Fall River’s name is derived from a stream running between Miller Lake and Lake Thomas which had a waterfall. These falls supplied water power for several mills during the 19th century as well as a local electrical utility during the early 20th century. The waterfall was demolished in the late 1950s as a result of the construction of the 102 or Bicentennial Highway leading to Halifax; the waterfall was located where the 4-lane expressway currently runs up the hill from the crossing of Lake Thomas to the interchange with Highway 118 at Miller Lake.
The Mi’kmaq Nation and its predecessors were known to have inhabited Fall River prior to European settlement, using the waterways for a portage route connecting with the Shubenacadie Valley. The Mik’maq reportedly used this waterway to attack the settlement at Halifax in its early days during a conflict with English settlers.
The first European people in the area arrived during the late 1700s, and some of these earliest settlers were German. In particular one German family named Muller (now anglicized to Miller), established themselves in Fall River, and some of their descendants remain in the area, with Miller Lake being named after them. The Miller brothers, Philip and John cleared the land on the east side of Lake Thomas and in 1828 built a dam to power their sawmill, the first in the area. George Taylor, another settler, had come to Fall River in 1829 and was Innkeeper of The Lakeside Inn, which was in operation as early as 1831. Through the later part of the 1800s and early 1900s, Fall River was largely a sleepy little village and did not grow much in population.
Fall River has been expanding rapidly over the past 10 years with the construction of a Sobeys Supermarket and surrounding shopping centre.
There are a number of major subdivisions in Fall River, the first being called The Schwarzwald (named after the famed Black Forest in Germany) and developed by the Miller family in the mid 1970s. Schwarzwald has in the past couple of years started development of a new section called Schwarzwald Heights.
The second subdivision is Fall River Village. Fall River Village was established in 1973 with over 1000 acres (4 km²) of land and 200 acres (0.81 km2) yet to be developed.
There are two new subdivisions, St. Andrews West and Kinloch Estates, which opened in February 2009. The subdivision itself is nestled between St. Andrews Lake and Kinsac Lake with extensive waterfrontage on both lakes.