The village of Stanley Bridge has been the focal point of activity, since its inception in the 1700’s. This wide river was crossed by people using a carved out tree. This was later called “Fyfe’s Ferry”, as it operated by an oarswoman by the name of “Fyfe.” The horses swam the river while the passengers sat in the ‘ferry’. As traffic increased a draw bridge was built to help with the traffic. This gradually improved over the years to the present day bridge which saw the river narrowed by two spans in the 1960’s.
Why was this village so important? Its first area of wealth began as boat builders discovered the massive forest areas at the head of the Stanley River. Here was an excellent supply of many varieties of trees. Trees which were also tall enough to use for making spars- and were perfectly straight..A large sawmill was set up, close to the present day junction of the Fountain Road and Wigmore Road. Hundreds of sailing vessels were built along this shoreline. Many were sold in the British Isles. The sea Captains who took them there, returned to Prince Edward Island aboard other vessels which were making a trip to Prince Edward Island
Out of this business came many other activities within the village.Along the waterfront,houses were quickly established, close to one anothe. Stores sprung up. At the latter part of the 1800’s and early 1900’s, there were four large General Stores, which had everything that a person would need in order to survive. There was an egg grading station at each store. An abbotoir was included with one other store. A Customs House for the import and export business was opened. In order for vessels to enter the wharf area in Stanley,.The Captain, of a visiting vessel, was obliged to use a dory when he entered the harbour and report to the Customs Officer about his cargo, indicate which port he was using, and the Customs Officer would meet him at this particular wharf. The main imports were molasses, sugars, salt, pots and pans, dry goods, dishes and silverware. Some items, which were purchased from manufacturing Companies in England, or Europe. are still found in homes in the village.
One of the largest exports was cheese and butter made at the Stanley Bridge Dairying Company. This Company operated from 1880 to 1945. Lumber, grains, vegetables, eggs and milk were also exported. Lucy Maud Montgomery, our wonderful Island Authoress said the “Stanley Bridge was the Hub of her Universe”, because a person could find everything that was needed for everyday living – she included such places as the Post Office, the Cobbler Shop, the forges, the carriage [and sleigh] building shop, the harness maker, the tourist home where the sailors were able to get lodging, the funeral business, three doctors, the tailor shop and the seamstresses. The travelling vendors were also plentiful as money was available for people to buy new products..
A very important connection with the outside area was the building of the telephone business from Stanley to Kensington in 1885. Mr. A. J. McLeod, the local merchant would be classed as an exceptional entrepreneur for such an early time in history. He ordered telephone poles to be shipped to P.E.I. from the Miramichi areas, These poles had to be of exact measurement in order to be placed for a telephone system. The Prince Edward Island Telephone Company had just been formed and private lines had to follow the early directions. When the poles came, they had to be unloaded in North Rustico, as the brigantines were too large tot enter New London Harbour. Mr. McLeod had men haul the poles to Stanley and set them, at the proper distance from there to Kensington.
After completion, men from the PEI Telephone Company placed one wire and insulators on the poles. Mr. McLeod had one telephone in his store, which was used to convey messages. People were not allowed to come to the store and use the telephone themselves. Here the owner had to convey the message between the messenger and the receiver. This new telephone was a wonderful help for the cheese and butter factory. When there would be items needed, Mr. McLeod would make the call and goods would be shipped to either Breadalbane Railway Station or sometimes Emerald. Mr. McLeod later connected telephones with two Doctors’ houses. This saved many miles of travels to bring the information to the Doctor. Mr. McLeod also set up another telephone for an operator, to help people in the Clifton area.. These telephones connected with one telephone in Kensington. Such was the beginning of today’s very changed and more complicated system of communication with people around the world
Much more could be said about the changes in this central part of our Island. However, one does get the impression that there was employment for everyone and unless someone wanted an adventure to the unknown parts of the world, they would find employment on Prince Edward Island. With the arrival of the mid – 1920’s, the ‘Sailing Era’ had disappeared. The World War I era brought changes in lifestyles and adventure. The Post-War era saw the younger generation looking for employment in other parts of the unoccupied parts of Canada or the United States. Today we see many descendants of these people returning in their retirement years to enjoy the more simplistic life-style of rural Prince Edward Island..