Shediac‘s prominence as a vital Acadian region can largely be attributed to its dedicated builders who believed deeply in the area’s potential. Historical records indicate that the first Acadians to settle in the region during the 17th and 18th centuries worked in Shediac. In 1749, many were employed to construct a fort, residences, and warehouses intended to resupply French troops in new Acadia. Provisions from Québec, Louisbourg, and France were offloaded from schooners and stored in Shediac, later to be transported via portage to Petitcodiac and Beauséjour.
The first permanent Acadian settlers in what is now known as Shediac arrived between 1798 and 1805. They mainly settled east of the Scoudouc River, in an area later dubbed La Batture due to the abundance of oyster beds at the river’s mouth.
In the early 19th century, age-old trails evolved into the Maritimes’ first organized public transportation systems. The first public road in New Brunswick was built between Shediac and Moncton in 1816. This road hosted the east coast’s inaugural public transit service. Consequently, it’s not surprising that Shediac was home to the Maritime Provinces’ first railway. The European and North American Railway began transporting passengers from Shediac to Moncton in August 1857.
Before the operations were relocated to Moncton following the 1872 fire, Shediac served as one of the country’s most significant railway hubs. The old train station, the sole remnant of that period, survived until the 1980s when the old railway lines were dismantled to make way for an office building, which would later house the Department of Supply & Services Superannuation. Interestingly, the Town purchased the old railway station in 1994, and the structure still stands today.
During the 19th century, goods from New Brunswick were exported to international markets via sea routes. Shediac, with its favorable geographical position and vast timber reserves, was an ideal location for building sailing ships. The first ship constructed in Shediac was launched in 1817. Crafted by Bowen Smith, the ship was made entirely from hand-carved wood. However, with the advent of new transportation modes, such as roads, and the expansion of the shipping industry in other key Maritime centers, shipbuilding in the area gradually declined.
Like many other Acadian communities, agriculture significantly contributed to Shediac’s growth. In the early 1870s, the family business, Chesley Tait Company, created an industry that would lead Shediac’s economy for many years. Alexander J. Tait, one of the business partners, spotted an opportunity to enhance the business and cultivate the potato industry in his small seaside village during a trip to Bermuda. Upon his return to Shediac, he promptly persuaded local farmers to grow potatoes on a larger scale. Throughout the first two decades of the 20th century, about a hundred thousand barrels of potatoes were transported from Shediac by rail or sea to foreign markets in Bermuda and the West Indies, as well as other parts of Canada.
Shediac also played a significant role in the growth of air transport. The first transatlantic airmail to Lancashire, England was postmarked at the Shediac Post Office on June 24, 1939. The flights traveled from Shediac to Foynes, Eire. Earlier, in July 1933, the first air squadron departed Italy to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Twenty-five hydroplanes under General Italo Balbo’s command landed safely on the tranquil waters of Shediac Bay. The first commercial flights from North America to Europe originated from the Shediac terminal of Pan American Airways starting on July 19, 1937. The “Clipper” refueled in Shediac once a week. However, the outbreak of World War II in September 1939 led to a decline in hydroplane use, and consequently, the Shediac terminal ceased operations. During the war, the terminal was used by the Royal Canadian Air Force’s small military planes.
Shediac is unique in Canada, having been closely linked to the early stages of all public transportation forms: public roads, railways, passenger/cargo ships and ferries, and commercial aviation. Acadian settlers from the region capitalized on the development of the municipality of Shediac, and today, Acadians constitute 75% of Shediac’s population.
With a rich history and culture, Shediac is known for its progressive stance: as the location of the first shipbuilding yard, the first steam sawmills in New Brunswick, and the first passenger railway line in the Maritimes.
Situated near the strait of Northumberland, Shediac is famous around the world for its giant lobster, where thousands of visitors have their pictures taken each year, thus confirming our claim to fame as “THE LOBSTER CAPITAL OF THE WORLD”. The first mention of the word “lobster”, a word attributable to Captain Parkhurst, appears in the Maritimes Archives as far back as 1578.
Closer to home, a pioneer in the lobster processing industry was named William Blizzard, a resident of Shediac. He opened a lobster processing plan in Shediac in 1861 and began to sell lobster on the open market. He was an innovator in the processing of lobster in Southeast New Brunswick. Another Shediac native whose name is synonymous with the lobster industry in the 20th century is Émile Paturel. The Paturel name was closely linked to this delectable seafood for over fifty years in Canada, the United States and Europe. The Town of Shediac certainly took advantage of this abundant natural resource and in 1949 the municipality staged the very first annual Shediac Lobster Festival, which marks it as one of the oldest festivals in the province.
Click on a thumbnail to see more photos from the Shediac-Cap-Pele area.
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