The history of Richibucto dates back to 1604 when Samuel de Champlain chose to establish a colony there, potentially making it the first European community in North America. Although French settlers from Brittany and Normandy arrived in the 17th century, no records of their presence remain.
In 1621, Sir William Alexander, King James’ secretary, claimed the lands. Despite the French settlers’ earlier arrival, they did not possess legal documents proving their ownership, nor did the influential Mi’kmaq nation, who were prevalent in the area.
Under English governance, Richibucto was renamed Liverpool. However, confusion with Liverpool in Nova Scotia led the region to readopt the name Richibucto. The name originates from an American Indian legend where “The Great Spirit” told an Algonquin Chief about a “wonderful land” near a “superb river of fire.” Upon discovering Richibucto harbor with its fiery sunset reflecting in the water, the Chief named the place Richibucto, meaning river of fire.
Richibucto’s growth was driven by English colonization, which spurred commerce and industry in the region. Shipbuilding, lobster canneries, fishing, retail, hotels, and log exports to England made Richibucto the third-largest port in New Brunswick. The construction of numerous sail ships like brigs and spankers at the renowned Richibucto Liverpool Shipyard earned the town its shipbuilder status. By the late 19th century, families such as Jardine, Cunard, O’Leary, Desbrisay, Powell, and Noble were considered the region’s business leaders.
Today, Richibucto has one of the most important ports for coastal and deep-sea fishing on New Brunswick’s east coast, with some 100 fishing boats. Its retail business sector is also very developed, which makes it the most important economic centre in Kent County.
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