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History of St. Anthony



St. Anthony was visited by explorer Jacques Cartier qv in 1534. At that time the harbour was already being used for the summer fishery by crews from the Breton port of Saint-Mâlo qv, providing the best shelter for large ships fishing the grounds from the Straits of Belle Isle to the Grey Island banks. The harbour remained principally a French station until the mid-1800s, when a few Newfoundland fishermen settled, being tolerated by the French so long as they undertook to oversee the French fishing rooms during the winter and fish only by hook-and-line.

Local tradition has it that the first settlers of St. Anthony were the Patey and Simms families, the Pateys on the southwest side near the harbour entrance (known as Pateyville) and the Simmses on the opposite shore, at St. Anthony East. The Simms family is said to have moved to the harbour from nearby St. Anthony Bight. In 1994 several of the most common family names of St. Anthony also have earlier associations with smaller communities to the northeast, where English settlement is said to have been tolerated at an earlier date than at St. Anthony harbour.

Some of the more common family names are Cull, Richards and Pilgrim -- from Great Brehat, St. Carol's and St. Anthony Bight qqv respectively. St. Anthony first appears in the Census in 1857, with a population of 71 in 10 families (including St. Anthony Bight). By 1874 the population had increased to 110 (not including the Bight) and the community had its first resident merchants, Joseph Boyd and James Moore, with premises on the southwest side of the harbour. Families eventually settled from Conception Bay and all over the northeast coast, as the harbour was much frequented by crews engaged in the migratory fishery to the French Shore and the Grey Islands.

St. Anthony remained the largest year-round community in the area and a frequent port of call, but its population had grown only to 139 people by 1891.

In 1900 Dr. Wilfred Grenfell qv chose St. Anthony as the site for a hospital to serve northern Newfoundland. Construction was begun the next year and St. Anthony soon became headquarters for Mission work in Labrador as well. In 1905 the Mission began building an orphanage and the community soon had a variety of other regional services, either established by Grenfell or located in the town because of the Grenfell Mission. An advocate of self-sufficiency and what has been termed`muscular Christianity'', Grenfell encouraged the establishment of a cooperative, a Mission farm and an interdenominational school (opened in 1909).
By 1911 there were 462 people at St. Anthony, many of whom had moved there from nearby communities or from the Labrador coast. A new hospital was constructed in 1927, as well as a marinerailway and drydock.

Although many people found employment in the various Grenfell enterprises or in the growing number of commercial and regional services located in town, Pateyville and St. Anthony East remained essentially fishing communities. A salt fish plant was built at St. Anthony East by A.H. Murray and Co. in the 1930s, and in the 1940s Job Brothers established nearby one of the first ``cold storage'' frozen fish plants in Newfoundland. The cold storage at first concentrated on freezing salmon, but in the 1950s began packing cod and other species.It burnt in the late 1950s but was rebuilt, and remained one of the largest employers in the area.

In 1951 an American radar site was built on a hill southwest of the harbour. Up to 1962 as many as 250 American servicemen were stationed there. Harbour facilities were upgraded and construction ensured virtually full employment in the area for the next few years.
The influx of people from outlying communities continued through the 1950s and 1960s, including virtually the entire population of several fishing villages in Hare Bay. In the mid-1960s St. Anthony was linked to the Province's highway system. In the late 1960s and early 1970s side roads were completed to several nearby villages, which helped to affirm the town's status as a regional service centre. Many services, including a shopping mall, have been built in the previously unoccupied ``bottom'' of St. Anthony Harbour, and as a result the east and west sides of the town have ``grown together''.

A modern hospital was opened in 1967, named in memory of Dr. Charles S. Curtis qv, chief medical officer at St. Anthony from 1915 to 1959. St. Anthony has also played host to an increasing number of tourists since the upgrading of the Great Northern Peninsula Highway, many attracted to the Norse site at L'Anse aux Meadows.
In 1977 citizens of St. Anthony founded the Sir Wilfred Thomason Grenfell Historical Society, which has since restored the Grenfell's home as a museum.






Roy C. Coffin (MHG 36-B-1-55),
Patricia O'Brien ed. (1992),
Joseph Ollerhead (MHG 41-D-1-45),
Francis Patey (1992),
E.R. Seary (1960; 1977),
Census (1836-1991),
JHA (1872; 1873),
Lovell's Newfoundland Directory (1871),
McAlpine's Newfoundland Directory (1894).
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