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Clarenville (formally known as Red Head Beach)

(inc. 1951; pop. 1976, 2807). The town of Clarenville is situated in Trinity Bay near the bottom of the North West Arm of Random Sound. It runs about 5 km (3 mi) along the coast and averages between 460 m (1500 ft) and 610 m (2000 ft) in width. It is well sheltered from the Atlantic Ocean by Random Island and is at the base of the Bonavista Peninsula.

The name Clarenville is relatively new by Newfoundland standards. In the early 1890s some of the people in one of the small communities in the area asked the Prime Minister, Sir William Whiteway, how they could get a post office. He said it was necessary for some of the smaller places to join gether to form a larger centre in order to warrant putting a post office there. As a result, five communities, Lower Shoal Harbour, Dark Hole, Brook Cove, Broad Cove and Red Beach, amalgamated to form Clarenville.

The new community was first called Clarenceville. It is possible that it was named in honor of the Duke of Clarence, oldest son of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), who died in 1892 about the same time as the community was being formed. (Some sources have said that the community was named for a son of Whiteway but Whiteway had no son by that name.) By the time of the first census after amalgamation, in 1901, however, the town's name appeared as Clarenville and has remained so.

Each of the five communities had been well established in its own right well before Clarenville was formed. Lower Shoal Harbour was first settled in 1848 by William Cowan, who built a sawmill on the Lower Shoal Harbour River and two years later by John Tilley and his four sons, who purchased the sawmill from Cowan. This trend of one-family established jurisdiction in a small area is also evident in the other places. Each was first settled by one family, around the same time: Dark Hole by the Balsoms, Brook Cove by the Burseys, Broad Cove by the Strongs and Red Beach by the Stanleys. It appears they were logging families who visited areas which they staked out as their cutting rooms in the summer time, and, for the winter returned whence they came. Eventually they began to settle permanently and remained in their small family settlements even though each was in close proximity to the others.

The town of Clarenville grew very slowly over the first thirty years. The first amalgamated census in 1901 lists the population as 229. There was slow but steady growth until 1935, by which time the population reached 310. After 1940 there was an influx of people from smaller communities into Clarenville, and by 1945 the population had jumped to 964. Over the next thirty years the population tripled. This major population increase was tied to Clarenville's development, which was itself the result of the development of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The early economy of Clarenville was diverse. Fishing was never a major industry; people first came to the area in the early 1800s because of the ready supply of timber. During the 1840s a man named William Cowan from ``down in Trinity Bay'' started a sawmill in the area which he sold to John Tilley of Lower Shoal Harbour in 1850. Since then there has been a prosperous lumbering industry, especially for the sawing of railway ties. Forest fires have been a constant hazard for this enterprise, with several large fires over the years destroying acres of prime timber.

Farming was also important in the early years, as it was necessary for settlers to grow their own vegetables for winter provisions. There were large stretches of level land, which made farming relatively easy. Domestic animals were also raised as a source of milk, eggs and meat. For about fifteen years, beginning in 1950, some large scale farming was carried out but it was not very successful. In 1981 most of the farming in Clarenville was done on small farms catering to personal needs. Fur farming, especially muskrat and silver fox, was also carried on.

Since the turn of the century the economy of Clarenville has been based on the service industry. In 1891 the construction of the Newfoundland Railway reached the Clarenville area. A railway station was built there and it soon became the first of the five major terminals between St. John's and Port aux Basques. Between 1909 and 1911 the Bonavista Branch Line was constructed and its terminal was at Clarenville. In 1981 the terminal was in continuous operation despite the closing of the Newfoundland Railway's Island passenger service. In that year it was used as an express/freight terminal and as a bus terminal for the trans-Island bus service operated by Canadian National Railways. It was also the terminal for the passenger train which operated weekly on the Bonavista Branch Line.

In 1937 a company called Colas Roads opened a plant in Clarenville which produced an emulsified asphalt product called colas. This product was used for the runways of the airports at Gander, Stephenville and St. John's. The next year the company became Colas (Nfld.) Ltd. and in 1941 it was sold to Flintcote Co. (Nfld.) Ltd. A creosote plant was added for preserving wood through the use of an injected coal-tar solution. It was first used only for poles for the United States bases and for railway ties. By 1955 it was also used for construction timbers for wharves and breakwaters, and for utility poles for Newfoundland Telephone Company. In 1955 the company was purchased by the Newfoundland Government and became the crown corporation Newfoundland and Labrador Hardwoods Ltd. The plant converted from colas to liquid asphalt in 1958. In 1980 it supplied all liquid asphalt (for pavement) used in all Newfoundland Government road construction. In 1968 the creosote division also changed products, switching to a chemical called pentachlorophenol for wood preserving.

There had been shipbuilding on a small scale in Clarenville as far back as 1887 and possibly earlier. In 1942 the Commission of Government established a major shipbuilding yard at Clarenville and in 1944 the Department of Natural Resources provided it with its first large-scale contract. Sensing a need for greater communication with, and access to, Newfoundland coastal communities the Department commissioned the yard to build ten wooden passenger-freight vessels of approximately 300 tons each. They were to be used on both the coastal service and for the import-export trade. They were all named for Newfoundland towns, the first of which, launched July 12, 1944, was named the Clarenville. The Department of Education also commissioned three small boats for providing educational facilities to remote areas, and an experimental ship was also built for the Fisheries Board.

In 1946 the Clarenville Shipyard was sold to Basil Fearn and Spencer Lake. Since that time freighters, draggers, fishery import boats, longliners and cabin cruisers have been built there. The largest ship constructed at the yard was a 600-ton wooden vessel built by Captain John Blackwood. In 1965 a new shipway was installed.

During World War II the United States Government installed an Aircraft Detection Corps in Clarenville. In 1944 their building was given to the Newfoundland Government. It became the headquarters for District 2 of the Department of Highways which was responsible for all Provincial roads from Whitbourne to Terra Nova Park.

Eastern Telephone and Telegraph Company also established in Clarenville. In 1955 the first trans-Atlantic telephone cable was laid along the Atlantic Ocean floor from Oban, Scotland to Clarenville, a distance of 3621 km (2,250 mi). It was extended overland to Terrenceville later that year and to Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia in 1956. The company later became part of Canadian National Telecommunications.

In 1981 there were five churches in Clarenville. The earliest denomination was Methodism which began there c. 1840. From 1870 the services were held in a Meeting House, In 1884 a church was constructed between Lower Shoal Harbour and Dark Hole. It was destroyed by fire in 1892 and the new church was built between Dark Hole and Brook Cove. In 1925, after church union, a new United Church was built. Seventy per cent of the population were United Church members in 1981.

The Salvation Army came to Clarenville after the fire of 1892 which destroyed the Methodist Church. John Tilley did not like the location of the new church so he and his sons built one of their own in a location pleasing to them. After completion he invited the Salvation Army to take over the building. A new one was built in 1927, and a third replaced it in 1957. In 1979 a new Salvation Army Citadel was opened.

The Church of England began in Clarenville in 1910, first holding services in the home of Mr. and Mrs. J. Long until money could be collected to build a church. As the congregation increased a house was rented which served as both a chapel and a school. The first church was opened in 1924. In 1960 the cornerstone was laid for St. Mary's Anglican Church and the building was opened for services in 1964.

In 1946 Mrs. Alfred John Balsom invited Pentecostal missionary William Gillett to hold a meeting at the Odd Fellows Hall. This was the beginning of the Pentecostal Assemblies in Clarenville. Not satisfied with the progress toward the construction of a church building, in 1950 Balsom began to provide for the construction of the church herself. The congregation accepted her challenge and a church building was opened in November of that year. A new building was opened in 1967.

The Roman Catholic population of Clarenville has grown steadily. Up to 1960 the adherents were served by the parish priest from Plate Cove but in 1960 Our Lady of Fatima church was opened. After that the priest from King's Cove, Bonavista Bay served the parishioners as part of his mission. There have been several school buildings in Clarenville over the years. The earliest was a Methodist school which began around 1880 with six students. In 1957 the first regional high school built by the United Church in Newfoundland was opened in Clarenville. In 1981 there were three schools, all operating under the Bonavista-Trinity-Placentia Integrated School Board, with a combined enrolment of over 1,200 students and more than fifty teachers. A Vocational School was opened in 1963, offering a variety of trade and upgrading courses. A library was built in 1947 as a memorial to the community's war dead and a stadium was opened in 1956. Clarenville is also the seat of the Provincial Court for the Trinity Bay area.

Clarenville was incorporated in 1951. In the municipal election of 1957 Dorothy Drover  headed the poll in Clarenville, and became the first woman elected to a municipal council in Newfoundland. Until the election was voided in 1958 she served as mayor, making Clarenville the first town in Newfoundland to have a female mayor.

Natural features of the Clarenville area have attracted outside interest, including a scientific expedition in the 1900s, when several students and their professor came to the area from the United States. They were engaged in the study of paleoichthyology and carried out their work at the shale cliffs on Random Island. As well, General Italo Balbo  and the twenty-four planes of the Royal Italian Air Armada landed off Clarenville and Shoal Harbour in 1933 on their way back to Italy from Chicago. They anchored at Red Beach to refuel and stayed for two weeks using the Odd Fellows' Hall as home. 

W.B. Hamilton (1978), John Parker (1950), J.R. Smallwood (1937; 1975), Ray Stringer (n.d.), Clarenville Municipal Plan Review (1974), DN (Nov. 13, 1957; Jan. 3, 1958; May 9, 1958), ET (June 29, 1981), Newfoundland Historical Society (Clarenville). Map H.