Northern Arm is one of the oldest communities in the Bay of Exploits. In fact, in early 1891 the community had a population of 220. The community had a very productive fishery. It was recorded that in 1890, 25 people from Northern Arm went to the coast of Labrador and returned with 790 Quintals of cod. It was also recorded that in 1891 the community was the only place that could boast ownership of a sailing vessel of over 60 ton capacity as well as two others with a combined tonnage of 133. In 1905 a forest fire swept through the forests from Northern Arm to Cottrell’s Cove, destroying much of the good boat-building timber. This event was important to the economy of Northern Arm because the community had the largest of a series of boat-building yards established in Exploits Bay.
John Langdon was believed to be one of the first settlers of Northern Arm. Together with the two brothers, Luke and Solomon Manuel from Exploits Island, as well as the Oak, Evans, and Humphries families, they made up the early settlers of the community.
In 1911 the population of Northern Arm was 228, and changed very little over the next 40 years. Occupation as of 1921 included 52 lumbermen with two sawmills, employing 18 men and cutting approximately 40,000 logs. At this time there were 120 acres under civilization and most of the settlers of the community, similar to typical Newfoundland outposts, grew their own vegetables and lived off the resources of the land.
The first church was built in the community in 1913. At that time the church congregation was Methodist, which later became United Church. A stained glass window was installed in the church by Henry Evans in memory of his wife. Mr. Evans was the captain of the schooner, the Pendragon, which was lost with all of her crew on her first voyage to the fishing banks. The front of the church was built facing the bay. At that time there was no road through the community, and everyone walked along the edge of the river bank or rowed to his/her destination in a row boat called a ‘punt’.
The first post office in Northern Arm was located in a store owned and operated by Luke Manuel. The operation of the post office was passed down through the generations of the Manuel family until early in the 1940’s. Later in 1952, the post office was again located in the store of Edgar Manuel where it remained until 1967 when it was relocated to the home of Mrs. Doris Jewer (Porter). In 1970, as was the case of many small post offices across Canada, the post office in Mrs. Jewer’s home was closed.
In 1972 the community of Northern Arm was incorporated, and a local improvement board was formed. The chairman was Frank Manuel. Members of the board were Marjorie Patey, Elmo Purchase, Ivan Belbin, Lloyd Langdon, Wilfred Pelly and Maxwell Inder, with Doris Jewer as town clerk. The status of the community changed in 1981 to become the town of Northern Arm. It was then that the first council was elected by the public instead of being appointed by the provincial government. The first “elected mayor” of Northern Arm was Mr. Allan Cranford. The members of the first town council included Rob Fisher, Victor Hebb, Rex Hemeon, Albert Mercer, Chesley Manuel and Franklin Manuel.
The present town hall in Northern Arm was constructed under a Winter Capital Works project. The cutting of the logs started on April 23, 1973. Actual construction of the hall began in December of 1973 and was completed in March of 1974. The first meeting of council held in the new hall was on October 25, 1974, and the town clerk moved into her new office on January 3, 1978. Until this time the business of the town was conducted in the home of the town clerk. In 1984 a volunteer fire brigade was formed and a fire hall was constructed.