Carbonear, NL, incorporated as a town in 1948, population 4739 (2011c), 4723 (2006c). The Town of Carbonear is located on the west shore of Conception Bay and is one of the oldest settlements in Newfoundland and Labrador. The name may come from the Spanish carbonera ("a seller of charcoal"), or the French family name Carbonnier or place name La Carbonnière, but the most accepted theory of its origin is it is derived from the French word charbonnière, "charcoal pit." French Jersey Islanders were among the first settlers in Carbonear and they used charcoal pits in their efforts to prosecute the fishery. Near excellent fishing grounds, Carbonear was first fished in the early 1600s. In 1631 Nicholas Guy, originally from the Cupids colony, was fishing and farming there. Carbonear grew in the late 1600s when English West Country fishermen and Channel Islanders settled there as the fishery expanded.
Nearby Carbonear Island was fortified in 1679 and was the only Newfoundland site to resist French attacks in 1697, although Carbonear itself was razed. The town again fell to the French in 1705, and was the object of numerous other attacks by French and American privateers until the early 1800s. Carbonear Islands military importance was recognized in 1954 when it was designated a site of national significance. In 1981 it was officially declared a national historic site.
With the rise of the seal hunt and the Labrador cod fishery, Carbonear became a major commercial centre in the 1800s. Violent political riots here in the early and mid-1800s led to the dissolution of the Newfoundland Legislature in 1841 and the suspension of the constitution. In the 1900s the economy diversified; Carbonear has become a regional retail, service, transportation, government and cultural centre. Fish processing continued to be important until the cod moratorium was put into place in the early 1990s. Since then, the processing plant has been converted to process crab and most recently seal. Carbonear is also the regions educational centre with campuses of 2 colleges.
Former premier Frank Moores was born and raised in Carbonear. Another noteworthy Carbonear personality, but from the towns early history, is Sheila Na Geira Pike (see Pincess Sheila).