Compton Community of Belle River & Bangor, Prince Edward Island
Location: Belle River — about 55 kms SE Charlottetown; Lot 62 (Stats Can census subdivision). 45.98 33 N, -62.8333 W. Bangor — about 50 kms NE of Belle River; Lot 40. 46.3667 N, -62.6833 W
Imbued with the millenarian teachings of the Rev. Donald McDonald (1783-1867), a maverick Calvinist clergyman, and with a desire to provide communally for a close-knit kin group that was experiencing economic hardship at the dawn of the twentieth century, B. Compton Limited was founded in 1909 in Belle River. Far from being recent immigrants seeking a new site for a communal Eden, the ancestors of the founders of B. Compton Limited had been living in North America since the 1600s and in the Belle River area at least since the 1840s, mainly, it appears, as individual families on marginal family farms.
Employing non-salaried kin and paid outsiders, B. Compton Limited engaged in farming for sustenance and markets; fished and canned lobsters; produced a variety of lumber products from locally purchased timber; operated a trading vessel that carried cargo to and from eastern Nova Scotia; and ran a community store that was also the Belle River neighbourhood’s general store. Bangor, the community’s satellite farming settlement, was located some fifty kilometres across-country, near the village of Morell. No direct rail line linked the two settlements, but they could be reached by train via Charlottetown, and across-country by roads that were passable for most of the year for sleighs, wagons, and, later, automobiles.
In the mid-1930s the community was supporting about one hundred people in these two settlements. It weathered the Depression comparatively well. Commentators from within and outside Prince Edward Island, noting the community’s modern physical plant and other evidences of prosperity, attributed its success to its communal ethos and to its skilled, hardworking members. The religious bond among community members and intermarriage were also important factors in its cohesion.
Nevertheless, and despite the strong leadership of B. Compton Limited’s long-serving secretary-treasurer, Hector D. Compton (1879-1970), there were vulnerabilities and challenges within the community even before the Second World War years brought the outside world closer and added new economic and social stresses. Calls for the partial, and then the total, dissolution of the company evidently came from the Bangor settlement, which had not, even in the best years, benefited to the same degree as its Belle River counterpart from the company’s economic successes. While Hector Compton was saddened by pressures to dissolve B. Compton Limited, he ultimately recognized that changed circumstances had made dissolution inevitable and dealt with the complex legal requirements and personal negotiations involved in the winding-up process with fairness and flexibility. At the end of 1947 the company ceased to exist. But especially during the long years of Hector’s retirement, there remained a strong bond between the two settlements.
by Ruth Compton Brouwer
- Brouwer, Ruth Compton. 2021. All things in common: A Canadian family and its island utopia. University of Toronto Press.
- Brouwer, Ruth Compton. 2016. ‘Prince Edward Island’s unique “brotherly love” community’: Faith and family, communalism and commerce in B. Compton Limited, 1909-1947. Acadiensis XLV, 1 (winter / spring): 3-23.
- MacDonald, Edward. 2000. If you’re stronghearted: Prince Edward Island in the twentieth century. Charlottetown: Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation.