The Opening of the Grand Falls Mill and a Spoon with a Lengthy Career in the Pulp and Paper Industry

It is very rare to hear of any project, be it a house or a hydro dam, being completed on schedule in this day and age. Despite some setbacks it appears that construction of the Grand Falls Mill was completed mostly according to plan. Construction of the mill itself had only started in 1907. 

In the Spring and Summer of  1909 trade publications were reporting that the Harmsworth pulp and paper mill in Newfoundland was expected to go into production “sometime in the mid fall” and that the first paper was expected by the new year. 


In the mid-summer of 1909 it was decided by the those in charge with the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company that the official opening of the Grand Falls Mill would take place on Friday and Saturday October 8th to 9th, 1909. If the truth was fully known, the mill was probably able to go into production before that, but as many of those attending the opening needed to make a Trans-Atlantic Crossing to make the event, ample notice was given. It is safe to say, there was enough time to tighten all of the bolts and to calibrate all of the machinery. The raw materials, the pulpwood  had been cut the previous winter and driven to Grand Falls that spring and summer.

Mrs_Alfred_Charles_William_Harmsworth Lady Northcliffe.jpg
Lady Northcliffe. Lady Northcliffe pulled the first lever to start the machinery at the official opening of the mill, although some histroies have noted that it was Lady Williams, governor Williams himself stated that his wife refused and insisted the wife of the great press baron pull the lever for her husbands ambitious project.  Lady Northcliffe would donate the money for the first hospital in Grand Falls. The newly completed steamer on Red Indian Lake, the Lady Mary was named for her. Though only two years Lord Northcliffe’s junior  she would outlive her first husband by over forty years.

Lord and Lady Northcliffe and their entourage arrived in early October. In the days prior to the opening Northcliffe busied himself visiting all of the departments in the new mill as well as venturing out the the logging operations at Millertown and the port at Botwood. He was also reported to have visited Badger and Bishop’s Falls.*

Governor Williams at Grand Falls 1909
Governor Williams and party arrives at Grand Falls, October 1909. Holloway Photo, from “How I became a Governor”

 

On the morning of October 8th a special train pulled into a special siding along side of the mill to disembark the dignitaries who had traveled from St. John’s. Amongst this group were Governor and Lady Williams, Prime Minister Morris and his wife, as well as leading clergy from all of the major religious denominations.

gf house mill opening
Dignitaries including Lord and Lady Northcliffe and Sir Mayson Beeton, in front of the Log House. The Occasion was the opening of the mill. All the chairs in town must have been being used for the banquet since Sir Mayson Beeton, who had overseen the operation right from the very beginning is seated on the ground.  (GFWHS)

That night 425 guests were treated to an opulent seven course meal in the finishing room of the mill it was noted to be a dinner that “far outclassed anything which had ever been seen in Newfoundland.” I wonder where the chefs came from and how many of them there were!


Menu for the Official Opening of the Mill: 

Soup:

Julienne

Fish

Boiled Fresh Salmon

Lobster Mayonnaise

Entrée

Vol au vent of Chicken

Joints

Roast turkey, Oxford sausage, roast beef with horse radish, glazed tongue

Vegetables:

Boiled potatoes, green peas

Relieve

Partridge

Sweet

Iced Pudding

Savory

Anchovies on toast

Dessert

Fruit, chocolates, nuts, raisins, cake

Finishing room Grand Falls Peoples of all nations.JPG
Finishing room when the mill was in operation.
Lady Williams.jpg
Lady Williams, who pulled the second lever to start the machinery of the Grand Falls mill. The wife of the previous Governor had symbolically laid the cornerstone of the mill.

The following morning the guests were treated to a tour of the property and the townsite. That evening October 9th, 1909 following a blessing from Church of England Bishop Jones,  Lady Northcliffe pulled the followed by Lady Williams and Mrs. Beeton pulled the three levers that would start the wheels of Newfoundland’s new industry.

“To start the working there were three separate levers, each lever starting its own range of machinery, and Lady Northcliffe with the most kindly and self-denying courtesy asked my wife to pull the first lever. This my wife positively denied to do, saying, “nothing will induce me to deprive you of the crowning honor of being the first to start the work in which you are so intensely interested. I will pull the second if I may. And so it was. As Lady Northcliffe pulled, the vast machinery in the first alley-way started smoothly on its work. My wife then pressed her lever and the middle alley was put into action while the honor of pulling the third lever fell upon Mrs. Beeton, the wife of the general manager of the Company, to whom so much of the success of the scheme was due.

Sir Ralph Champney Williams,

How I Became a Governor

Page 427

 

The first paper came off the machines on December 22, 1909.

Paper machines grand Falls Peoples of all nations 1920
From Peoples of All Nations, 1920. I believe this picture dates from 1909 and the paper rolls appear to be stamped: “First Paper Made in Newfoundland.”

 

The Spoon with the most Seniority in the Grand Falls Mill:

20180912_2111551026341429.jpg
From the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company News Log, 1961.

The day that the mill opened there was a special workmen’s banquet held for the employees of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company. Over one thousand men and boys enjoyed a meal that consisted of: turkey, beef, tongue, ham and chicken, salads of cucumbers, beet and lobsters, applies oranges, and bananas followed by cakes cigars, beer and lemonade. Here they were visited by Lord and Lady Northcliffe, Governor Ralph Champneys Williams and Prime Minister  Morris.

As the dinner for the “distinguished dignitaries” took place the night before it is most likely that Mr. Duder borrowed this tea or dessert spoon from the table at the workmen’s dinner. The spoon would then spend 52 years in the mill, perhaps longer than any other employee, though I have seen some that worked for the AND Company for over fifty years.

Side Notes:

There had been setbacks, including the burning down of the sawmill very early on and the washing away of the coffer dams during dam construction. Another sawmill was quickly built but the latter was, without mentioning the short construction season in Newfoundland, the biggest setback during construction.

Interestingly enough, the nephew of Bishop Jones would join the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company a few months later. His name: Vincent Jones.

Sir Robert Bond, former Prime Minister who had been defeated earlier in the year, but had been instrumental in the early days of the venture, had been invited but declined to attend. There was a considerable amount of correspondence between Bond and Company representatives such as Beeton and the Pulp and Paper Act came onto being during his tenure. Fittingly, when a road bridge was built over the Exploits River in the late 1950’s it was named for the Prime Minister instrumental in bringing the pulp and paper industry to both Grand Falls and Bishop’s Falls.

*I am not sure if the Company was conducting logging operations out of Badger at this time, they were in the process of acquiring timber rights from the Newfoundland Pine and Pulp Company in the area and would have driven logs though the area, but I don’t think they formally took over operations here until at least 1910. Northcliffe would have had to pass though Badger and Bishop’s Falls regardless.

-Bryan Marsh

Sources:

Unpublished History of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company, Archives and Manuscripts Division, Memorial University, Circa 1955.

Price, F.A 50-Years of Progress at Grand Falls Pulp and Paper Magazine of Canada 

Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company News Log

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