A Brief History of Comfort Cove-Newstead
It is now a fishing-farming community which was originally three seperate communities: Comfort Cove, New Harbour(Newstead) and Turtle Creek, located in small contiguous coves on the tip of a 14.5 km. (9 mi) peninsula which juts out into the Bay of Exploits about 32 km. (20 mi) northeast of Lewisporte.
The area was first occupied by a Beothuk band who reputedly had their encampment near Newstead, and also on Comfort Island, a small off-lying island in the mouth of Comfort Cove where remains of Beothuk graves have been discovered. The Beothuk, and white settlers later, were attracted by the salmon fishing in the area. In 1974 the remains of a Beothuk skeleton were uncovered during wharf construction.
Both Comfort Cove and Newstead (called New Harbour until 1921) were settled in the mid-1800s by people from outlying islands in Notre Dame Bay: the first reported settler of Comfort Cove was a John Cull of Barr'd Islands, Fogo. The first census of Comfort Cove in 1869 records two families of fourteen people who prosecuted the salmon fishery. By 1884 four more families (thirty-six people) had moved to Comfort Cove from Barr'd Islands: Head, Watkins, Connors and Cooper families. In 1885 an Englishman named Barr reputedly began to can lobster there. John Canning was reputedly the first settler of New Harbour, moving there with his family from Herring Neck in 1885.
The most dramatic growth in population occurred between 1901 and 1911 when the population of Comfort Cove increased from eighty-four people to 117 and the population of New Harbour rose from fifty-six to ninety-nine. These later settlers were attracted not only by the excellent fishing potential of the area, which had shifted from salmon to cod and lobster (seven factories, employing thirteen men operated in Comfort Cove in 1901 and from six to eleven operated more or less continuously in both communities until 1921), but also, as settlement pushed farther inland from the sandy, sheltered harbour of Comfort Cove toward the fairly productive farmland about a mile away, by the agricultural possibilities of the area. While the fish products of Comfort Cove and New Harbour had always found a ready market with the merchants of Fogo, Twillingate and Exploits, by the 1920s the farm products of Comfort Cove and Newstead were also being sold and bartered to these merchants, who in turn sold them mostly to people who lived on islands in Notre Dame Bay (that were too barren to support agriculture), and as supplies for ships bound for the Labrador.The excellent timber resources near Comfort Cove and Newstead, and their proximity to the lumber centres of Loon Bay and Lewisporte (connected by roads with Comfort Cove in 1892 and 1952 respectively) also meant seasonal employment opportunities in logging and sawmilling. Comfort Cove's location made it an excellent site for a restaurant and halfway house, which was open from 1929 to 1952.
Fishing and agriculture have remained the economic base of the communities. In the 1930s a lobster and seal cannery operated and in 1944 it was incorporated as Notre Dame Bay Fisheries.
Processing at the plant began with lobster, salmon and cod and in one year 3,000 cases of canned lobster were shipped to England. Branch factories were opened in other Notre Dame Bay communities such as Shoal Cove, Deep Bay and Cottle's Island. The plant later expanded to produce herring and mackerel, both smoked and brine-cured, with herring being shipped to New York and other United States markets. Secondary processing at the plant has included canned turnip-top greens, rabbit, seal meat, chicken, scallops, squid, mussels, rhubard, partridgeberries and tuna. In 1966 a second plant opened and by 1968 there were two lobster pools; the live lobster industry had burgeoned after the opening of the Road to the Isles in 1952, and the live lobsters was shipped to New York. In 1976 a new plant replacing the old facilities was built, employing one hundred people, and making it, with Lewisporte, the largest employer in the area. In 1981 Notre Dame Bay Fisheries, a privately owned company, processed whole frozen, frozen butterfly, and spiced, cured herring, for domestic, European and Japanese markets. The plant also processed turnip tops, seal meat, mussels, capelin, salmon, squid and groundfish.
In 1936 a farm access road was built in the area, and from the late 1930s to the late 1960s there were twelve or thirteen full-time farmers producing a variety of root vegetables. The produce was shipped by boat to Fogo and Twillingate to be exported to Labrador or trucked to central Newfoundland markets after 1952. An agricultural society was formed and an exhibition of farm products, growing methods and new machinery was held annually until the 1970s, when funding ceased. At this time full-time commercial farming was declining, as the fish plants attracted workers and the young labour force left for employment elsewhere. In 1977 a new community pasture and wharf were built at Comfort with federal funds.
There were about 100 ha (250 acres) of land in production in 1979 and sheep, poultry and some cattle were raised. Of the labour force of 200, about twenty-one people were employed in some aspect of farming part-time; sixteen were employed in forestry; and the remaining work force was employed in fishing, fish processing and small business.
Between 1891 and 1901 the first school-chapel (Methodist) was built in Comfort Cove, and by 1901 a Salvation Army Citadel was built. In 1981 Comfort Cove-Newstead students attended elementary in their town and high school in Campbellton at Greenwood High.
Sources of information:
Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, Volume One, page 487-488, 1981
Used with Permission