West St. Modeste was incorporated as a town in 1975. In the 1560s the area was known as San Mandat or Semedet and was a minor whaling station for the Basque. In the 1700s it became a fishing station for the French and later English merchants took over the station making it a sealing post. Unlike some communities in the Straits, it was not dominated by a merchant based fishery.
The area was settled by Newfoundland and English fishing servants and in the first Labrador census of 1856, the community showed a population of 18. By 1869 the population had risen to 63. The harbour was also used by migratory fishermen from the island during the summer Labrador fishery. The residents were involved in the cod fishery and in the salmon and seal fishery in the spring.
In 1958 the Oblate mission of Our Lady of Labrador was established in the community. The population increased in 1967 when several families resettled in the community from L'Anse au Diable. With the decline of the fish stocks many younger people have left the community, resulting in a decrease in the settlement's population.