Saint John (French pronunciation: [sɛ̃.ʒɔn]) is the port city of the Bay of Fundy in the Canadian province of New Brunswick. The port is Canada’s third largest port by tonnage with a cargo base that includes dry and liquid bulk, break bulk, containers, and cruise. In 2016, after more than 40 years of population decline, the city became the second most populous city in the province for the first time, with a population of 67,575 over an area of 315.82 square kilometres (121.94 sq mi). The Saint John metropolitan area covers a land area of 3,362.95 square kilometres (1,298.44 sq mi) across the Caledonia Highlands, with a population (as of 2016) of 126,202. After the partitioning of the colony of Nova Scotia in 1784, the new colony of New Brunswick was thought to be named 'New Ireland' with the capital to be in Saint John before being vetoed by Britain's King George III. Saint John is the oldest incorporated city in Canada. During the reign of George III, the municipality was created by royal charter in 1785.
Saint John is the oldest of five chartered cities in Canada along with Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Lloydminster (a city that straddles both Alberta and Saskatchewan).
French colonist Samuel de Champlain landed at Saint John Harbour on June 24, 1604 (the feast of St. John the Baptist) and is where the Saint John River gets its name although Mi'kmaq and Maliseet peoples lived in the region for thousands of years prior. After over a century of ownership disputes over the land surrounding Saint John between the French and English, the English deported the French colonists in 1755 and constructed Fort Howe above the harbour in 1779. Saint John, as a major settlement, was established by refugees of the American Revolution when two fleets of vessels from Massachusetts, one in the spring and a second in the fall, arrived in the harbour. These Loyalist refugees wished to remain living under Great Britain and were forced to leave their U.S. homes during the American Revolution. In 1785, the City of Saint John was formed from the union of Parrtown and Carleton. Over the next century, waves of Irish immigration, namely during the Great Famine via Partridge Island, would fundamentally change the city's demographics and culture.
Predated by the Maritime Archaic Indian civilization, the northwestern coastal regions of the Bay of Fundy is believed to have been inhabited by the Passamaquoddy Nation several thousand years ago, while the Saint John River valley north of the bay became the domain of the Maliseet Nation. The Mi'kmaq also ventured into the territory and named the area ''Měnagwĕs'', which means "where they collect the dead seals."
Samuel de Champlain landed at Saint John Harbour in 1604, though he did not settle the area. The region was conquered by the British by the end of the Seven Years' War. After being incorporated as a city in 1785 with an influx of Loyalists from the northern of the former Thirteen Colonies and immigrants from Ireland, the city grew as a global hub for shipping and shipbuilding. In 1851 the city cemented itself as a global shipbuilding hub when the Marco Polo, built from a Saint John yard, became the fastest in the world.
However, the city would also struggle with its success. From 1840 to 1860 sectarian violence was rampant in Saint John resulting in some of the worst urban riots in Canadian history. The city experienced a cholera outbreak in 1854 with the death over 1,500 people, as well as a great fire in 1877 that destroyed 40% of the city and left 20,000 people homeless.
A blacksmith shop near Saint John Harbour in the late 19th century
1785: Saint John becomes the first incorporated city in what would become Canada.
1785: First quarantine station in North America, Partridge Island, established by the city's charter. In the early 19th century, it greeted sick and dying Irish immigrants arriving with inhospitable conditions.
Canada's oldest publicly funded high school, Saint John High School
1838: The first penny newspaper in the Empire, the tri-weekly Saint John News, was established.
1842: Canada's first public museum, originally known as the Gesner Museum, named after its Nova Scotian founder Abraham Gesner, the first modern commercial producer of kerosene. The museum is now known as the New Brunswick Museum.
1851: Marco Polo ship launched. She carried emigrants and passengers to Australia from England and was the first vessel to make the trip in under six months.
1849: Canada’s first labour union, the Laborer’s Benevolent Association (now ILA local 273) that was formed when Saint John’s longshoremen banded together to lobby for regular pay and a shorter workday. One of their first resolutions was to apply to the city council for permission to erect the bell, which would announce the beginning and end of the labourer’s 10-hour workday.