Our History


Dover--originally known as Shoal Bay--was settled primarily because of the excellent fishing and logging potential in the area. People came to cut wood and eventually moved here to establish a community. The earliest settlers came from Shoe Cove and nearby places in Bonavista Bay in the early 1890s. The first census, taken in 1891, reported a population of 17 people. By 1901, the population had increased to 66. The population continued to grow in the early years of the 20th Century: from 157 in 1911 to 203 in 1921. Some of the new families came from Newport and Shambler's Cove. In the 1960s, people moved here from Silver Fox Island and Burnt Island through the resettlement program.


As the community grew, the name Shoal Bay was changed to Wellington because of the other Shoal Bays in Newfoundland. After Confederation, when a new postal service was offered, the name Dover was added to avoid confusion with other Wellingtons in Canada. For a time, the town was officially designated as Wellington (Dover Post Office), but local people called it Dover. After the town incorporated in 1971, the question of what to call the town came up again. In 1973, at a ceremony conducted by the Lieutenant-Governor, the town was officially proclaimed Dover.


The original settlers were Church of England and Congregationalists, but after a Salvation Army Corps was established in 1908, most people began attending the Salvation Army Church, which was built the next spring. A new Citadel was built in 1925, which was later replaced by a new building in 1957


Resettlement introduced two new religions to Dover. The families who moved in from Silver Fox Island were Anglican and the Burnt Island families were Roman Catholic. In 1961, an Anglican Church opened. The Anglicans had purchased the old Salvation Army building, intending to tow it to a new site, but it fell apart during the move and they constructed a new church from the salvaged materials. The families who moved to Butler's Cove held services in Blanche and Martin Kelly's living room, until a new Catholic church was built.


Until schools in the area were amalgamated through the Terra Nova Integrated School Board in 1968, each religion in Dover operated a school of its own. The earliest Salvation Army students attended classes at their church, until the first one-room school was built in 1917. In 1943, this building was replaced by a larger school, which became the elementary school after the Salvation Army opened a senior high school in 1966. In the early '60s, the Anglican families floated their parish hall in from Silver Fox Island and converted it into a two room school. The Catholic students attended classes in their church, until a hall--that could be used for a school and community events--was added. In 1968, the Anglican and Catholic students moved to the larger elementary and high school buildings that had previously been operated by the Salvation Army. In 1977, the Terra Nova Integrated School Board built a new elementary school (named William Mercer Academy), adjoining the existing high school. At that time, junior high students from Dover and Hare Bay attended Brown Memorial Junior High in Hare Bay and students from both towns attended high school in Dover. Currently, students from Dover and Hare Bay attend William Mercer Academy in Dover for Grades K to 9, then go to Jane Collins Academy in Hare Bay (along with students from Trinity, Centreville, Wareham and Indian Bay) for grades 10 to 12.


In the beginning, fishing and logging were the main sources of income in the community. Over the years, there have been several sawmills: Robert S. Collins operated a sawmill at Chalk Head Cove, then later had one--down the Beach-- in Dover; John Parsons had a sawmill at Three Brooks; Frank Ford operated a sawmill on Shoal Bay Island, which was later moved across the Tickle; Bill Willis had a push bench operation; and Clifford Mercer operated a sawmill in Butcher's Cove, which he sold to Malcolm Rogers. Men from Dover also found employment in other sawmills at Hare Bay and Lockyer's Bay, as well as in woods camps--operated by Bowaters and other companies--throughout the area. Some of the logging operations supplied pit props for mines in Great Britain, others shipped their logs to pulp and paper mills in the province. The logging industry declined after the fire of 1961, which destroyed thousands of acres of forest.


Over the years, people in Dover took part in the inshore fishery and also built and used longliners. The fishery started to decline in the '60s and '70s.Today one family maintains the fishing tradition.


People in the town were very resourceful and had many skills. For example, one man, Hector Parsons, now in his nineties, worked in the lumber camps, but in the winter he built boats—speed boats, dories and flats—to supplement his income. He estimates that he built over 100 boats, building seven in one winter alone.


Today many people commute to jobs in Gander, Bull Arm, Long Harbour and Muskrat Falls, or travel even further afield to mining and oil jobs in Alberta and British Columbia.


Since incorporating in 1971, the Town of Dover has been looking at ways to bring tourists to the area. The Council decided to promote the Dover Fault--a feature that geologists had researched in the 1970s--as a unique tourism site. In 1996, Dover constructed a Lookout with interpretative panels on a hill that overlooks the town and added an Interpretation Centre to the Town Hall. The remnants of the wreckage of Digby B-18 bomber that crashed in 1942 were moved to the Lookout trail and an interpretative panel was added. Today visitors from around the world visit the Lookout to learn more about the Dover Fault.