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K-Island History

First Land Grants:

Prior to the arrival of United Empire Loyalists in May 1783 at Saint John Harbour there was little or sparse European settlement in and around the Kennebecasis and St. John river valleys. However, with the arrival of some 3000 Loyalist refugees land was quickly granted in an effort to establish settlement and permanency.

Kennebecasis Island was surveyed at some point in the early 1780s and divided into 13 lots - see sketch below.

Initial Subdivision Survey of Kennebecasis

Lot Map

In 1785 the Crown granted lots 1-10 under Land Grant 10 - the first land grants on Kennebecasis Island. The grantees, surmised to all be United Empire Loyalists, where:

note: some of the names in the list above are linked to additional information about that person - click on linked name.

Subsequent to the first granting, John Foster was granted lot 11 (the largest of the Island lots at 300 acres) on March 18, 1835 (grant no. 347). Lots 12 and 13 were granted to the McCormick brothers - lot 13 (30 acres) to John McCormick on December 18, 1837 (grant no. 1383), and lot 12 (50 acres) to his brother, Ralph, on April 9, 1843 (grant no. 3017).

Most of the inital grantees did not seem to take up residence on the Island and land soon started to transfer and pass on to others who do did take up residence, putting down generational roots on the Island.

Property on Kennebecasis Island

Click here for a detailed history of property, land grants, land division and ownership on Kennebecasis Island.


Kennebecasis Island Name:

Kennebecais Island assumed a few different names since the first lands grants and initial settlement. One Thomas Merritt had acquired lots 1-4, 6 & 10. Because Merritt owned such a large part of the Island and for a long time (40 years or so), the Island, for a time, was referred to as "Merritt's Island" - in fact within some deeds the land is described as being on Merritt's Island. Other older deeds refer to the Island as "Milkish Island" because of the Island's close proximity to Milkish Creek at the end of the Kingston Peninsula and the Milkish Channel which flows around the Island's north side. In later years people often referred to the Island as McCormick's Island. This was likely because the first stop for river steamships plying the Kennebecasis River route from the City of Saint John to the Town of Hampton was called McCormick's at Kennebecasis Island - one can easily see how the name could become confused as boat captians would call out the stop: "McCormick's"

The Kennebecasis River (ken-ə-bə-KAY-sis) is basically a tributary of the St. John River in southern New Brunswick and forms a long bay where it meets the St. John River. The name Kennebecasis is thought to be derived from the native Mi'kmaq people's name "Kenepekachiachk", meaning "little long bay place".

Kennebecasis Island c1862

Old Island Map


Prominent Early Families of Kennebecasis Island:

After the initial granting of land and a period of land selling/transferring shortly thereafter, a number of farm families took possesion and/or collated Island lots and pieces of lots, either through purchase or re-granting, to settle on the Island as farmers - raising families for a number of generations. The main generational farm families of Kennebecasis Island were:

  1. Morrow
  2. Keefe/Keith
  3. Johnston
  4. Charlton/Hutchings
  5. Irvine
  6. McCormick

By the early decades of the 20th century most of the farm families had moved off the Island into the cities where propsects for work were good and year-long livelihood an easier go. The Keiths were the last farm family to live year-round on Kennebecasis Island - they moved off the Island to the City of Saint John in 1944.

Click on the following links for:

A short history of the Morrows on Kennebecasis Island


A short history of the Johnstons on Kennebecasis Island


A short history of the Keefe/Keiths on Kennebecasis Island

Other Keith References:


A short history of the Charlton/Hutchings on Kenebecasis Island


A short history of the Irvines on Kennebecasis Island


A short History of the McCormicks on Kennebecasis Island

Other McCormick References:


Present Day:

In current times Kennebecasis Island is primarily cottage country. Access to the Island is via a government managed ferry that services the Island from the Victoria Day long weekend in May until the Rememberance Day long weekend in November. Although some of the original land grants remain relatively intact most have been subdivided over the years into smaller lots for cottage development.

During cottage season the Island is a lively place. As well, boaters enjoy dropping anchor in the Island's numerous coves and water nooks & crannies for overnight morrage. Some parts of the Island still do not have electric power service - this keeps a somewhat older times feel with cottage life for those parts.



Other Points:

As the Island's families grew and extended, what the Island had to offer fleshed out as well.

The Johnston family built a hotel on the Island. The Johnston farm was located adjacent to Old Ferry Road and at the end of the road was the ferry dock. This was quite convenient for people travelling the Kennebecasis River route or escaping from industrial Saint John for a short summer holiday to disembark and check in at the Johnston hotel.

Farm families of that era tended to have a large number of children and the Island families were no exception. A small piece of land was given up for the construction of a typical-era one-room school house. The story goes that the government appointed school teacher (who was not an Island resident) would leave the Island just before the Kennebecasis River iced up - the teacher would stay away throughout the winter months, returning when the river was again ice free. Thus the school year ran through the summer months.

There are two private family cemeteries on the Island - Keith family and Hutchings family.

Hutchings Family Cemetery

Hutchings Cemetary 2