On the port side as you sail into Charlottetown Harbour the land rises and you pass under the site of both the French and English military and civil headquarters for the Island in the 18th century. Today, much of this area is set aside as a National Historic site of Canada with an unwieldy hyphenated name reflecting the three cultures with which the site is associated – Skmaqn-Port-La-Joye-Fort Amherst. What is not so well-known that from the very beginning of the English colonial period this land had always been set aside and earmarked as a special piece of property.
When Samuel Holland made his survey of the Island in 1764-1765 he lived at nearby Observation Cove (now Holland Cove) while the other staff lived in the location he had rejected – the decaying Fort Amherst, whose earthworks are at the centre of the present National Historic Site. “Fort Amherst,” he wrote, “…is only a poor Stockaded Redoubt with Barracks scarcely sufficient to house the Garrison and the houses that were near it was All pulled down to get the materials to built it.”
Holland famously divided the Island into 67 lots of about 20,000 acres along with reservations for county towns at Princetown, Georgetown and Charlottetown. He also provided for one other reservation of land – The Fort Lot. In a detailed description of the survey written on 5 October 1765 Holland notes
There is 520 acres preserved for the Fort Lott, having 1000 Yards to the North South and West from the Center of Fort Amherst and to the East as far as the Waterside, but it must Also be remarked that the Fort Lott takes up Almost all the cleared Land at Port Joy.
In addition in a table attached to the report which enumerates certain features of each lot, the following is noted for Lot 65
Well situated for Agriculture it has a fine communication by Elliot River, but at present most of the Cleared Lands are about the Fort and taken up for the Fort Lott which has 1000 Yards, South and North and West from the Centre of the Fort and contains 520 Acres.
One of Holland’s enduring legacies was his naming of Prince Edward Island. He ignored aboriginal names, except a few which were adopted by the French and replaced most French names through an elaborate system of honouring British worthies. The name Fort Amherst does not appear on the original manuscript Holland map although later printed versions of the map do name the fortification A table on Holland’s manuscript map describing the townships does, however, note the Fort Lott.In early printed copies of the Holland map the 520 acre Fort Lot (or Fort Lott) is both named and delineated. In some later additions of the map the name Fort Amherst has been added. Neither feature is named on J.F.W. DesBarres’ Atlantic Neptune sheet showing the area.
In John Stewart’s 1806 volume which is the first published history of Prince Edward Island he notes the Fort Lot with its cleared land at the mouth of the harbour and how it had been coveted by Governor Patterson in the 1780s.
There is a reservation of a tract of land called the Fort Lot on the west side of the harbour, extending from the entrance of the Narrows almost to the mouth of the Elliot River, on this tract Fort Amherst formerly stood on an elevated spot three hundred yards from the water, it was erected immediately after the conquest of the Island… The Fort was dismantled and destroyed by Governor Patterson soon after his appointment to the government, and there being near three hundred acres of fertile cleared land within the reservation, extremely beautiful in point of situation, the governor was tempted to make a grant of the whole to a person who re-conveyed it to himself and on this place built a handsome farm house and extensive offices, and laid out large sums in its improvement.
Patterson was married to Hester Warren and the farm built on the Fort Lot became known as Warren Farm. The name was adopted for the area and the cove on which the farm faced was called Warren Cove or Warren Farm Cove. After Patterson’s fall from grace the Fort Lot appears to have reverted to the Crown. In December 1798 a memorial was received from the Abbe de Calonne, a well-connected French émigré whose brother had Island property seeking a lease of the Fort Lot. The Secretary of State for the Colonies wrote to Lieutenant Governor Fanning, who had succeeded Patterson, directing that the Fort Lot be leased to Calonne. In June of the same year Fanning wrote that the lease had been executed for the Fort Lot and that Calonne had been put in possession but that the buildings were much out of repair. After Calonne gave up the property it was eventually sold or leased to a number of others who farmed the valuable property. One worthy who lived there was Captain (later Colonel) H. Bentinck Cumberland who acquired a considerable estate adjacent to the Fort Lot in what is now the community of Cumberland. His own residence was named Ringwood and it was located on the Warren Farm property but was in ruins by the late 1890.
A table in Joseph Bouchette’s 1831 volume on the British Dominions in North America showing the extent of parishes shows Hillsborough parish being composed of Township 29, 30, 31, 65 and Fort Lot, suggesting that the Fort Lot was not considered to be part of Lot 65. It appears however that by the latter part of the century the 520 acres was consistently included within the acreage of Lot 65. An undated map at the Public Archives shows 470 acres (all but the northern tip of the Fort Lot) in the name of John Newsom. The cadastral atlas of 1880 does not show a specific Fort Lot, the acreage having been broken up into a number of landholdings but at this time (and still) the property lines of the original Fort Lot are evident on the map and the name Warren Farm appears referencing the whole area.
The Fort Lot was the site of the battery at the mouth of the harbour which pre-dated the Blockhouse Light which took its name from the defensive building which was built on the site of the battery. Other noteworthy elements on the Fort Lot included the ranges, originally on Canseau Point and later relocated as range lights of the south edge of Warren Creek; the landing place for the first ferry at Ringwood; the later site of the Rocky Point Ferry Wharf; and the Indian Reserve at Rocky Point.
Today, however, the Fort Lot itself is a forgotten designation. The 520 acres has been carved up but the remaining land now protected as a National Historic Site still provides the sweeping view of the harbour which made it the best site for French and English fortification and references its early and subsequent life as a handsome farm property well into the mid-20th century.