New Brunswick’s oldest village is marking a century since incorporation as it prepares to join surrounding communities as part of a new municipality.
Port Elgin became a village in 1922 following rapid growth brought by the railway and harbour.
But, later this year, the community of 381 people will be known by a new name as it joins six nearby local service districts to form a new entity.
Janice Legere, a town councillor, is helping to organize one of the last events where a “Village of Port Elgin” banner will wave.
She said it will be a celebration of both the past and the move toward being part of a rural municipality.
“I’m pretty excited about it because we spent one year getting ready for this hundredth year, and at the same time we’re looking forward to the local governance reform where we’ll start a different hundred years,” she said.
Residents will gather Monday to celebrate the milestone with music, historical presentations, guest speakers and the unveiling of a banner.
The village is also making improvements to its parks, adding historical signage and picnic shelters.
‘A booming place’
People in Port Elgin describe it as “a booming place” in the past, spurred by its location on a transportation corridor.
Elaine Smith was mayor of Port Elgin in the 1980s and remembers a time when businesses lined the streets, including a bank, four grocery stores, a doctor’s office and a furniture store.
“You wouldn’t believe it if you drove down Main Street today,” she said.
“A lot of things have left, it just isn’t the same anymore.”
WATCH / Port Elgin celebrating centennial with ceremony
Most businesses are now gone and residents drive to Amherst, Sackville or Moncton for shopping. A pharmacy is one of the only services left in the village centre.
It remains home to a window manufacturer, a nursing home and a K-8 school.
Smith, 82, said a lot has changed since she attended celebrations for the 50th anniversary. When she was mayor, she tried unsuccessfully to annex an area near the port. She said many residents don’t have strong opinions on the end of the village government.
“I don’t know if I like it or not,” she said. “There’s so many new people in town, Port Elgin wouldn’t mean that much to them.”
A new community
The province’s local governance reform is forcing the merger of dozens of municipalities and rural districts, reducing the total number of entities in the province from 340 to fewer than 100.
New entities are expected to prepare to elect new councillors this fall, and become official Jan. 1, 2023.
Port Elgin and the local service districts of Baie-Verte, Bayfield, Botsford, Cape Tormentine, Westmorland and Murray Corner have been in discussions about the merger. They have until May 16 to pick a new name, which has yet to be determined.
For many, the switch will have minimal impact. Port Elgin will keep its welcome signs for now, mailing addresses won’t change and locals plan to keep using its former name.
Legere has lived in the village for 50 years. She said the centennial committee includes people from the surrounding local service districts.
“We’ve always worked together. We’re going to move into the next hundred years together,” she said.