DeSable is one of the surviving names of the old French Regime on Prince Edward Island recorded by the French Census of 1752, meaning “Riviere de Sable” (River of Sand). DeSable watershed drains the majority of Lot 29 (Meachum Atlas 1880).
DeSable watershed is a hilly, wedge-shaped land area in south-central PEI. The watershed encompasses over 4177.5 Ha, is five kilometres wide near the Northumberland coast, and reaches inland more than 12 kilometres; this roughly follows Route 246 to Maplewood. It encompasses portions of DeSable, South Melville, Hampton, Green Road, Appin Road, Kellys Cross and Maplewood. At the estuary, visible from the DeSable Bridge on Route 1, the watershed drains from the two arms of the DeSable River along with the unrelated Bell’s Creek.
The history of the area can be traced back to the arrival of the first Island residents approximately 10,000 years ago; the Paleo-Indians arrived via land bridge to forage and hunt on the Island. About 5000 years ago, sea levels rose, and Prince Edward Island was created. Prior to Columbus, the Island was a part of the Mi’kmaq nation which represented the union of the Atlantic Region, the Gaspe Peninsula and parts of Maine.
Prince Edward Island was discovered by Europeans after Jacques Cartier in 1534, but was not permanently settled until the 18th century.
DeSable and the surrounding area has a history of being part of water mill country, beginning with early Acadian settlement. According to Old DeSable by Clifton C. Ince (1975), there were three mills built in the 1820’s. These mills provided a variety of goods for the community, including corn and wheat flour, oatmeal, carded wool, cloth, lumber and shingles. Mills were established on the east arm (Holm’s Pond) and west arm (Dixon’s Mill) of the DeSable River in the 1800’s; a third mill was built on Bell’s Creek in the 1820’s. There were also at least three mills upriver, one just north of the Green Road, and two on the main branch. Beer’s Mill was located on the Sandy Point Road, and Dunsford’s Mill was approximately three miles upstream.