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Grand Bank

The Town of

A rich & proud history with a promising future!

Early History of Grand Bank

Early History

Grand Bank is a historically rich community. Documents indicate there may have been French fishermen in Grand Bank as early as 1640. The French census taken in Newfoundland in 1687 shows "Grand Bank" with a population of 45 - thirty-nine servants, two masters, three women and one child. The first community had one church, three houses and eighteen muskets. In 1693, census takers recorded some of the prominent names: Bourney, Commer, Chevallier and Grandin. 

In 1713 the Treaty of Utrecht ceded North America to England and an influx of English settlers began. After the French were given St.Pierre, many of the English families on the French island moved to Grand Bank. Its name most likely came from the high bank or ledge that extends from Admiral's Cove to the harbour mouth. In July 1765, Captain James Cook moored his ship at Admiral's Cove, came ashore and gathered buds off the small spruce trees on Grand Bank cape to brew beer for his crew for medical purposes.

From the outset, the Life of Grand Bank revolved around the sea, "Cod was King". The fishery was an inshore operation until 1881 when as era the Bank Fishery began. Merchants built their own schooners ranging from 50 to over 100 tons and at one time, there were as many as six small shipyards. As the need for larger vessels increased, they were bought from Lunenberg and Glouchester.

Dozens of schooners landed their catches in the adequate harbour of Grand Bank. Women and men cured the fish in the wide cobblestone beaches. This marked the beginning of increased prosperity for the community and for the next 60 years, fleets of wooden schooners headed for the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Merchants also engaged larger three master schooners for local trade and overseas markets.

During the period (1890 -1940) Grand Bank, with its fleet of banking and foreign-going ships, earned the distinction "The Bank Fishing Capital" of Newfoundland. In 1955, a modern fresh fish processing plant was built in Grand Bank and modern steel trawlers replaced the schooners. Today, Grand Bank is the home of a shell fishing industry, a modern plant owned by Grand Bank Seafoods (A Division of Clearwater Seafoods). 

21st Century Grand Bank boasts many innovative industries and businesses supported by modern infrastructure, a new Hospital, up to date Seniors Complex, Recreational Facilities, and the Community Centre.  Grand Bank is becoming synonymous with innovation, prosperity, and most recently, a captivating tourist attraction!  We are proud of our duality of modernization and times past and welcome you to visit our historic town to learn more...

  • 1640 - French fishermen were said to be in Grand Bank during this time.

  • 1687 - First French Census taken in Newfoundland shows “Grand Banc” (name probably originating from the high bank that extends from Admiral’s Cove to the harbour) with a population of 45.

  • 1713 - Treaty of Utrecht, France relinquishes its claim to Newfoundland including St. Pierre et Miquelon. The French Population moved to Ile Royale (Cape Breton).

  • 1714 - William Tavaner surveys the coast for the English Government.

  • 1763 - Peace Treaty of Paris: French are given St. Pierre et Miquelon, forcing the English population at St. Pierre to relocate to Grand Bank and Fortune Bay. First record of English settlement…

  • 1765 - Captain James Cook mapped out the area and moored his ship at Admiral’s Cove. Came ashore and gathered buds off the small spruce tree to brew beer (excellent source of vitamin C) for his crew.

  • 1850s - By the end of the 1850s, Grand Bank had a school, a doctor, a judicial system, a postal service and a road system.

  • 1870s - A change in fishing vessel from a shallop to a schooner. With the change in vessel came a change in fishing gear. The trawl was introduced. However, the trawl could not be set directly from the schooner. There was a need for a smaller boat, different from the punt; we have the first appearance of the dory.

  • 1879 - Breakwater and Dredging legislation was passed.

  • 1881 - Bank Fishery began and Samuel Harris’s first season on the banks was a success. In short order, a number of other Grand Bankers with schooners followed (some of which include George Abraham Buffett, Simeon N. Tibbo and Daniel Tibbo). The demand for schooners dramatically increased. There were at one point (1885 & 1886) seven schooners being built in Grand Bank.


The Fish Drying Process - Once the schooners arrived in port, the next stages would begin:

1. Remove surface salt: Used mops to scrub the salt from the fish as water flowed through the openings in the bottom of the pound (an open crate, 10 to 12 ft2).

2. Fish taken by horse and cart to one of the beaches and placed in large piles called waterhorses and left to drain.

3. The “beach women” were responsible for spreading and tending to the fish while it was drying. The fish was kept on the beach for a month, being spread and turned every day and put in piles in the night and covered.

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