Submitted by Juanita Rossiter - firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Peters Bay Court House
Prior to Prince Edward Island entering Confederation in 1873, County Courts existed in Charlottetown, Summerside, and Georgetown. Legislation in 1873 divided the County Court of King’s County into five circuits with sessions to be held in St. Peters Bay, Souris East, Grand River, Georgetown and Murray River. The head of St. Peters Bay was designated to be the place of the first circuit of the King’s County Court by the County Courts Act of 1873.
A tender appeared in The Royal Gazette for the Construction of the Court House in June of 1874. This advertisement, entitled "Tender for the Court House at St. Peter’s Bay," was signed by William MacDonald, Superintendent for Public Works of King’s County:
Sealed tenders will be received by the Secretary of the Board of Works until Saturday, the 13 June, 12 o’clock, noon, for the building of a County Court House at the Head of St. Peters Bay. The signatures of two respectable parties willing to become bound for the faithful performance of the work, must accompany each tender, plans and specifications, to be seen with the undersigned. The Board of Works do not bind themselves to accept the lowest tender.
In 1874, Mr. James Anderson was paid $125 dollars for a parcel of his land, on which the St. Peters Bay Court House was to be built on the south side of St. Peters Bay. In 1874 and 1875, the government of the day allotted $940 and $688.84 respectively to its erection. The St. Peters Bay Court House was one of six buildings originally constructed from a standard plan for Court Houses in small centers. It was one of the first of a series built to a standard design in the Province. The exterior of the building is typical of other extant court houses of this time, having semi-circular headed windows with plain surrounds, a bracket frieze and returned gables. The vestibule and side door were added in 1897, when John L. MacKinnon was given a contract for $142 to do work on the Court House. That year, Andrew Lewis, clerk of the St. Peters Court House, submitted a total of $33.09 in court fees to the Provincial Treasury, placing third behind Souris and Georgetown who submitted $245.74 and $116.42 respectively.
Minor criminal offences were conducted locally before Justices of the Peace. Sessions were held in January, March, May, July, September and November of each year, but in 1878, the July sitting was abolished. In 1880, the number of circuits was increased to six, with the addition of Dundas.
In 1935-1936, the Court House also became the high school for grade nine and ten students in the St. Peters and surrounding areas. Many local residents who attended this school recall the days that there were no classes due to court sessions being held. The St. Peters Court House operated as a court of law until the early 1970s. In 1974, the King’s County was reduced to one circuit before being abolished in 1975.
The Court House building was then purchased by local businessman Albert Quigely who renamed it "Quigley Memorial Hall" in memory of his deceased son. Quigley later passed the ownership of the building to the St. Peters Bay Charge of the United Church of Canada, and it operated as a church hall until the building was sold to the community of St. Peters Bay in 2001.
In the fall of 1991, a war memorial was erected in front of the Court House to pay respect to the memory of the 308 veterans within St. Peters who served in World War I and II, and the Korean War. The lives of these veterans, documented in They Choose To Serve, was written and researched by community members in 1987, the proceeds of which went toward the erection of the war memorial. Sadly, St. Peters Bay has the distinction of having the highest casualty rate per capita in Canada for these wars. On this parcel of land, on which stands one of the oldest buildings of the community and a memorial to a generation lost to war, contains one of the largest representations of the community’s history.
In 2000, the St. Peters Development Corporation took the initiative to obtain funding to have this historic Court House restored. Currently, the original St. Peters Bay Court House operates as a theatre during the evening. During the day, it acts as a museum, providing static displays outlining the history of the building and the local area to visitors free of charge.
(Updated November 2005)
- R.G., 6.3, County Court Fonds, PEI Public Archives and Records Office. The fonds contains information on dockets (1876-1942), judgements (1873-1966), land tax judgements (1904-1907), county clerk records (1873-1970), and insolvent court (1848-1906).
- PEI, Laws, Statues, etc., (Charlottetown: Queen’s Printer, 1873-), 36 Vic. Cap. 3 Changed to third circuit in 1891, 59 Vic. Cap.6.
- The Royal Gazette, 6 June 1874, p. 148.
- Public Archives of Canada (Now Library and Archives Canada – LAC), MG9C, Prince Edward Island Executive Council minutes, 15 February 1875.
- Journal of the House of Assembly, Board of Works Reports, Appendix J, 1875 & 1876.
- C.J. Taylor, The Early Court Houses of Prince Edward Island (1977: Parks Canada), p. 53.
- Journal of the House of Assembly, Department of Public Works, 1898.
- The Honourable Charles R. McQuaid, The Evolution of the Courts in PEI (1997: Charlottetown), p. 253.