The History of Campbellton

Campbellton is a fishing-lumbering community located in Indian Arm, Notre Dame Bay. It was originally named Indian Arm after the Beothuck village that was situated on the Indian Arm River in the early 1800s. It was later renamed between 1901 and 1911, probably in honour of the saw mill manager, John Campbell.

The first known inhabitants of Indian Arm were the Beothuck who relied on the river's salmon stock as a major food supply and on the cod and mussels (and other shellfish) that were abundant in the waters to the sheltered bay.

According to Thomas Peyton, the salmon warden of Twillingate, " Indian Arm River, situate at the bottom of Indian Arm... was formerly owned by Garland and Company, and was sold by them to John Ginn on or about 1816, who fished the river for years. John Ginn sold his right to Joseph Hornett, and the river is now claimed and occupied by a widow of that family. " In 1875, it was reported that " Ann Hornett, by purchase, owns river, pickled 10 tierces; sold to merchants. " The widow's husband, William Hornett (Harnett) had fished the river until 1861. The river averaged 10 to 90 tierces of salmon annually. Salmon was the basis of the early economy of Indian Arm River. The relationship between the early settlers and this resource is summed up by Peyton who remarked in his report, " The occupiers of these rivers are solely depending on what they get out of them, and have, as it were, a vested right to them ".

According to oral tradition the first European settler was one William Genge or Ginn, a salmon fisherman, of whom the Beothuck were resentful and distrustful of his encroachment on their hunting and fishing territory. Other settlers came. James Vinehan and James Manuel reputedly migrated from Twillingate to Indian Arm the same time as Harnett and they were followed in 1887 by Pelley and Hill families from Black Island. The population of Indian Arm grew slowly. These settlers from other Notre Dame Bay communities further out along the coast were attracted by the settlement's fine sandy beach, its fish resources especially salmon and cod and its timber resources for boat building. By 1877 the community supported a Church of England congregation numbering just over 100, a clergyman and a school house that was also used "For Divine Service" . The Labrador fishery was also prosecuted in the 1890s and some non-commercial agriculture and boat building were undertaken. However, it was the potential of the large stands of timber around Indian Arm that began to attract lumber workers and businessmen by the end of the century.

From the early 1900s lumbering became the exclusive employment in Campbellton and the resulting boom drew people from all parts of Notre Dame Bay and White Bay, including Bennetts, Clarks, Perrips, Ansteys, Hilliers (from Twillingate), Browns, Lacups and Luffs (Exploits), Youngs, Berts, Budgers and Wellses (Twillingate), Rowsells and Luffs (Exploits), Curtises (Herring Neck), Snows (Black Island), Clancys and Callahans (White Bay), Chippetts (Leading Tickles), Bretts (Moreton's Harbour) and Evanses, Kings and Snelgroves (Harry's Harbour). From 1901 to 1921 the lumber industry drew nearly three hundred people to the two major mills in Campbellton. In 1904 a devastating fire destroyed all buildings, except one house, in the town, including the first large sawmill, owned by Campbell Lumber Company. After the fire the Horwood Lumber Company rebuilt the sawmill. This failed in 1923.

In 1912 a large pulp mill was built after damming Indian Arm Brook. The dam broke in 1915 and was repaired, but it broke again in 1916 and the operation ceased. After the failure of this mill and the sawmill, pit prop operations were set up for export.

The cod fishery on the Labrador and the French Shore, and the salmon and lobster fishing were then prosecuted. As new industries came to central Newfoundland people were also employed in Buchans, Grand Falls and Corner Brook. Some families moved to these places after the failures of the mills. Some of the economy of Campbellton from that time has been based on seasonal work in the forest and some squid, herring, cod, lobster and salmon fishing. The majority of workers commuted to Lewisporte and other nearby communities for employment. A growing summer tourism industry was also reported in 1980. This continues to develop.

After 1952 both parts of the community, Campbellton North and Campbellton South, were linked by a concrete bridge and to other Notre Dame Bay communities by a road built in 1951.

The sudden influx of settlers at the turn of the century brought Methodism, and many converts were made in the Church of England community. The Salvation Army came to Campbellton in 1890s, and the Pentecostal Assemblies in the 1930s. Each denomination maintained schools and churchs in the community and in 1968 a new intergrated (United Church and Salvation Army) high school was built. Protestant students attended elementary school and high school in Campbellton. Pentecostal students attended elementary school in Campbellton and high school in Lewisporte.

Despite the migration of settlers from Campbellton to other Newfoundland, Canadian and United States communities and cites after the failure of the lumber industry, the population of Campbellton grew steadily, from 460 in 1935 to nearly 600 in 1956 and over 700 in 1976. People were attracted by the residential advantages of the community and its location near Lewisporte and Gander. Under the two resettlement agreements of the Federal-Provincial Community Consolidation Program, twenty-four people from Exploits, Radio Range, Gander and Benton resettled in Campbellton between 1965 and 1975.

The community is governed by a town council, has a town hall, volunteer fire brigade, some small businesses and a post office.

Sources of information:

Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, Volume One

Used with Permission

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