Bull Arm with its sheltered waters, trees growing at the water’s edge, excellent fishing grounds and good land for homes and gardens must have seemed an ideal spot to the first settlers.
As early as 1600 Sunnyside appeared on maps as Bay of Bulls; on later maps, it appears as Bay Bulls Arm. The name Sunnyside did not appear until the early 1900s, when postal service was introduced. There was also a Bay Bulls near St. John's, so Sunnyside was asked to change its name to avoid confusion.
Local legend credits schoolteacher Thomas French with the name, taking as inspiration the spot of sun that always seems to shine on that tiny section of Trinity Bay. The name may already have been in use because "the sunny side of the harbour" was a good place for drying fish.
Our Early Settlers
Permanent settlement did not start until the mid or late 1800s. The first settlers probably came to cut logs, build schooners or fish before deciding to make it a permanent home
In 1835, a missionary (Archdeacon Wix) visited the area and found a family of Sowards (Seawards) and a family of Snooks living here. In 1869, there was also a family named Welsh living at Stock Cove.
In 1884, there were 12 people in Centre Cove and 22 in the bottom of Bay Bulls Arm (south end). From then on, more people were attracted to the area, coming from other communities on the Avalon Peninsula - see map showing where early settlers came from.
The economy was basically fishing and subsistence farming. Men went out daily in small two-man boats. The fish had to be split, gutted, salted and then dried for several days or weeks before it was ready for market. The salt fish was sold to local merchants in exchange for goods. Cash was not usually exchanged. Some men also went to Labrador on fishing schooners to fish for the summer. And some took part in the seal fishery.
Women Washing Clothes
Women Working in the Garden
Men Catching Fish
Most people grew vegetables and kept a few animals—hens, goats, sheep and maybe a horse. Hens supplied eggs and goats provided milk; sheep were sheared for their wool and the horse was used to haul wood. Sheep and goats were allowed to roam during the summer months; vegetable gardens were fenced to keep them out. These animals were living lawn mowers that did a great job of keeping the grass cut and fertilized. Horses were let loose in summer; they herded together and could be a hazard on the road after dark.
There was a narrow road from Centre Cove to the bottom end in 1898, but beyond that there was only a footpath and no bridge across Northern Brook.
Sunnyside, of course, is on the Isthmus of Avalon. When the railway was built around 1900 it had to go through the Isthmus. A railway station was built at Come By Chance and this brought construction workers to the area. The road was extended to Come By Chance at that time.
In June 1920 a spark from a train started a fire in Come By Chance valley. The fire swept through Sunnyside, destroying the Anglican church and 15 houses. The well-wooded countryside along the north side of the harbour was reduced to blackened ruins and desolation. A week later, another fire destroyed the south side from the Bottom to Big Mosquito, a distance of four miles.
At one time, there were five or six small sawmills operating in the community and as much as a dozen small stores. There was a post office in the bottom of Bull Arm and another one in Centre Cove; There were two cobbler shops, a lobster cannery at Stock Cove and a salmon cannery on Bay Bulls Island
The First Churches and Schools
Churches and schools are a sign of permanence. The first parish in the area was Church of England (now Anglican) and dates back to 1862. The first Church of England church was built in 1898, followed by Methodist (now United Church) in 1903.
Church of England Church - 1898 (Destroyed by fire in 1920)
Methodist Chruch (Bulit in 1903) Transformed into School in 1910
The first school in Sunnyside dates back to the 1880s and was probably started by Uncle Tom French. For awhile, classes were held in Albert Drover’s twine loft. The first Methodist church (on the west side of Badger) was converted into a school in 1910 when a larger church was built. In 1911, there were 292 people living in the area; there were three teachers and 81 students.
The Loyal Orange Lodge was important to the community for many years. It is unclear when it started in Sunnyside, but by 1908 there were over 50 members. Men attended meetings and held parades at Easter; women helped people in need through the Ladies Orange Benevolent Association; young men were involved in Orange Young Britons until they were old enough to join the Lodge itself. The Lodge was for Protestants only, but its success had more to do with local friendships than religious beliefs.
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