The community of Belledune was created through the amalgamation of Jacquet River, Armstrong Brook, and Belledune in 1994. The community dubbed itself a “Supervillage” after this amalgamation.
Jacquet River was founded in 1790 by James Augustus Doyle, after whom the river is named. At that time he was the only settler between the Nepisiquit and Restigouchw Rivers. He married Marie Savoie and worked in the area with their thirteen children to clear more than thirty acres of land. The family became known as the French Doyles to distinguish them from their Irish relatives. Many settlers followed and developed the customs and culture of the area.
In 1824 when Francois Guitard came to the shores of the Bay of Chaleur to farm and fish in what would become Belledune, he could not have imagined the industrial hotbed which it has become today. Guitard, born in Fauxbourg, St. Antoine, France, had a colourful past. He was 19 years old when Louis XVI was beheaded and served under Napoleon Bonaparte at Mareng and Lodi and after the evacuation of Italy by the Austrians, followed Napoleon to Egypt and fought at the battle of the Pyramids.
As was the case with many others, Guitard soon headed off to the new world to seek a better life. He wasn’t in Belledune long before others came to clear land and make a home for themselves. Many Irish and Scottish came here following the great Miramichi fire of 1825. To this day, the community has a rich mixture of Irish, French and Scottish descendants.
It was not long after the first settlers arrived that Belledune gained it’s first church. Built in 1830, a Roman Catholic church was built at Chapel Point. It measured only 42 feet by 28 feet.
In 1856, Bishop Thomas Connolly of Saint John appointed John Maloughney, a Belledune resident, as treasurer of the new, larger Roman Catholic church which was built within the village. The first mass was celebrated there May 8th.
Seniors in the village recall the first schools in Belledune were built in the 1850’s. At one point, there were four one-room schoolhouses in the village. Students took turns starting fires in the wood stoves of the school in winter. They also took turns carrying water for drinking. Teachers, who also did janitorial work at the schools, were paid $90 a year.
As the Belledune community lies along the shore of the Bay of Chaleur, many older residents tell of sighting the renowned Phantom Ship – or as it is sometimes called – “The Burning Ghost Ship”. The stories vary from community to community along the bay and versions differ, depending on which community sighted the apparition. The most common version is as follows;
“It was during the war between the French and English in the early 18th century that a sea battle took place. Two ships were sighted, about 1.5 miles from shore, fighting fiercely and within minutes one was in flames. The people on shore watched the spectacle in horror. One of the ships, instead of sinking right away, remained in flames for two hours or more.
Some of the older citizens in the village say they could hear men, women and children shouting for help while the ship was burning – and for days after the tragedy they could still hear the dying screams coming from the bay. Sightings of the Phantom Ship occur to this day, usually before a storm.”
( Read more New Brunswick Folkelore and ghost stories here. )
Belledune became the hub of industrial activity in northern New Brunswick beginning in 1963 when Brunswick Mining and Smelting Corporation established a lead smelter and fertilizer plant near the village.
Excellent port facilities brought much import/export business to the village and Shell Oil set up a bulk plant near the village.
The most recent addition to the industrial sector was the construction of a 450 megawatt thermal generating station constructed by NB Power at a cost of nearly $1 billion.
The Jacquet River Salmon Barrier in Belledune lets you experience conservation efforts to protect this important species. The Atlantic Salmon life cycle represents a remarkable and dangerous journey from birth river to the farthest reaches of the ocean and back again, year after year. Be sure to see the large tank of new salmon waiting to be released and visit the information centre to learn more about this important species.
Belledune is known for the beaches from which it obtained its name. It’s also known for the famous Jacquet River Gorge. Hunting, fishing and various winter activities are also popular.
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