Fair Island, Newfoundland and Labrador
Fair Island, also called Vere Island, is one of the communities that comprise an area on the northeast coast of the Island of Newfoundland, called Bonavista North. These communities have a shared history in that they were settled by people from England, predominantly from the West Country - Dorset, Devon Somerset and Hampshire.
On the northeast coast of Newfoundland in Bonavista Bay, just east of Centreville, lie a group of islands close to the shore line called Fair Islands. The dome-shaped islands are separated by a narrow channel called the Fair Island Tickle. Fair Islands was once a popular settlement because its harbours were excellent for schooners, it was near the seal migration routes, and it was a good fishing base because of its offshore location and ample fresh water. However, Fair Island was vacated by the 1960s.
Fair Islands, originally called Vere Island, was one of the earliest fishing bases in Bonavista Bay; in the summer of 1681 there was a population of 16 recorded there and they were fishing from three boats. Beginning in the early 19th century, there was an increase in English settlement, and by 1806 there were two fishing rooms built in Fair Island by English men. The earliest settlers came from Devon, Cornwall, and Liverpool, England. It is believed that Richard Rogers from Sheffield, England settled in Fair Island around 1800 and other families soon followed. Families that moved there between 1800 and 1840 were: Ackerman, Gibbons, Pond, Way, Wicks, and later came, Harlock, Farmage, and Oakley.
The population doubled between 1836 and 1869 from 105 to 212 settlers and they turned more towards the Labrador fishery as the inshore fishery could no longer sustain the growing population. Sealing activity was first recorded in 1857, the Labrador cod fishery was still growing, and smaller quantities of salmon, herring, and capelin were also being caught. By 1891 there was also a lobster factory recorded which employed 31 men.
The economy was based on the Labrador fishery until its decline in 1930s and 40s. By 1952 there were only 8 families engaged in fishing for cod, lobster, and turbot. In the winter men were employed with woods work, but by the 1950s most families were being resettled elsewhere. Fair Islands were vacated by the 1960s.
A school was first reported in 1836, established by the Newfoundland School Society. The first teacher was Moses Cutler and the initial enrolment was 28 students.
|Church of England||104||212||184||209|
|# of pupils||-||33||-||9|
|total fishing boats||11||15||14||12|
|people catching/curing fish||-||72||144||98|
|vessels in seal fishery||-||2||1||3|
|men on board||-||22||6||23|
|nets and seines||-||32||70||8|
|cod fish cured (qtls)||-||-||1440||1730|
|salmon caught and cured (tres)||-||-||5||7|
|fishing rooms in use||-||13||10||10|
|oil produced (tuns)||-||-||4.5||660 gals|
|barrels of potatoes produced||416.5(bushels)||174||135||50|
|barrels of turnip||-||5||-||-|
- Hutchinson's Directory of 1864 lists one person under Fair Island:
- William Pickett, Sr. - Planter
- Lovell's Directory describes Fair Island as an island on the west side of Bonavista Bay, distant from Greenspond by 9 miles by boat with a population of 212. The names that are listed are:
- Ackerman, Stephen - Fisherman
- Ansty, John - Planter
- Bollen, Isaac - Fisherman
- Brown, James - Fisherman
- Cutler, John - Planter
- Farmage, Samuel - Fisherman
- Gibbons, John - Fisherman
- Harlock, Thomas - Fisherman
- Hounsell, George - Fisherman
- Hunt, Anthony - Fisherman
- Hunt, Robert - Fisherman
- Noble, William - Fisherman
- Oakley, Charles
- Picket, John - Fisherman
- Picket, Jonah - Fisherman
- Picket, William - Planter
- Pond, Edward - Fisherman
- Rogers, Charles - Fisherman
- Rogers, John - Fisherman
- Rogers, John, jun - Planter
- Way, John - Fisherman
- Wieks, Benjamin - Fisherman
- Native Newfoundland actor, Andre Noble, 25, died on the island on July 30, 2004 from accidental monkshood poisoning.
- members of the outport road board for Fair Island: Brown, Hunt, Rodgers, and Filthorn.
- There were 2 fishing rooms in Fair Island were recorded in 1805: Pickett's Room and Lane's Room.
- Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador
- GenWeb project. "Place Name Changes". Retrieved 2008-03-10.
- Edward Feild, A journal of the Bishop’s visitation of the missions of the northern coast, in the summer of 1846, 1856.
- Thomas Hutchinson, Hutchinsons Newfoundland Directory 1864-65, 1864
- J Lovell, Lovell's Newfoundland Directory,1871.
- The Newfoundland Almanac, 1887
- Register of Fishing Rooms in Bonavista Bay 1805-1806
- For photos of Fair Island, more information on Fair Island, and to view Fair Island on a map, visit:
Research on this page has been contributed by the Greenspond Historical Society. Please assist us in getting the history of Bonavista North online for all to access.