Alberton is the principal town among the fishing and farming communities situated along the western shore of Prince Edward Island. The first European to visit the area was Jacques Cartier who made land fall in 1534 and noted the great potential for fishing, farming and lumbering.
In 1767, Prince Edward Island, which was then the British colony of Saint John's Island, (it was officially renamed Prince Edward Island in 1799), was divided into 67 lots. Certain British noblemen were chosen as the landlords for these lots by means of a lottery. Alberton was located in the area that was known as Lot 5 which was under the ownership of Edward Lewis. Lewis had major development plans for Lot 5 which included the building of a small trading town.
In 1788, the first European settlers arrived, brought from Devonshire, England by ship builder and lumber merchant John Hill.
Through the nineteenth century, the lumber and the shipbuilding industries brought prosperity to the area. The lumber industry of the early days resulted in many trees around the Cascumpec area (located just outside of present day Alberton) being cut down. All this cleared land made it possible for agricultural operations to develop. In 1833, some roads were being opened and eventually trade began in the Cascumpec area.
As time elapsed, the town of Alberton made a lot of progress. On the economic front, numerous stores were opened offering various services. Also, churches were being built, and a physician established a practice in town.
By 1862, the first settlement had become a major trade centre in Prince County and was named in honour of Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) who had visited the Island in 1860. The community of Alberton was given this name on June 27, 1862.
A major advancement was made in fire protection for Alberton with the establishment of the Alberton Volunteer Fire Department in 1876.
In 1878, Alberton officially became a village. The first village wardens were Alexander MacLeod, Benjamin Champion, David Hunter, Benjamin Rogers, and Peter Gavin. The newly founded village was doing quite well. To improve the lives of residents, a fire prevention plan was put in place and the side walks were levelled off. This year also saw the establishment of the first court house in Alberton, on Church Street, which now serves as the Alberton Museum. However, in the late 1870's, the village went through a hard time as a result of a smallpox epidemic. In spite of this, the village would quickly recover and continue to prosper.
In 1893, the Black Silver Fox industry, which Alberton is famous for, was founded by Sir Charles Dalton and Robert Oulton. This industry brought much prosperity to the town and some of its residents. This prosperity is still evident. Some of the attractive "fox houses" which were built and owned by fox breeders are still standing today. Once such house is pictured left. This fox house was built by a wealthy fox breeder in 1911 and now serves as Briarwood Inn, located just outside of Alberton.
The Silver fox industry greatly enhanced the growth and economy of Alberton. The
impact the Silver fox industry made on Alberton is evident by the depiction of a Silver Fox on
the town logo, pictured below.
In 1895, a major fire would raze a portion of the town. A mural was created depicting this event.
As the town advanced through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century, a major construction boom occurred. A school house, beautiful homes, churches, and public buildings were built. As well, the economy continued to grow as the residents of the surrounding farming and fishing communities came to the village to sell their products and buy others in the newly established stores.
In May of 1913, a major milestone was reached when Alberton was officially incorporated as a town.
In the ensuing brief period, many positive changes took place. A pound for run away animals was built, and kerosene street lamps were put up. A newly formed police force consisting of one officer and a number of special constables was also established. Alberton would be protected by its own police constable until town policing duties were taken over by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1967.
In 1914, there were improvements made to Main Street to better the quality of life. An electric lighting system was established and concrete sidewalks were put in. In the fall of that year, an exciting event occurred in the town when an exhibition was held.
In 1919, the town would once again suffer the effects of a major fire. A mural was also created depicting this fire. Unfortunately, this would not be the last time that Alberton suffered the wrath of a major fire. In 1927, two major fires would devastate the down town of Alberton. Fortunately, some good would come from this. The Town Council made the decision to order better equipment for the fire department. Luckily, because of continuing major improvements made to the town's firefighting equipment, Alberton has not suffered the effects of a massive fire to date. A mural depicting the 1927 fires has been created.
The quality of life in Alberton would be greatly improved as the years progressed. In 1938, the first paved road was laid. The Western Hospital would open its doors in 1945 (with renovations fifteen years later, more over the years as required, and very extensive ones in the late twentieth century). There were also major advancements made in the number of services available to Alberton with the building of (the current) Alberton Public Library in 1951, a sewage system which was completed in 1960, a new building for Federal services and a motel in 1962, and Jacques Cartier Memorial Arena and the Alberton Museum in 1964. At first, the museum consisted of the private collection of Mrs. W. R. Oulton who housed the collection in her barn. The Alberton Museum would develop and would eventually be moved to its present location in the old town courthouse in 1980.
A nursing home, Maplewood Manor, would also be established in 1967, and lastly, in 1973, the old railway station, which was built in 1904, was transformed into a tourist information centre and a craft shop. Since that time, it has served several purposes and is currently the Town Hall. Also, during this time period, there was the creation of several businesses in Alberton.
Alberton has experienced steady growth in population. From the few families who landed in the area many years ago, to 1951, when it was only 674 residents, to the present number of approximately 1,100 people. Alberton, as a commercial centre for the surrounding rural areas, currently serves in excess of five thousand individuals.
Alberton has blossomed into a prime tourist destination providing many accommodations, attractions, and restaurants for visitors. Alberton has developed into a modern town but we still keep many parts of our past alive. There is an excellent museum/genealogy centre, well maintained Victorian buildings, and several murals depicting memorable occasions and people in Alberton's history.
For more information on the history of the Town of Alberton, or to view artifacts from Alberton's early days, you can visit the Alberton Museum, located on Church Street, Alberton. Also, you can visit a web page created by the Alberton Museum to view photographs depicting parts of Alberton's History.
If you would like information on former Mayors and Councils of Alberton, it can be found on the past Mayors and Town Councils page.