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Moncton's location in New Brunswick

This article details the history of Moncton, New Brunswick. Moncton's motto is Resurgo, which is Latin for I rise again. This motto was originally chosen in celebration of the city's rebirth in 1875 after the recovery of the economy from the collapse of the shipbuilding industry. The city again lived up to its motto in more recent times, when the economy of the city was devastated once more during the 1980s as a result of the city's largest employers (the CN repair shops, the Eaton's catalogue division, and CFB Moncton) all departing the city in short order. The city has since rebounded due to growth in the light manufacturing, technology, distribution, tourism, and retail sectors of the economy and is now the fastest growing city in Canada east of Toronto.


Aboriginal Period

The original aboriginal inhabitants of the Petitcodiac river valley were the Mi'kmaq. Moncton is situated at the southern end of a traditional native portage route between the Petitcodiac River and Shediac Bay on the nearby Northumberland Strait.

Acadian Settlement

Fort Beausejour in 2006

The head of the Bay of Fundy was first settled by French Acadians in the 1670s. Early settlement was centered on the region of the Tantramar Marshes but there was gradual expansion of the settled areas towards the west during the succeeding decades. The first reference to the "Petcoucoyer River" was on the de Meulles Map of 1686. The Chipodie Acadian settlement was established at the mouth of the Petitcodiac River in 1700. Settlement then gradually extended up the Petitcodiac and Memramcook River valleys, finally reaching the site of present day Moncton (50 km inland) in 1733. The first Acadians settlers at Moncton established a marshland farming community and named it Le Coude (The Elbow).

In 1755, the Petitcodiac River valley fell under British control after the capture of nearby Fort Beauséjour by forces under the command of Lt. Col. Robert Monckton. This was one of the first actions of the Seven Years' War. The Acadian population of the region was deported later that year by order of Nova Scotia Governor Charles Lawrence but some of the inhabitants of the Petitcodiac and Memramcook valleys were able to escape into the woods and, under the leadership of Joseph Broussard, sustained guerilla warfare against the British occupiers until 1758 when Broussard was wounded in action. The Acadian settlement of Le Coude subsequently remained empty until after the end of the Seven Year's War.

American Settlement

Robert Monckton

In June 1766, Captain John Hall arrived from Pennsylvania armed with a land grant and a charter from the Philadelphia Land Company (one of the principal investors of which was Benjamin Franklin) to establish Monckton Township on the site of the previous Acadian settlement of Le Coude. On Captain Hall's ship were eight immigrant Pennsylvania "Deutsch" families. The Settlers included Heinrick Stief (Steeves), Jacob Treitz (Trites), Matthias Somers, Jacob Reicker (Ricker), Charles Jones, George Wortman, Micheal Lutz (Lutes) and George Copple. There is a plaque dedicated in their honor at the mouth of Hall's Creek. They named their new settlement The Bend of the Petitcodiac, or simply The Bend. There is one surviving building in the city dating from this era; the "Treitz Haus", which has been dated by architectural styling and dendrochronology to have been built in the early 1770s. It has recently been renovated as a downtown tourist information centre.

The American Revolution had virtually no effect on The Bend. The Deutsch settlers were apolitical, mostly concerned with simply surviving in their new homeland and had no interest in the revolutionary cause. There was however an important rebel attack on nearby Fort Cumberland (the renamed Fort Beausejour) in 1776. This attack was led by the American sympathizer Jonathan Eddy and was supported by local Yankee settlers and some Acadians from the Memramcook Valley. The attack was intended to encourage Nova Scotia to join the revolution and although the fort was partially overrun by the rebels, the attack was ultimately unsuccessful due to the timely arrival of British reinforcement forces from Halifax.

Early Nineteenth Century

The Bend initially was, and remained for a long time, an agricultural community. Growth was extremely slow for the first 75 years of the community's existence. In fact, The Bend lagged significantly behind neighbouring towns such as Sackville, Shediac and even Dorchester. In 1788, there were only 12 families in the township and even by 1836, The Bend had only 20 households. It was at about this time that things began to change for the community.

Communication with other Maritime communities and the rest of the world had been mostly a seaborne enterprise until the middle part of the 19th century. While roads did exist, they were often poorly maintained Corduroy roads and it wasn't until 1836 that the Westmorland Road became passable year-round and regular stage coach and mail service between Halifax and Saint John could begin. The Bend was strategically located at a point along the road where a layover and transfer point could be established. This proved to be a significant impetus to the future growth of the community.

Lumbering became important to the local economy of Monckton Township by the 1840s and in the latter part of that same decade, Joseph Salter arrived from Saint John and built a major shipyard at The Bend. Within a few years, over 1000 workers were employed at the shipyard and the sleepy community that had formerly been The Bend would never be the same again. The Bend developed a service based economy to support the shipyard and gradually began to acquire all of the amenities of a growing town. In particular, as the economy strengthened, an important financial institution (the Westmorland Bank) opened and this in turn was able to finance further expansion of the shipbuilding industry.

First Incorporation

The prosperity engendered by the wooden shipbuilding industry allowed The Bend to incorporate as the town of Moncton in 1855. The first mayor of Moncton was the shipbuilder Joseph Salter. The town was named after Lt. Col. Robert Monckton, the British military commander who had captured Fort Beauséjour a century earlier. A clerical error at the time the town was incorporated resulted in the mis-spelling of the community's name which has been perpetuated to the present day.

Two years later on August 20, 1857 the European and North American Railway opened its line from Moncton to the nearby Northumberland Strait port of Shediac; this was followed by the E&NA's line from Moncton to Sussex and on to Saint John opening in 1859. The arrival of the railway initially didn't have a significant impact on Moncton as the E&NA was headquartered in Shediac, where it maintained its locomotive shop.

Recession and Resurrection

Intercolonial Railway Logo

At about the same time as the arrival of the railway, steam-powered ships began to replace clipper ships on the ocean's sea routes and this forced an end to the era of wooden shipbuilding. The industrial collapse that developed from this, as well as the associated bankruptcy of the Westmorland Bank caused Moncton to surrender its civic charter in 1862.

Moncton's economic depression did not last long and a second era of prosperity came to the area in 1871 when Moncton was selected to be the headquarters of the Intercolonial Railway of Canada. The ICR merged the existing E&NA and the Nova Scotia Railway into its system and Moncton would become the hub of the ICR with the following rail lines connecting to the city:

  • The E&NA system merged into ICR, containing the Moncton-Saint John and Moncton-Shediac routes.
  • A newly-built ICR line was constructed between Truro and Painsec Junction (east of Moncton on the E&NA's line to Shediac). This connected to the NSR at Truro which went to Halifax and to Pictou.
  • A newly-built ICR line was constructed from Moncton north to Newcastle, Bathurst, Campbellton and on into Quebec to link with the Grand Trunk Railway at Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec. It was the construction of this route which cemented Moncton's place as the most important economic centre for servicing northern New Brunswick - a relationship which continues to this day.

The coming of the ICR to Moncton was a seminal event for the community. For the next 120 years, the history of the city would be inextricably intertwined with that of the railway.

Second Incorporation, Growth and Prosperity

National Transcontinental Railway Logo

With the arrival of the Intercolonial Railroad, Moncton was able to reincorporate as a town in 1875 with the motto "Resurgo" (I rise again). One year later, the ICR line to Quebec was opened. The railway boom that emanated from this and the associated employment growth allowed Moncton to achieve city status on April 23, 1890.

A major fire at the ICR's riverfront railyard and shops in 1906 was very nearly disastrous for the local railway industry. Fearing that the shops might be relocated to Halifax or Rivière-du-Loup, Henry Robert Emmerson, (a Moncton native and federal Minister of Railways and Canals) quickly petitioned Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier to have the shop facilities rebuilt and expanded. His lobbying was successful and a larger locomotive shop facility was subsequently built northwest of the downtown and the future of the community was preserved.

Moncton grew rapidly during the early part of the 20th century, particularly after provincial lobbying saw the city become the eastern terminus of the massive National Transcontinental Railway project in 1912; this line would link Moncton with Edmundston, Quebec City, and on to Winnipeg where the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway continued to Saskatoon, Edmonton, and Prince Rupert. The First World War brought a halt to the era of railway expansion but the city would become an important trans-shipment point for war materiel funnelling onwards to the port of Halifax.

In 1918, the ICR and NTR (then autonomous companies grouped under the Canadian Government Railways) were merged by the federal government into the newly-formed Canadian National Railways (CNR) system. The ICR shops would become CNR's major locomotive repair facility for the Maritimes and Moncton became the headquarters for CNR's Maritime division. Reflecting the city's importance as a railway and logistics/shipping hub, the T. Eaton Company's catalogue warehouse located to the city in the early 1920s, employing over five hundred people. Meat packing plants and light manufacturing also contributed to the local economy.

As the city grew, it began to draw upon its hinterland for population growth. Much of the surrounding countryside to the east and the north of the city was (and is) inhabited primarily by French-Acadians who were descendants of the refugees that had returned to the region following the deportation of 1755. For the 150 years between its founding by the Pennsylvania Dutch in 1766 and the 1920s, the city of Moncton itself had been an English speaking community but the influx of francophone Acadians seeking employment beginning in the early 1900s would result in a major demographic and cultural shift for the community.

Former Owens-Illinois glass plant in Scoudouc. It was constructed in an aircraft hangar, part of an abandoned World War II air base. O-I wass the latest in a long list of owners of the glass manufacturing plant, which was closed in 2008.

Moncton continued to develop as a regional distribution and transportation hub during the Second World War. The Royal Canadian Air Force established two air bases in the area for training and for operational squadrons. RCAF Station Moncton was located at the pre-existing Moncton airport and RCAF Station Scoudouc was constructed in nearby Scoudouc. The Canadian Army also built a large military supply base along the railway mainline near the CNR shops facilities northwest of downtown; this facility was used to sort much of the war materiel heading on to the ports of Halifax, Saint John and Sydney, as well as to supply army facilities throughout the Maritimes. Following the war, RCAF Station Moncton would revert to a purely civilian airport while RCAF Station Scoudouc was transferred to the provincial government for use as an industrial park. The army continued to use the supply base (CFB Moncton) to service its large military establishment in Atlantic Canada.

Railway employment in Moncton at the height of the steam locomotive era peaked at about six thousand workers before starting a long decline following the Second World War. This was because the new diesel locomotives and longer trains that were introduced in the early 1950s required fewer employees for operation and maintenance.

A regional road network expanded from the city through the 1950s. The latter part of that decade also saw CNR begin development of a major railway hump yard in the city's west end. Further changes saw the downtown railyard modified and the historic passenger station demolished in favour of a small modern structure. This was followed by development of the Highfield Square shopping centre and several office buildings (CN Terminal Plaza) in the early 1960s.

Moncton was placed on the Trans-Canada Highway network in the early 1960s after Route 2 was built along the northern perimeter of the city. Subsequent development saw Route 15 built between the city and nearby Parlee Beach at Shediac and on to Port Elgin. At the same time, the infamous Petitcodiac River Causeway was constructed.

Acadian "Renaissance"

Acadian flag

The Université de Moncton was founded in 1963. This began an Acadian "renaissance" which was in large measure encouraged and supported by university faculty who had been trained in Quebec during the founding years of the "Quiet Revolution". U de M, the renaissance, and the election of premier Louis Robichaud and his program of "equal opportunity" all led to increasing demands by the francophone populace for municipal services in French and led to tension between the Acadian minority and the anglophone majority during the latter part of the 1960s and early 1970s.

The Acadian population began to become more prosperous and influential during the 1980s as linguistic tensions began to relax (although not disappearing entirely). The anglophone population of the city generally began to accept the principle of bilingualism and enrollment in French Immersion classes in public schools became popular. Bilingualism would ultimately become one of the strengths of the community.

Recession Again

The late 1970s and the 1980s again saw a period of economic hardship hit the city as several major employers closed or restructured. The Eatons catalogue division closed in 1976 and CN closed its locomotive shops facility in 1988, throwing thousands out of work and forcing the federal and provincial governments to step in with economic restructuring packages to diversify the Moncton economy. CFB Moncton was also closed at about this time due to defence cutbacks resulting from the end of the Cold War. Moncton became so despondent during the late 1980s (prior to economic restructuring having a positive impact) that the city's promotional slogan would become the rather lackluster Moncton - We're OK.

"Moncton Miracle"

Diversification in the early 1990s saw the rise of information technology, led by call centres which made use of the city's bilingual workforce. Bilingualism was heavily promoted by premier Frank McKenna's government to attract the call centre industry in order to provide a temporary employment "bridge" for the city as it transitioned from the old economy to a more modern one. By the late 1990s, retail, manufacturing and service expansion began to occur in all sectors and within a decade of the closure of the CN locomotive shops, Moncton had more than made up for its employment losses. This turnaround in the fortunes of the city has been termed the "Moncton Miracle".

Recent History

In 1998, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien used the city's growing French community to political advantage when he selected a Canadian site to host the Francophonie Summit in 1999 (it rotates among member nations). Following the near disaster of the 1995 Referendum on Quebec sovereignty, Chrétien felt it more appropriate to host the summit someplace other than Quebec and he decided that the time had come to honour Canada's Acadian population. Moncton became the choice, partly because francophone Acadians consider the city to be their "capital" and also because Chrétien had briefly represented the neighbouring federal district of Beauséjour and wanted to show his appreciation to the area. The summit was held in late August 1999 and was the largest conference ever held in the city, with heads of state and delegations attending from 54 nations around the world.

Following the World Trade Center attacks of 11 September 2001, United States airspace was abruptly closed by the FAA. Over a dozen flights with about 2,500 passengers were diverted to the Greater Moncton International Airport as part of Operation Yellow Ribbon. The Moncton Coliseum was turned into a temporary refugee camp for the stranded passengers but the citizens of the city opened their hearts and every passenger that wanted to was able to find billets in private homes.

The growth of the community has continued unabated since the 1990s and has been accelerating. The confidence of the community has been bolstered by its ability to host major events such as the Francophonie Summit in 1999, a Rolling Stones concert in 2005 and the Memorial Cup in 2006.[1] Recent positive developments include the Atlantic Baptist University achieving full university status and relocating to a new campus in 1996, the Greater Moncton Airport opening a new terminal building and becoming a designated international airport in 2002,[2] and the opening of the new Gunningsville Bridge to Riverview in 2005.[3] In 2002, Moncton became Canada's first officially bilingual city.[4] In the 2006 census, Moncton was officially designated a Census Metropolitan Area and became the largest metropolitan area in the province of New Brunswick.[5]

History of Moncton timeline

Fort Beausejour in 2006
The Deportation of the Acadians had a significant impact on the history of Moncton
Wooden Shipbuilding was responsible for the initial growth of the community
The rail industry re-energized the community after the collapse of the shipbuilding industry
The Intercolonial Railway was headquartered in Moncton

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Year Event
1670s Chignecto settlement at the head of the Bay of Fundy established by the Acadian people.[6]
1686 The earliest reference to the "Petcoucoyer River" on the de Meulles Map.[6]
1700 Chipodie Acadian settlement established at the mouth of the Petitcodiac River.
1733 Community of "Le Coude" (The Elbow) established near Halls Creek, at site of present day Moncton.
1751 Fort Beauséjour at Aulac is built by France in response to the British construction of nearby Fort Lawrence.[7]
1755 British forces under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Robert Monckton take Fort Beausejour and rename it Fort Cumberland.
1755 Expulsion of the Acadian people, including from the Petitcodiac River valley. Some Acadians escape into the woods and begin to conduct a resistance campaign against the British.
1758 Battle of Stoney Creek, end of the Acadian resistance.
1761 English Tantramar Township established.
1766 Captain John Hall arrives from Pennsylvania with a land grant from the Philadelphia Land Company and establishes Monckton Township with eight immigrant "Deutsch" families. The community is named "The Bend of the Petitcodiac".
1780s Acadians begin to return from exile and resettle in New Brunswick.
1810s Wooden shipbuilding industry begins to become an important factor in the local economy.
1836 Regular stage coach and mail service starts, connecting Halifax, Monckton Township and Saint John.
1855 "The Bend" is incorporated as the town of "Moncton"; misspelling is due to a clerical error. The first mayor of the new town is the shipbuilder Joseph Salter.
1857 The European and North American Railway opens its line between Moncton and Shediac.[8]
1859 E&NA RR opens second line between Moncton and Saint John.[8]
1860s Wooden shipbuilding industry collapses. Westmorland Bank falls into bankruptcy. Severe economic recession occurs in Moncton.
1862 Moncton loses its incorporated status.
1871 Moncton selected to be the headquarters of the Intercolonial Railway of Canada.[9]
1875 Moncton is able to reincorporate with the motto "Resurgo" (I rise again).
1890 Moncton achieves city status.[6]
1906 Massive fire destroys ICR shops. City successfully lobbies federal government to have the shops rebuilt, preserving the local railway industry.
1912 Moncton selected as the eastern terminus of the National Transcontinental Railway.
1913 Moncton Public Library opened.[10]
1918 ICR and NTR merge, forming the Canadian National Railway. Moncton becomes headquarters of the CNR Maritime division.
1920 Eaton's catalogue warehouse opens in Moncton.
1922 "CNRA", Moncton's first radio station, goes on the air.
1926 The Capitol Theatre opens.[11]
1928 Moncton Airport established, first commercial air traffic into and out of the city.[2]
1940 CFB Moncton is established as the main military supply base in Atlantic Canada.
1954 Moncton's first TV station, CKCW-TV goes on the air.
1963 Université de Moncton is founded.[12]
1968 The Petitcodiac River causeway is built.[13]
1970s Social unrest as Acadians become politically assertive over minority rights.
1980s Severe economic recession occurs due to several major employers terminating operations in the city, including the Eaton's catalogue division, the CNR shops and CFB Moncton.
1984 Pope John Paul II visits Moncton and stages papal mass for 75,000 celebrants.[14]
1990s "Moncton Miracle" occurs as the economy restructures with a shift towards information technology and call centres, as well as a refocussing upon the retail, distribution, transportation and light manufacturing sectors.
1996 The Wildcats of the QMJHL are established.[15]

Atlantic Baptist University relocates to a new campus and achieves full university designation.

1999 Moncton hosts the Francophonie Summit with the heads of state from 54 nations attending the conference.[16]
2001 North American airspace is closed following the World Trade Centre attacks; ten international flights are diverted to Moncton.[17]
2002 Moncton becomes Canada's first officially bilingual city.[4]

The Moncton Airport achieves International designation.[2]

2005 Rolling Stones play in Moncton before 85,000 fans. This is the largest crowd on their "Bigger Bang Tour".[18]

New Gunningsville Bridge opened.[3]

2006 Metro Moncton becomes the largest population centre in New Brunswick.


  1. ^ "Organization internationale de la Francophonie: Choronologie" (in French) (PDF). Francophonie. pp. 2. Archived from the original on 2008-05-07. Retrieved 2009-01-24. 
  2. ^ a b c "GMIA Home". Greater Moncton International Airport. Retrieved 2007-07-15. 
  3. ^ a b "Gunningsville Bridge opens to traffic (05/11/19)". Communications New Brunswick. 2005-11-19. Retrieved 2007-07-15. 
  4. ^ a b "Moncton votes to become Canada's first bilingual city". CBC News. 2002-08-07. Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  5. ^ "2006 Community Profiles". Statistics Canada. 2006. Retrieved 2007-07-20. 
  6. ^ a b c "The History of Moncton, Information about History of the Region". MonctonNet. 2007-03-13. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  7. ^ "Parks Canada - Fort Beauséjour – Fort Cumberland National Historic Site of Canada - Natural Wonders & Cultural Treasures - Cultural Heritage". Parks Canada. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  8. ^ a b "New Brunswick Railway History : European and North American Railway". Retrieved 2007-07-15. 
  9. ^ "History of railroad shops in Moncton". Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  10. ^ "Moncton Public Library". Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  11. ^ "Capitol Theatre : Virtual Tour". Retrieved 2007-07-15. 
  12. ^ "Musée acadien de l'Université de Moncton - Canada -". Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  13. ^ "Sentinelles Petitcodiac Riverkeeper". Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  14. ^ Russell, George (1984-09-24). "An "Essentially Pastoral" Visit - TIME". TIME Magazine.,9171,923661-2,00.html. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  15. ^ "Timeline - Moncton Wildcats". Retrieved 2007-07-15. 
  16. ^ "Organization internationale de la Francophonie: Choronologie" (in French) (PDF). Francophonie. pp. 2. Retrieved 2007-07-15. 
  17. ^ "Chronology - Transport Canada responds to September 11 attacks". Transport Canada. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  18. ^ "They came They saw They Rocked! [Moncton for Business - Moncton en Affaires"]. Moncton for Business. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 

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