Crawley's Island, Sibleys Cove and The Bottom
The Community which is now known as Long Harbour & Mount Arlington Heights was historically made up of three communities. The earliest settled site within Long Harbour was Crawley's Island, where the Murphy and King families settled in the early 1800s. As with many of the other pioneering families, the Murphys and Kings came to Long Harbour from the Ram Islands (later renamed Iona) off the mouth of Long Harbour. The Bottom of Long Harbour was settled in the early 1800s. Earlier, families from the Rams and from nearby coves such as Bald Head, Mooney's Cove and Trinny Cove had maintained winter houses in this part of the harbour. Early settlers included the Griffiths, Hammond, Whelan, Ledwell, King, Murray, Power and Northover families.
Sibley's Cove, on the mainland opposite Crawley's Island, was also settled in the early 1800s by the Keating, Burke, Bruce, Nolan and Kelly families. In the 1950s many of the inhabitants of Crawley's Island and the Rams were resettled here. Today Sibley's Cove is known as Mount Arlington Heights, although many residents still refer to it as "The Cove".
The name Long Harbour first appears on French maps of Placentia Bay in 1706, a "Havre Long". However, Long Harbour was at least known to the French 10 years earlier, as in September of 1696 the French military commander Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville explored Long Harbour in search of an overland route into Trinity Bay (he eventually settled on a route via Come By Chance and Bull Arm).
In 1835 Archdeacon Edward Wix, a Church of England missionary, visited "the winter settlers at Long Harbour" whom he noted as being "chiefly of Irish extraction, from Ram Islands, in Placentia Bay". Wix was more interested in "three Englishmen who had been for years settled among them, one alone, a native of Greenwich, had not turned to the Roman faith". Wix identified him as "J.G" - "he had been twenty-one years in the country, and was still penniless, the poor servant of the other Englishman, H.M. from Redcliffe, who was scarcely less poor than himself'.
In June 1840 Long Harbour was visited by Newfoundland's first geological surveyor, lB. Jukes, who found "four houses in the middle of this inlet (Crawley's Island), but all of the men were absent - fishing-- except one old man". Jukes also noted a winter house at The Bottom.
The cod fishery was the cornerstone of Long Harbour's economy from the earliest days of settlement until World War II when the Argentia naval base was constructed nearby. But, while the Harbour itself was renowned as a place to take herring for bait, fishermen always had to go further afield for cod. Much as Jukes found "all of the men...absent fishing" in 1840, for the next 100 years fishermen in small open boats headed out of Long Harbour to fish the Rams and the grounds off Argentia. Many Long Harbour men would also "fish off Cape St. Mary's" in larger western boats and schooners, particularly the grounds around Golden Bay.
The commercial lobster fishery began in Long Harbour in 1871, when a businessman named Oates from Chester, Nova Scotia, built Newfoundland's first lobster cannery. The plant remained in operation until it was burnt in 1898. The Long Harbour Bait Depot, one of the first freezing plants in the country, was built by the Newfoundland government in 1939. The depot was leased to Fishery Products in 1953 and expanded. In 1958 the operation was taken over by the federal government. It was further expanded in the 1980s.
Argentia Naval Base and the Phosphorous Plant
Shortly after the outbreak of World War II, Great Britain began to negotiate with the United States to obtain warships, offering in return leases on land for the Americans to construct military bases in various parts of the British Empire. Although the "destroyers for bases" deal was not signed until March 1941, an American survey team had already chosen Argentia as the site for a base in the fall of 1940. The military base at Argentia was the largest built outside the U.S. during World War II, consisting of a Naval Operating Base, Naval Air Station and U.S. Army Base (Fort McAndrew). Large numbers of civilians were employed at Argentia both in construction and as support personnel thereafter. Very nearly the entire workforce of Long Harbour was employed at the Base from 1941 until the mid-1960s when the operation began to scale down.
It was also during the mid-1960s that the multinational chemical manufacturers, Albright & Wilson Ltd., were looking for a site on which to develop a modem world-scale phosphorous plant. The company was convinced to locate in Newfoundland by the offer of a long-term contract to provide low-cost power. The company chose Long Harbour as the site for the plant, based on its deep-water port. Construction began in 1966 and the plant began producing elemental phosphorous in December of 1968. The phosphorus was then shipped to other Albright & Wilson facilities in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom to be further processed into various types of phosphates and phosphoric acids used in the manufacture of products ranging from detergents to soft drinks.
The phosphorus plant was the main employer in Long Harbour with a workforce of 300-500 people, from 1968 until it was closed in 1989.