About ten years ago I was tasked with sifting through thousands of pages of archival material looking for things related to the history of Grand Falls and Central Newfoundland. There was one name that kept popping up in much of the century old correspondence-Harry Judson Crowe
Who was Harry Judson Crowe?
Before there was Grand Falls and before there was an Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company there was Harry Judson Crowe. And Crowe was a man who had his irons in many fires- he was perhaps the greatest timber speculator ever to cross onto Newfoundland Island. No history or account of our forest industries should be without mention of his name.
Harry Judson Crowe was born in 1868 in Halifax to an apparently privileged family, his father was a wholesale grocer, so he was well enough off that he was able to attend a prep school in Wolfville and the Halifax Business College and Writing Academy. Crowe with one of his brothers later took over his father’s firm. After losing the firm in a mining venture Crowe developed interests in the lumbering industry around Nova Scotia.[i]
Around 1902 Crowe came to Newfoundland and became very interested in the forest resources here. Around the same time Lewis Miller was considering quitting the island and purchasing a lumbering venture in St. Margaret’s Bay, Nova Scotia. It is possible that Crowe became interested in Newfoundland through Miller.
In May of 1903 Crowe became the vice president and the main man on the ground of a company called Newfoundland Timber Estates. Timber Estates seems to have been formed for a couple of reasons: One was to try and make the existing unprofitable lumber mills on the island profitable and two to buy up all the timber limits being worked by these mills for possible pulp and paper development.
Crowe often gets all of the credit for bringing the Harmsworths and Sir Mayson Beeton to Newfoundland, but it was found that Lewis Miller had in fact contacted the owners of the Daily Mail in 1903.[ii]But the old Scotsman wanted out his failed venture on Red Indian Lake and sold out to Timber Estates in May of 1903.
Harry J. Crowe was not the president of Newfoundland Timber Estates but he was the face of the company. In the background on the board of directors were some very wealthy men like Henry J. Whitney and B. Pearson as well as W.D Reid-son of R.G Reid owner of the Newfoundland Railway. Timber Estates bought up Millers operations at Millertown and Glenwood as well as other operations at Gambo and Campbellton. The crown jewel of these acquisitions were the miller timber limits on Red Indian Lake, which within two years were sold to the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company for $400,000-lock,stock and barrel
But the Harmsworth deal was not the end for Crowe in Newfoundland. Besides being a major player with Newfoundland Timber Estates he also incorporated another company, of which he was the president-the Newfoundland Pine and Pulp Company. Pine and Pulp acquired the timber limits and mill of the Exploits Lumber Company based out of Botwood. These limits included those along the Exploits River from Red Indian Lake to past Bishop’s Falls, limits which would later become Badger and Bishop’s Falls woods divisions.
In addition to the Botwood mill Pine and Pulp also acquired mills at Badger and Point Leamington. Pine and Pulp operated as a straight lumbering operation for a few years. In 1907 Crowe was able to cut a deal with the A.E Reed Company of England to build a pulp mill at Bishop’s Falls. This mill would be completed by 1911 and then things became complicated.
On the mainland it was commonplace for a number of different companies to use the same river for log transportation. To mitigate problems the logs were often branded or marked It is not known if this was done in Newfoundland, because for a few years there were three different companies operating on the Exploits River. The Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company had their mill at Grand Falls, the Reed Company had their mill at Bishop’s Falls and Crowe’s Pine and Pulp Co. had their lumber mill at Botwood. To Further complicated matters Pine and Pulp were supplying pulpwood to both AND Co and A.E Reed. To even further complicate matters they also had their own timber limits in the area and also had a stipulation in their contracts with the paper companies that trees of a certain size had to be left.
This whole situation would have been a major headache requiring different drives to start at different times on the river as the AND wood would have had to pass through both other companies limits. It did cause headaches as noted by contractor Roland Goodyear,[iii] but it is doubtful that they lasted for long because AND started to buy up Pine and Pulp’s and Reeds Limits on the Exploits fairly early on. By the time the Reed Mill at Bishop’s Falls went into production in 1911 most of their timber was drawn from down river of Grand Falls.
But Crowe kept on at Botwood and Point Leamington. For a time he was toasted by the people of Grand Falls and was the fairy godfather of Botwood. He was at one point a major pulpwood supplier for the Grand Falls mill. He reportedly started a Kindergarten at Botwood and did progressive things in his logging camps like rig up showers and have teachers come in to teach the loggers. But things began to change in his relationship with the other operators as the years went on. As mentioned previously Crowe drew his log supply from the Exploits River and required logs larger than eleven inches at certain point be left, thus creating a problems for pulpwood cutters.[iv] Then there was a court case. Around 1913 Crowe accused the AND Co of cutting wood from his limits, a lot of wood. The courts found in his favor and A.N.D had to pay restitution.[v] Safe to say Crowe wasn’t invited to many dinners in Grand Falls after that.
By the 1920’s Crowe was beginning to pull away from Central Newfoundland. A forest fire had destroyed most of the timber supplying the Point Leamington mill, and most of the pine needed to supply Botwood was gone and by the 1920’s A.N.D Co had solidified its position in the area by purchasing all of the timber limits in the area and the pulp mill at Bishop’s Falls. He was getting up in age and also had lost a son in the Great War. But Crowe had another timber venture up his sleeve.
This time Crowe went into White Bay and set up at Hampden. But this operation was short-lived and the timber limits were bought out by the operators of the brand new pulp and paper mill at Corner Brook. Crowe died in the summer of 1928[vi]and is buried in Toronto. At the time of his death Crowe was still a fairly wealthy man. He had been noted as a philanthropist while operating in Botwood and this was continued in his will which set up scholarships and pledged money to help the Salvation Army is its missions around the globe.[vii]
Not only was Crowe a great lumberman and timber promoter he was a great advocate of Confederation between Newfoundland and Canada. This was evident as far back as 1908 in letters between him and Sir Robert Bond. Crowe also wanted to go further and unite all of the British colonies in the Western Hemisphere including those in the Caribbean.
No matter if Crowe bring the Harmsworths to Newfoundland or not he had a huge part to play in the development of the interior. Strangely for man who was at one point one of the best known businessmen in Newfoundland there isn’t a documented and definitive photo of the man to be used for this article.[viii]
[ii] Hiller, James Origins of the Pulp and Paper Industry in Newfoundland , journals.hil.unb.ca/index.php/Acadiensis/article/download/…/1232
[iii] Goodyear, Roland C. Lewis Miller and Harry Crowe.
[iv] Roland Goodyear
[viii] There is some confusion between Harry J. Crowe and his nephew Henry (Harry) S. Crowe who was woods manager for A.N.D Co in Millertown for many years.
After this Article was published a reader in Botwood came up with a picture of Mr. Crowe.