The forests of Central Newfoundland are littered with the relics of 125 years of forestry and logging. The forests of the area have been exploited for at least that long. The chances of you finding the site of one of the early logging camps is unlikely since most of these sites have long since grown over and even camps of lesser vintage have been obliterated from view by alders and other brush.
But if you venture into the woods and into the alder beds you can still find some of the later remnants left by commercial logging operations. Some of note include the cab of a pallet track from the 1960’s or 70’s still displaying red paint and the Price Newfoundland logo, a steel winch boat-hauled up and left to rust on the side of a lake, if you look around there are tractor parts and tractor sleds everywhere-the metal runners of which litter the woods, I have even heard of there being a tow behind grader in the Sandy Lake area.
I suppose it will only be a matter of time before all of this discarded junk become artifacts. To the best of my knowledge there has yet to be an archaeological dig on any former logging sites in Central Newfoundland.
My father has a cabin on one of these old sites-In Badger Division, near Noel Paul Brook. The camp that was situated there dated from the period 1956-1963, right in the middle of the IWA strike. In fact CBC did an interview from this camp during the strike. I have spent hours poking around, always looking down looking for old relics. I have found all kinds of stuff: bed frames, “Giant” Stoves used to heat the camps (at least four of them!), buck saw frames, Maculloch chainsaw bodies and bars, countless parts from tractor sleds (but strangely enough not a single horseshoe!), old bottles, a tube of Brylcream and even the track from a Caterpillar tractor.
From the stuff found around the camp I have figured the logging camp had been there in the late fifties (buck saw and chainsaw parts). From hearsay and research I found out that the camp was run by Clayton Holloway, who was originally from Bloomfield Bonavista Bay, but lived in Badger and that one of my great uncles had worked in that same camp. The camps was in operation during the IWA Strike of 1959. Within a twenty kilometer radius there were a number of other camps and reportedly a garage for Newfoundland Tractor. I once saw a bed frame in the middle of a cut over not far away, indicative of a camp site . And this is just in one small area. There
were dozens maybe had to be hundreds of camps constructed and used over the course of one hundred years. I am no mathematics or stats person by any stretch, but into the 1950’s the Company would report that it had at least 65 camps in operation every year. Each year a number of these camps would be closed and others opened in their place. In a rough estimate there has to be over 200 old logging camps sites in the interior.
At the Grand Falls-Windsor Heritage Society I found forestry maps belonging to AND CO which actually illustrated which blocks in the area were cut with the corresponding year marked on them.
Those maps were available because of the closure of the biggest relic of them all. The Grand Falls pulp and paper mill was closed in March of 2009 after almost one hundred years of production. I can only venture to guess what kind of relics are going to turn up as they begin the process of demolition and remediation. Nothing would surprise me considering the fact that a locomotive was recovered there in the late 1970’s, but that is another topic altogether.
I would like to thank Glen Fewer for permission to use his pictures for this post.
Almost Four Years Since……
Since writing this piece, the mill has been completely demolished. Not much came out that I know about. I saw Moby Joe after they tore the sides off of the building! A few old steel tug boats have been brought to my attention, four actually at different locations. I was also told of a SLASHER having been hauled out recently and scrapped. This really dumbfounded me as a slasher is about the size of a tractor trailer and truck, and it would have been left in the woods for probably twenty or thirty years.
One amazing but sad story about a relic was the old Clyde Skidder that was up in Millertown. It was hauled out after almost 80 years by the Company, only to find there was no money to restore it and the thing was scrapped.
Parts of the old lake steamer, Fleetway can still be seen when the water levels on Red Indian Lake are low, 90 years after she sank! Parts of a scow built in 1947 to bring passengers, supplies, vehicles and horses across the Exploits River can still be seen near Max Simms Camp, which is now on the site of Rattling Brook Depot.
Mother nature has a fine way of reclaiming what it has lost and even much of the old junk left in the woods by AND/Price/Abitibi gets reclaimed. There are places that were hives of logging activity where the roads have completely grown in. Trees grow up through the chassis of old abandoned equipment. There was a depot near Noel Paul Brook back in the Forties and into the Sixties, that had repair shops and bunkhouses and garages and nearby there was a dam and a bridge. Now, at least from above all that shows there was anything there is a very, very grown in clearing from which a number of very grown in logging roads radiate.
This said there has to be an alarming amount of equipment and “future artifacts” scattered over this area the size of a small country I call “the woods.” What happened to the Holt tractors brought in in the early twenties? The engines that powered the wooden tow boats that were on every lake with deep enough water? The twenty odd Cat 22’s that were bought in in the mid thirties? The dozens of other model Caterpillar tractors used in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. What about the other vehicles?
I know that trucks started to be used in the woods as early as the twenties. If my memory serves me right some of the first used in Badger division were Ford model A’s and early model Dodge trucks. These were used from Badger to South Twin Lake. By the late forties I know a 2 ton International stake body was being used to supply the camps on the Sandy Lake Road, and by that point the road had been been completed to Sandy for a few years. If these were left in the woods they must have mature trees growing through them by now!