Casualties of the Woods-Fatalities in the Lumberwoods of Central Newfoundland

Logging was never a particularly safe occupation. A logger could be crushed by a tree falling the wrong way, by a load of logs falling from a brow or a sled, fall through the ice when landing logs, be crushed by a tractor, kicked by a horse, cut by his tools. In the days when they were driving long timber, the log drive was a particularly dangerous activity, which is evident below. Although there was a time when firearms were common in some camps, I only know of one case where a man was accidentally shot and killed in a logging camp. I have yet to come across a fatality through fire, although I know some camps burned down, through accident or forest fires. There are, no doubt, examples of loggers who died of their injuries at Grand Falls and Twillingate Hospitals that haven’t been recorded here, not to mention those who succumbed to tuberculosis or even typhoid contracted in the woods back in the bad old days.

For most of the twentieth century, safety equipment in the logging industry was non- existent. It wasn’t until the early 1960’s that safety equipment such as hard hats and life jackets started to appear on operations. Hardhats were first introduced for men working on or around tractors, but within a few years they were in use by all loggers.

I don’t think most of these names are on the workers memorial at Grand Falls and this list is far from complete.

Here are a some of the men who lost their lives logging in Central Newfoundland.

In November of 1908 a young man with the last name Burry drowned at Millertown when a canoe was upset. He had been foreman on the Alligator boat.

Log drive SS Annie
The Alligator boat at Red Indian Lake.

William Thomas Slade died in an Accident at Millertown in December of 1908.

July 1909, 19 Year old Henry Taylor Drowned at Millertown.

April 1910, John Burt drowned when he fell of the Exploits Dam at Red Indian Lake Evening Telegram

August 1910, 29 year old Samuel Langford of Grand Falls, lumberman, drowned at Millertown.

June 1911, a man with the last name Wylie from Nova Scotia drowned on the log drive on Great Rattling Brook about 15 miles from Bishop’s Falls, while working for the Central Forests Company. Central Forests was a large contractor supplying woods to the AE Reed Mill at Bishop’s Falls.

Driving long timber was a difficult and dangerous task, even on a large river like the Exploits. A number of men were drowned over the years working on the log drive. Fatalities and accidents on the drive seem to have been less common after the switch to short wood in the 1920’s.

May 1912, Aldophus Card of Merrit’s Harbour drowned at Millertown.

September 27, 1912 James Leach of Port Au Port was killed in an accident at Bishop’s Falls. Possible logging fatality. Note the last name and possible connection to the brook.

October 9,1912 Walter Lyver, aged 20 of Waldron’s Cove near Fortune Harbour was accidentally shot by foreman Thomas Langdon of Northern Arm, near Cassandra Brook, 3 miles east of Badger. Lyver had intended to play a trick on his foreman by springing a bear alarm trap he had set, Langdon thinking it was a bear, fired at Lyver twice. Lyver survived for a few hours and died in the camp. The magistrate investigated the incident and Langdon was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Camp cassandra
Camp in the area near where Walter Lyver was killed in 1912.

In January of 1913 a 22 year old man from Glenwood Henry T. Rowsell was killed by a falling log somewhere near Badger.

Not long after in February 1913, Horace Rice of Norris Arm was killed near Badger by a falling log while working at Goodyear’s Logging Camp.

July 1, 1915 Alfred Harris 33, originally of Oxford England died in an accident (and loss of blood) at Bishop’s Falls, though this was probably at the pulp mill. Possible connection to mill manager at Bishop’s Falls, A.E Harris.

April 1916. Colson Goulding 25, of Gambo drowned 1 Mile east of Aspen Brook after going though ice. was working as a teamster for a Mr. (Danial White is listed as a contractor in 1914) White who had a camp in the area. St. John’s Daily Star

Dec 27, 1916 Thomas Cool of Newman’s Cove died at Mary March near Millertown of Frostburn and Exposure.

February 20, 1917 William John Verge of Britannia Trinity Bay, Killed by a falling log in Millertown Division. Source

1918 William Flynn, 37 of Musgrave Harbour died of pneumonia at a camp on Red Indian Lake.

Thomas (Listed as Robert in Records) Northcott of Lewisporte and Graham LeDrew of Grand Falls drowned crossing the Exploits River in a Canvas boat. Not known if they were loggers or not. September 1919. Western Star

30 July 1921 Lewis Boone, 22 Drowned at Millertown. (Source)

In December of 1921, Three men from the Green Bay area left Grand Falls to go to work in the woods and disappeared. They were going to cross the river two miles above the Grand Falls Dam. It is not known if they were ever found. It is possible that they survived as there seems to be no death record that would match up. ((Evening Telegram Dec 30, 1921)

George Drover of Hodges Cove. age 32 (or 22 depending on source) drowned on the log drive at Harpoon Steady on Harpoon Brook, June 1923. (Southwest Arm Historical Society/Evening Telegram)

Dec 1923 21 year old William Kelly of Three Arms died at Tom Joe Brook. Strangely the records indicate that the cause of death was cancer.

Milton Holloway, Age 16 of Portland, Bonavista Bay drowned at Roebuck’s, Millertown, May 9, 1924.

June 5th, 1924, 23 year old Thomas (Records indicate name was Robert) O’Keefe of Placentia Bay drowned on the log drive on Pamehoc Brook near Badger.(Evening Telegram) A steady on that brook was named for him.

June 20  1924, John Wellon, John St. John, and Adam Kean were drowned when their boat swamped while crossing Aspen Lake. They were working for J. Goodyear and Sons who had a contract for 4000 cords of wood with AND CO. There were two survivors; Roland Goodyear and the son of John St. John.

February 1926, William Smith of Crabbes, 21 years old, was killed when he was crushed between two tractors. The accident occurred in the woods near Badger at around 9 in the morning. He was rushed to the Lady Northcliffe Hospital on the express train. He succumbed to his injuries at Grand Falls at 7:00pm. Cause of death was listed as rupturing of the intestines. (Link)

August 4, 1926 James Bayley of Island Harbour Drowned at Millertown. (Source)

1927, Fred Sargent Drowned in the Exploits River near Bishop’s Falls. Possibly logging related. (Link)

In July of 1935 Mr. Joseph Payne of Badger drowned off of the Alligator boat on Badger Lake or Badger Brook. Death of Joseph Payne

In 1937 there were reportedly 5 fatal accidents in the woods operations of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company. (News-Log). Strangely, records of individual deaths haven’t been found.

In 1936 Mr. Noah Cassell of Lock’s Harbour died (perished to death) on his way home from the logging camps in Bishop’s Falls Division (Salvation Army War Cry Feb 29, 1936).

1942 Noah Cassel logging death
Letter to the editor from the Leading Tickles area asking for better roads, with reference to the death of Noah Cassell. (Western Star)

An unidentified man from Bishop’s Falls died in October of 1963 while unloading logs from a truck into the Exploits River. He reportedly slipped and fell into the river where he drowned (Daily News).

After this point there isn’t many readily accessible records. Around 1962 hard hats started to be mandated for men working in the woods with tractors. The Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company routinely reported on incidences where workers lives were saved by wearing hard hats. Hard hats came into more general use a short time later. By this time chainsaws had been almost universally accepted by loggers, and with them came a whole host of safety issues. During the 1960’s safety patches were introduced to prevent serious cuts from chainsaw blades, even later came safety boots.

As you can tell, the number fatalities on the log drive begins to drop off after the switch to short wood around 1928. The drive was still damp and dangerous and many of the drivers still didn’t know how to swim, but jams were less common and the risk of picking out a jam of long timber was gone. At the same time the woods was continuously mechanizing from the 1920’s onward which presented itself with its own set of challenges.

In Grand Falls-Windsor there are two memorials in close proximity. One for workers who died (mostly at the mill) in workplace accidents (ironically almost on the site of the old loggers union building) and one for loggers who died while serving with the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit during World War Two. Perhaps there should be a memorial to those causalities of the woods who lost there lives logging to supply the Grand Falls Mill.

I am sure my list is incomplete.

-Bryan Marsh


The Evening Telegram

The Western Star


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