The Community

The Bon Secour River has long provided a navigational route for mariners, traders, and native people along the Alabama Gulf coast. Spanish missionaries, French explorers, and Baltic Germans were among the earliest settlers who visited the area. The river and surrounding village is said to have been named after the Cathedral Notre Dame de Bon Secour by Frenchman Jacques Cook. Among the oldest in Montréal, the Cathedral’s name literally translates in English as “safe harbor” (Scanlan, Borden, and Wallace et al. 2004), a name well suited for the peaceful fishing village that began to form along the river in the late 19th century.

Educational, religious, and entrepreneurial values have always shaped quality of life along the Bon Secour River. A resilient community dating back to the 1700s, Bon Secour is an unincorporated village with a unique culture oriented toward the sea. Historical records indicate that fertile soils and abundant natural resources were among the most important factors that brought early settlers to Bon Secour. Timber, fur, and salt provided the raw materials for the first commercial businesses. During the 19th century, agricultural production developed rapidly, and Foley quickly “became the center of population, commerce, and finance in the immediate area” (ADEM 1996). However, commercial fishing and shell-fishing in particular soon emerged as the principle industry driving the local economy. Growth in the seafood industry has slowed in recent years, resulting from a shift to a more service-based economy. Nonetheless, the industry still employs many residents in the watershed and remains important to the heritage of Bon Secour. Several small businesses still process and ship large quantities of Gulf of Mexico seafood out Bon Secour.

Individuals with a connection to this region of coastal Alabama possess a strong sense of local pride. Residents have continuously adapted to shifting social, economic, and environmental conditions over the past 300 years. Over time, this resiliency has shaped the identity of entire communities. Nowhere is this more evident than in Bon Secour River Watershed, where historically blue collar workers have always depended on fertile soil and a healthy estuary.