North Rustico: a beautiful and quaint fishing village nestled in the Queen’s County of Prince Edward Island and was incorporated as North Rustico in 19541. In the summers, it is a well known tourist destination because of its friendly Acadian community, delicious sea food, pristine beaches and the harbour itself. The community takes pride in celebrations such as Acadian Day and its ever popular Canada Day. It attracts thousands of people from all over with a parade, music, kiosks, boat runs and fireworks. There is an overwhelming sense of pride in Rustico that includes the rich Acadian roots and the historic buildings that are sprinkled everywhere. The history that presents itself within this small community is well preserved even though they have faced some obstacles which includes the environment, social life, and economy. Despite these hurdles there is evidence of a strong community with determined individuals that encourage positive changes. Take a moment to learn a little about the history of Rustico and the rooted culture that is still apparent today.
Founded by Acadians in 1790, the name is a derivative of a french settler known as “Rene Racicot” who eventually married Marie Gallent. It is thought that the name eventually changed to Rustico because of the English influence during the 18th century onwards2. It was home to many Acadians fishermen and the remnants can be seen at places like the Doucet House, Farmer’s Bank of Rustico, the Fisheries Museum as well as St Augustine Church. These places hold many treasures and history pertaining to the rich Acadian life in Rustico. The lively hood of the Acadians was seized during the seven years’ war as many of them were captured and deported. It was not until the 1860’s that they started to see a change in attitude towards the french language and culture. It was an empowering time for the Acadian population as they regained their culture and returned into communities such as Rustico. The growing industry of lobster fishing was an enticement for the Acadians to restablish life in North Rustico3. The economy from fishing and such lifestyle is still evident today in North Rustico.
The long standing fishing industry in North Rustico has had its share of ups and downs. A big feat in the industry’s history happened around the 1900s when 28 local fishermen decided that there was a need for a cooperative to ensure a sort of fairness that was being hindered by the merchants. The men started by working in their own packing factory in order to release themselves from the choke hold of the local merchants. Unfortunately, this ended up as a poor idea as the merchants were still in control of the sales of supplies and the catches4. It was not until 1937, after some adult education and study groups, that there was the creation of the North Rustico Fisherman’s Union5. This union helped the local fishermen buy their own cannery, hire men to work in the cannery, and create a sort of industrialization in Rustico6.
With continued motivation for the betterment of the community through cooperative movements, an old warehouse was purchased and turned into a new school and community building. It had an auditorium, a recreational room, and library. It was a drastic change from the old falling down school that held little presence in the minds of residents7. More evidence of cooperatives can be seen when there was the creation of the community garden. It sat on one acre of land and hired ten school boys to tend to the ten plots. The department of agriculture funded all the seeds, plants, and fertilizer for the garden. It helped supply fresh food and displayed the positive outcomes when working together as a community9. All these examples were made possible with leadership from past resident Pastors. They helped establish the adult education and study groups which in turn created the cooperatives. It all helped Rustico become a more self sufficient community and fishing villlage8.
The continually evolving environment is another concern for Rustico, especially with the harbour and the fishermen who rely heavily on its well being. Prince Edward Island is constantly eroding and this problem is apparent in the Rustico harbour as the silting around the wharf causes problems with the fishing vessels as it creates more shallow waters that could ‘ground’ a boat and pose serious dangers. A major problem that Rustico faced in recent history was the causeway that was built to connect Robinson’s Island to the west of Rustico harbour. Robinson’s Island, once owned by John William Robinson10, used to be a tourist destination in the late 1800s and housed the “Seaside Motel” as well as some fishing shanties11. The causeway was completed in 1956 and the damage it would cause was almost immediately obvious when sand gathered along the island and it soon became a peninsula. It also started to close off at the east end where chunks of the island were being swept away which in turn created more silting in the Rustico Harbour12. This only made more problems for the community, the fishermen, and the environment itself. In recent years, there had been some discussion by local residents such as Norman Peters and James D. Gallant to have a study conducted concerning the causeway. They, along with many other members of the community, felt that the causeway was continuing to cause severe problems to the water quality, the silting of the harbour, and the fishing environment. They petitioned to have a new breakwater built on the eastern entrance to Rustico bay and for a study of the erosion, created by the causeway, to be conducted. They had hoped the study would result in the causeway being removed so that the natural environment could be restored on Robinson’s Island and Rustico harbour. In 2005, when this petition was submitted, Robinson Island had already lost two kilometres of land due to erosion since the arrival of the causeway in 195613. This is just a condensed example of the keen eye that the community keeps on the environmental impacts that are bestowed on Rustico. With such obstacles, the community works together to better the lives of everyone living and visiting the area.
This is merely a tip of the ice burg about a community that is rich with history and people. The remnants of buildings, fishing shanties, and landmarks that are scattered around this small village create a picture of past lifetimes. The stories that are told from many of the locals are a priceless form of information that will be cherished by many to come. They illustrate a vivid story of what the lifestyle used to be like and how the community has grown. Continue to our Community Memories link to read, listen, and see what longtime residents have to say about North Rustico and its lighthouse.