Port Elgin has been viewed as a Maritime Port of Call for more than four hundred years.
Prior to the arrival of European settlers the Mi'kmaq established summer hunting and fishing camps on the banks of the Gaspereau estuary. Evidence of this era, such as tools and arrowheads can still be found along the beaches of the Gaspereau River.
Called Baie Verte for the bright green saltwater grasses which grow in the bay, the Acadian community, which was established in 1690, soon became a major centre on the overland trade routes between the Bay of Fundy and Quebec City.
In 1751, the French constructed Fort Gaspareaux at the mouth of the Gaspereau River. After the fall of Fort Beausejour in 1755, the British took possession of Fort Gaspareaux, and renamed it Fort Monckton, after their victorious commander.
Tragedy struck in the fall of 1756 when the Fort was burned and abandoned when it proved indefensible against attacks from Indians and Acadian rebels.
Today, the grounds of the "Fort" is a National Historic Site, and home to a marine beacon, known locally as the "Port Elgin lighthouse". The grounds of the Fort contain a small military cemetery, a fieldstone cairn, a reconstructed ditch outlining the basic configuration of the original fort, and the buried ruins of several original French buildings, such as the commandant's residence, a storehouse and the foundation of two blockhouses.
Following the Expulsion of the Acadians in 1755, several waves of immigrants arrived to the Northumberland coastal area: New England planters, Yorkshire settlers, Loyalists, returning Acadians, Irish and Scots.
The small hamlet which developed was known as Gaspareaux Town, the name Port Elgin was later adopted in 1847 in honour of Lord Elgin, then Governor-General of Canada.
From it's humble beginnings, the locals based their livelihoods on the surrounding forests, the Gaspereau River and the sea beyond. The sheltered harbour allowed entry for ships, while at the same time was narrow enough to control log booms floating downstream on the outgoing tides.
Completion of the New Brunswick and Prince Edward Railway in 1884-85 provided a vital link to the PEI ferry crossing at Cape Tormentine and the Intercolonial Railway in Sackville.
Factories, mills and homes soon crowded Spring Street between the railway tracks and a wooden bridge crossing the river (now known as the "slab" bridge.)
Built in 1917, the railway bridge currently spanning the Gaspereau River was originally operated as a hand-cranked swing bridge. Now part of the Trans Canada Trail, the bridge, as well as the complete rail bed, functions as a recreational trail.
Port Elgin's rapid growth and prosperity led to it becoming New Brunswick's first incorporated village in 1922. By this time the community boasted an arena, race track and agricultural exhibition centre, as well as streets lined with as many as 40 stores and businesses, including a carriage factory, blacksmiths, canneries, lumber mills, woolen mills, shipyards, and dry good stores. Several, including Cole's Grocery, still posses the aura and design of those bygone years.
Port Elgin's most prosperous period was lead by Fred Magee, an industrialist and provincial politician who established fish and produce processing plants in Port Elgin and along the Northumberland coast. During that time Mephisto brand products lined grocery shelves the world over.
Although no direct Magee descendants survive, reminders of his successful business empire remain. His large, lustrous home on Main Street is now the Magee senior Citizen's complex, while the adjacent building, at one time the offices of Fred Magee Limited, currently houses the Municipal Office, fire department and library.
We invite you to come explore our history, make new memories for you and your family, and see for yourself why Port Elgin remains your port of call!
Aerial view of the Port Elgin area, including the salt marsh