Richibucto: A rich and vibrant history
The history of Richibucto goes back as far as 1604, when Samuel de Champlain decided to establish a colony there. We believe it to be the first European community to be established in North America. There was no trace of their arrival in the 17th century, when the French from Brittany and Normandy settled here. In 1621, Sir William Alexander (King James’ secretary), claimed the lands. Even though the French immigrants had settled there 17 years before, they did not possess any legal documents attesting to their ownership. It was the same for the powerful Mi’kmaq nation, omnipresent in this region. Under the governance of the English, the name of Richibucto was to become Liverpool.
However, the confusion that reigned with Liverpool in Nova Scotia was such that the region would eventually adopt the name Richibucto. The history behind the name Richibucto comes from an Amerindian legend. It is said that “The Great Spirit” told the Chief of the Algonquin Tribe that came from the Great Lakes, that there existed a “wonderful land in the direction of the sunset, along a superb river of fire. The Chief set out to find this river of fire. It was only when he entered Richibucto harbour that he saw a sunset, “a flamboyant red sky that was mirrored in the water”. He settled there and named the place Richibucto, river of fire.
Richibucto would grow in scope with the colonization by the English who were to develop commerce and industry in the region. Shipbuilding, the lobster “canneries”, the fishing industry, the retail industry, the hotel business, as well as the exportation of logs to England would make Richibucto the 3rd largest port in New Brunswick. The building of hundreds of sail ships like brigs and spankers would earn Richibucto its status of shipbuilder, due to the famous Richibucto Liverpool Shipyard. Towards the end of the 19th century, families like Jardine, Cunard, O’Leary, Desbrisay, Powell and Noble were considered the leaders of the business community.
Today, Richibucto has one of the most important ports for coastal and deep-sea fishing on New Brunswick’s east coast, with some 100 fishing boats. Its retail business sector is also very developed, which makes it the most important economic centre in Kent County.