French Loggers and a Favorite Fishing Hole
The first time I heard about there being French loggers in the area around Grand Falls was in High School. It was passingly mentioned in John Thompsons play The Price of Paper that there had been French loggers in the area. It raised my curiosity but there wasn’t much in the way of resources for me to look into.
It turns out there were French loggers in the area, although they were not from France. The loggers were Quebecoise loggers brought into the area by Gooday and Company who owned a large sawmill at Botwood. This was in the 1890s. The mill in question was opened in 1890 and over the next few years the Quebecers with increasing numbers of Newfoundlanders descended down the Exploits River. The lumbering industry in Quebec was well developed and loggers from there were considered experts in cutting, hauling and driving wood.
One of the Frenchmen was a camp foreman by the name of LeMotte. Around 1891 he had a camp in the area of Bishop’s Falls. At some point in the next two or three years he had a camp in the area of Grand Falls-most likely on or near the lake that now bears his name. A nearby brook, Frenchman’s Brook also bears evidence to the presence of these Francophone axemen.
Further evidence of the presence of “French” loggers was discovered by amateur archeologist Don Locke in the 1960s. A number of years ago there was a website that had a few pictures that depicted the remains of an old logging camp which was, if I can recall correctly, near present day Scott Avenue-in the same area which there was a pond called French Pond.
The pine that was being cut was high graded-only the biggest and the best trees were taken for the mill at Botwood. Not long after LeMotte had the camp near Grand Falls the cutting had progressed as far as the Twin Lakes and the Badger Brook watershed. Cutting followed along the rivers with most of the cutting taking place within sight of the Exploits or one of its main tributaries. At the same time the French loggers were working the area, the Newfoundland Railway was being pushed through the same area. Headquarters for both operations seem to have coexisted at the same places like Bishop’s Falls, Rushy Pond and Badger Brook.[i]
Unfortunately I have been unable to obtain much information on Mr. LeMotte other than the fact that he was a camp foreman from Quebec that was brought in by the Gooday and Company of Botwood to run logging camps. I was unable to find a first name as he was not recorded in any of the business directories complied during the time he was in Newfoundland.
By the turn of the century most all of the Frenchmen had been replaced by Newfoundlanders. But there legacy lives on in a few place names. The mill at Botwood changed hands a number of times before it was finally taken over by Harry J. Crowe around 1903. Crowe would continue operations at Botwood for a number of years and continued to draw his timber supply from the Exploits Watershed by the time he ceased operations in the area most of the white pine had been exhausted. Eventually all of the timber in the area would be taken over by the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company. LeMotte’s Lake became the site of A.N.D Co logging camps in the 1920’s, one of many logging areas that were within site of the paper mill. A dam was placed on the outflow and wood was driven to the Exploits from LeMotte’s.
Because of its proximity to Grand Falls, LeMotte’s Lake became a favorite fishing hole for residents of the area, especially after the bridge was put across the river in the early 1960’s. In the years after the bridge went across it wasn’t a problem to get a good catch of trout from that large lake. Eventually Lemotte’s became fished out, after all it was the nearest pond to Grand falls that was of any size to provide a good meal of trout. Despite the fishing not being as good as it once was, because of its proximity to town it is a place where many parents take their children for the first time to “wet a line.”[ii]
[i] Hiram Silk Henry Hutchings Interview
An Album of James P. Howely’s Photographs http://collections.mun.ca/PDFs/howley/Reminiscences_Images.pdf