Campobello Island, one of the three Fundy Isles, is
located in the Bay of Fundy. A special part of the
Province of New Brunswick, this Canadian Island
lies just off shore of the most eastern town in the
United States, Lubec Maine. Campobello is
accessed from the mainland by the Roosevelt
Campobello International Bridge.
For many years before the island first appeared on
a European map (1607), the Passamaquoddy Indians
had hunted, fished, and harvested clams and sea
urchins at what they called "A bah quiet."
The French were the first European settlers, who
the Island "Port aux Coquilles". They built huts
along the Island's northwest and southwest shores.
Although a 1733 map shows a French settlement on
the northeast side of Harbour de L'Outre, the
Treaty of Utrecht placed Campobello under English
control in 1713.
When settlers of Scottish and Irish descent arrived
on the Island from New England in 1765, trading
posts were already established in the region.
In 1767, Captain William Owen and three nephews
received a grant of "the Outer Island, then called
Passamaquoddy," from the Governor General of
Nova Scotia. Owen came to the Island and named
Campobello three years later, bringing with him 38
settlers. Mostly indentured servants. The settlers
included brickmakers, coopers, masons, potters,
gardeners, labourers, joiners, boat builders,
servants, a blacksmith, tailor and barber.
They built 15 houses, planted oats, peas, barley,
wheat rye, clover, hemp, flax, potatoes, turnips,
apple and plum trees and cleared and fenced land
for hay. Earlier settlers had traded in cured fish;
trade now included lumber and potash shipments to
England, shingles and cordwood to Boston, and a
West Indies market for salt pollock in exchange for
rum (later shipped to Saint John).
The Island population consisted of 36 English and 37
New Englanders, gathered in hamlets at what are
now Wilson's Beach and Welshpool.
Industries flourished. Island stores sold dry goods,
groceries, spices, molasses, carpets, rum, tailored
suits and women's clothing.
Commercial activity included brickyards, sawmills,
a tannery and a soap factory. Campobello's first fish
weir was erected in 1840, to trap herring.
Handlining and trawl-fishing for ground fish
continued to provide a living to many Islanders.
Fish drying flakes and smoke houses dotted the
shores. A strong market for fish existed in New York
and the manufacture of wooden boxes for shipping
fish became a significant industry.
By 1850, the Island population had increased to 865.
The population had increased to 1,039 by 1862.
Fishing continued as the primary industry with cod,
haddock, hake, herring, pollock and mackerel
making up the catch. Agricultural products included
hay, corn, wheat, barley, buckwheat, turnips,
potatoes, dairy products, livestock and wool.
The year 1866 almost brought with it an invasion
of Campobello by a foreign force. The Fenian
Brotherhood, founded in America to establish a
republican government in Ireland, sent a force of
several hundred men to the Eastport area.
Their intentions were to seize Campobello as a
means of harassing England, but the U.S. government
disbursed the raiding party before it reached the
Island. The attempted raid, however, moved New
Brunswick to vote in favor of joining the
Confederation of British North America (later
Canada) and also stimulated greater efficiency in
the military organization.
The late 1860's were not good years. Corporate
business folded, shipping and foreign trade declined
dramatically, and there were few, new settlers.
Campobello's shipping and trading had pretty well
ceased by 1871 when a new industry developed in
the late 1870's, rum running. Gin from Holland,
French wine, and Scotch and Irish whiskies were
shipped to Campobello, where they were transferred
to fleets of fishing schooners from Gloucester,
Massachusetts. (Rum-running prospered again
during the prohibition of the 1920's).
A second new industry bloomed during the 1880's,
when wealthy people had extensive leisure time as
well as the means to enjoy it. It was the age of
summer long vacations and great summer resorts.
Although summer visitors had been coming to
Campobello to enjoy the Island's charms since 1855,
it wasn't until a group of Boston and New York
businessmen bought the Owen property in 1881 that
the summer trade really prospered. The new owners
called themselves the Campobello Company. They
constructed luxurious hotels that they leased to
private management, and sold land to both wealthy
visitors and Island residents.
Both the Canadian and American press promoted
Campobello as a summer resort. Well-to-do families
from such cities as New York, Boston, Philadelphia,
Ottawa and Montreal escaped to Campobello by
private yacht, steamship and train. Among those
families was that of James Roosevelt, who, with his
wife Sara and one year old son Franklin Delano
Roosevelt, first visited the Island in 1883.
James purchased several acres of land and had a
summer home constructed; other wealthy visitors
did the same. Although the resulting summer colony
produced work for local people building cottages,
providing food and services, provisioning yachts,
fishing remained the Island's mainstay.
Beginnings in 1881, the development of the summer
trade lasted about 30 years. The resort era was
doomed, partly by the first world war, partly by the
fact, summer long vacations became impossible and
most certainly by the coming of the automobile and
its accompanying freedom of movement.
Campobello's hotels prospered until about 1910.
In 1915, the Campobello Company sold its holdings
to a group of New York businessmen who took the
name Campobello Corporation. This Corporation's
interests were sold to the remaining summer colony
about 1930,and the name changed to the Campobello
The Dead River Land Company bought the club
holdings in 1957 and for several years harvested
lumber and pulp wood. Most of Dead River's
holdings were eventually sold to a new Campobello
Company, interested in developing and subdividing
property. Some of the Arkansas developers were
later well known figures involved in the "White
Water" scandal in the U.S.
The summer trade exists again on Campobello. In
1959, a gift of land from one of the original summer
colonists helped establish Herring Cove Provincial
Park. Herring Cove provides summer visitors with
a challenging nine-hole golf course, excellent
camping facilities, scenic picnic areas and
woodland hiking trails.
With the opening of the Franklin D. Roosevelt
Memorial Bridge in 1962, over 100,000 people
visit Campobello each year. The Roosevelt
Campobello International Park was established in
1964 following a gift of the cottage and its grounds
to the Canadian and United States governments.
The Park was established as an expression of the
close relationship between Canada and the United
States and as a memorial to the President of the
United States who so greatly strengthened that
Although the fishing industry ; the harvesting of
lobster, scallops, clams, sea urchins, herring, cod,
pollock, mackerel and pen-raised salmon and
occupations related to the fishing industry remain
the mainstay of Campobello, tourism is a steadily
increasing Campobello industry.