Moncton is a Canadian city located in Westmorland County in southeastern New Brunswick. Situated in the Petitcodiac River Valley, it lies at the geographic centre of the Maritime Provinces. The city has gained the nickname "Hub City" because of its central location and also because Moncton has historically been the railway and land transportation hub for the Maritimes.
The city proper has a population of 69,074 (2011). The city covers 142 square kilometers. The Moncton CMA has a population of 138,644 (2011). The CMA includes the neighbouring city of Dieppe and the town of Riverview, as well as adjacent suburban areas in Westmorland and Albert counties.
Although the area was originally settled in 1733, Moncton is considered to have been officially founded in 1766 with the arrival of Pennsylvania Dutch immigrants from Philadelphia. Initially an agricultural settlement, Moncton was not incorporated until 1855. It was named for Lt. Col. Robert Monckton, the British officer who had captured nearby Fort Beauséjour a century earlier. A significant wooden shipbuilding industry had developed in the community by the mid-1840s, allowing for civic incorporation in 1855, but the shipbuilding economy collapsed in the 1860s, causing the town to subsequently lose its charter in 1862. Moncton regained its charter in 1875 after the community's economy rebounded, mainly due to a growing railway industry. In 1871, the Intercolonial Railway of Canada had chosen Moncton to be its headquarters, and Moncton remained a railroad town for well over a century until the closure of the Canadian National Railway (CNR) locomotive shops in the late 1980s.
Although the economy of Moncton was traumatized twice—by the collapse of the shipbuilding industry in the 1860s and by the closure of the CNR locomotive shops in the 1980s—the city was able to rebound strongly on both occasions. The city adopted the motto Resurgo after its rebirth as a railway town. At present, the city's economy is stable and diversified, primarily based on its traditional transportation, distribution, retailing and commercial heritage, but also supplemented by strength in the educational, health care, financial, information technology and insurance sectors. The strength of the economy has received national recognition and the local unemployment rate is consistently less than the national average.
Acadians first settled the head of the Bay of Fundy in the 1670s. The first reference to the "Petcoucoyer River" was on the De Meulles map of 1686. Settlement of the Petitcodiac and Memramcook river valleys began about 1700, gradually extending inland and reaching the site of present day Moncton in 1733. The first Acadian settlers in the Moncton area established a marshland farming community and chose to name their settlement Le Coude (The Elbow).
In 1755, nearby Fort Beausejour was captured by English forces under the command of Lt. Col. Robert Monckton. The Beaubassin region including the Memramcook and Petitcodiac river valleys subsequently fell under English control.
Later that year, Governor Charles Lawrence issued a decree ordering the expulsion of the Acadian population from Nova Scotia (including recently captured areas of Acadia such as le Coude). This action came to be known as the "Great Upheaval".
The reaches of the upper Petitcodiac River valley then came under the control of the Philadelphia Land Company and in 1766 Pennsylvania Dutch settlers arrived to re-establish the pre-existing farming community at Le Coude. The Settlers consisted of eight families; Heinrick Stief (Steeves), Jacob Treitz (Trites), Matthias Sommer (Somers), Jacob Reicker (Ricker), Charles Jones, George Wortmann (Wortman), Michael Lutz (Lutes) and George Koppel (Copple). There is a plaque dedicated in their honor at the mouth of Hall's Creek. They renamed the settlement "The Bend". The Bend remained an agricultural settlement for nearly 80 more years. Even by 1836, there were only 20 households in the community. At this time, the Westmorland Road became open to year round travel and a regular mail coach service was established between Saint John and Halifax. The Bend became an important transfer and rest station along the route. Over the next decade, lumbering and then shipbuilding would become important industries in the area.
Two years later, in 1857, the European and North American Railway opened its line from Moncton to nearby Shediac; this was followed by a line from Moncton to Saint John opening in 1859. At about the time of the arrival of the railway, the popularity of steam-powered ships forced an end to the era of wooden shipbuilding. The resulting industrial collapse caused Moncton to surrender its civic charter in 1862.
Moncton's economic depression did not last long and a second era of prosperity came to the area in 1871 when Moncton was selected to be the headquarters of the Intercolonial Railway of Canada (ICR). The arrival of the ICR in Moncton was a seminal event for the community. For the next 120 years, the history of the city would be firmly linked with that of the railway. In 1875, Moncton was able to reincorporate as a town and adopted the motto "Resurgo" (Latin for I rise again). One year later, the ICR line to Quebec was opened. The railway boom that emanated from this and the associated employment growth allowed Moncton to achieve city status on April 23, 1890.
Moncton grew rapidly during the early 20th century, particularly after provincial lobbying helped the city become the eastern terminus of the massive National Transcontinental Railway project in 1912. In 1918, the ICR and NTR were merged by the federal government into the newly formed Canadian National Railways (CNR) system. The ICR shops would become CNR's major locomotive repair facility for the Maritimes and Moncton became the headquarters for CNR's Maritime division. The T. Eaton Company's catalogue warehouse moved to the city in the early 1920s, employing over seven hundred people. Transportation and distribution became increasingly important to the Moncton economy throughout the middle part of the 20th century. The Moncton Airport opened in 1929 and quickly became an important fixture in the community. During the Second World War the Canadian Army built a large military supply base in the city to service the Maritime military establishment. The CNR continued to dominate the economy of the city with railway employment in Moncton peaked at nearly six thousand workers in the 1950s before beginning a slow decline.
Moncton was placed on the Trans-Canada Highway network in the early 1960s after Route 2 was built along the northern perimeter of the city. Subsequent development saw Route 15 built between the city and Shediac. At the same time, the Petitcodiac River Causeway was constructed. The Université de Moncton was founded in 1963. This institution became an important resource in the development of Acadian culture in the area.
The late 1970s and the 1980s again saw a period of economic hardship hit the city as several major employers closed or restructured. The Eatons catalogue division, CNR's locomotive shops facility and CFB Moncton were all closed during this time throwing thousands of citizens out of work.
Diversification in the early 1990s saw the rise of information technology, led by call centres which made use of the city's bilingual workforce. By the late 1990s, retail, manufacturing and service expansion began to occur in all sectors and within a decade of the closure of the CNR locomotive shops Moncton had more than made up for its employment losses. This dramatic turnaround in the fortunes of the city has been termed the "Moncton Miracle".
The growth of the community has continued unabated since the 1990s and has been accelerating. The confidence of the community has been bolstered by its ability to host major events such as the Francophonie Summit in 1999, a Rolling Stones concert in 2005, the Memorial Cup in 2006 and both the IAAF World Junior Championships in Athletics and a neutral site regular season CFL football game in 2010. Recent positive developments include the Atlantic Baptist University achieving full university status and relocating to a new campus in 1996, the Greater Moncton Airport opening a new terminal building and becoming a designated international airport in 2002, and the opening of the new Gunningsville Bridge to Riverview in 2005. In 2002, Moncton became Canada's first officially bilingual city. In the 2006 census, Moncton was officially designated a Census Metropolitan Area and became the largest metropolitan area in the province of New Brunswick.