Clarenville and Shoal Harbour
There is no definite date for the first settlement of what is now Clarenville. It
is known that William Cowan owned a sawmill at Lower Shoal Harbour around 1848
and this was bought by Joseph Tilley and James Summers of Hants Harbour. They
settled here. Settlers also arrived at Dark Hole ( or Dark Harbour). The
families that made up this community were the Balsoms, Pearces, Vardys, and
Seawards. Settlers also arrived at Brook Cove ( the Burseys ) , Broad
Cove ( the Strongs, Adeys) , and Red Beach ( the Stanleys ). These
five communities became part of a new community known as Clarenceville in 1892
when the railway came through.
The First Settlers
There are two versions of the origin of Clarenville's name. It has been
attributed to a memorial to the Duke of Clarence, eldest son of the then Prince
of Wales ( later King Edward VII ) who died in 1892. The other version is that
it was named for a son of Prime Minister Sir William Whiteway. However, Sir
William had no son by that name. By 1901 Clarenville was the way everyone
spelled the name and it has remained that way.
John Tilley and his family were the first settlers of Lower Shoal Harbour.
They traveled from Hants Harbour in 1848 because of the abundance of timber
here. "Scholar John " many people referred to him as, because he taught
himself how to read and write. As a young man he married Elizabeth Bursey of Old
Perlican and they had four sons and six daughters. Being one of the earliest
Justices of the Peace licensed to perform marriages in Newfoundland; John Tilley
performed the marriage of his own daughter. If we were to look in church records
today, we would find that Scholar John's name would appear several times in the
late 1830's and 1840's when there was apparently no minister or missionary
available. When the Tilley's first arrived the first thing they had to do was to
build a log cottage which would be a temporary structure. They later built a saw
mill so they could build a standard size home. Along with the the saw mill, the
Tilleys became involved with fox farming, gardening, coopering, blacksmithing,
fishing and fish canning. John Tilley and Sons were the tinning operation to tin
salmon in Newfoundland (the first salmon was tinned by Tilley and Sons).
Shortly after Scholar John tinned his first salmon he learned of a fishery
exhibition. He sent a sample to the exhibition and received a prize in the form
of a bronze medal with the inscription: " Warranted to keep free from taint
and to retain its purity and nutritious quality, in any climate for many
years." Later, Scholar John, Aaron and Moses Tilley ( sons ) with help from
John's son-in-law David Palmer, built the first church in Shoal Harbour.
Mills Siding grew to become part of Shoal Harbour and was
the location of the Mills family mill and general business. Their were
around 10 homes in the community.