The Maps Between Lake and Meacham – Confederation, Geology, and the Railway, 1864-1880

Colonists fight British Feudalism.

For a hundred years the settlers on the British Colony of Saint John’s Island/Prince Edward Island lived on the land in a manner that was unknown anywhere else in North America. When Samuel Holland produced his great map in 1765, the townships he created with a regularity that homogenised the topography of the landscape, belonged entirely to another country and another time. It was almost impossible for a settler to own his own property because the colony was set up in such a way that a perpetual landlord/tenant relationship was established for all time. This led to terrible and grotesque hardships for those who, at their own expense, came to the Island, and with little or no subsidy, cleared the land to create an agricultural landscape that would produce money to pay rent and cruel extra fees, provide a decent living, and even permit a surplus that would provide security and the basis for future expansion and development.

It was not until 1875 that most traces of this mediaeval feudalistic attitude to colonial development came to an end when the Land Purchase Act was passed, and the English proprietor system abolished for all the land on the Island. The process of land ownership by colonists had begun, and the Lake Map of 1863, which was the subject of the last post in this blog, recorded the progress that had already been made in the preceding generation, as witnessed by all the names of property owners listed in various concentrations in all parts of the Island.

The Lake Map, 1863. Courtesy the Robertson Library, UPEI

This agonising story of a century of frustration, struggle and suffering, is admirably told by Ian Ross Robertson in his clear and succinct introduction to his selection of about 50% of the documents that record the proceedings of the Land Commission established in 1862 – the first official attempt to solve Prince Edward Island’s land question, which, although a failure, opened up all the necessary avenues of thought that would eventually dismantle the landlord system. The book is called The Prince Edward Island Land Commission of 1860.


1864 – Canada begins to emerge as a nation.

While Prince Edward Island writhed in the throes of the land question events, the rest of British North America was aggressively seeking nationhood and a complete release from British colonial control. Representatives from the Maritimes, Quebec and Ontario met in Charlottetown in September of 1864 to discuss the formation of a new nation. This moment has been immortalised in a now famous photograph that has become the icon of Confederation and the birth of Canada.

September 1864. On the Steps of Government House. Photo courtesy of LAC

These men are now known as the Fathers of Confederation. They are gathered in front of the south entrance of Government House in Charlottetown where they are resting from energetic and exhausting discussions that were being held in Province House, the home of the island’s legislative Assembly, designed and built by Isaac Smith in the 1842-48 period out of fine Nova Scotia sandstone from a quarry in Pictou.

Province House c. 1864 Courtesy PARO

The building is interesting for a number of architectural reasons that I will discuss in a separate post in the future, but briefly, it started out life as a rectangular building in a strong Greek Revival style, but, owing to the demands of politicians for a more impressive building, Smith added two side pavilions and two great Ionic porticoes on the north and south sides. These porticoes, resting on great podia that were an extension of the ground floor, immediately transformed the Colonial Building into a Palladian structure, a style that had been developed in England in the early 1700s. As a boy, before he immigrated to Prince Edward Island, Smith had been a tenant on the great estate of Duncombe Park whose great house was Palladian.


A New Focus in Canadian Maps – Geology

The period of the Nineteenth Century that we are examining was a time of a powerful surge in the study of Geology. Beginning in the Eighteenth Century learned men began to consider the origins of fossils and to examine closely the structure and arrangements of the rocks along shorelines and in mines. Amidst loud criticisms by churchmen this new breed of scholar that in time would be known as geologists and the science they created, called geology, from the Ancient Greek γῆ, (earth) and λoγία, – logia, (study of). The term was first used in the early Seventeenth Century and by the end of the next century was in common usage. Various persons, particularly in Great Britain, began to advance a theory that the earth was formed by violent forces such as earthquakes and volcanoes over a vast period of time.

Immediately they were met with cries of outrage by the various Christian churches who all taught, based on genealogical calculations from the Old Testament, that the earth was less than 6,000 years old. The most famous and influential of these genealogical chronologies was proposed by James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. In 1650 he published a book setting out his ideas, which had a long Latin title that translates as Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the first origins of the world, the chronicle of Asiatic and Egyptian matters together produced from the beginning of historical time up to the beginnings of Maccabees. According to his math the earth was created on October 23, 4004 BC, in the order described in the Book of Genesis. There were other chronologies, all within the same time range, and all calculated by counting the generations of the Jews as described in the Old Testament. This date was accepted by Christians and even today, there are sects and congregations that still believe it to be accurate.


Abraham Gesner (1797 – 1864)

In the first half of the Nineteenth Century this new interest spread to British North America and the first person to show a strong interest in rocks and minerals was Abraham Gesner (1797 – 1864), a Nova Scotian of Loyalist stock who had a most remarkable career spanning a number of areas.

In 1825 Gesner went to London to study medicine and while there became very interested in the earth sciences and attended many lectures in geological subjects. Returning to Nova Scotia in 1827 Gesner settled in Parrsboro as a travelling physician and, in his travels, began to amass what would be a huge collection of rocks and minerals.  By 1836 he had amassed so much information that he wrote a book, Remarks on the Geology and Mineralogy of Nova Scotia, that summarised what was known at the time.  In 1838 he moved to Saint John, New Brunswick to become the Provincial Geologist and travelled around the province studying its geology. The intent was that he would identify sites for lucrative mines, but Gesner did not have expertise in mining and so nothing came of it. However, his collection of minerals grew and after he died in 1864, his collection was preserved and eventually ended up in the New Brunswick Museum, where it can be seen today. It is a fabulous collection and well worth a trip to Saint John just to see it.


The First Geological Map of Canada

In 1864 William Logan (1798 – 1875) finished work on the first geological map of Canada. This was published the next year in the Geological Survey of Canada’s much praised Report of Progress from its Commencement to 1863, which became known as Geology of Canada.

William Logan came from a Montreal family and was sent to Edinburgh, the very centre of scientific training in Britain for an education. There he displayed skill as a linguist and in the 1830s became passionate about geology. His knowledge, both theoretical and practical, increased while he was managing a copper mine for an uncle in Wales. He produced geological maps that came to the attention of various authorities, and it is because of this work that in 1841 he was offered the post of the founding director of the Geological Survey of Canada. He immediately engaged in surveying work in Quebec and the Maritimes, always on the lookout for potential mining locations. Coal was becoming more and more important in industry, and it was the rich potential of the coal mines in Nova Scotia that made the Maritimes attractive as a potentially self-supporting region in the Canadian Confederation.

Logan’s first major geological map produced in 1864 at a scale of 1 inch to 125 miles, showed the geology of the Province of Canada (Ontario and Quebec), much of the Maritimes, Newfoundland, and parts of the US. The Atlas in which it was published announced plans for future geological mapping of Canada at a scale of 1 inch to 4 miles. So ambitious was this idea that the dream is still alive today in Canada’s vast territories. What Logan did do was to complete a larger scale version of his map in 1866, and it was published on 2 sheets at a scale of 1 inch to 25 miles in 1869. Logan, for some reason, kept the pre-Confederation colonial boundaries in these maps.


1864, Logan, Sir W. E., Geological map of Canada/ and the adjacent regions including parts of other/ BRITISH PROVINCES and of the UNITED STATES/ the Geology of Canada being derived from the results of/ THE CANADIAN GEOLOGICAL SURVEY/ that of the other British Provinces from the labours of/ Dr. J. W. Dawson, Profs. James Robb, J. B. Jukes and others/ while that of the United States is compiled under the authority of/ Prof. James Hall/ from various sources mentioned in the accompanying test/ by/ SIR W. E. LOGAN F.R.S./ Director of the Geological Survey of Canada, Multicoloured Geological Map 53, History of the Geological Survey of Canada, Government of Canada. Drawn by R. Barlow, Montreal, Engraved by A. W. Graham, Montreal, Printed in Colour at Stanford’s Geographical Establishment, London 1865. Geographical Survey of Canada.

In this detail you can see the rich geological variety of the region contrasted to the simple sandstone makeup of Prince Edward Island.



1866 Dawson’s Geological Map of Canada

Hard on the heels of Logan came Dawson’s 1866 geological map of Canada based on the work of Logan but augmented with new information by a variety of geologists who are named in the cartouche.


1866 GEOLOGICAL MAP OF CANADA/ AND/ NEWFOUNDLAND/ Derived from the Results of/ THE CANADIAN GEOLOGICAL SURVEY/ and from the Labors of/ Dr. J. W. Dawson, Professors James Robb, J. B. Jukes and Others. / PUBLISHED ORIGINALLY IN 1866/ BY/ SIR W. E. LOGAN, F.R.S. ETC., / Late Director of the Geological Survey of Canada, Lithographed on paper, 63.52 x 60.97, PARO, Heritage Foundation Collection, HF.96.1.31.


Prince Edward Island is represented typically by a single colour representing both the composition of its bedrock and its geological time span. An attempt is made to differentiate the composition of the coastline along West Prince County.



1871 – The Small Dawson Geological Map of the Island

This map is from a small fascicule published by Dawson in 1871. It shows, with various hatchings, the geology of the region and new observations on the geological makeup of the Island. (Sadly, at the moment, I can’t locate the text and am unable to insert the publication details in the Reference section.)

1871 GEOLOGICAL MAP/ of/ PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND, / TO ILLUSTRATE/ DR. DAWSON’S REPORT, / 1871. / Leggo & Co. Lith. Montreal. Additional information below the border, Note: – The Geology of N.B. and N.S. is taken from Dawson’s Acadian Geology – the Geography from Logan’s Map. Lithographed in green ink, 19 x 13.5 cm., R. Porter Collection.

There was an intense interest in fossils at that time, which were to be found in the sandstone strata of cliffs all over the Island. Most of these fossils were of plant material, as can be seen in these plates, but there had also been a spectacular discovery of the partial skull of the dinosaur Bathygnathus in 1845 when a well was being dug. It is shown in the bottom part of the second plate. Miraculously it has survived (see Calder, pp. 48-55) It is now thought to be part of the skull of something called Dimetrodon.


Francis Bain

This is the moment to insert a note on Francis Bain (1842-1894), a farmer from North River who was also a passionate naturalist, bird watcher, fossil collector, and amateur geologist. He was the Island’s quintessential amateur and a man after my own heart.

Francis Bain, charcoal drawing over photograph. Courtesy of PEIMHF.

Bain has always been one of my Island heroes – the most prominent of all – because he exemplified everything I wanted to be as an Islander: countryman, and most of all, amateur scientist, who, in his daily life as a farmer found time to explore Prince Edward Island, its flora and fauna and geology more thoroughly than anyone before or since.

He wrote two books, which are now very rare, but still the greatest pleasure to read. They were The Natural History of Prince Edward Island (1890) and Birds of Prince Edward Island (1891). The breadth of his thinking of his thinking was enormous and his geological ideas ahead of their time. As well as describing plants and animals, his book on Natural History begins with a section of geology, from which this frontispiece woodcut, explaining the rock section at Holland’s Cove, is taken. This tiny book, one of my great treasures, is full of huge implications for the future of Island Natural History.

Bain even speculated that it might be possible to dig a tunnel under the Northumberland Strait to ensure constant safe travel to the mainland. This had been done, on a smaller scale, under the Thames in the 1840s, and the idea increased in popularity in England and America in the 1870s and ‘80s. George Howlan, an Island Federal Liberal politician even formed a company and interest intensified.  Here is the letterhead of Howlan’s company on a letter sent to the editor of the Impartial newspaper in Tignish.


And here is a wonderful postcard, originally also sent to Mr. Buote, that uses an optical trick to advertise the idea. The front is a bird’s eye view of the Strait while on the back is a diagram of the actual tunnel. You hold the card up to the light and there is an apocalyptic vision of a new future.


Bain was very well thought of during his life and had a fine relationship with Sir William Dawson, who even honoured Bain by naming a prehistoric creature in his honour.

This lovely blog post by Josh MacFadyen is beautifully assembled and a pleasure to read.

You can pay homage to Bain, as I do regularly, at his monument in Queen’s Square, fittingly a large glacial erratic boulder deposited someplace by the retreating glaciers and moved to the square.


It would take a long time to discern the geological subtleties of Prince Edward Island so that they could be represented on a map. In Calder’s book (see below) there is a fine coloured two page spread that shows the present state of that knowledge. The map is based mostly on very extensive surveys and publications that were produced by the PEI Government in the 1960s and early 1970s to mark the Island’s entry into Confederation in 1873.


There is another geological map of the Island that was produced by Prest in time for the 1973 celebrations. It is called the Surficial Geology of Prince Edward Island and, at first glance, conflicts glaringly with Calder’s austere simple map. It is important to distinguish the difference between a geological map, which is based on a description of the rocks and minerals that form the top part of the crust of the earth in a particular area, and one that shows surficial geology. Surficial geology is concerned with what is on the surface of the rock and mineral substrate, marsh, beach, swamp, meltwater deposits, eskers, kames, moraines, and the various kinds of soils. This explains the drama in the colouration of the map, and as an extra bonus, shows what the glaciers left us when they retreated about 12,000 years ago.



The Wright – Cundall Map Celebrates the New Provincial Status

Prince Edward Island finally joined the Canadian confederation in 1873, largely to obtain funding for a much-needed railway. The nine-year delay from the Charlottetown Meeting of 1864 to this time is accounted for by the selfish mental attitudes and greedy personal interests that guided politics in Prince Edward Island. The Wright – Cundall map had never gone out of use and would be re-issued into the Twentieth Century. This edition, brought up to date, was published after Prince Edward Island finally joined Confederation and became a Canadian Province.

1874 MAP/ of/ PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND,/ in the/ GULF of St. LAWRENCE,/ Comprising the latest Topographical information/ afforded by the Surveyor General’s Office/ and other authentic Sources/ the Sea Coast, Rivers, etc. being laid down from the Survey,/ recently completed by Captain H. W. Bayfield R. N./ BY/ GEORGE WRIGHT ESQR./ Surveyor General/ 1852/ with corrections and additions to 1874,/ by/ H. J., CUNDALL L.S., 64 x 127 cm., probably engraved and hand-coloured (information not clear on lower right below margin), Archives de la Ville de Montréal. BM005-3_02P001.

The Reference section on this copy is too blurred to reproduce clearly here, but along with all the other indications present on earlier versions of this map there is the railroad route, clearly marked in black, that represents the first phase of this great enterprise. More details can be discerned on the enlarged pdf copy included below.

1874 Wright-Cundall – Archv. de Montreal


1878 – The Roe Brothers Atlas

Five years after Confederation was achieved Roe Brothers of Saint John, New Brunswick, published a quite grand atlas with many brightly coloured lithographic plates, each page being 22 x 13.5 inches. In the manner of the day, with a huge new interest in geology to guide the exploitation of natural resources, a geological map of the Maritime Provinces appears near the front of the Atlas, on pages 16 and 17.


1878 ATLAS OF THE MARITIME PROVINCES, GEOLOGICAL MAPS OF THE MARITIME PROVINCES OF THE DOMINION OF CANADA, hand-coloured lithographic plate, pages 16 &17, 22 x 13.5 inches or 34 x 55 cm.  Roe Brothers, Saint John, New Brunswick. University of Prince Edward Island, Map Archives.


You can thumb through the whole Atlas at this site provided by the NSCC W. K. Morrison Special Collection, which has a fine copy.


There follows a very fine, highly detailed map of the Maritime Provinces, with Newfoundland, as in the previous geological map, and not to be a British Colony until 1949, thrown in as a space filler and optimistic candidate as a future province.


1878 MAP OF/ THE/ MARITIME PROVINCES/ OF THE/ DOMINION OF CANADA, hand-coloured lithographic plate, 22 x 13.5 inches, pages 20 and 21, Roe Brothers, Saint John, New Brunswick. University of Prince Edward Island, Map Archives.


Every effort was made to present Prince Edward Island in the largest scale possible, and to that end the Island is spread over two pages, in vertical and horizontal format, starting with Prince County. This is the most up to date representation of the Island to this time, and we are made sharply aware that long gone are the days of that fringe of coastal and riverine settlements from the French period. Now the interior of the Island has been almost completely opened up and roads of varying quality will take you almost anywhere on the Island.


1878 ATLAS OF THE MARITIME PROVINCES/ County of Prince./ PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND./ hand-coloured lithographic plate, PAGE 81, 11 X 14 inches, Roe Brothers, Saint John, New Brunswick. University of Prince Edward Island, Map Archives.

1878 Roe – Prince County


1878 ATLAS OF THE MARITIME PROVINCES,/  Counties of Queens and Kings,/ PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND,/  hand-coloured lithographic plate, page 79 bound vertically, 15 x 11 inches, Roe Brothers, Saint John, New Brunswick. University of Prince Edward Island, Map Archives.

1878 Roe – King’s and Queen’s Counties


I have provided pdf files of each section because it is most informative and pleasurable to explore the Island for the first time at this scale. The Lake Map was much larger, but the details of the various roads were obscured by the necessity of inserting the names of as many property owners as possible.

The Atlas contains quite a number of detail city and town plans of the Maritimes, and I include this detail from page 87 which has a map of Charlottetown, not as detailed as Lake or Harris from 1863 and ’64 but showing the very difficult insertion of the railways into the city at the industrial southeast end. It very nicely skirted the Old City, causing minimum damage to its plan.


1878 ATLAS OF THE MARITIME PROVINCES, CHARLOTTETOWN, Queen’s County, P.E.I., hand-coloured lithographic plate, page 87 with image vertical, detail about 5 x 6 inches, Roe Brothers, Saint John, New Brunswick. University of Prince Edward Island, Map Archives.


Great brick hangars would be built to provide workshops and to house cars and locomotives, and a massive steam-run turntable constructed under a circular roundhouse. The turntable itself survived until the 1980s when this photo was taken.


The Prince Edward Island Railway

In 1871, the Island began construction of a railway to improve its infrastructure and compete in a world where many jurisdictions were seeking efficiency in transportation. Despite the importance of this modernizing project, the debt sustained by it proved unsustainable. By July 1, 1873, Prince Edward Island became the seventh province of the Dominion of Canada with the promise, among other things, of having its railway debt resolved.

In 1880 a very handsome map of the Maritimes devoted entirely to the railway and postal system that had quickly sprung up was published. The Provincial Museum has a fine copy in the Public Archives.


1880 NEW/ RAILWAY AND POSTAL MAP/ OF THE/ DOMINION OF CANADA/ SCALE, 10 MILES TO 1 INCH/ SHEET NO. 2., hand-coloured lithograph, 45.70 x 66 cm, (There is no publication data on the map), PEI Museum, Public Archives Number HF.96.1.33.

This very handsome map is not interested in roads, but rather, celebrates the spread of communication and technology in the form of the telegraph and the railway.

1880 New Railway and Postal Map


New Railway and Postal Map of the Dominion of Canada, Sheet No. 2

In the Explanation panel, every kind of Post office is distinguished as are telegraph stations. Ports of entry are marked, as are existing railways and even those in the planning process.


A New Era in Mapping

By the late 1870s North America – and Prince Edward Island – had entered a new era, not only as a part of the Dominion of Canada but also as an enthusiastic participant in the new forms of communications and railway transportation. In this burst of enthusiasm, the state of the road network was set aside for another day.

On the eve of the momentous publication of the Meacham Atlas – the subject of my next post – another form of lithographic art reached a climax when the Ruger bird’s eye views of Charlottetown and Summerside were published in 1878.

Albert Ruger (1828-1899) was born in Prussia in Germany and emigrated to the United States where he eventually set up business as a landscape artist and lithographer. He specialised in a new trend that became wildly popular after the middle of the Nineteenth Century – the production of breathtaking birds eye views of entire town and cities both in the United States and Canada.

Producing a bird’s eye view that actually relates to an actual map or ground plan of a city involves a command of the most sophisticated surveying and geometric skills. This illustration by E. Whitefield (taken from Reps – see below) shows the intimacy of the preparation work that went into the assembly of each building as a recognisable entity in the minuscule detail of the master plan for the actual view.


Ruger was active in the lithographic views profession for 25 years and produced over 250 lithographs. He visited 24 states and the three Maritime provinces, leaving behind astonishing views of streetscapes which, like the one of Charlottetown, you can still walk through today, recognising individual houses!

I do not have a scan of an original Ruger print, but obtaining an original is at the top of my bucket list before I die. The only known copy belongs to the Heritage Foundation. The very wise manager of the Foundation’s book department in 1983, Linda Steele, had Island Offset print an exact replica of the Foundation’s copy, and it has now become a very rare and treasured item. This is the version illustrated below.


1878 PANORAMIC VIEW OF/ CHARLOTTETOWN/ PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND/ 1878/, signed A. Ruger in the lower left hand corner of the image. Scan of reproduction published by the Heritage Foundation in 1983.

Ruger – Charlottetown, 1878 – PEIMHF0089


After the reproduction became available, I spent a lot of time exploring the city with portions of this large plan in my hands. For 18 years I lived in a quite wonderful Italianate 1870s house on Dorchester Street, very close to the centre of town, and in this detail, on the corner of Dorchester and Prince Street, you can see my home in relation to Queen’s Square with its grand selection of fine buildings.


This detail leads us into a new world of intimacy with Prince Edward Island, which will be richly provided by Meacham’s ATLAS of 1880 – the next post in this blog!



Bagster, C. Birch, The Progress and Prospects of Prince Edward Island, written during the Leisure of a Visit in 1861, John Ings, Charlottetown, 1861.

Bain, Francis, The Natural History of Prince Edward Island, G. Herbert Haszard Publisher, Charlottetown, 1890.

Bolger, Francis W. P., editor, Canada’s Smallest Province: a History of P.E.I., The Prince Edward Island Centennial 1973 Commission, printed by John Deyell Company, [Lindsay, Ontario], 1973.

Calder, John, Island at the Centre of the World: the Geological Heritage of Prince Edward Island, Acorn, Press, Charlottetown, 2018.

Dawson, John William, Acadian Geology: an account of the Geological Structure and Mineral Resources of Nova Scotia, and Portions of the Neighbouring Provinces of British America, Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh, 1855.

Dawson, John William, Acadian Geology. The Geological Structure, Organic Remains, and Mineral Resources of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, Third Edition, with a map and numerous illustrations, and a Supplement, MacMillan and Co., London, 1878.

Fensome, Robert A and Williams, Graham L., editors, The Last Billion Years: A Geological History of the Maritime Provinces of Canada, Atlantic Geoscience Society, Nimbus Publishing, Halifax, 2001.

Murray, Jeffrey S., “The County Map Hustlers,” Canadian Geographic, Vol. 110, No 6, December 1990/January 1991.

Reps, John W., Views and Viewmakers of Urban America: Lithographs of Towns and Cities in the United States and Canada, Notes on the Artists and Publishers, and a Union Catalogue of their Work, 1825-1925, University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 1984.

Robertson, Ian Ross, editor, The Prince Edward Island Cand Commission of 1860, Acadiensis Press, Fredericton, 1988.

Robertson, Ian Ross, The Tenant League of Prince Edward Island, 1864-1867: Leasehold Tenure in the New World, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1996.

Ruell, David, The Bird’s Eye Views of New Hampshire: 1875-1899, The New Hampshire Historical Society, Historical New Hampshire, 1983.

Sutherland, The Rev. George, A Manual of the Geography and Natural and Civil History of Prince Edward Island, for the Use of Schools, Families and Emigrants, John Ross, Charlottetown, 1861.