Partridge Island is a Canadian island located in the Bay of Fundy off the coast of Saint John, New Brunswick within the city’s Inner Harbour.
The island is a provincial historic site and was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1974. It lies on the west side of the mouth of the Saint John River
During the American Revolution, in 1780, six British troops from Major Hierlihy’s corps, under the command of Lieut. Wheaton attacked eight American privateers in a house they were occupying on Partridge Island. The British killed three of the privateers and the other five were made prisoner.
Partridge Island was first established as a quarantine station and pest house in 1785 by the Saint John Royal Charter, which also set aside the island for use as a navigational aids station and a military post. Its first use as a Quarantine Station was not until 1816. A hospital was constructed on the island in 1830.
It received its largest influx of immigrants in the 1840s during the Great Famine, known as the “Irish Potato Famine”, when a shortage of potatoes occurred because of potato blight striking Ireland’s staple crop, causing millions to starve to death or otherwise emigrate, mainly to North America. During the famine, some 30,000 immigrants were processed by the island’s visiting and resident physicians, with 1196 dying at Partridge Island and the adjacent city of Saint John during the Typhus epidemic of 1847. During the 1890s there were over 78,000 immigrants a year being examined or treated on the island.
A memorial to the Irish immigrants of the mid-1840s was set up on the island in the 1890s but by World War One it had deteriorated. In 1926 the Saint John City Cornet Band approached Saint John contractor George McArthur who agreed to lead a campaign to build a suitable monument. The Celtic Cross memorial to the Irish dead of 1847 was dedicated in 1927. This was restored and rededicated in 1985. In the early and mid-1980s the Saint John Jewish Community, the Loyal Orange Lodge, the Partridge Island Research Project, and the Partridge Island & Harbour Heritage Inc., a company that was registered in 1988 and dissolved in 2004 erected memorials to the Protestant, Catholic and Jewish immigrants buried in one of the six island graveyards, as well as a monument to all of the Irish dead from 1830 to the 1920s.
A Quarantine Island
In 1830, immigrants stayed there, upon their arrival in Canada, to ensure that they didn’t spread shipboard diseases to Canadian citizens. Thousands of immigrants came to Canada during 1847’s Great Famine, and 2,500 Irish immigrants were quarantined on Partridge Island. The diseases against which the quarantine guarded from spreading included cholera, typhus, smallpox, scarlet fever, yellow fever, and measles.
Newly arrived immigrants were subjected to kerosene showers followed by showers in hot water. Many were sick, and Partridge Island couldn’t handle the huge numbers who came to Canada during the peak of the Irish Potato Famine. The influx of thousands of Irish earned the island the nickname “Canada’s Emerald Isle.”Quarantined immigrants who died of disease were buried on the island, on one occasion in a mass grave, the grass over which was rumored to be of a more intense green than the surrounding lawn because the bones of the dead had nourished it. Closed in 1941, Partridge Island became a mysterious place “visited” only through photographs.