As a child I developed a fascination with boats. This should only be natural for a Newfoundlander being as we are on an island surrounded by water. But this fascination stemmed more from NOT seeing boats than it did from seeing them every day. The only boats that I saw were in Point Leamington, Botwood or Lewisporte and as a small child the only boat that I was ever in was on Badger Lake. This is because I grew up in Grand Falls-which though on a river, the only boats you could see were a couple of little tugs or boom boats that worked the pulpwood boom at the mill. And there was only a couple of places in town that you could see them.
What I didn’t realize back then was that these little boats were the last of dozens if not hundreds of boats used in the logging industry in Central Newfoundland.
There were boats being poled down the Exploits River for years, it was best to stick to the river. The early loggers cutting for Botwood had boats to assist on their drives and to portage their supplies. The Micmac and Beothuk navigated their birch bark and skin canoes up and down the river for God knows how long. The first logging tug to be used came into the area in about 1900.
According to the book “Alligators of the North” the Lewis Miller Company ordered a paddle wheel amphibious “steam warping” tug known as an Alligator from West and Peachy of Ontario even before their mill was built. In fact it is reported that the first inhabitants of Millertown were the men putting together that tug. The alligator tug was designed to be able to haul itself up on to land and by using its winch, winch itself from lake to lake along the land.[i] This strange craft was christened the SS Annie.
Very early on during operations at Millertown it was realized another albeit larger and more powerful boat was needed for hauling booms as well as transport for men and horses up and down Red Indian Lake. So a ship builder was engaged to build a larger paddle streamer. This boat was called the Henry M.
In 1905 Millers holdings including the mill and operations at Millertown were transferred to the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company, A.N.D inherited Millers boats. Very early on AND Co realized that they would need another tug for their operations on Red Indian. So they engaged a master shipbuilder by the name of Adam Chaulk. Mr. Chaulk came from around Summerford or Bridgeport on New World Island.[ii] Chaulk built a large steam screw tug for AND in 1908 which was named the Lady Mary-for Lord Harmsworths wife. The Lady Mary was the largest craft at that point built out of sight of the sea in Newfoundland.
By 1920 even the Lady Mary was proving to be too small to cope with the operations around Red Indian Lake. So once again Adam Chaulk was brought in to Millertown to build a tug boat. This boat would be the Fleetway and would be the largest ship ever built on an inland waterway in Newfoundland. The Fleetway was 350 tons and was capable of cruising along the lake at about 10 knots. She was used for hauling booms as well as transporting men and horses around the lake. In many instances she towed a large scow for the men, supplies and horses.
The Fleetway also played a large role in bringing in supplies and men for the development of the Buchans Mine. This would have been shortly before she met her demise.
Completed in 1921 the Fleetway was to have a fairly short life. Around the same time they built the current dam on Red Indian Lake the Fleetway was brought to a sheltered cove for the winter. During the winter she was holed in the hull by a stump submerged when the area was flooded. She grounded on a sandbar and was unable to be re floated. Over the years she gradually deteriorated but even now almost ninety years after she sunk, you can still see parts of her boiler when the water is low. The fate of her smaller sister the Lady Mary is unknown. The Annie was scrapped at some point and parts of her were used to build another tug the Alligator II.[iii] This might be the tug that was used on Rogerson Lake in the 1920’s or 30’s. The remains of which, including the frame of the paddle wheel can still be seen today.
Both the Lady Mary and the Fleetway were captained by Mr. Stanley Slade originally of Loon Bay.[iv]
The most information is available on the boats on Red Indian Lake, but large boats were not confined to this waterway. The Badger Lakes and Twin Lakes are known to have had large steam and diesel powered tugs on them in the 1920s-1950’s. I have read accounts of waterwheel tugs having been built and used on the Badger and Twin Lakes around the 1920’s. Any large lake would have necessitated a large boat. Though no other paddle wheelers were ordered from Ontario, the design of the Alligator might have been copied by company carpenters and shipwrights.
In Bishop’s Falls division because most of the loggers crossed by water there was a need for a large motor boat. One of these was the Coronation and was built by Mr. Walter Forward who was the carpenter foreman at Rattling Brook Depot. Mr. Forward was reported to have built over one hundred boats for use in Bishops Falls Division. The largest of these was built at Miguel Lake and was reportedly around forty feet long.[v] Since most Newfoundland carpenters in the old days had experience in boatbuilding finding people skilled in boatbuilding was not a challenge.
I have been unable to find any pictures or much information on these boats other than the fact that they were built on the lakes that they sailed and when they were no longer needed they were hauled up and left to rot. Any traces of these boats seem to be long gone. But there are more than traces of other boats remaining near some lakes.
Sometime after the Second World War the A.N.D Company looked to the mainland for boats. One of the most prolific suppliers of boats for the logging industry was Russell Brothers of Owen Sound, Ontario. They built durable and powerful steel hulled winch boats. These were sold under the trademark Steelcraft.[vi]
These Russell boats were small enough that they could be hauled from lake to lake. From what I can gather there are probably three or four of these boats abandoned in the woods of Central Newfoundland.[vii]
Anglo-Newfoundland also acquired a 42 foot steel tug from Russell Brothers in the mid-fifties which was christened the Fleetway II and was used, like her namesake, on Red Indian Lake. Another large tug owned and used by A.N.D Co was the Lady Northcott. At one point she was used on Gander Lake in connection to A.N.D’s small collection of timber limits there. When she was finished there she was loaded on the back of a truck and transferred to another lake further west (if memory serves me correctly it may have been Victoria Lake).[viii]
Another Russell appears to have been used to tend the boom at Grand Falls. I have seen a picture of this boat and she appears to be a steel tug with the name Exploits. Other smaller boats would have been also used to tend the boom in Grand Falls, if I recall correctly in later years there were a couple of tiny boats of the type known as boom boats. These were like tiny waterborne bulldozers that pushed the booms and logs at the mill. Once trucking took over completely in the mid to early 1990’s there was little need for any boats in the woods.
Over the years there were hundreds of boats used in conjunction with logging and pulp and paper operations in Central Newfoundland. Most of the information available is on the larger boats, and even that is limited. I haven’t even touched on the subject of the numerous dories, bateaus, wanigans[ix], scows, barges, Gander River and motorboats that were used in the interior as part of a vast flotilla of working logging boats.
If anybody has any further information or pictures they would be greatly appreciated. I would love to know the fates of some of these boats or if anybody has ever cross any stream, kerosene, gas or diesel engines on any lakes in Central.
Adam Chaulk also built the schooners Bella Scott and Sordello for A.N.D Co at Botwood around 1918-1919. They were reportedly two of the largest schooners built in Newfoundland.
[i] Barrett, Harry and. Coons, Clarence F Alligators of the North Dundern 2010
[ii] Evening Telegram 1921
[iii] Kitchen, John By the Sweat of my Brow (2005)
[iv] 1921 Census Millertown http://ngb.chebucto.org/C1921/21-millerton-tw.shtml
[v] Carl Budgell personal correspondence with author.
[vii] I know the approximate location but I don’t want to give it publically. I am afraid the wrong person will take the initiative to move these boats, not for restoration but to scrap yard to sell as scrap. I had a bad experience regarding in intact piece of the Grand Falls Central Railway a few years ago.
[viii] This is from memory. I found this in the Grand Falls Advertiser years ago. The article was from 1958 or 59 and even had a picture of the boat in the back of a dump truck! If somebody could turn up that picture it would be awesome. I think she might have been moved to Rogerson Lake or Victoria Lake in Millertown Division.
[ix] Not sure of the spelling. This was a barge with a shelter that followed the men on the log drive. In many cases cooking was done on this barge and supplies were moved on them.