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Three Arms

(pop. 1956, 2). The three arms are a series of long, narrow indrafts in western Notre Dame Bay. In 1993 only Western Arm was populated (the village of Harry's Harbour qv), but there was once a logging community at Southern Arm qv and a fishing community (itself known as Three Arms) located on Three Arms Island, in Middle Arm.

The old Norris family chapel at Three Arms

After 1815 the grounds of western Notre Dame Bay were being fished by vessels out of Twillingate, who came to frequent the three arms. The most favoured anchorage was at Middle Arm, in the tickle between Three Arms Island and the mainland. In 1838 John and William Wells of Back Harbour, Twillingate built a fishing room on Three Arms Island for the summer fishery. Then, in 1841, John Wells moved his household to Three Arms. In short order others followed, including Solomon Strong (who subsequently married Wells' sister), the family of William Vincent of Twillingate and James Norris, an Irishman. Three Arms first appears in the Census in 1845, with a population of 29.

By the next Census, in 1857, the population had reached 58. Wells had built up his premises to a small mercantile establishment, which employed a small schooner to trade with fishermen in western Notre Dame Bay and built fishing boats under the direction of Strong. By 1869 the population was 69 (including the Bartlett, Cooper, Norris, Shearing, Strong, Wells and Young families) and the Wells business had been taken over by the young James Norris qv, who had two schooners built and became involved in outfitting crews for the migratory fishery to the French Shore. By 1884 there were 102 people living at Three Arms, both on the island and at Clarke Cove on the adjacent mainland. Most of the men were employed by Norris, who eventually had three vessels for the coasting trade alone, in addition to several fishing schooners. The smaller vessels continued to be built locally, by John Rideout after Strong's eyesight began to fail, while Norris also operated a small sawmill to supply the needs of his firm. A post office was established on the mainland in 1891 and there was soon a telegraph office connecting with Little Bay (in part for the convenience of schooners fishing the French Shore and the Labrador coast, as the practice of anchoring at Three Arms during the voyage north continued) and a cart road, towards Jackson's Cove.

In the earliest days of Three Arms John Wells is said to have conducted a night school for the children, and later a small school was taken in turn by the Methodist and Roman Catholic school boards (for the Norrises, and later the Rideouts, were Roman Catholics -- in 1901 of a population of 78, 28 were Catholic). James Norris had a small chapel built, and in 1907 a Methodist school was constructed. By this time, however, there were only 54 people living at Three Arms, as the Norris family business had become more concerned with the French Shore fishery than with coastal trading. Reportedly, the death of Stephen Norris in World War I left the Three Arms business without an heir apparent -- the firm and the Norris family left the village after the death of James Norris in 1924.

In 1935 there were only 23 people in Three Arms, the families of inshore cod and lobster fishermen, and by 1945 there were only two families (Moore and Rideout). Most of the homes were moved to Harry's Harbour, where the last two inhabitants (the Moores) moved in 1956. In 1993 only the Norris family chapel was left to mark the site of the village of Three Arms, and it approaching collapse.


Text and images copied from the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador web site at http://enl.cuff.com/entry/82/8217.htm
© 1997, 1998 Copyright J. R. Smallwood Centre for Newfoundland Studies.
© 1997, 1998 Copyright Harry Cuff Publications Limited.