There are five places on P.E.I.’s North Shore with Rustico in the name.
North Rustico is the only one that is incorporated as a municipality, while the other four — North Rustico Harbour, Rusticoville, Anglo Rustico and South Rustico — are all unincorporated localities.
Georges Arsenault, an Acadian historian and folklorist, says what is now known as Rustico Bay was called Grand Racico during the French regime and Covehead Bay was known as Petit Racico.
“They believe it was named after René Rassicot who was a fisherman from Normandy who came to the Island and married into the Gallant family,” said Arsenault.
However, Arsenault said there’s no indication Rassicot ever lived in the area now known as Rustico. According to the 1752 census, he lived in Port-La-Joye.
“So it’s a mystery why the area, why those two bays, were named Racico and eventually changed to Rustico,” he said.
Arsenault said the area was settled by Acadians after the deportation in the 1760s, which is when the name Rustico started to take hold in the communities there.
South Rustico or Rustico?
Retired teacher Art Buote was born and raised “just down the street” from the Farmers’ Bank of Rustico. He said his family dates back several generations to those earlier Acadian settlers in the area.
He doesn’t hesitate when asked what the community is called.
“This place is called Rustico. Not South Rustico. Rustico.”
“I know on the 1880 map they indicate that little village or area as S. Rustico. Meaning South Rustico,” said Arsenault. “But for people living in that area, for them, they always called it Rustico.”
Acknowledging the history of the area is important to Buote, and that includes calling it Rustico.
“When the Acadians were permitted to return, when they did return to Prince Edward Island in the very early 1760s, this is where it is settled. Right where you are standing now,” he said standing near the Farmers’ Bank, which is now a museum.
“So we feel that this is where the Rustico belongs … we’re very proud of this area.”
The other 4 Rusticos
Arsenault said the other four places eventually came to adopt Rustico within their names as well. Rusticoville used to be called New Bridge, he said.
“Probably when they built a new bridge on the river there.”
He says in the 1880s a public meeting was held to decide on a new name, and Rusticoville was chosen.
“They decided they needed a better name than New Bridge so they voted for Rusticoville. And it’s located between North Rustico and Rustico,” he said.
He said Anglo Rustico came to be in the 1860s, as it was where the Protestant school for anglophone children was.
“My interpretation is that’s how it came about, because you have the same situation around Tignish, where you have Anglo Tignish,” he said.
North Rustico is the only one that is incorporated as a municipality.
“North Rustico was for many people called the crick and there was a fishing village,” Arsenault said. “For a while it was quite poor. Most of the people, a lot of the people didn’t have farms, they just fished.”
‘It’s not very confusing’
He said it eventually became its own parish, named North Rustico, probably to distinguish itself from Rustico.
The North Rustico Harbour, at the tip of North Rustico, is also its own locality.
Arsenault said it’s not uncommon to find place names repeated in an area, giving the examples of Bedeque (Bedeque, Central Bedeque, Lower Bedeque and North Bedeque) and Tignish (Anglo Tignish, Tignish Corner and Tignish Shore).
“Not for local people, it’s not very confusing,” laughs Buote.
Tapu Tuitn to the Mi’kmaq
While the word Rustico may be ubiquitous in places along Rustico Bay, the area also has another name from long before it was settled by the Acadians.
L’nuey, a group with a mandate to preserve, protect and implement the rights of the Island’s Mi’kmaq people, said it is called Tapu Tuitn, which means double narrows.
“The Rustico Bay area was the site of large historical Mi’kmaq campsites, extensive resource use, and numerous archeological sites,” said an email from the group.