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School Community of Murray Harbour North

by Kaitlyn
The First Settlers
The Early Presbyterian Church
The Fishing Industry
Early Farming
Community Services
Creative Entertainment


The community of Murray Harbour North is located in Southern Kings County in eastern Prince Edward Island on the east coast of Canada. This area is approximately 15 km east of the town of Montague and 55 km east of Charlottetown, the Island's capital city and birthplace of Confederation.

Like other parts of Prince Edward Island, Murray Harbour North has mild weather. The daytime temperatures are comfortable and moderate; from the onset of spring to the end of summer, they usually range from 8 to 30 degrees Celsius; from autumn to winter's end, temperatures normally range from 8 to -10 degrees Celsius.

Although Murray Harbour North is a small rural community, it was one of the first communities to be settled on Prince Edward Island. Therefore, it has a very rich history.

The First Settlers

In 1765, a surveyor representing England, Samuel Holland had the task of dividing Prince Edward Island into lots. One of his first communities became known as Murray Harbour North; he named this community after James Murray, the governor of Quebec.

There once was a small French settlement where Seal Cove, a popular campground is now located. One stormy night, a British ship came into the cove to get away from the storm. There they discovered the French, with whom they were at war at that time; they drove the French out by firing on them, which led the way for British settlement. The first English settler to arrive in Murray Harbour North was John Dolzie; in 1820, he moved from Panmure Island, where he been living with the Mi'kmaq for several years. Many more British settlers came after John Dolzie; the fertile soil and plentiful fishing encouraged them to come.

The Early Presbyterian Church

With the steady inflow of settlers, the first Presbyterian church in the area was constructed in 1823. Because it had been built in Murray Harbour South, the congregation of Murray Harbour North travelled to this church by taking a boat or ferry across the channel which connected the two communities. Although the church was located in Murray Harbour South, the community of Murray Harbour North did have its own cemetery.

Eventually, the community decided that they should also have their own Presbyterian Church; the citizens of Murray Harbour North were tired of travelling across the channel. The new church was built beside the graveyard, where it stayed until 1857. The community then decided that the church should be more centralized, so a new church was built half a mile down the road from the old one. This made travelling by horse and wagon easier for people living in the lower part of the community. The old church is now gone, but the newer church still stands today, welcoming its congregation.

Before there was a permanent minister, one would visit every few weeks. The first permanent minister, Reverend Livingston came in 1884. There have been many different ministers over the years. The first manse built was small, but provided a sturdy shelter for the minister and his family. It burned down in 1914, but was rebuilt much larger. A new cemetery was built across from the old one; both are in use today, along with the church.

The Fishing Industry

Murray Harbour North has always been known as a fishing community. There have been many fish factories located in the community over the years, mostly on Poverty Beach. These factories operated at different times in the mid-1800's; Samuel Johnson's, Butler and Millar's, McHarron's, Hopefield's, Graham's, and Klondyre's. There was also a large and productive factory at the Mink River Wharf. Of all these businesses, Graham's is the only one operating today. Many fishermen took their catches including cod, herring, salt fish, and lobster to the factories to sell. Fish was much cheaper during those times compared to today; lobsters were sixty cents per hundred by count. If the lobsters were small, two would be included in the same count. Lobster was considered a "poor man's meal"; fishermen would use the lobster for fertilizer for their land. There were no laws regarding the size. The only fish that would be thrown back were the females that carried eggs. Today factories buy lobsters for over $4.00/lb and if one is under a certain size, then it must be thrown back into the water.

Fishing was done on a much smaller scale than today. The men would haul in their parlor traps, lobster traps as they are called today, and nets. It didn't take long to bring in large catches because the fish were plentiful. Today fish are not as plentiful, and it takes longer to bring in catches. The fish would be brought to the canneries where they were packed into cans, and the covers soldered on with a stick of solder and a hot soldering rod. Then, the cans were put into a water bath for a couple of hours. When the cans were taken out, a small hole was punched in the top to "blow them off", which allowed the steam to escape. The hole was then soldered back in, and the cans were returned to the water baths for several hours. The fish were then ready for shipment. This was a long process because each can had to be done individually. Machines do most of this work today, which makes canning a more efficient process.

Early Farming

Although farming is presently practiced in Murray Harbour North, it is done differently than earlier days. Because of the fertile land, there were many potato farmers who dug potatoes by hand. We now have the help of machines. Milking cows was also done differently; the farmers milked the animals by hand, and the milk would usually be ready for the dinner table. Machines now do the milking, and the milk is held in tanks for two or three days, until it is picked up by a bulk truck and taken to a dairy to be pasteurized.

At one time, there were mills for threshing grain. In the mill, two horses would walk around all day, so that the grain could be crushed. It then could be made into useful products such as flour. Today, machines take the place of the horses.

Some families in the community, to earn some extra money, practiced fox farming, raising the foxes for their pelts. Two of the largest fox farmers in the area were Wendell Graham and Laurie McClure, each raising over 300 foxes. People on Prince Edward Island no longer farm foxes.


Shipbuilding was once a large industry in Murray Harbour North in the mid-1800's; there were two main shipyards. The main part of the brigatinne, as the ship was called, would be built just large enough so that it could be floated to the main deck at Clow's Wharf. The inside, ironworks, and cabin were built here. The launching of the ship was a big day for the people of Murray Harbour North; everyone would gather together at the wharf for the christening. They would then watch it sail away for some distant land. A famous ship called the Lydia was built here. On its first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, it was caught in a storm and was destroyed. There is no longer a ship building industry in this community; only a few small fishing boats are sometimes built.

Community Services

There were several other important community services offered within Murray Harbour North in the mid 1800's. One of these being a post office operated by Neil MacDonald around 1834. When it closed down in 1892, the mail was taken to Condon's General Store. 1913 saw the beginning of mailbox delivery.

Clow's General Store, 1924

There have also been several general stores in the community, the main one being Clow's General Store which was built in 1860. It had everything from groceries to fishing supplies. It burned down in 1956. Another store was built directly across from where the old store used to stand and remains today. It didn't have as many supplies as the old store, and was not as large. It was in use until several years ago. There were two other general stores that were not as big as Clow's, Kennedy's and Condon's. The Kennedy store building no longer remains. The Condon store building is standing, but the store business is no longer active.

A carpentry shop was also owned by the Clow family; furniture was repaired here, as well as the making of materials for building houses and other structures. The citizens of Murray Harbour North were the only people that used it.

A popular tailor shop operated by Cartney and Gavin McClure, also existed in the mid 1800's; women's and men's clothing could be fitted and made in this store. This business closed down around 1900.

There once was a dairy called the Murray Harbour North Dairying Company owned by James Clow and Will Reid and located in Cambridge. It opened in 1893. Farmers would bring their milk here to be processed into other dairy products and sold in stores. This business was successful for many years, but is no longer in existence today. Milk is now taken to dairies such as the Montague Dairy.

In 1860, people used to come to the blacksmith shop owned by Jimmy Stewart. This was located in the western end of the district. This shop did not only provide the service of horseshoeing, but also iron tools, nails, and other supplies. A couple of years later, George Reynolds opened another blacksmith shop up the road from Stewart's shop. These businesses were no longer needed when cars were brought into the community.

The first school in the community was built in 1832. It was two levels high; the top level was the school part of the building, the bottom level was a hall used for meetings, card plays, concerts, dances, and other social events. The building was torn down around 1900. A much smaller school was built, and was in use until Southern Kings Consolidated School opened in 1973. A new hall was built in 1907 and remains a popular center for the community today; it is used for meetings, dances, card plays, and other community gatherings.

The first oil lamp came to Murray Harbour North in 1880; Thomas Irving brought it from Nova Scotia. People in the community wanted one when they heard about it. Thomas Irving was busy making trips to Nova Scotia for a while after this, getting lamps for the citizens of Murray Harbour North. We now have electricity, so we do not need these lamps, unless the electricity goes out.

Creative Entertainment

Before such technological devices as the television, computer or radio, families found other ways to entertain themselves. Some nights a whole family would gather around to hear their parents and grandparents discuss what it was like when they were young. Another popular topic was ghost stories, most of which were based on the truth, and then, with a good storyteller, were twisted somewhat to have a new meaning. This was great fun and would often last for several hours.

Families would also have family picnics, running races, and gatherings with plenty of sweets to eat, and games to play. These busy activities would go on all day, and a great deal of fun was had by all.

In 1915, the first radio was brought to Murray Harbour North by Will Condon. During World War 1, the men would gather at Mr. Condon's house and listen to the news of the War. Children would also listen to the radio programs for entertainment.


Many people have helped me research this project; I would like to thank all who provided me with information and pictures, especially Barbara MacLeod, Roy MacLeod, Van MacLeod, and Shelly McClure.

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