History 1800’s – Present
The town of Englee has a long historical attachment to the fishery, one that dates back to the 1800’s. As a result of the area’s well-sheltered harbours and fish-filled waters, Englee became a summer fishing base for both the French and English; fishing in the summer only to return home come fall.
Throughout the 1800’s and 1900’s Englee continued to grow and prosper, mainly due to the lucrative inshore cod fishery that drew many European settlers. During the “French Shore” era Englee became the landing ground for many of the French, seeking sheltered harbours for fishing and drying cod. It wasn’t until the English fishing crews migrated from Twillingate/Fogo after depleting their cod stocks, did Englee have its first year round residents. The first permanent resident was, Henry Gillard, who settled in 1836 and took care of the French rooms. The French Rooms, otherwise known as the French Premises consisted of the houses, sheds, fishing stages, gardens, wells, along with anything else on the property. Most of the areas permanent settlers moved to the community between 1870 and 1900. These residents were fishermen, builders, trappers and also grew their own vegetables and raised livestock.
In the late 1880s Baxter Crocker opened the first fishing establishment in the town, over the years the company continued to operate under the name John Reeves Limited until closing in 2014. The early 1900’s allowed for a wider distribution of Englee’s seafood products with the establishment of factories with a cannery and brine freezing plant. In 1940 Canada Bay Cold Storage Company Limited began a fresh-frozen codfish and fresh salmon operation increasing work opportunities within the community. Sea food such as cod, salmon, squid and capelin were able to be processed and shipped elsewhere expanding the market much further than the northeast coast of Newfoundland.
The first school was built in 1900 with an enrolment of just twenty-five students. In 1978-1980 the school’s enrolment was a remarkable 305. The first churches to be established in Englee were the Church of England and Wesleyan. In 1981 many other churches established in the area; the United, Apostolic Faith, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal Assemblies, and Salvation Army.
Like many outport Newfoundland communities, 1992 was a hard year. While conserving northern cod stocks became a concern in the 1960’s, officials consistently overestimated the cod population and as a result of this, cod fishers were harvesting at a non-sustainable level. With the beginning of the Cod Moratorium on July 2nd 1992, put in place by the Ottawa Government, many fishermen were forced to leave the industry looking for work elsewhere, and those who decided to stay would have to focus on the offshore fishery.
In more recent years the Marine Service Centre (Sealand Enterprise Ltd.) has been one of the main employers for the community. Sealand Enterprise Ltd. is a full service marine service center that specializes in boat building, vessel modifications along with marine supplies. The company employs a wide variety of people including journey men, carpenters, certified electricians and welders.
Sealing Disaster – 1914
Every spring many Newfoundlanders set off to the roaring sea for the seal fishery, March 1914 led to one of Newfoundland’s greatest tragedies. The S.S. Newfoundland set sail with a crew of 140, picking up more members on the way to their desired location. Approximately 20miles away from shore and 8miles away from their destination, the S.S. Newfoundland became jammed in the rugged ice pans. Westbury Kean, captain of the S.S. Newfoundland sent his crew across the ice to a nearby ship, the S.S. Stephano, to receive directions on a patch of seals to hunt. The captain of the S.S. Stephano, Westbury’s father, “Old Man” Abram Kean sent the sealers out to hunt with orders to return to their own boat once they were finished. However, during the evening hunt a fateful storm came rolling in, and with both captains believing Newfoundland’s men were safe on the others ship, 132 sealers on the northeast coast were stranded for 53 hours; a total of 78 fatalities and many more seriously injured. The location of this tragedy can be viewed from the Barr’d Island Trail in Englee.