The Historic Little County that Isn’t

There are 23 counties in Ontario; Prince Edward County isn't one of them.

Officialdom does some funny things to the treasures we love and enjoy. Take Prince Edward County, for instance. For decades, maybe even centuries, Prince Edward County has been known fondly as "The County".

 "I was down in The County yesterday.” "I’m from The County.” "We have a little cottage in The County.”

Even if you live in Belleville, or Brighton, or Napanee – all lovely communities in neighbouring counties – you will know that "The County” refers to Prince Edward. Not Hastings, or Northumberland or Lennox & Addington. You never ask, "Which county?”

picton ontarioBut within the strict rules of officialdom, Prince Edward County no longer exists. Oh, yes, the official name of the municipality is the Corporation of the County of Prince Edward. Yet it is, for official purposes, designated as a city.

It’s difficult to imagine a city with a population of 25,000 and only one Tim Hortons but there you are. In the eyes of Ontario, Prince Edward has the same status as Toronto, which has a population 100 times larger, plus subways. You only need 10,000 people to apply for city status.

Prince Edward tried being a city, it really did, but people didn’t take it seriously. It even put up a sign on the 401 about "The City of Prince Edward County”. People laughed at it. The sign came down.

Prince Edward was one of a dozen counties created by Lieutentant-Governor John Graves Simcoe in 1792. Eventually there were 28 but several were collapsed into others to create dual identities. Lennox & Addington, for instance, or Leeds & Grenville.

Prince Edward had a county council, and seven distinct townships, each with their own councils. During the rationalization of municipal governments in the 1990s, Prince Edward morphed into a single-tier municipality with city status, with each of the townships forming wards.

Bureaucrats may alter the map but this popular peninsula of rural respite will always be The County.

– Orland French

Photo: Downtown Prince Edward County – Picton and Picton Bay, the heart of the city of the County of Prince Edward. Photo by Darko Zeljkovic