Early Life in Arnold’s Cove
By the latter eighteenth century or early nineteenth, someone by the name of Arnold had built a home in the cove with its requisite stages and boats tied to the wharf. In fact, some say it was a Captain Arnold who settled in the area in the late eighteenth century. No one knows for sure. In any case, fishermen sailing by would come to know it simply as Arnold’s Cove. That was enough. By 1835, the name had stuck and Arnold’s Cove appeared in the official census records of the day.
It was one of three neighbouring communities, Come By Chance and Bordeaux being the other two, which combined, listed a population of 40. And with the second census of 1845, certain names appeared including John Boutcher, Ambrose Guy, Philip Hollett, William Hollett, and Richard Hollett. Each would go on to leave a substantial mark on Arnold’s Cove.
Like many other fishermen around Placentia Bay, those of Arnold’s Cove travelled to take advantage of the bounty in the waters of Cape St. Mary’s. In time, the fishermen began to add lobster and salmon to their catches. Things were clearly looking up.
A Growing Community
Although the census records for 1845 showed a decline in the population to 32 residents, forty or so years later in 1891, the population was resting comfortably at 96. They belonged to 21 families with 23 of 38 children attending the one room school that had been built by the Church of England previously in 1863.
With the arrival of 1900, the Newfoundland Railway made a substantial change to Arnold’s Cove. Very quickly, it became one of the major stops that people coming from islands such as Long Island and Merasheen Island would take en route to the railway. Consequently, the population grew, alongside the activity of Arnold Cove’s port.
The next few decades came with various ups and downs. After a bout of overfishing, the year 1930 brought with it the collapse if the lobster fishery. Being in the depths of depression, it wasn’t a good time for anyone. Although, ten years later. The lobster fishery bounced back and life again followed its usual routines and rituals. The lobster fishery was joined by cod and herring and these also helped to form a foundation for a growing population. And by the 1940s and 1950s, that population had grown to 155 by 1945.
Coming of Resettlement
By 1965, Arnold’s Cove was a small inshore fishing community of 33 households who were served by a small Anglican church and a two-room school. Many of the fishers had held onto their fishing berths for generations and they were essentially regarded as private property. Things changed considerably when the late 1960s arrived and the era of resettlement radically transformed Newfoundland.
Although some must have trickled in during the first round of resettlements in the 1950s, by 1965, with the development of the Fisheries Household Resettlement Programme, as many as 140 families and 620 people moved to Arnolds Cove. The region was filled with the now iconic images of houses being floated to their new home in Arnold’s Cove. New residents made the sometimes sought after, at other times less welcome, move from Haystack, Little Paradise, Brookside, Isle Valen, Harbour Buffett, Gaulton’s Island, Tack’s Beach and Woody Island.
Arnold’s Cove was chosen as a “growth centre,” a scheme based on the growth pole theory which held that when people move to a particular chosen area, this will in turn generate further spin-off industries. Many would come to question this concept, as it wasn’t so cut-and-dried. While it may have been a successful venture for the provincial and federal governments, for the people, it was less so. In many instances, the growth centres such as Arnold’s Cove lacked both the infrastructure and employment opportunities that were necessary for re-settlement to be a successful one.
For the people, there was simply not enough room and the only land and marine space was largely marginal. The school was also deemed to be insufficient for the larger student body. Some re-settlers reported to the government their complaints and concerns about the entire process (the Department of Community and Social Development had sent in investigators to explore the complaints and dis-ease amongst those resettling). Some felt cheated as the amount of money they received for their homes on the islands was far less than what they were having to pay for a new home in Arnold’s Cove.
Ups and Downs
Still, in 1969, things were looking up when the National Sea Productions opened a small factory that processed and sold smoked herring, lobsters, fresh and salt cod. The establishment employed 50 full time and part time workers.
With the arrival of the 1970s came the opening of the refinery in neighbouring Come By Chance. It offered an alternative of wages rather than the often hard-won takings to be had from fishing. After all, it was steady work, absent of the uncertainties that defined the fishery.
Unfortunately, bankruptcy was snapping at the heels of the refinery and in 1976, it succumbed, leaving a real estate market that was laid to waste. Ultimately, it resulted in some having to abandon their new homes and try to start a new life elsewhere. Although, things started to look up in 1989, when the refinery re-opened under new owners, a reality that would go on to define its future.
Meanwhile, as of 1991, the fish processing plant owned by Nationals Sea Products Ltd was functioning at its full capacity. Workers had also begun preliminary work on a large concrete base intended for an offshore production platform nearby to Arnold’s Cove. The future seemed to be welcoming the community with open arms. But things were to change.
The world shuddered as the fishing community sustained sometimes life threatening wounds. As with countless other communities dotted along the coast of Newfoundland, Arnold’s Cove was dealt a significant blow with the moratorium in 1993 for Placentia Bay (NAFO 3Ps).
As with the entire Placentia Bay, the fishers had to contend with a substantial loss, one that would usher in considerable change. Some fishers in Arnold’s Cove would be among the 30,000 people who were bereft of not only work, but a centuries-old way-of-life. Countless reasons abound for the tragedy. They include changes in technology, insufficient and inaccurate regulations yielding overestimates and errors in stock assessments, as well as illegal fishing and overexploitation of the fishery zones. It was a steep hill to climb after 1993.
For the Future
Since this time, Arnold’s Cove has managed to grow and thrive. The town eventually arrived at a point when they could benefit from the proximity to several large industrial sites. These included the Bull Arm construction site, the North Atlantic Refining Ltd. Oil refinery, as previously mentioned, in Come By Chance and the Newfoundland Transshipment terminal, Arnold’s Cove.
Each have provided a valuable workplace for those residing in Arnold’s Cove. The Bull Arm Fabrication Site has been functioning since the early 1990s. Of late, it has run into hard times with the arrival of Covid-19 and the cutting changes the virus has wrought world-wide. However hopes remain alive for the Terra Nova Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) that now sits dockside at the Bull Arm fabrication facility
Located in Come By Chance, the North Atlantic Refining Ltd. Oil refinery has also been a choice work location for a good number of residents of Arnold’s Cove over the years. Due to the recent decline in the call for petroleum products, it has had to ramp down its production. The refinery has been placed in a “warm idle” which means that at least some of the jobs would remain open. However, things are not looking good and there have already been lawsuits levelled against the owner (NARL Refining LP) for improper notice being given for the lay-off of several employees.
Finally, situated in Whiffen Head, the Newfoundland Transshipment terminal is another important employment centre for the people of Arnold’s Cove. It employs 12 people while another 20 Canship Ugland employees work on two purpose-built escort and firefighting tugs.
Arnold’s Cove is regarded as the “Gateway to Placentia Bay” and unquestionably takes this moniker seriously. It will always be proud of its heritage. At the same time, despite the challenges it may encounter, Arnold’s Cove will strive to take a prominent role in the future.
Reconstituting Rural Communities and Economies: The Newfoundland Fisheries Household Resettlement Program, 1965 – 1970, Withers, George, 2016, https://research.library.mun.ca/12329/1/thesis.pdf