Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove (with Map & Photos)

Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove is a city of approximately 960 inhabitants located on the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. It is located deep in the heart of Motion Bay, just south (approximately 15 minutes) of St. John's. The current city is roughly 200 years old, although the site has been continuously occupied since at least 1598 before the arrival of the Mayflower making it one of the oldest European settlements in North America. During King William's War, the village was attacked by French forces in the Avalon Peninsula Campaign.

Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove is the site of the Petty Harbour Generating Station, the first hydroelectric generating station in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove
Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove


By 1500, "Petty Harbour" was probably already a regular seasonal base for Basque fishing, and by 1600 the English had taken over. Richard Whitbourne records a decisive "set-to" between the English, who were probably royally licensed corsairs, and the Portuguese at "Petyte Harbor" in 1619. An excellent base for pirates, Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove offered a good hiding place for their small ships. to attack ships that were approaching St. John's (in 1791 two Yankee corsairs were captured there). In 1621, William Vaughan, George Calvert, and the London and Bristol Company shared control of Petty Harbor, although none of these absent owners attempted to establish or regulate the fishery. In 1637, David Kirke's settlement brought boat owners (landowners who hired fishing servants) to Petty Harbour, and this practice continued after the settlement attempt failed. The English spelling of the place's name was soon established: in his Diary of 1604, James Yonge records a journey overland from St John's to "Petty Harbour" to "take care of our men." From this period until the 19th century, the economy of the area was dominated by "Newman and Company", a West Country company, which owned and leased most of the land and controlled the trade. From 1664 to 1850 Newman and Company, and English West Country owned most of the land and controlled the fishing trade.

Although migratory fishing interests discouraged settlement, the 1675 "Berry List" records 5 planters, 3 wives, 1 child, 39 servants, 10 boats, 4 stages, 3 vats, and 6 cows. However, early settlement was subject to difficulties and dangers. From 1676 to 1678, migrant fishermen seasonally razed the homes and premises of settlers. The presence of this fishery based so close to St. John's was a red flag for migratory fishermen eager to protect their privilege of "fishing freedom" and in 1676 and 1678 rooms in Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove were destroyed by crews of fishing boats.

In 1696 Petty Harbour was attacked and destroyed by the French. Lemoyne D'Iberville encountered its first resistance from 30 Petty Harbour fishermen, who retreated behind the Petty Harbour River to a trench they had built. The fishermen were quickly overwhelmed by the soldiers, but they managed to inform St. John's of the invasion. Two days later, a force of 80 men sent from the capital was also easily defeated by the French. Some 36 fishermen died in the battle and others were taken prisoner. When the French confronted the small winter garrison at St. John's, they scalped a prisoner, William Drew, to strike terror into the hearts of St. John's men and the capital surrendered.

Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove
Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove

Daniel d'Auger of Subercase assembled a group of raiders made up of Mi'kmaq and Canadians from Qu├ębec to assist in the campaigns against the British settlements. They captured the Bay Bulls and Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove in January 1705 and then marched on St. John's. In 1789, the Duke of Leinster brig arrived at night, leaving 12 women and 102 children at Bay Bulls and Petty Harbour. These were Irish convicts whose original destination was Australia, but with high shipping costs, Newfoundland was considered a cheaper place. Rising crime and typhus in St. John led to the deportation of convicts to Dublin three months later. In August 1796, a French squad under Admiral de Richery threatened St. John's and destroyed the settlement of Petty Harbour and Bay Bulls, seriously disrupting the bank's fishing.

However, the settlement gradually increased. As the keepers of the ships, who settled on the south side due to its favorable winds to dry the fish, they were mostly English and Protestant, and the Irish, who were forced to settle on the north side, were mainly Catholic Romans, the community was accidentally segregated along sectarian lines from an early time. The 1794-95 census records a population of 255 in 50 households, with 16 "heads of households" born in Newfoundland. There were 133 Protestants and 122 Catholics. Prominent last names included Angel, Chafe, French, Kennedy, Matthews, and Welsh. Most of the people were busy in the fishery, and there were two carpenters, two coopers, two washerwomen, and a surgeon. A Church of England church was built around 1800 and a Roman Catholic church in 1832. By 1857 the population of Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove had increased to 747 (29 of whom were born in Ireland and 22 in England), almost twice as many Catholics as of Protestants. There were two churches, more than 100 houses, two schools with about 105 students, premises for salting fish, and three cod oil factories. Education was run by the Interdenominational School Society of Newfoundland. In addition to the three Rs, sewing and knitting were offered for the girls and the making of nets for the boys.

One of Newfoundland's best-known folk songs: The Petty Harbour Bait Skiff was written about the men of Petty Harbour who drowned in June 1852, while returning from Conception Bay with a load of bait. It was composed shortly after the tragedy by John Grace of St. John's, where there was "weeping and wailing in the streets" upon learning of the fate of Captain John French and his crew "all the eighth of June." Only one of the crew, the "young Menshon", was saved by "Jacob Chafe that brave hero".

By the 1850s the population (747 inhabitants) had begun to exceed the capacity to support it: coastal spaces and housing sites were occupied, and the supply of wood was depleted. Some residents moved inland to Doyles and Goulds to supplement their earnings through logging and farming. When it became clear that the growing population could not be sustained even by these measures, other people began to move, first to nearby Maddox Cove and then to the farmlands of the Goulds. While the Goulds formed their own community, Maddox Cove continued its close connection with Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove. With new room for expansion, the population of Petty Harbour (now generally counted to include Maddox Cove) continued to grow, reaching 1053 in 1891. This population increase can be attributed in part to a new wave of Irish immigrants who settled at Maddox Cove. Prominent surnames in Maddox Cove included Chandler, Drake, Hanniford, Healey, Heffernan, Madden & O'Brien. At the time, 60% of the residents were Roman Catholic, 30% Church of England, and 10% Presbyterian; and 250 students attended four schools.

The turn of the century saw changes in the economy and the character of the community. In 1898, Reid Newfoundland Company built Petty Harbour Generating Station Newfoundland's first hydroelectric generating station. It began operating on April 19, 1900, providing power for St. John's streetcar system and commercial lighting. This brought alternative employment to the area, as well as relatively cheap electricity, but control of the water supply created practical difficulties and health problems. At this time, with the Goulds forests depleted, the Petty Harbour sawmills closed. The 1909 rail link between St. John's and Trepassey increased contact with St. John's, and the 1932 highway made daily commutes into the city possible for paid work, a practice that has grown in importance to the community. Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove was incorporated in 1969. In the late 1970s, local improvement programs led to a revitalization of the local community by financing the expansion and modernization of the fish plant and the installation of water and sewerage. A 77-lot subdivision was started in Maddox Cove, with most of the residents working in St John's. Both denominational schools in Petty Harbour closed in 1987, students now attend school in Goulds.

Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove Map