Early History of Bay de Verde
Bay de Verde is located in Conception Bay, Newfoundland at 48 degrees 5 minutes North Latitude and 52 degrees 53 minutes West Longitude, near the extreme end of that land mass generally referred to as the Bay de Verde Peninsula or what is today known in Provincial Tourist Brochures as “The Baccalieu Trail”. This peninsula extends from the Trans Canada Highway in the west to Baccalieu Island in the east.
The name Bay de Verde is of Portuguese origin. It is an historical fact that Portuguese and Spanish explorers frequented the area during their era of great discoveries in the 15th and 16th centuries. The word ‘Verde’ in Portuguese simply means ‘green’, an obvious reference to the profusion of grass that grows there in the late spring and early summer. In John Guy's visit to Bay de Verde in 1612 when on his way from Cupids to Trinity Bay, he referred to it as ‘Greene Bay’. Being used as a fishing station by the Portuguese in the early 16th century, before the advent of the English, would make it one of the earliest sites of European activity in North America. Perhaps one of the earliest references to the Bay de Verde area is to Baccalieu Island which appears on Ruysch’s map of 1508. Ruysch was a cartographer who apparently had been on the first voyage of John Cabot to Newfoundland. Castaldi’s map of 1550 also records Baccalieu Island. Bay de Verde appears on Mason’s map of 1577. This map had apparently been copied from an English-Dutch map of an earlier time.
The earliest documented inhabitant of Bay de Verde was Isaac Dethick who came here in 1662 from Placentia with his family and servants. Dethick was an English planter forced out of Placentia when the French took over that town. There is no doubt that there were settlers such as the Taverners already established at Bay de Verde when he arrived. Some 13 years later when Captain John Berry took an official census of the Conception Bay area, there were 95 inhabitants as well as 140 fishermen fishing at Bay de Verde from seven migratory fishing vessels for a total population of 235 people. Surprisingly, Isaac Dethick is not listed. Other family names at the time are Tobin, Smith and Hill. By 1682 the summer population was 278 and the winter population 121. Taverner, Smith and Hill families were still there as well as Ery, Jeffrey and Rollins. As can be seen the permanent population has made a quite substantial 20% increase over this seven year period.
When the French began their devastating raids on the Avalon Peninsula in 1697 they found 90 good men at Bay de Verde. When you include women and children, there is no doubt the permanent population was close to 200 people. The raids under Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville wreaked havoc among the established planters. Everything was destroyed or taken as war booty. Now came the difficult task of rebuilding what had been destroyed. This the settlers did and there was calm until another French raid in 1705 by M. Montigny saw equal devastation. This time many of the established planters had more than they could take. Some of them left and moved to more fortified locations like St. John’s and Trinity. In 1708 there were only 30 people at Bay de Verde.
However, another group of settlers began to arrive after 1713 when the Treaty of Utrecht declared that Newfoundland was owned by Great Britain. The French were given fishing rights along the northeast coast. These new settlers now included Irish as well as English and although the English had more rights, the Irish began to establish themselves as well late in the 1700's. By 1753 the population of Bay de Verde was 128 comprised of 69 English and 59 Irish. The Plantation Book Records of 1804-5 show that the established planters were of English descent but the Irish were now beginning to obtain their share of property as well.Bay de Verde is the northernmost community in Conception Bay and has a base population of approximately 400 residents. The first recorded inhabitants at Bay de Verde arrived in 1662. Bay de Verde became an incorporated town in 1950.
The central part of our picturesque fishing village is nestled between two hills. On both sides, the low-lying area gently slopes towards the ocean. On the southwestern side is the harbour (called the 'foreside') where fishing boats are moored - away from the land and wharfs.
The other side of this low-lying area (called the 'backside') was once used for fishing stages (called fishing rooms) where boats were also moored away from the land. Due to its more treacherous rocks and steep slopes and its exposure to the raging sea and winds of the North Atlantic, the 'backside' has long been abandoned as an area for fishing rooms.