Beausejour and turned traitor by sharing secrets with the English. Following the war and the fall of Louisburg he lived in London. The full text of his book of travels can be found here


2 thoughts on “First description of Charlottetown Harbour and Hillsborough Bay 1752

  1. Pingback: A ghost for St. Peter’s Island | Sailstrait

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