Interior Flotilla-Logging Boats on the Inland Waters of Central Newfoundland

Interior Flotilla

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.

The West and Peachy steam warping tug SS Annie was the first boat used at Millertown. She was shipped to Newfoundland as a kit and assembled at Red Indian Lake. (http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?id=thumbnail_gallery&fl=0&lg=English&ex=00000574&pos=73)
The West and Peachy steam warping tug SS Annie was the first boat used at Millertown. She was shipped to Newfoundland as a kit and assembled at Red Indian Lake. (http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?id=thumbnail_gallery&fl=0&lg=English&ex=00000574&pos=73)

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.

Boats on Red Indian Lake Circa 1911. The Lady Mary at left, the Henry M to the right.  "The Company" motorboat is centter left next to one of the scows used to transport men, horses and supplies  around the lake.
Boats on Red Indian Lake Circa 1911. The Lady Mary at left, the Henry M to the right. “The Company” motorboat is center left next to one of the scows used to transport men, horses and supplies around the lake.

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.

Remains of a paddle wheel tug at Rogerson Lake in Millertown Division.
Remains of a paddle wheel tug at Rogerson Lake in Millertown Division. As you can see the gears, shaft and paddles are still intact. The fate of the boiler is unknown to the author. (Photo courtesy of Blair Reid)

Both the Lady Mary and the Fleetway were captained by Mr. Stanley Slade originally of Loon Bay.[iv]

At 250 or 350 tons the Fleetway was the largest ship built in the interior of Newfoundland.  (http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?id=thumbnail_gallery&fl=0&lg=English&ex=00000574&pos=73)
At 250 or 350 tons the Fleetway was the largest ship built in the interior of Newfoundland.  Her service life was not long. Built in 1921 she was punctured by a rock or stump and sunk at her moorings around 1928. (http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?id=thumbnail_gallery&fl=0&lg=English&ex=00000574&pos=73)

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]

Russell Brothers "Steelcraft" winch boat. These boats were used to tow booms of pulpwood during the log drive (Photo courtesy of Glen Fewer).
Russell Brothers “Steelcraft” winch boat. These boats were used to tow booms of pulpwood during the log drive (Photo courtesy of Glen Fewer).

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.[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.

Steel boom tug near Grand Falls. This boat was over 20 feet long, appears to be missing its cab and was most likely used on the boom at the Grand Falls Mill. ( Author photo)
Steel boom tug near Grand Falls. This boat was over 20 feet long, appears to be missing its cab and was most likely used on the boom at the Grand Falls Mill. It was there in 2006 but could not be found when I revisited the site in August of 2015(.  Author photo)

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.

 

Note

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.

[vi] http://stevebriggs.netfirms.com/osmrm/registry.html

[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 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.

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7 Comments

  1. I grew up in Millerton 1939 until 1955 fished off one of those old alligator boats. My father was Manger of the Royal
    Stores when they moved from Miller’s building to the new store the building is still there. A very good
    write up.I do stained glass and also sandblast. I have done a 5 by 7 etching of the iron wheel on mirror glass.

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    1. Thanks. Cool, you must be related to John Kitchen-I use his logging book as a source quite often, I was doing a lot of research in the same area with the intention of doing the same thing before it came out. Did you fish off the Fleetway? Somebody recently sent me a couple of pictures of the remains of the old alligator that was up at Rogerson Lake.

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      1. I am a younger brother of John. I never fished off the Fleetway but we would play pirates aboard her. There was an old boat with a steam boiler hauled up just down below what we knew as barn hill and it was off the stern that I fished. I caught a couple of large fish at Rogerson steady one day the scouts were taken there in a jeep and a Chevrolet .If you were to go into my Facebook page you will see the sandblasted iron wheel.

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  2. The remains of the “Annie M” sits on the bottom of Red Indian Lake approx. a couple hundred metres (to the east) of the remains of the Fleetway. The second of the Alligator boats was used as part of a coffer dam during the construction of the Exploits River dam located 4 miles from Millertown. I do dispute some of the facts of your story, but that said . . . all in all a good read.

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    1. Welcome to any dispute! Especially if It leads to new information. I am mainly working from old papers and what I have read over the years so I might be wrong sometimes. I was told that at least some of the parts of the Annie were used in another boat used on Rogerson Lake, the remains of which can still be found there.

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      1. The Annie M is definitely where I mentioned. I walked on her hull as a kid when the lake level dropped extremely low one year in the early 80’s. The main hull of heavy planks was very much intact at that time.
        I know Rogerson Lake pretty well but never heard of an Alligator being left there. I do recall there were four small steel tugs much like the one in your pictures. Those were taken out on trucks in the late 80’s to be taken to Stephenville with the exception of one open steel hull which is still sitting along the old Rogerson Rd. Where it had been left with the other three after they were dragged off of the landing at Rogerson lake and dragged down the road to an old gravel pit area. They were left there for the winter and the following year were loaded onto trucks. For some reason they did not take that one out of there and she is still there just about completely over-grown with trees. Gus Brown has another similar to these old tugs in Millertown but not sure where that one came from.
        The picture you have posted of the Annie M is a copy of the one I posted on the Millertown website I had up back in the 90’s. I still have the original of that which was given to me by my Aunt back around that time.
        I too have an interest in the Alligator boats and have read a fair amount on their history particularly in Ontario where they were used extensively for logging in the central and northern parts of that province. They were useful boats because being steam powered with flat bottoms could winch themselves along on rollers over portages between lakes. I was told that their usefulness for that purpose was much more limited in central Nfld due to rocky terrain often encountered on those portages.
        The Fleetway and the Annie M were beached where they now rest because that was where the company would pull them in to over-winter back before the lake was dammed. At that time, that spot would have been the eastern end of the lake where the Mary March river flowed into the lake. In fact you can still see the old riverbed on the bottom of the lake now even after a hundred years of it being flooded.
        After the lake was flooded the tugs would be wintered at Indian Point (approx. two miles from Millertown), also at Exploit dam and at Harbour Round (approx. halfway up the south side of the lake).
        There was another steel tug sunk at Harbour Round – don’t know if she was ever recovered from there, but she was one of (if not) the largest steel tugs on the lake. She sat for many years cribbed up on the beach at the Exploits dam. Finally after being put in the water for only one season they left her tied up in the water at Harbour Round where she sank in the ice that winter. She was not that deep because you could still see her radio antannae sticking up out of the water – again this was early 1980’s.
        The other steel tugs used on Red Indian lake were hauled out to the Corner Brook mill in the early 80’s – I believe to be used on Grand Lake. There were more than of the one of the old wooden tugs used (sunk) as part of the coffer dam and that was built to hold back the water during the construction of the Exploits dam.
        The one thing thing that I have not been able to find are any pictures of the tugs on Red Indian lake hauling the huge booms of pulp wood. This was such a common sight to see every spring\summer that I guess nobody thought of it to be picture worthy at the time.
        My sources for what I tell you here are from having grown up in the area and also having the privilege of speaking to some of town elders before they passed on. The late Martha Woodman of Millertown was probably the holder of the largest collection of photos, etc… of Millertown and the A.N.D / Abitibi woods operations. She had pictures of early Millertown and knew the history of the town better than anyone else that I know. If you can find any of her relatives they may still be in possession of those resources.

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