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StAlbans Heritage & History

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Heritage & History

St. Alban's is the major service centre for the Bay d'Espoir area.  Formerly know as Ship Cove, the community's name was changed in 1915 at the suggestion of parish priest Father Stanislaus St. Croix, in order to avoid confusion with numerous other Ship Coves.  The present name of the community honours an English martyr and was chosen to reflect the fact that St. Alban's is one of the few predominately Roman Catholic communities in Newfoundland where the majority of inhabitants are of English (rather than Irish or French) origin.

In the mid-1800s the area was being frequented in winter by a number of fishing families from communities from the mouth of the bay, and a few eventually settled.  It is believed that the Collier and Hoskins families settled in 1851, followed by the Organ family in 1853.  Ship Cove first appears in the Census in 1869, with a population of 39.  It was described in 1872 as a community of 45 souls, with two schooners trading such items as barrel hoops, rinds, game and beef to Gaultois and St. Pierre.   "They appear to be contented and thriving, and not too much troubled by too much learning" (JHA 1872).  There was also a modest fishery for salmon,  turbot, and herring.  It was said that the name Ship Cove originated with the practice of American banking vessels mooring offshore in order to purchase bait.

In the 1880's and 1890's other families settled, many from Great Jervais, a predominately Catholic community at the mouth of the Bay.  These included Crants (at Swanger's Cove), Farrells, Howses, McDonalds, Morrises, and Willcotts.  There were 117 people in 1884 and the next year the first Roman Catholic school/chapel was built.  By 1901 there were 202 people - enough to warrant the opening of a branch store of Thomas Garland Ltd. of Gaultois and the building of a new Roman Catholic church (St. Ignatius, began in 1902).  The community also received its first resident priest in 1911 when Father St. Croix began 35 years of service to the parish.  The population doubled between 1901 and 1921 (pop. 437), and again between 1921 and1945 (pop. 860).  Later in 1964, St. Alban's became incorporated as a town.

To a great extent this increase in population was based on a thriving logging industry.  The first sizable sawmill in the area began at Milltown in 1895, while from about 1920 there was also some pulpwood cutting.  After 1937, pulpwood cutting by contractors increased and in 1943 Bowater's established a major pulpwood operation above Conne River, drawing much of its workforce from St. Alban's.  Families continued to move into town from the outer reaches of the bay, and by 1956 there were 1368 people.  The middle part of the century saw the building of a new Catholic church (also St. Ignatius) in the community.  The community suffered a blow when Bowater's shut down its pulpwood operation in 1958, but in 1964 construction of the Bay d'Espoir highway and roads to Hermitage, Harbour Breton, and St. Jacques-Coomb's Cove provided additional employment in the late 1960's and 1970's, while solidifying the town's status as a service centre.

Since the end of the construction boom, St. Alban's has experienced periods of high unemployment - alleviated by further hydro construction in 1975-1977 and 1981-82.  Many of the younger people left the area, while others have traveled to work at other construction sites.

Today St. Alban's and area has emerged as the centre for the growing aquaculture industry and hydro generation remains an integral part of the area's economy.  The town is home to an Aquaculutre Development Centre and Aquatic Fish Health Laboratory, a 58,000 square foot fish hatchery, aquaculture manufacturing and service firms, processing plant, and many offices associated with the forgoing.    The aquaculture industry in the town and area in 2013 exceeded a production value of $200 million (nearly 20% of the total value of the seafood industry of Newfoundland and Labrador). The Hydro Generation Site in the area is the largest on the island of Newfoundland and provides 2,650 GWh annually.  The seven generating units produce a rated output of 604 MW.  Both industries are very predominate to the local economy.  The service and retail industry including public service organizations are also a significant source of employment.  The town and area has many public service organizations, government departments, and groups including health, education, fishery, aquaculture, employment, training, business, and industry.

  For archive material (prior to 2014) from the previous town website please CLICK HERE.

  For heritage and older community pictures please CLICK HERE.

  For "Cook's Landing" site pictures please CLICK HERE.

  For "Pathway of Heroes Dedication" pictures at the Community Park please CLICK HERE.

  For "Cemetery" sites and pictures please CLICK HERE.

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Town of St. Alban's, NL - 2014