The Island was among the early discoveries of the explorer and navigator John Cabot, who named it Saint John, from the day of its discovery. Since Britain failed to lay a claim to it, the French included it in its colonies in 1523. In 1663, the Company of New France granted various islands in the St Lawrence to Sieur Doublet, a captain in the French navy, who established a few fishing stations though did not reside here permanently.
In 1713 the Treaty of Utrecht between Queen Anne of Great Britain, and Louis XIV, the King of France, ceded Acadia (now Nova Scotia & New Brunswick) and Newfoundland to Great Britain, though in later wards, the colonies were returned to F
rance. The first Acadian and French colonies were settled in 1720, at the settlement of Port la Joie across the harbor to the south of modern Charlottetown, Trois Rivieres (Brudenell), Havre-Saint-Pierre (St. Peters), Havre-aux-Sauvages (Savage Harbour), Tracadie, Malpeque, Pointe de l'Est (East Point), and Riviere du Nord Est (Hillsborough River). Over the next 35 years, the Acadian population grew and developed. The first road on the Island was built in 1731 by Jean Pierre de Roma, who cleared inland paths connecting the French settlements in Eastern Kings, from Brudenell Point to Sturgeon Bay, Cardigan, Souris, St. Peters, and Port Lajoie
The great fortress of Louisburg fell in 1745, but was restored to the French in 1748. War was again declared by Britain against France in 1756, and in 1758 Louisburg again fell under the leadership of the gallant Wolfe who then sent several war ships were detached to seize on the Island of St John.
The new British governors expelled the Acadians from the Atlantic colonies in 1755 and again in 1758 (mostly to what is now the State of Louisiana.). In 1755, though 6,000 Acadians were deported from Nova Scotia, about 4,000 escaped and half sought refuge on the Island. Three years later, 3,000 Acadians were expelled from Prince Edward Island. Many of those deported to France perished when two vessels sank on their transatlantic crossing. About 30 families managed to remain hidden on the Island until the 1763 treaty. When they attempted to return to their lands, they found that the British had appropriated the land, distributed it amongst themselves, and forced the Acadians to pay rent on the land they had inhabited for generations..
After the British took control of Prince Edward Island in 1763, Port la Joie became the site of Fort Amherst, protecting the harbor for Captain Samuel Holland's new Charlottetown settlement, just across the harbor from Port la Joie. Holland named it Charlotte Town, after Charlotte, wife of King George III, and in 1768 it was named the capital of the colony. In 1768 Charles Morris, the chief surveyor for the colony of Nova Scotia laid out a detailed plan with 500 building lots on 270 acres (all between the waterfront and Euston Street) and 565 acres of common pasture area.
Following the American Revolution, many Loyalists fled north from the former colonies to settle here. In 1780, the colonial legislature almost changed the name of the island from Saint John to New Ireland, though changed its mind in 1781. The colony now called Prince Edward Island had its first assembly in 1803 under Governor Colonel Joseph F. W. DesBarre and in 1823, the first Prince Edward Island Register was published. In 1834, Fanningbank, also known as Government House, was built as the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor.
In 1837, a rebellion broke out in Canada and Lord Durham, then governor general of British North America, provided a report to the Crown on how to restructure its colonies in North America. Later, in 1837, Queen Victoria became the head of the British Empire. The Colonial Building (now called "Province House"), was built by architect Isaac Smith from 1843 to 1847, and hosted its first session of the Prince Edward Island legislature that year. During the session of 1863, an act to extend the elective franchise was passed, which made that privilege almost universal. In 1864, the Fathers of Confederation met in this building to discuss the union of the colonies.
1838, a Mechanics Institute was established in Charlottetown. In the year 1838, the chief of the Micmac tribe presented a petition to the governor, praying for a grant of land to his tribe of 500 members. In 1842, Mr. John Ings started a weekly newspaper, designated "The Islander." In 1855, Charlottetown was incorporated, as well as the Bank of Prince Edward Island and the province's first Normal School (teacher's college). In 1861, a commission settled all of the land claims on the island, that have been poorly recorded until that time, including the Acadians, the 1783 Loyalists, and the Indians were granted Lennox Island and the grass lands around it. The 1861 census counted 80,856 residents, including 356 Indians. There were also 156 churches, 302 schoolhouses, 91 fishing establishments, 141 grist-mills, 166 saw-mills, 46 carding-mills, and 55 tanneries.
On July 16, 1866, the city experienced "The Great Fire", its worst of several fires, which broke out in an old building near the waterfront and destroyed nearly four city blocks with one hundred buildings, leaving 30 families homeless. The fire prompted the city government to promote brick construction, causing the many brick buildings of the downtown area to be built.