Finds of arrowheads in the Salmon Point area, indicating that the Micmac Indian once inhabited the area. Then came the fishermen from England and France, some of whom eventually stayed all year round. As early as 1809, it is recorded that Mr. John Paine and his wife Sarah lived in Rocky Harbour Cove followed by the Youngs’. Common surnames of those that followed and who still have descendants in the area are: Decker, Shears, Parsons, Ellsworth, Pittman, Butt, Dodd, Wight, Watt, Sparkes, Cullihall, Major, Nicolle and Dyke which go back quite a number of years.
This fishing village, run by English Merchants, grew rapidly. Fishing during the summer and logging during the winter were the main industries. People grew their own vegetables, cured fish, preserved local berries and raised animals for food, clothing and for work. Woody Point was the “Commercial Center” of the area at that time and, everyone went there for the essentials, which they could not produce themselves. Everyone was busy and the village prospered.
The first Church, the Church of England, came in 1891. In 1898 the first school was built. As the village expanded, other churches and schools were built. Today there are five churches and a modern 10 classroom school, which includes a large gym, music theatre, public library and community internet access center.
The first Post Office opened in 1900 and in 1939 a Cottage Hospital was built in Norris Point. While this building is closed as a hospital, it is now known as the Julia Ann Walsh Heritage Center, which has a mission of preserving local culture and heritage (including arts, crafts, music and oral history), promoting health and wellness, and contributing to community economic and social development. Our area’s beautiful new Hospital in Norris Point officially opened in June 2002.
With the expansion of the cod fishery into a modernized industry, requiring larger boats, local boat builders went into full production of long liners. They have produced well over two hundred long liners, cabin cruisers and sail boats.
The construction and opening of Highway 430 connecting north and south Bonne Bay in 1968 made travel to other areas much easier. Before this highway was completed residents of the north of Bonne Bay had to travel to Norris Point, cross by ferry to Woody Point, then get a bus to Deer Lake for the train to St. John’s or bus to Corner Brook for medical attention or even work. In winter the north side of Bonne Bay was pretty much isolated.
In 1966 the settlement of Rocky Harbour was incorporated into a Community and has since been designated as a town, with seven councillors, one full time and one seasonal clerk. At least 90% of the town is serviced with water and sewer, paved roads and street lights.
Since the establishment of Gros Morne National Park in 1973 many tourism related businesses have increased employment and have given the town a financial boost.