Discovering Port Elgin, New Brunswick: A Historical and Touristic Overview
Port Elgin, a former Canadian village in Westmorland County, New Brunswick, is a place of rich history and natural beauty. Nestled near the Nova Scotia border, it lies at the mouth of the Gaspereaux River, where the river meets the Northumberland Strait's Baie Verte. Today, it forms part of the rural community of Strait Shores.
The Historical Journey of Port Elgin, New Brunswick
The village of Port Elgin was founded by Acadians in 1690. However, it was abandoned after the Expulsion of the Acadians in 1755. The remnants of Fort Gaspareaux, a French military fortification from the Seven Years' War, can still be found at the river's mouth, just east of the village.
After the Seven Years' War and the American Revolutionary War, British Loyalists resettled in the area, renaming it Gaspareaux Town. In 1847, the town was renamed Port Elgin in honour of Lord Elgin. The community was incorporated as a village in 1922, becoming the first community in the province to do so.
Throughout the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, Port Elgin saw modest industrialization with small factories, tanneries, and sawmills. The village also had several wharves on a sheltered harbour at the mouth of the Gaspereau River, facilitating shipping activity.
The New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island Railway was built through the village in the early 1880s, opening on September 9, 1886. This connected the Intercolonial Railway at Sackville with the seasonal port of Cape Tormentine, which supported the winter iceboat service to Prince Edward Island. In 1917, this port became a terminal for the year-round ferry service to P.E.I.
Port Elgin, New Brunswick: A Hub of Activity
Automobile traffic increased through the village in the 1920s after the P.E.I. ferries began to carry road vehicles. The Baie Verte Road ran west of the village through Baie Verte as "Main Street," and the Immigrant Road ran east of the village. In the 1960s, a bypass for Route 16 was constructed around Baie Verte and Port Elgin as part of the Trans-Canada Highway project. A traffic circle, known as the "Port Elgin Rotary," was built at the intersection between Route 16, Route 15, and Route 970.
The largest employer in the village is Atlantic Windows, which employs 200 persons year-round. The second largest employer is Westford Nursing Home, providing a permanent care facility for 29 persons and one relief-care bed.
Port Elgin Regional School provides public schooling for grades K-8, serving all surrounding areas running as far east as Cape Tormentine, north to Robichaud, and west to Jolicure. High school students are bused to Tantramar Regional High School in Sackville.
On January 1, 2023, Port Elgin amalgamated with all or part of six local service districts to form the new incorporated rural community of Strait Shores. The community's name remains in official use.
Port Elgin, New Brunswick: Weathering the Storms
On January 2, 2010, Port Elgin experienced coastal flooding as a result of a storm surge from a nor'easter. This lifted cottages off their foundations and caused considerable damage to homes, forcing the declaration of a state of emergency in the village and surrounding area. The damage incurred by this storm is thought to be in the area of $900,000. A second coastal flooding event occurred on December 21, 2010, when another storm surge from a nor'easter flooded sections of the village and surrounding area.
Demographics of Port Elgin, New Brunswick
In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Port Elgin had a population of 381 living in 161 of its 170 total private dwellings. This represented a change of -6.6% from its 2016 population of 408. With a land area of 2.65 km2 (1.02 sq mi), it had a population density of 143.8/km2 (372.4/sq mi) in 2021.