Cupids

Cupids, NL, incorporated as a town in 1965, population 761 (2011c), 790 (2006c). The Town of Cupids is located in southwest CONCEPTION BAY on the AVALON PENINSULA about 80 km west of St John's.

Cupids, NL, incorporated as a town in 1965, population 761 (2011c), 790 (2006c). The Town of Cupids is located in southwest CONCEPTION BAY on the AVALON PENINSULA about 80 km west of St John's. Originally known as Cupers Cove (1610), other early variants of the name include Cuperts Cove and Kibby's Cove but the name Cupids Cove appears quite early: Sir William ALEXANDER referred to it by this name in his An Encouragement to Colonies (1624). No one knows the origin of the name but it may be an anglicized version of a Spanish or Basque name.

Guy, John
Guy founded the colony at Cuper's Cove (later Cupids), Newfoundland, in 1610 (courtesy Newfoundland Collection MF-231, Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives, Memorial University).
John Mason
John Mason compiled the information for his map during his time as governor of Cupids Cove (Cuperts Cove on the map). Like many maps of the period, it was printed with north at the bottom (courtesy Centre for Newfoundland Studies, Memorial University Libraries).

Cupids was the site of the first English settlement in Canada, established by the LONDON AND BRISTOL COMPANY in August 1610. The first governor of the colony was Bristol merchant John GUY and, under the terms of the company's charter, it was effectively the seat of the first government in Newfoundland. There are many other firsts associated with Cupids including the first SAWMILL and brewery in Canada (both built by 1613). On 27 March 1613 the first English child in what is now Canada was born in Cupids to Nicholas Guy and his wife (names of wife and son are unknown).

Most of the investors had lost interest in the colony by the early 1620s but Cupids was still an active settlement in 1624. Settlement also spread from Cupids to other parts of Conception Bay. By 1618 some of the Bristol men had moved from Cupids to HARBOUR GRACE and by 1631 Nicholas Guy had moved with his family to CARBONEAR. Whether the late 17th-century occupation was year round or seasonal is difficult to determine but a list compiled in 1698 records one settler living in Cupids.

Settlement at Cupids expanded greatly in the 18th century especially after 1755 when the firm of Newman and Company, based out of Dartmouth, England, established premises there. Two major shipbuilding operations were established there in the late 1700s providing additional employment and attracting more people. However, most residents were employed in the fishery, and SEALING was also important. Beginning in the 1820s, the seasonal Labrador fishery became an important part of the local economy.

Some archaeological work was conducted in Cupids in the early 1970s but no physical evidence of the original colony was found at that time. Survey work conducted in 1995 resulted in its discovery and excavations since then have uncovered the remains of 4 early 17th-century buildings, numerous related features, sections of the enclosure erected around the settlement and more than 135 000 artifacts. The town of Cupids takes great pride in its past. Plans are underway to have the site declared a provincial HISTORIC SITE and a new, state-of-the-art interpretation centre will tell the story of Canada's first English settlement.

Since its discovery, the archaeological site has become a significant tourist attraction and tourism has become an important sector of Cupid's economy. A number of residents are employed in both the crab fishery and at the local Quin-Sea Fisheries processing plant. Many others commute to ST JOHN'S.


Further Reading

  • G.T. Cell, English Enterprise in Newfoundland 1577-1660 (1969).

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