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The Town of Summerside, Prince Edward Island, was incorporated in 1875 under a general act of the Legislature which allowed limited self-government to rising towns and villages. This followed an 1858 colonial statute which authorized Summerside property owners to elect 7 persons to act as assessors and fire wardens, and a further move towards municipal status in 1861 which increased the assessors' powers of collection and authorized wardens to formulate bylaws for the better government of the village. In 1873 Summerside had become the County town of Prince County.
The wardens elected under the 1875 act were David Rogers, John M. Gaffney, Robert McC. Stavert, Thomas Crabbe, and John R. Calhoun. They immediately drafted bylaws re. police, streets and roads, borrowing of money and issuing of debentures. Experiencing some difficulty in obtaining the required approval of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council for some of these bylaws, the town turned its attention to obtaining a separate act of incorporation. Received on 18 April 1877, incorporation broadened taxation and borrowing powers but mostly consolidated statutes, local ordinances, and administrative tradition of the previous 20 years.
Under the new act a chairman and six councillors were to be elected annually to conduct all fiscal, prudential, and municipal affairs with the exception of the powers of the Stipendiary Magistrate. Various officials were to be appointed such as a town clerk, auditors, treasurer, marshal, constables, surveyors of roads, etc. The town clerk was to take and keep minutes and to receive all taxes, assessments, fines, penalties, etc. which would then be turned over to the treasurer and to publish the accounts annually.
The Council was empowered to issue all manner of licenses and to levy any necessary taxes upon real estate, personal property, and income. In return town government was responsible for all areas of municipal life including the market, wharves, streets and roads, public parks, fire prevention, street lighting, sanitation and public health. They were to establish a police force and to provide law and order including the control of vice and public nuisance.
The town meetings were held in various halls until 1885 when the new Market House on the corner of First and Central Streets doubled as a civic building. In 1915, a new brick and stone structure on Summer Street became the location of the town departments. When it burned in 1955, the Town council and its administrative offices found a home in the former Post Office constructed in 1886 on Summer Street and still occupies those premises. The town officially became a city in 1995 after the amalgamation with the adjacent communities of St. Eleanors and Wilmot.
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See also Rankin, R.A. Down at the shore: a history of Summerside, PEI (1752-1945)