Every so often somebody asks me if I am related to :”so and so Marsh that lived somewhere in Grand Falls who lived there back in sometime before 1959″-usually the answer is no. Though there were a couple of families with my last name in Grand Falls in the early years, if I am related to them its from back in England. My family came from a tiny village that is not there anymore and nobody has ever heard of.
Resettlement- the very word conjures up images of floating houses and folk songs lamenting on the mistake that was made. It is a phenomena that is heavily associated with Bonavista and Placentia Bays. But many in the Exploits Valley are probably not aware of how resettlement took place within an hour and fifteen minute drive from Grand Falls-Windsor.
Well Exploits Island of course you may say, this is very true. Exploits was once a thriving community, a prosperous community, home to some of Newfoundland’s first millionaires. It is in the area, but it is a well-known example. There are all kinds of pictures of Exploits. Ed Roche did an entire collection of paintings related to the settlement. But if you look even closer into the area considered the Exploits Valley you will come to Glover’s Harbour and Leading Tickles. In between there were once two other villages.
You will see the signs on the highway “Glovers Harbour-Home of the Giant Squid” and many people are intrigued enough to go down the Botwood highway, take a left through Point Leamington and stop and admire ( or be disappointed that it is not an actual squid) the statue of the giant tentacled creature in the tiny fishing village. Most will leave unaware that Glovers Harbour is the only survivor of three communities in the area and that the other two now resettled communities are accessible through somebodies back yard. Or if you are lucky, by boat.
Until the 1960s Glovers Harbour was the smallest of three communities in its vicinity. The other two were Winter House Cove and Lock’s Harbour. Both located in Seal Bay.
Winter House Cove was first settled around 1858 when according to legend George Marsh rowed with his new wife Louisa from Herring Neck on New World Island. Marsh had been born around Wareham, Dorset England and had come to Newfoundland as a “youngster” –or indentured fisherman between 1841 and 1857. He settled in a little cove known to have been used by residents of Leading Tickles for winter logging and ship building. For a number of years the Marsh’s were the only settlers in Winter House Cove. Their first child, John was the first child born there in 1859. John was soon followed by five boys and two girls. Other families such as the Forseys, Cassells, Peddles, Burtons and Wards eventually joined the Marsh’s at Winter House Cove.
The Next settler in the area was likely Joseph Martin who settled in Thimble Tickles (present day Glovers Harbour). Martin fished, farmed and logged in the area. He would be the initial discover of the famed giant squid in 1878. Martin came from Harbour Grace.
Sometime in the 1870s settlers arrived at the sheltered little port of Lock’s Harbour on the Western shore of Seal Bay. The first settler was most likely Henry Rowsell who moved with his family from Thomas Rowsell Island, Leading Tickles. Other families were the Haggetts , the Wards, and some of the Marsh’s from Winter House Cove moved there as well. Lock’s Harbour would be closely associated with what was called the Thimble Tickle prospect, a copper mine that operated periodically in the 1880s and 90s. The ore was shipped by tramway from the mine, which is over the hill from Glovers Harbour, to Lock’s Harbour. From there it was shipped to Tilt Cove for processing. The ore here was similar to that found in Pilley’s Island in that it was rich in sulfur and was mined more for that sulfur than it was for the copper content.
Besides these families in the three main villages there were also a few scattered settlements in Seal Bay over the years. The biggest of these was-to make matters very confusing-was Lock’s Harbour at the tip of the peninsula that separates Seal Bay and Badger Bay. Most of the people left here and settled around Triton by the early 20th century. Other little settlements I have heard of were: Herring Bottom, Mill Cove, Rowsells Cove, Budgells Cove and Indian Cove. There was a fairly large sawmill located at Mill Cove sometime around the turn of the 19th and 20th century. One of the settlers in one of these isolated coves was a man by the name of William Elemore of Helmore who came from the same place (a number of years later) in England as George Marsh, that last name died out, though he has descendants.
All three communities engaged in fishing, men went to the French Shore near Gray Islands in schooners and salmon and Lobster were caught inshore. Lobsters were so plentiful during the late 1800’s that there were lobster canneries in the area. Fishing remained the mainstay of Winter House Cove but gradually forestry became the most important employer of men in these three little villages. By the 1940s most of the young men in Lock’s Harbour worked in the woods for the AND Company for at least part of the year. This trend had started with the building of the mills at Grand Falls and Bishop’s Falls. There were also sawmills operating in the area. A Mr. Boone had a water mill at Glovers Harbour and Robert Rowsell (and later his brother William) operated a small engine powered mill near Lock’s Harbour. There were good forests in the area and much of the lumber was sawed on the halves, meaning people who wanted lumber cut twice as many logs as they needed and the mill operator took half as payment.
With most of the young men working in the woods near Bishop’s Falls resettlement seemed inevitable. Some families moved out early to be closer to work. As Dave Marsh stated in an interview with Hiram Silk in the 1980s it took two to three days to get to work in the woods from Winter House Cove: a day to Point Leamington, a day to Botwood and a day into the woods from Bishop’s Falls. I recall hearing that prior to this men had gone into the woods by rowing to the bottom of Seal Bay and walking into the camps on South Twin Lakes. Many families moved before resettlement to places such as Point Leamington, Bishop’s Falls and Deer Lake.
Between the three communities educational and religious services were shared. An Anglican School chapel was located in Winter House Cove by the 1920s. The second denomination to move into the area was the Salvation Army which came in the late 1920’s. The Salvation Army Barracks and School was situated centrally in the woods between Lock’s Harbour and Glovers Harbour, near the old mine.
In the early 1960s the road went through to Leading Tickles and the only community that was connected was Glovers Harbour-which at the time was the smallest of the three. But Glovers Harbour was the easiest to connect by road. The small population coupled with the rough terrain meant that no all-weather road would go to Winter House Cove or Lock’s Harbour even though they were so close to the Leading Tickles Road.
Winter House Cove was the first to be abandoned and was done so by the early 1960s. By 1971 the last families had left Lock’s Harbour. Most of the houses were floated out, though it appears from a few ruins that some may have remained after resettlement. I know of two houses from Lock’s Harbour still standing. One is in Leading Tickles and the other in Point Leamington.
The one in Point Leamington belonged to my great grandparents and was floated the 25 plus kilometers south in the 1950’s. My Great grandmother sold the house but it is still standing despite being been built in 1931 and have had such a sea voyage.
Today there are a couple of cabins in the area. The long closed mines were finally sealed up around 1999. Just past the mine there are two cemeteries-in the middle of the woods on either side of the pond. I honestly can’t make sense of the cemeteries if one was old and the other new, or if it was by denomination because there are headstones in each that contradict both those theories. But in both of them are a number of my own ancestors who lived most of their lives in these two little isolated hamlets just about hour away from one of the islands biggest towns.
I stated at the beginning of this article that my family came from a village that is not there any more and that nobody has ever heard of. There are scores of people in the Exploits Valley that can trace there ancestry to these communities.