Planet Suffolk: Bringing together the Suffolks of the world

Suffolk, Queens County, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Suffolk is an unincorporated area in Queens County in the central portion of Prince Edward Island, approximately 7 miles northeast of Charlottetown. Its location is 46°20N 63°04W.

Population:- Suffolk falls within census subdivision Lot 34. The population of this area in 2021 was 3,702.

How to get there:-

By road: From Charlottetown, head east on PE-2, then turn left onto Suffolk Road/PE-222.

Prince Edward Island is linked to New Brunswick by the Confederation Bridge: take NB-16/Trans Canadian Highway eastwards. At Confederation Bridge this becomes PE-1. Follow PE-1 to Charlottetown, then follow route as above. From Wood Islands, take PE-1/Trans Canadian Highway west to Charlottetown, then follow directions as above.

There is no passenger rail service on Prince Edward Island.

The nearest airport is Charlottetown Airport.

A ferry service runs from Caribou, Nova Scotia to Wood Islands in the southeast of Prince Edward Island. This service runs from May to December only.

Time Zone: Atlantic Standard Time (GMT -4 hrs).  Daylight saving time in summer +1 hr.


Order of contents on this page: (Click on the links below)

Early History & Derivation of Name

Queens County


Early History & Derivation of Name

The island began to be settled by the French inhabitants in Canada, known as Acadians, in 1720.  The settlers, however, lived primarily at the few coastal settlements, and the area of today’s Suffolk was basically virgin territory.  In 1758, during the French and Indian Wars, British forces arrived and expelled the Acadians from the island.  In 1764 the new British authorities surveyed the island and divided it into lots.  These were sold mainly to property speculators who then brought over settlers, but charged them high rents to farm the land.  Needless to say, this did not appeal to the tenant farmers in Britain who would not be any better off by emigrating, and thus only those in distress took up the offer, such as the Loyalists fleeing from the American Revolution, and dispossessed Scottish farmers.

The interior of the island had still not been occupied in the early 19th century.  However, conditions in England, particularly in East Anglia, brought about a sudden influx of immigrants from this part of Britain in the 1830s.  The improved efficiency of new agricultural machinery and changing methods of agricultural production had led to an increase in unemployed farm labourers.  In the 19th century, before 1829, only 8 emigrants had taken ship from Norfolk and Suffolk to Canada.  Some 7,700 followed thereafter, mainly from the port of Great Yarmouth, which in 1836 accounted for a quarter of all English sailings of immigrants into Canada.  In all 10 vessels from Great Yarmouth brought 528 immigrants to Prince Edward Island, accounting for one-fifth of all English settlers on the island before 1840.  After 1834 ships from Great Yarmouth stopped calling at Charlottestown, but a few emigrants from Suffolk arrived to the island from other ports such as London and Ipswich after 1834. 

In 1834 an Act of Parliament was passed allowing local rates to be used to fund the emigration of paupers, thus relieving the English parishes from the cost of maintaining them in workhouses.  In 1836 a total of 786 paupers were sent from Suffolk to Canada.  The embarkation at Ipswich docks of 177 paupers from Stradbroke caused a riot as mobs tried to prevent the deportation of the families from England  (Statistical information from “Encyclopedia of Canada’s Peoples” ed. Paul Robert Magocsi, 1999, University of Toronto Press).

The Canadian sources do not indicate who gave the name of Suffolk to this farming settlement, but they do state that it was “named by settlers from Suffolk, England, who arrived from 1824 to 1840” (“Place-names of Prince Edward Island with meanings” by R.Douglas, 1925).  We do know that the area had been named “Suffolk Road” by 1840 because the official “Prince Edward Island Royal Gazette” of January 1840 announces the appointment of John Godfrey and Roger Harper as “the constable and fence viewer of Suffolk Road”.  (A “fence viewer” is an official who ensures that fences and enclosures are secure to prevent disputes arising from livestock escaping onto other people’s property, and to settle demarcation conflicts between neighbours).  The locality continued to be called “Suffolk Road” and this was the official name of the school district from 1870 to 1885.  It was also referred to as the “Suffolk Settlement” until the end of the 19th century.  
There are three main sources that can be accessed to determine the early settlers at the Suffolk Settlement: the records of the local agent for the landlord; the cadastral maps that show the boundaries, acreage and residents of land parcels in a Lot; and information from shipping and genealogical records.  Much of this information is available on the “Island Imagined” website relating to PEI.

The landowner who acquired Lot 34, the division of land on PEI that included Suffolk, was Sir James Montgomery, a businessman who held extensive estates in Scotland.  In 1770 he sent out 50 Scots to establish a flax farm, and these settlers remained in the northern part of Lot 34 around Stanhope.  Sir James died in 1803 but his family still retained possession of the land.  The tenancy list of “Montgomery’s Land” for 1833 is available; this is a record of the rents receivable from the heads of households actually residing on the plots of land in Lot 34, and the dates when they first entered the contractual relationship.  The cadastral maps are also available for various years during the 19th century, and the plot numbers can be matched up with the tenancy lists to determine how the land changed hands over time.  The difficulty is obtaining definitive information as to where the tenants came from. To a large degree this can be found in family genealogies, but there are several cases where the only record is that an immigrant “came from England”.

Although it is stated that Suffolk was populated from 1824 by settlers who came from that county in England, the tenancy list does not support this.  The first year of entry for possession of the plots is either 1830 or 1831.  This tallies with other sources where it is stated: “Roger Harper arrived from Suffolk in 183o and settled on Suffolk Road; Samuel Aldridge from Laxfield settled Suffolk in 1831, and these are considered two of the original founders of the Suffolk Settlement in Lot 34” (“Planters, Paupers and Pioneers: English Settlers in Atlantic Canada” by Lucille H.Campey, 2010).  Certainly, by 1833 all the plots, except one, were occupied.  It, thus, appears that Suffolk was settled between 1830 and 1834.  

However, it is possible that some land may have been settled before 1830, giving rise to the 1824 date given above.  Agents for the absentee landlords were notorious for falsifying the records, and a later date of settlement may have been entered in the register than was actually the case so that the agent could pocket the rent collected.  One of the settlers, John Godfrey, is recorded as an “original settlement farmer” who came “from England in 1815” (“Patrons Directory of the Province of Prince Edward Island” published in 1880).  Of course, his family may have settled elsewhere on the island in that year, and as a young man John Godfrey may have taken up his first lease at Suffolk only in 1830.        
In 1833 there were 19 plots at Suffolk; one was vacant.  The remaining 18 were occupied by 13 families, some plots being leased by other members of the same family.  From genealogical and shipping records we can determine that 4 were definitely from, and 2 more probably from, Suffolk, England.  The other families were: 3 Irish, 2 other English, one Scot and one unknown, probably foreign.  So the original settlers were not overwhelmingly from Suffolk.  Samuel Aldridge from Laxfield had already moved on and was settled at Milton PEI by 1833.         

The records for the Suffolk families are as follows. Roger Harper (in 1830 as mentioned above, and confirmed elsewhere as from Suffolk), Jabez Arbing (came from Suffolk on the “Minerva” in August 1830), George Clow (born at Stratford St Andrew, emigrated in 1830), and Symon Day (born at Dennington, Suffolk, England).    The two probable Suffolk families are those of William Goldsmith and John Godfrey.  William Goldsmith is said to have been “born at Bury”, but this need not necessarily be Bury St Edmunds, since no county is given.  The Godfrey family is interesting.  There were three settlers with this surname in 1833 at Lot 34: two at Suffolk (John Godfrey and George Godfrey, presumably brothers), and William Godfrey.  The records only show that they “came from England”.  It does appear likely that they may all be related, and the genealogical information provided by Joe Fitzgerald indicates that they originated from Mettingham in Suffolk, England (see comment of 4th June 2013 in the Guestbook).  We are inclined to accept this suggestion; however, we are not convinced that William Godfrey is the same person as proposed by Joe, although he may be related.  The land he leased was not at Suffolk PEI, and if he was the same person he would have only been 11 years old (the William Godfrey mentioned by Joe was born in 1822), rather young to be the head of household. For further information, see also the correspondence from Sarah on the Suffolk families of Harper and Godfrey in the Guestbook, 20th June 2013. The surname Harper also arises in the 17th century with regard to the founding of Suffolk, Somerset County, Maryland, USA (see under the Smaller Suffolks - USA page).  Here again, that Harper family seems to have come from the northern part of Suffolk, England, near to Beccles on the boundary with Norfolk.

The name “Suffolk” was obviously given to the settlement some time between 1833 and 1840.  It does seem that further acquisitions of property obtained during this period were by the existing families from Suffolk, or by newcomers who also came from that county in England.  In 1850 and the years after that there were 18 available farming plots (one plot had been surrendered to build a mill).  These were occupied by 11 families, of whom 7 can be considered from Suffolk.  Of greater significance is that 14 of the 18 plots were held by families from Suffolk, England.  William Goldsmith had moved on, but the two additional families from Suffolk were: Lionel and Abraham Garnum who came from Cotton, near Walsham-le-Willows, in 1836; and William Dover from Saxmundham in 1840.

The Suffolk Settlement was an agricultural community and all the early residents were farmers.  In the 1830s a sawmill was established by the river that flowed through the settlement.  Later, the river was dammed so that water could provide power for the mill, and a pond formed to the west of Suffolk Road (see Suffolk Pond on The Ones That Got Away page).  A small station and siding, named “Suffolk Road” on the Prince Edward Island Railroad, was located to the south of the settlement.  This opened in 1875, and was mainly used to transport lumber from the sawmill and produce from farms.  For the passenger it was known as a “flag station”, i.e. it was not a regular stop, but only halted when signalled to do so.  The line closed in 1989.  Today Suffolk remains a quiet, dispersed agricultural community comprising three roads: Suffolk Road, East Suffolk Road and the western end of Millcove Road.    

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Queens County

Suffolk is situated in Queens County, the central county of Prince Edward Island, with Prince County to the west & Kings County to the east. Charlottetown is the county seat, as well as being the provincial capital. Both the county & the city were named in 1765 by Capt. Samuel Holland, in honour of Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), queen consort to King George III. The population of Queens County in 2021 was 89,770.

The Hillsborough River (see photo, right), which almost splits Queens County & Prince Edward Island in two, rises in the north east of the county & passes around three miles to the south of Suffolk, before becoming a tidal estuary & emptying into Hillsborough Bay & Northumberland Strait to the south of Charlottetown. 



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