Dunville - Past and Present

By Lynn Gambin & Cheryl Shave

Here is a look at our home town, Dunville, Placentia Bay, from both a modern and a historical perspective.

 An Overview of the Town Today

 The community of Dunville runs along the scenic North East Arm of Placentia Harbour for approximately 8 km. It is located approximately 45 km. from the TCH and a little over 100 km from St. John's. It has a population of approximately 2000 people. No longer considered an official town, Dunville is now a ward of the amalgamated town of Placentia. The community has two main roadways. One is Harbour Drive, or the "lower road" as residents most often call it, which runs along the shore of the Northeast Arm. The other is the younger main road which runs above this road and connects Dunville to the Trans Canada Highway and to other surrounding towns. There are also a number of smaller streets and subdivisions throughout Dunville. These include Frecker Place, Hunt's Road, Ville Marie Drive, Church Road, Lake's Road, and Fox Harbour Road. Fox Harbour Road leads to the communities of Fox Harbour and Ship Harbour.

Schools and Churches

 In the past Dunville had three schools in operation. St. Anne's Academy is now the only school open in the town. St. Anne's was an all-grade school until September 1996. Now only kindergarten to grade 9 students from the communities of Dunville, Fox Harbour, Ship Harbour, and Freshwater attend the school.

 There are three churches in Dunville: one Roman Catholic, one Anglican, and one United. There was once a Jehovah Witness Hall of Worship in operation; however this has been closed and the building is now a private house. There was also a Pentecostal Church at one time, but it is now closed.


 Located within the community of Dunville are a number of businesses of many different types. The community has both a hotel and a bed and breakfast. There are three gas/service stations in the town, two of which also serve as convenience stores. In addition to these stores there are three other convenience stores in the community. There is also an electronics sales and repair shop, the local recycling depot, a hotel, a greenhouse, hairstylists, building supplies, autobody repair, bed and breakfasts, restraunt,  flower shop, club, and a sign shop.

 Within the community there is also a craft shops which would be of interest to both residents and tourists. This craft shop is operated seasonally by the Dunville's Women's Institute. Also of possible interest to many is a small wine/brew making business located on Fox Harbour Rd. As well the community has one post office, Station 3 of the Placentia Volunteer Fire Department, and a former town hall, which serves as the recreation building for the Town of Placentia, and is also home of the Frank G. Best Memorial Library.


 Recreation is also a big part of the lives of many residents in Dunville. The softball fields located in central Dunville were once categorized as the best softball fields in Eastern Canada. There are presently two fields (one slow pitch and one fast pitch) in operation. Both fields have recently undergone renovations of items such as fence, bleachers, washrooms, canteen building and overhead light repairs.

 The P4 Youth Centre is another recreational complex in Dunville. The centre houses a gymnasium where dances and sporting events are held, kitchen facilities, a weight room, two pool tables, an air hockey table, ping pong tables, large screen television, video games and computers. Teenagers from all over the Town Of Placentia and its surrounding communities can avail of the P4's services. Along with activities in the centre, such as dances, sports events, and line dancing, the P4 also offers swimming, shopping and ski trips throughout the year. Two tennis courts, and a basketball court are also located to the rear of the centre and there is playground equipment next to the building.

Volunteer Groups

 Voluntarism is a huge part of community life in Dunville and contributes to a very vibrant community. The large number of volunteer groups and the ongoing community projects reflect the incredible community spirit and leadership abilities in the town. Groups such as the Lion's Club, the Lioness Club, the Leo Club, Knights of Columbus, the Kinsmen and Kinettes Club, the Placentia Volunteer Fire Department, The Women's Institute and the various parish organizations all help to enrich the lives of Dunville residents and residents of the entire Town of Placentia  through community-oriented activities. The Guiding and Scouting movements and the Army Cadets, also add to the quality of life in the community, and  the whole Town of Placentia. Many support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, also help to shape and improve community life.

History of the Town
 The Early Years

 Dunville, once commonly known as the North East Arm, appeared on maps of Newfoundland as early as 1514. It is probable that the arm sheltered smaller fishing craft from the earliest days of Placentia's occupation in the 1500's. The harbour was good and well protected, yet shallow in places with protruding shoals and many islands dotted in the middle.

 In the 1845 census it was reported that Dunville was an independent community of seventy-six inhabitants, all Roman Catholic, with over a dozen residents born in Ireland. The settlement had two full-time farmers in addition to twenty inshore cod and salmon fishermen. In 1857 the census reported 232 inhabitants, including English and Irish born residents. A school was operating in the North East Arm as early as 1850. The residents were mainly boat-keepers and farmers, their surnames being names such as Barron, Blanch, Cain, Collins, Costello, Griffin, Hartigan, Hartily, Kelly, Power, and Reilly. Another common name was Dunphy, and much of the older generation remember a time when Dunville was once called Dunphyville. By 1884, the population in the North East Arm numbered nearly 400.

In 1870 the first road connecting the North East Arm to Placentia was started, and later a lower road hugging the shoreline was built. In 1889, the Branch railroad from Harbour Grace to Placentia via Dunville was built providing new transportation and jobs for the area. Due to the herring, cod, caplin, lobster, and mackerel fisheries Dunville continued to be a thriving fishing center until the 1920's. The salmon fishery had fallen off in the latter 19th century, probably from overfishing.

 In 1941 the United States government, having joined Britain in the Second World War, leased land at Argentia and began building a military base there. Construction work on the base began soon after and Newfoundlanders as well as some Americans were employed. Most of the people lived on the base during and after construction. The Americans also constructed a road from Argentia through Dunville to Holyrood. Soon after completion of this road, many Newfoundlanders as well as Americans began to acquire land along the heavily built high road and began to build temporary as well as some permanent homes. Water and sewer services to those homes were provided by wells and septic tanks. Houses continued to be built on both the south and north side of the road. A Poem by a local resident nicely summarizes how the town grew from a small village to a thriving town.

 In the late fifties people affected by water contamination problems began talking about forming a council to get water and sewer services installed. Early in 1960 a petition to have a council formed was circulated and the results made known to the government. The number in favour of forming a Council was not sufficient at that time. However, a little later, in 1962, people agreed that a council should be formed.

Dunville incorporated as a town

 In October, 1962 a committee of concerned citizens was formed in Dunville to take a look at the problems facing their town and to look at forming a council to help alleviate these problems, in particular the contamination problem. Water and sewer were needed for the community, as were better roads in the town. As well, a road connecting Dunville to Whitbourne was badly needed.

 In April, 1963, after several meetings in both Dunville and St. John's, with federal and provincial officials, as well as officials from the Department of Municipal Affairs, the committee requested in writing that Dunville be incorporated as a town. On June 11th, 1963 that request was granted and the town became incorporated and preparations were made to elect the first council.

The First Town Council

 The following people were the first elected town council members for the Town of Dunville. The election took place on Sept. 7, 1963.

Garfield Follett - Mayor 

 Wallace Miles - Deputy Mayor 

 Frank G. Best - Councillor 

 Lawrence Granville - Councillor 

 Carl Hooper - Councillor 

 Samuel V. Newhook - Councillor 

 Kevin J. Power - Councillor 


This Council was successful in getting several projects and services for the town. These included a post office in 1965, water and sewer, and later the road to the TCH which made the Argentia ferry a reality. As well the Council acquired grants and land needed to construct the ball field in Dunville in 1965. Succeeding councils continued to improve that playing field and built new ones. Today the Town of Dunville is said to have the best ballpark east of Montreal.

 In 1965, Council installed much needed street lighting throughout the town. During that time, garbage collection had begun by town employees who were hired by Council for the first time. Prior to this, garbage collection was done through tendering. Taxes were imposed and the first pieces of town equipment were purchased. These pieces of equipment, the front end loader with backhoe and dump truck were a necessity in providing assistance to the Town employees in performing their daily duties about Town.

 The Council was also successful in obtaining federal and provincial monies under Canada's Centennial Grant (1867 - 1967) to construct a town hall.

The groundwork laid by the first Council was a firm foundation on which future councils worked very diligently to maintain. 

 As a result of amalgamation of towns in our area, Dunville is now a part of the Town of Placentia. All Council members are working very hard under the leadership of Mayor Hogan to make our area a good place in which to live, one with a prosperous and bright future.


In Conclusion ...

 The community of Dunville has many worthwhile groups and organizations, high quality recreation facilities and events for all ages, numerous business and volunteer groups, government facilities and support groups. When you combine these great community attributes with the friendly spirit and community caring of Dunville's residents, the conclusion is easily reached that Dunville is a wonderful place in which to live or vacation.

Sources for Historical/Factual Information:

The Town of Dunville: 25th Anniversary Souvenir Program.(1988). Produced by the Town of Dunville.

 Smallwood, Joseph R. (1984). Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador. St. John's:Newfoundland Book Publishers.

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This Page is part of a Historical and Cultural Web Site created by students of Laval High School, Placentia, NFLD (A0B 2Y0) . Last Update - March 2000