The Island of 1773 was a very different place. The Mi'kmaq people who predated colonization called it Epekwitk (oft-anglicized as “Abegweit”), meaning cradle on the waves. The French colonists who came circa 1720 and formed PEI’s Acadian community called it Île Saint-Jean, anglicized into the Island of Saint John or St. John’s Island after the British empire took over in 1758. The name was changed to Prince Edward Island in 1799 partly to avoid confusion with the similarly-named Saint John, New Brunswick, and St. John’s, Newfoundland.
When Governor Walter Patterson and other key British-appointed officials began arriving circa 1770-1773, they found an island that was little more than a wilderness. Fiscally drained by the inter-continental Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) that had helped cement British control of St. John's Island, the British Empire was reluctant to spend any money to improve or develop its colonies, preferring they be as self-sufficient as possible.
Ownership of most of the colony’s land was divided up by the Crown into lots awarded to assorted elite British proprietors who were expected to develop these properties and pay “quit rents” to fund colonial administration, but many of these oft-absentee landlords shirked both duties, resulting in a primitive, cash-starved colony. Governor Patterson’s early days on the Island were spent largely on building himself a house for shelter. He and other initial appointees went unpaid for over five years. The colony’s first Chief Justice even died of starvation, and some officials either delayed their arrival indefinitely or resigned their commissions rather than move to the forbidding colonial outpost.