Stanhope: A Land of Proud Heritage
and Preserved Riches

by Julie V. Watson


....So rich is the Stanhope/Covehead area in natural and human history first time visitors sometimes think they have landed in a land where time has no meaning. Our heritage seems to be protected from the rapid technological advances that have changed and altered so much of the North American coastal landscape allowing it to remain a gentle, slower paced place where life can be savored to the fullest.

....Archeological sites indicate that the first to live in this north shore area of Prince Edward Island were native peoples, probably Micmac. The French visited, but the Scots were the first Europeans to settle and stay. Sir James Montgomery, the proprietor of several "lots" or areas of the Island, sent about 60 settlers from Perthshire, Scotland, who arrived in May 1770.

....Sir James did not come to the island himself, nor did he help the settlers with their expenses of moving. He suggested they go to live on his lands, and agreed to lease them uncleared land at one shilling per acre. This seemed much lower rent than they were paying in Scotland, however these early immigrants did not realize how difficult is was to make a farm in the forest. When Reverend Dr. James MacGregor, a Presbyterian minister, visited in 1791 he was told even this low rent was too much. Those first settlers would have perished if some of their number had not crossed Northumberland Straight to Pictou to obtain supplies and ward off starvation that first winter.

....In spite of their terrible introduction the new land the Scots stayed and prospered. They settled near the sea, as is provided the only convenient way to travel at the time. Covehead Bay provided a protected harbour and soon a small fishing fleet was part of the local economy, as was agriculture. As roads were developed Stanhope became a favourable place to live because one could easily ride to Charlottetown the provincial capital just 12 miles away. Even in the early days individuals with an appreciation for country living valued the easy access to the amenities of ‘town'.

....The area also found great favour as a tourist destination in the days when horse and buggy was the standard mode of travel. Three grand hotels Stanhope-By-The-Sea, Dalvay-by-the-Sea, and Shaw's Hotel attracted visitors from far and near. Shaw's is in fact recognized as one of the oldest inn's operated continuously by the same family in Canada. Dalvay began life as the magnificent summer home of an American millionaire and was later turned into a hotel. It is now owned by Parks Canada.

....Our next door neighbour Stanhope-By-The-Sea, began life as a tiny log cabin built by those first settlers. The cabin is actually incorporated into the present structure. Stanhope-By-The-Sea was founded by Angus and Sally MacMillan. Their great-great grandson is owner of the land which is currently being offered for sale at Stanhope Cape Estates.

....Many distinguished visitors have been attracted to Stanhope, including the Fathers of Confederation. On September 8th, 1864, a number of the delegates participating in the Charlottetown conference that led to the formation of Canada, visited for some relaxation; swimming, picnicking and plover shooting on the nearby dunes.

....Plover shooting is a no-no today and the tiny birds are a protected species within the National Park. The protection of nearby nesting areas is ensuring the survival of this endangered species.

....The P.E.I. National Park, established in 1936 protected the coastal area, preserving and protecting some of the finest sand beaches in the country and ensuring that they would be accessible to all people. The Park is the greatest asset for those establishing homes at Stanhope Cape Estates. Bordering us to the north, it guarantees that no development will spoil the ambiance that nature provides.

....The Park also provides walking trails, beaches, groomed cross country ski trails, picnicking and camping facilities, and interpretive programs such as educational programs and special events such as family skates, moonlight story telling and much more.

....Covehead Bay is a focal point for watersports such as windsurfing, fishing, canoeing and kayaking. The area also has numerous craft shops and cozy eateries open during the summer.

....Stanhope Cape Estates actually offers the things usually reserved for vacations, right at your doorstep - year round. Along with human generated activities the very landscape puts on a show of its own.

....The exciting wave of summer with its golden days and balmy nights is balanced by the quiet winterlude of white and blue. Spring is a magical time of watching the ice break up off shore and the landscape take on a magnificent green coat as migratory birds stop for a rest on their way north. Fall is quite simply - magnificent in its coat of many colours.

....Many fascinating events have happened in the Stanhope/Covehead area. Here is a sampling:

....In 1989 six sperm whales became trapped between the sand bars just outside of Covehead Harbour. The dramatic rescue mounted by local fishermen, divers and government officials was so impressive it brought international recognition including being featured on the television program "911".

....A tiny local graveyard gives testimony to the power of the sea. It contains the bodies of an estimated 100 men who lost their lives during the famous Yankee Gale of 1851. A large American fishing fleet was virtually destroyed by this two-day storm that battered the Gulf. The placement of Stanhope Cape Estates, far enough back from the shoreline to be safe from such fury, is testified by the presence of the nearby resort which has been on the present site since the mid-1800's.

During 1927, when prohibition was in full swing, thought was often given to how the hotel obtained its supplies. In the era of rum-running Covehead Harbour, like all small ports in the Maritimes, was frequently watched by the Mounties. Even so, enterprising folk managed to slip their cargo ashore much to the delight of those who did not agree with the concept of "temperance."

....There is a local legend of pirate treasure being buried not far from shore in the Stanhope area. Whether that tale is true or not, it is certainly a fact that there are hundreds of ships wrecked just off shore.

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