Divisions and Depots-Badger part I-The Early Years
Badger has been in the news lately because of another flood scare. Often this leads people to wonder why a community like this is located on a flood plain and why people came to be in the this place in the first place.
Badger has the distinction of being the only one of the former Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company’s Divisional headquarters to be situated on the Trans-Canada Highway as well as being the one that developed into the largest community. This little town has a history that stretches back a long way. A very, very long way.
People have been living at what is now badger for thousands of years. There is evidence of habitation by the maritime archaic people, the Dorset Eskimos and the Beothuk. Badger was the site of a major Beothuk encampment and it appears that for many families of the doomed tribe it was one of the way points used as they journeyed to Red Indian Lake. It would have been point where families coming from both the east and west would meet on their way to the lake since it is the junction between the Exploits and a major tributary.
After the demise of the Beothuk the area became a favorite camping site for the Micmac people when they made their way from the South coast to the Bay of Exploits and the Hall’s Bay Area. The Paul family, which has been described historically as Micmac Montagnais (a Mixture of Micmac and Innu and as legend might have it Beothuk) hunted and trapped in the area in the latter part of the 19th Century. And it is the family of John Paul that might have been the first to actually live in the area permanently. John Paul was noted as living at Seal Bay in the 1890’s, and as the crow flys this is not incredibly far from Badger. It is likely that they fished out of Seal Bay in summer and spent the winter inland at Badger. Other Micmac names associated with Badger include Barrington (from the Piper’s Hole area and a very interesting story in itself) and Joe. John Barrington was known to have trapped in the area and so did Tom Joe whose name still graces a tributary of the Exploits. Old Tom Joe was said to have amassed a great fortune buying and selling furs.
The modern history of Badger starts around 1894 when railway construction reached the banks of Badger Brook. The end of the line in those days would become temporary depot and a hive of activity. Here all materials needed for line construction were dropped and the men would be camped out in tents and tar paper shacks. The work in those days was all manual pick and shovel work and progress was slow. Construction reached Bishop’s Falls around 1892, the next year it progressed as far as Rushy Pond and the following year Badger Brook. All of these sites became bases for section crews maintaining the line.
Simultaneous to the rail line reaching Badger Brook the Exploits Lumber Company of Botwood set up a depot there since the railway provided them easy access to the area from Bishop’s Falls. From here the Exploit’s Lumber Company exploited the pine around the Badger and Twin Lakes. Eventually in 1901 they would erect a sawmill here. It is not known if the Exploits Lumber Company’s temporary mill in 1901 was the first to be built at Badger Brook, but it would not be the last. Two or three large mills existed at Badger before 1910. The following companies were known to operated there: the Exploits Lumber Company, Harvey and Company (of St. John’s), Newfoundland Pine and Pulp (Harry J. Crowe) as well as a Mr. Bethune-who may have been the same man who operated another mill in Whitbourne. The problem with trying to figure this out is that photographic evidence is nonexistent and other records are scant at best. We do know that Harvey and Company owned a mill here in 1905 and from an examination of records this mill may have been acquired from the Exploit’s Lumber Company-in which case it would have been sold to Newfoundland Pine and Pulp around 1907. In any case most evidence suggests that two mills were in operation around the same time sawing wood for export and for domestic construction. There would have been quite a bit of demand in the area for railway work and in the building of mills and towns at Grand Falls and Bishop’s Falls.
Around 1907-1908 the timber limits around Badger were signed over to supply the AE Reed Company at Bishop’s Falls-with the Newfoundland Pine and Pulp Company being the sub-contractor. As stated in a previous article there is possibility that even before a stick of pulpwood made it from here to the grinders in Bishop’s Falls the timber rights in the area were acquired by the AND Company.
By this point between lumbering and the railway Badger Brook was growing into a little community. A couple of stores and a boarding house had been built to service the people coming through the area. Besides the lumbermen, Badger also served as the transit point for people from the Green Bay and Baie Verte areas who wanted to use the railway.[i]
Some of the Families that were there in the early years were the Pauls, Butts, Colemans and Penney’s. They were joined by a young Englishman who would go on to be through of as the “King of Badger”-Hugh Wilding Cole.
Cole came to Newfoundland as a young man and he got in with the AND CO from the ground floor. He started taking timber contracts for the company and even drove a heard of reindeer for them from St. Anthony to Millertown. When the Company obtained all of the limits in the area between 1907 and 1919 he became the divisional Superintendent. As such Cole controlled many of the activities in town and was in charge of the employment of hundreds of men over thousands of square miles of forest and waters.
From the 1910’s until the 1960’s Badger would be divisional headquarters for the AND Co’s Badger division and the transit point for men going south-on the scow across the Exploits on the “Sandy” side or North into the Twin Lakes area. It was also a point where all wood to the west passed on the Badger Drive. Over the years Badger would witness many changes in the woods that surrounded the town.
[i] This would lead to the building of the Halls Bay road in the 1920’s.