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A Brief History of Bonne Bay

Bonne Bay has known people for at least 4500 years, when small groups of Maritime Archaic and, later, Palaeo-Eskimo camped along its shores. It first appeared on maps as Deadmans Bay and Baya Ederra (‘Beautiful Bay’ in Basque) in the late 1600s, and was labelled as Belle or Bonne Bay throughout the 1700s.


James Cook produced the first detailed chart in 1770, as part of his survey of the whole coast. From 1783 to 1904 the coast of western Newfoundland was under nominal French jurisdiction, but few if any French settled around Bonne Bay. Here the first livyers arrived in the early 1800s, but the main influx was in the mid to late 1800s, when families from the South and East Coast and from Nova Scotia came to fish for herring and lobster.


During this period the Bay was visited by British and French naval vessels patrolling the coast for illegal activities – though what was deemed illegal for the French was not necessarily the same for the British.


By the early 20th century Woody Point - or as it was then known “Bonne Bay” and sometimes “Jersey Rooms” - was the administrative center for much of the West Coast north of the Bay of Islands, housing post and telegraph office, magistrate and  court house, doctor and policeman. A flourishing lumber industry in Lomond began around 1920 and declined by the early 1940s. Despite a disastrous fire that destroyed the business section of Woody Point, the town survived, while Norris Point and Rocky Harbour grew.


The advent of the national park in the 1970s has ensured the prosperity and continuity of settlements around the Bay, north to Cow Head and south to Trout River.

Excerpted from “The Good and Beautiful Bay: A History of Bonne Bay from Confederation and a Little Beyond”, Anthony Berger, Flanker Press.

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