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Community History

 

 

   The Town of Carmanville is situated along both sides of North West Arm in Rocky Bay, Hamilton Sound on the Northeastern Coast of Newfoundland. The first known English inhabitant was John Day originally of Dorset, England, a policeman from Twillingate who settled in the little cove with his wife and two children around 1825 to trap otter and fox. At that time there was an Indian family living there and it is said that they became friends with Day's family. Descendants of Day still live in the area today, in fact his grandson still has a Family Bible and Book of Common Prayer which he brought from England. The Bible is an old book, perhaps the oldest family Bible along the coast or in the country. In order to preserve the book, John Day covered it with sealskin, the sealskin covers are fastened inside by pieces of cloth, supposed to be from the first piece of material ever woven in Newfoundland.

  Carmanville first appeared on the census returns in 1845 with eleven people documented to be living there, it seemed they were all from one family as there was only one house. The inhabitants did some farming and fishing and kept cattle. It remained sparsely populated for the next thirty to forty years but by 1884 there had been dramatic increases in population (in 1874 it had risen to 171).

  The residents of the community, by now known as Rocky Bay, Western Arm, were mostly Methodists. The people fished, raised animals and did gardening. By the turn of the century the population had risen to 402. There was a clergyman and a teacher and work had begun on a school and church.

   Sometime between 1850 and 1900 a Hicks family of six brothers moved to Rocky Bay from nearby, they settled and divided the land, spending their winters in the new tree-clad settlement and moving out to the coast in the spring to fish for cod. Others followed, soon more clearings were made, new trees cut, and the settlement grew and expanded. It seemed they preferred this sheltered wooded inlet to the stormy openness of Musgrave Harbour and so they stayed.

   On June 18th, 1906 the name of the settlement was officially changed to Carmanville after the Rev. Albert Carman (1833-1917). Carman, born in Iroquois, Upper Canada, was a commanding figure in Canadian Methodism during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

   Between 1911 and 1921 there was another large population increase from 415 to 686. The people were mainly engaged in the fishery, with several working at farming or lumbering. Over the next fifty-five years there was a steady growth. Gradually some of the men started lumbering and an important ship building business developed. Many of these ships were used for fishing expeditions to the Penguin, Funk and Wadam Islands. One of the Hicks brothers, Jesse Hicks, was one of Carmanville's pioneer residents and a master boat builder. Jesse, who died at the age of 69, was said to have built a craft for every year of his life.

   Logging remained a major industry in Carmanville during the first half of the 20th century, but after 1950 there was a steady decline culminating in a virtual shutdown in the industry in 1961, when a major forest fire (known as the Bonavista North Fire) destroyed much of the timber stands as well as a part of the town. Many homes were destroyed and the people had to be evacuated. There was regrowth however, and several sawmills operated through the 1970's.

   Carmanville was incorporated as a community in 1955 with Willis Tulk as the first chairman. In 1974 it received the status of a town and Gordon Wagg became the first Mayor.

   Perhaps one of Carmanville' most famous pieces of history comes from the song "Aunt Martha's Sheep" written by a native of Carmanville Mr. Ellis Coles. The song is based on a true story of the theft of a sheep by some local boys caused quite a commotion in the community.

   Carmanville also offers itself as a deepwater seaport, the port can accommodate large freighters and refrigerator cargo ships. The docking facility is 600 feet long and 300 feet across. Carmanville's coastal waters, too, make it ideal for swimming. Tourists can also find sport in catching cod during the food fishery, or enjoy a boat ride while watching for whales.

   Carmanville is indeed a town of rich history, and many attractions, it's coastal scenery offers tourists a fresh and inviting view of a true Newfoundland community.