Town History

Arnold’s Cove Heritage Foundation

The Town of Arnold’s Cove works closely with the Arnold’s Cove Heritage Foundation in preserving the history of the community. The Foundation operates the “Drake House” for the Town, and they provide a variety of activities that preserves and celebrates the community’s heritage. Please visit their website for more information.

Contact: Chair Alva Noonan
Telephone: (709) 463-2313

Foundation email: 


Arnold’s Cove had its beginnings in the early 1800s as a fishing community. As in all the costal settlements in the area the fishermen caught primarily cod and used line and hook to jig the fish. In Newfoundland’s first census in 1836, the communities of Arnold’s Cove, Bordeaux and Come by Chance were combined to give a total population of 42.

In 1845, Arnold’s Cove was listed in the official census as having 23 inhabitants. The first recorded names are shown in a church report in 1849. They are John and Jonathan Boutcher, Ambrose Guy, and Phillip, Richard and William Hollett. From 1857 to the end of the 19th century, the population remained stable. Community infrastructure came into being in the 1880s with the construction of a school, church and cemetery.

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Jonathan Boutcher is credited with the leading role in the establishment of these first public structures and a church bell. The bell now serves as a monument to his effort, and can be viewed with its inscription in the town’s oldest existing cemetery. Until the mid-1880s, inhabitants of Arnold’s Cove used the services of Harbour Buffett for burial and a clergy stationed at Harbour Buffett visited at intervals to perform baptisms and marriages.

By the turn of the century, the Newfoundland Railway had come into being. It was three miles distance by road from Arnold’s Cove and  many inhabitants of Long Island and Merasheen Island began to use the port of Arnold’s Cove as a gateway to the railway. A small community sprang up near the railway track which is still known today as Arnold’s Cove Station. People who settled there were men who found work on the railway and found it convenient to move their families closer to their work. They came from various communities around the island. The Bollard, Culleton, Rose, Warren and Brenton families formed a viable, cozy village complete with church, school and cemetery.

When the first world war came along Arnold’s Cove saw eleven residents swept off to fight for the allies. Four of the eleven men lost their lives in battle. After the war the town erected a war memorial to honor the brave soldiers.

The opening of the Walwyn Cottage Hospital in Come by Chance in 1936 further enhanced Arnold’s Cove’s importance as the gateway to the mainland for residents of the islands of Placentia Bay. Ocean traffic from places such as Spencer’s Cove, Kingwell, Tack’s Beach and Bar Haven became an everyday occurrence and many residents of Arnold’s Cove took advantage of the booming demand for “bed and breakfast” accommodations.

Meanwhile, the population of Arnold’s Cove was undergoing slow but steady growth as families from the islands began to voluntarily immigrate here. By 1950, the population was approximately 165 and it continued this rate of increase until the mass resettlement of the 1960’s.

The Resettlement

“Soon after Confederation the Provincial Government decided that providing public services for the many hundreds of isolated communities around Newfoundland was not practical. They began a centralization program in 1950 to encourage people to move to places where public services already existed. This program began with a $400 grant to each family who moved and by 1958 the grant had increased to $600.

This period saw the abandonment of thirty-one communities in Placentia Bay such as Iona Islands (Rams), Haystack, Sound Island, and Crawley’s Island. The 1960s saw the acceleration of the process started by the Smallwood Government in the 1950s resulting in the abandonment of many Placentia Bay communities 160 years after the first English and Irish settlers moved there. The new resettlement program called The Fisheries Household Resettlement Program was a Federal-Provincially funded program used to speed up the process started fifteen years prior. The government became more organized in its approach. Petitions to leave were encouraged by program information officers, and cash incentives were increased.

There is no record of who the first settler was but if he had dibs on the choice of location for his home and fishing premises, it must have been Guy. The oldest existing structure in Arnold’s Cove is just around Guy’s Point as you enter the port and it sits on what is certainly the most sheltered spot in the town. The home belonged to and was occupied by succeeding members of the Guy family for many generations.

By 1857, the population had grown to 46 with 43 having been born in Newfoundland and three born in England. Between 1966-1969, approximately 1000 families from twenty-nine communities in Placentia Bay resettled. By 1969, 122 families had been moved to Arnold’s Cove.

People may never agree as to the exact cause or benefits, if any, of resettlement, but there are some basic reasons which cannot be overlooked. For many of the larger communities, public services may not have been a factor, for they had become the centre of their area, although by the 1960s, majority opinion holds, many of these services were being scaled back by the government to encourage resettlement. Other factors, including the changing technology in the fishery, education, health care, and a general decline in population, all contributed to the abandonment of these communities.”

– “Arnold’s Cove, A Community History” – Ken A. Tulk