Bay Bulls is often a place where Humpedback Whales can be viewed during the summer. The waters can be challenging just outside the harbour but manageable. Bay Bulls is the earliest known English place name in Newfoundland and Labrador. Some believe that the name "Bay Bulls" comes from the presenceof Bull Walruses or the common Dovekie "Bull Bird" which both use to frequent the area. Some also believe according to their web site that Bay Bulls is the french corruption of "Baie de Bois" or "The Wooded Bay". What ever the derivative it has had a colorful history of warfare for such a small community.
In a 150 year span from about 1650 until 1800, Bay Bulls was the site of numerous conflicts between various European nations. In 1655, the tiny community was raided by Dutch sailors under Admiral De Ruyter and while the town was looted and pillaged, it was rebuilt almost immediately. In the 100 years between 1696 and 1796 Bay Bulls was attacked at least five times by the French military via land and sea. These attacks were often in conjunction with attacks on St. John's in part of the French effort in the early eighteenth century to drive the English out of Newfoundland.
Two of the more memorable battles took place in 1696 when Monbeton de St. Ovide de Brouillan, the governor of Placentia (another Newfoundland community), attacked Bay Bulls from the sea and in 1697 when Pierre Le Moyne d'lberville marched overland. In the first skirmish a British frigate, The HMS Sapphire, was scuttled in order to prevent the ship from falling into enemy hands. The Sapphire is now depicted in the official town logo and can still be seen in the harbour During periods of low tide. The site was declared Newfoundland and Labrador's first underwater marine historic site in 1975.
In 1705 an expedition of 90 Frenchmen and 100 Indians on its way from Placentia to attack St. John's, captured Bay Bulls. Once again the town was put to the torch before the French left. Two years later Bay Bulls was again captured by the French and this time there was no resistance from the settlers. The attack of 1707 was the last enemy evasion until June 24, 1762 when the French lead by Admiral De Terne, landed seven hundred men who occupied Bay Bulls and marched to St. John's. The French later left rather than fight the British forces sent against them, and Bay Bulls was rebuilt once again.
On September 29, 1796 Bay Bulls suffered its last invasion when an Admiral Richery attempted to storm St. John's but finding it well defended, attacked and burned Bay Bulls instead and took prisoners. He was eventually driven out as well and the community quickly recovered.
Reprinted from Bay Bulls website.