As with the surrounding area, Harbourville was originally frequented by Mi'kmaq peoples for centuries prior to exploration by European settlers. It would have been a common destination during the summer months and most likely served as an access point to the Bay of Fundy and its shores. During the settlement years, the area now known as Harbourville was originally granted to the Best family of New England Planters. They did not settle at Harbourville but logged the land which gained the location the name of Shingle Log Brook. The land around the brook was purchased by John Given and James Owens in 1824. They settled at the brook a few years later, built a pier and carried out logging as the area became known as Givens Wharf. The Hamilton family joined the settlement in 1829. The community became first a logging, then shipbuilding and trading centre exporting lumber and agricultural products from farms in the Berwick area of Annapolis Valley in the 1840s and 50s.
On March 13, 1860 residents voted to choose the name Harbourville, reflection the sheltered habour created by the book and piers. A Methodist church, which still stands as a United Church was built in 1860 and a school house was built in the next year. The community declined in the late 19th century as timber resources were depleted and the Windsor and Annapolis Railway, later the Dominion Atlantic Railway took over agricultural exports from the Annapolis Valley. The harbour continued to be used by inshore fishermen.
Tourism became an industry in the early 20th century as a number of summer hotels operated, later replaced by summer cottages along the bay. Famous Hollywood actress Theda Bara owned a cottage in the area called "Baranook". Fishing and tourism remain the principle industry. Harbourville's wharves were always managed locally and never became part of the Small Craft Harbour program of the federal government. Maintenance and operation of the wharves were taken over by the Harbourville Restoration Society in 1999. The east wharf was restored by the society in 2003 and the west wharf was restored in 2009
The naming of Harbourville 1860
A public meeting was held in this place on the 13th. inst. Pursuant to previous notice, for the purpose of defining the limits, and establishing a name for the district, hitherto known as Givan Wharf.
The meeting was called to order by appointing Mr. Johnson Turner, Chairman. Henry Morris, junr., Secretary. Moved by Mr. Henry Morris and Seconded by Mr. Daniel B. Parker, that the bound of the district be as follows : Commencing at the Turner’s Brook , on the Bay Shore; thence south by said brook to the Base Line Road, then east by said road to the brook on the east side of John Givan’s land; thence North by the Bay shore to the place of beginning.
Resolved: By a majority of votes that the district described in the foregoing resolution shall be hereafter called" Harbourville".
Moved by Mr. D.B. Parker , Seconded by Capt. I. Morris, that publishers of newspapers, and all persons corresponding with the inhabitants of this place are respectfully requested to direct their papers and letters to "Harbourville".
Moved by Mr. S. Dodge, Seconded by Mr. I.A. Cahill. That copies of the proceedings of this meeting be forwarded by insertion in the Christian Messenger, Provincial Wesleyan, and Presbyterian Witness, and the secular papers are respectfully requested to copy.
Signed Johnson Turner, Chairman Henry Morris, junr., Secretary
Harbourville Cornwallis West
March 4th. 1860
[Christian Messenger, 28 March 1860, p. 101. NSARM, Halifax, NS mfm# 8355]
Transcribed by John Parker, B.A., B.Ed., G.R.S.(C).