The Community of O’Leary was established around 125 years ago, with the creation of the Prince County rail system. The main line travelled through the community and a siding and two spur lines were laid opposite the station. The village quickly became a service centre for the area. The railroad company established a coal shed and water tank in the community. The post office and existing local entrepreneurs (mills, warehouses) took advantage of the rail lines. Soon, new merchants and manufacturers set up shop and established O’Leary’s role as trade and service centre for West Prince.
Working on the Railroad
O'Leary was named after one of the earliest settlers, Michael O'Leary, who came to Prince Edward Island from Ireland in 1837 and settled in West Cape, overlooking the Northumberland Strait. As the closest business centre was in Cascumpec on the opposite shore, Michael blazed a direct trail to this centre. The trail became known as the O'Leary Road. In 1874 when the railroad was completed and intersected the O'Leary Road, a railway station was built, which was the first building in O'Leary Station. People then began to move inland to be closer to the railway.
Road making in O'Leary
As the settlement grew, so did the business sector of the Community. O'Leary's first postmaster was John Frost; its first tailor, William Jelley. James Barclay and D.C. Ramsay operated a steam-powered saw mill. William Bulger moved into the village and acted as mail courier as well as the operator of a small general store. Some other early pioneers included Joe and Arthur Perry, James MacAulay, James Dennis, Robert Ellis, and Ebenezer Lidstone. There were also MacKenzies, MacPhersons, MacArthurs, MacLennans, MacFadgens, Champions, and Chisolms. Dr. Donald MacLaughlin located in O'Leary in 1886, and soon after a drug store was opened by William MacDonald. The Pate family landed from East River in 1888 and opened a general store, a cannery, a machine shop, and a cooper shop. Peter Pate was the first magistrate and justice of the peace in O'Leary.
O’Leary is part of the federal electoral riding of Egmont and the provincial electoral district #25, O'Leary - Inverness.
O’Leary is centrally located in West Prince, just a few kilometers from 3 provincial parks, a golf and crosscountry ski resort, and sandy beaches.
According to the 1996 Census, the population of O’Leary is 861 with a catchment area of approximately 15,000 people. This marks an increase of 5.2% since 1991. This is a more significant increase than in the province as a whole. The provincial population grew by 3.7%. O’Leary’s 25-44 years age group, representing 22% of the population is considerably smaller than the provincial population of that same age group (30%). On the other hand, the 65 and over age group is very well represented in O’Leary, making up 26% of the population, whereas, provincially, seniors make up 13% of the population.
More than half (57%) of O’Leary’s labour force of 360 is part of one of 4 industries:
· Agricultural and related service industries (17%)
· Retail trade industries (15%)
· Other service industries (14%)
· Manufacturing industries (11%)
The remaining 43% of the labour force is shared among 10 industry divisions that encompass between 3 and 8% of the labour force.
Charlottetown 130 km
Confederation Bridge (to New Brunswick) 86 km
Summerside 59 km
Wood Islands Ferry (to Nova Scotia) 191 km