Prince Edward County is located in Southern Ontario at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, encompassing approximately 1,000 square kilometres and over 500 kilometres of shoreline on Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte.
Originally settled by United Empire Loyalists, including many Quaker families, the area was, and still is, primarily agricultural. By the 20th century more and more tourists were visiting the county to enjoy the white sand beaches. Sandbanks Provincial Park, established in 1970 extends out into Lake Ontario providing a migratory stop over for many species of birds in the spring and fall, as well as a haven for sun seekers in the summer months.
Visitors to Prince Edward County will be amazed by the unsurpassed beauty of the area. Antique shops and artisans studios dot the countryside. The beautiful white sand beaches are accessible to the public. Several wineries located within the county are open to the public and there are many fine restaurants. In the fall the colours of the countryside beckon photographers from far and wide, as well as cyclists who enjoy the winding, less travelled roadways of Prince Edward County.
Prince Edward County was named after Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, (1767 - 1820) the fourth son of King George III of the United Kingdom and the father of Queen Victoria. The county was originally called Presqu' Isle de Quinte by the French.
It is believed that a part of Prince Edward County was granted to LaSalle by the First Nations people in exchange for the payment annually of a two blankets, cloth for a coat and a gun to every brave who inhabited the shores from Gananoque to the Bay of Quinte. To receive their yearly payment they would travel by canoe to Fort Frontenac where they would gather by the hundreds in the bay. For many years a great Indian Chief resided on the island of Waupoos, a mile off the coast of Prince Edward Island.
Originally the county was connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land or isthmus and was referred to early on as the old Carrying Place by the First Nations. The cutting of the Murray Canal in 1889, five miles (8 kms)in length and deep enough to allow the passage of boats, officially turned the county into an island.
Three townships in the county were named after George III's three daughters and the Prince Edward's sisters, Mary, Sophia and Amelia. Later the three townships of Marysburgh, Sophiasburgh and Ameliasburgh would be subdivided into ten wards.
Prince Edward County was settled mainly by United Empire Loyalists, many of whom had been officers or soldiers, while others were Quakers. Marysburgh was settled by a number of Hessians, Germans who had fought alongside the British.
It is said the first house in the county was built by Colonel Archibald McDonnell, a Scot, who hired ships' carpenters to build a lovely log house that stood for over a hundred years until it was demolished in 1900. Col Archibald was given 1200 acres of land in Marysburgh Twp. This he left to his great niece, Elizabeth McDonnell, who married John Prinyer, for whom Prinyer's Cove is named.
In 1788 the township of Sophiasburgh was beginning to see an influx of Loyalist settlers. At this time most of the new inhabitants did not receive free land grants but choice properties could be had for as little as the exchange of a horse.
The first loyalist settler to venture to what is now the town of Picton was Colonel Henry Young and his two sons, in 1784. Colonel Young, in recognition of his services was given 2000 acres where ever he may choose. After his discharge in 1783 from service at Kingston he set off westward with Lieutenant McCarthy for Prince Edward County eventually making their way up the Bay of Quinte to it's head (the bridge at Picton). Heading inland they made their way along an Indian trail through the forest to East Lake, going on to West lake and as far as Wellington
The harbour at the head of Picton Bay would be known as Hallowell or Hallowell Bridge. Mr. McAuley, a minister built the first church in the settlement across the bay and named it Picton, in honour of a General who had fallen in the battle of Waterloo. The two communities would amalgamate in 1837, and were incorporated as The Town of Picton.
By 1830 a steamer ran between Prescott and Picton. Ten miles north of Picton the village of Demorestville boasted the first canning factory in Canada. To the south were the "sandbanks", hills of white shifting sand that extended along the shores of Lake Ontario in such a way as to create two distinct inland lakes named West Lake and East Lake.
The Barley Days in Prince Edward County began in 1861 when the U.S. government imposed a tax on whisky and the sale of beer skyrocketed. Breweries, located in New York or Pennsylvania preferred Prince Edward County barley, as they felt it produced superior beer. In 1851 barley was grown on less than 5% of the area of Prince Edward County. By the year 1881 barley was grown on more than 30 % of the farmland within Prince Edward County or approximately 40,000 acres. As American breweries began to move their operations west to Milwaukee and St. Louis barley could be transported by railway from Wisconsin, and the demand for Ontario barley diminished. The term Barley Days is given to the time between 1860-1890.
Farmers were not the only ones to benefit from the barley trade. The ship-building industry along the shores of Prince Edward County proliferated as countless boats, schooners and barges were required to transport bushels of Prince Edward County barley, hops and wheat to American markets. During the fall of 1881 over 800,000 bushels of barley were shipped from Prince Edward County.
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