In the Beginning, It was Just Me Talking to Pop- Maybe this is What led to Two Decades of Research into the Forest Industries of Newfoundland.

I have been asked why I’m so interested in “the woods” and the pulp and paper industry. Think this might hit he nail on the head. I have always had an interest in history, ever since I was a little kid. I wanted to be a professor, I was educated to be a high school history teacher,  I taught a lot of junior high school shop and eventually ended up doing something altogether different .  

I have written a lot: dozens of papers in university, a couple journal articles, one hell of a lot of stuff if you include work related material, and 100 articles here. Some have been labors of love and others like pulling teeth. As a student of history there wasn’t that much available on this particular subject, at least not much compiled. As I found out there was a lot  to be found in different nooks and crannies, and in people’s memories. I suppose 100 articles isn’t bad for something that stemmed from a search through an old box of papers-and an interest brought on by a suggested topic. 

Writing is generally not as messy as painting pictures.


This story starts in the back of a stake-bodied truck heading south along a dirt road called the Bishop’s Falls Line. This road followed Great Rattling Brook and connected the logging camps of Bishop’s Falls Division.

Sometime in 1945 or 46 a young man from Point Leamington boarded a motorboat called the Coronation and crossed the Exploits River. On the other side of the river was the Depot, where he signed on to go to work at George White’s camp on Hynes Lake. “Skipper” George, the foreman, was a neighbor back in Point Leamington.

Rattling Brook Depot Lee Wulf PANL.jpg
Rattling Brook Depot and Great Rattling Brook, 1956. Gateway to the logging camps in Bishop’s Falls Division. Two generations of my family passed though this depot on the way to work in the woods.(Lee Wulff Photo, Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador)

He was fifteen years old. Mr. King, the teacher at the United Church school had wanted him to stay on in school, but he had to go to work in the woods. I wouldn’t learn that until his eulogy, but 54 years after the fact. My Grandfather told me that after he finished Grade 9 he started work in the woods.

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Pop in Point Leamington. He would have been working in the woods at this time. The lobster was reputedly 14 pounds. Now that the parties involved are long gone and the statute of limitations cannot be more than 70 years. It was gaffed from the bottom of Point Leamington harbour with a hook made from an old piece of telegraph wire.

I was a little bit older than Pop was when he started work as a logger, I was  in Grade 11 when my language Arts teacher Mrs. Oldford suggested the topic of logging camps to me, why? I don’t know. But here I was in the early days of the internet, far away from any university library, with almost no resources to go on and no idea about the Advertiser and the News-Log at the library a stones throw away from the house. The library at school had two books with anything in them at all and even then it mostly related to the IWA Strike. For some reason I also stumbled on what must have been a draft of a report, speech or news report from the time period on the same strike. Fortunately I had an old Copy of 50 Years of Progress at Grand Falls. Other than than that I had very little. Then my father said to me; “Dad worked in the woods.”

What?

Pop was an accountant, a businessman, he never even mentioned this when I had to interview a businessman for enterprise class earlier that year. All he said was “trying the best to survive” when he spoke about what he did before he went to work for a store in Botwood after doing a International Correspondence Schools bookkeeping course. I knew he must have more interesting before getting an “indoors job.”

The thing was, Pop grew up in Point Leamington and just about everybody in Point Leamington worked in the woods. As one long time woods manager said to me “when the camps were open, the place would empty out”, if memory serves me correctly, in 1945 out of a total population of 518, 70 men were loggers. 71 if you include Pop, it looks like the enumerator wrote an L for lumberman, but stopped short, because you had to be 16 to work in the woods. Many years later found out that he was the third generation in his family to work as a logger for the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company.

That first year Pop said that he had slept on boughs, though he also said that metal bunks came soon after. In any weather they traveled up to camp in the back of a stake-bodied truck. In those days beans were on the table at every meal, but they were prepared specifically for breakfast. He told of times when they were pulled away from logging to be put on fire fighting duty, putting out forest fires with axes and pump cans.

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As a teenager my grandfather worked building splash dams for the log drive in the summer time. His mother’s second husband, John Earle was in change of building many of the dams in Bishop’s Falls Division.  Some of them may still be there 70 years later.

Etched into my mind is how much he made an hour on the log drive, 53 cents an hour, he could still remember and I still remember. He told me of dams that he had worked on, his mother’s second husband John Earle, had been one of the main dam builders in Bishop’s Falls Division. Lewis Lake, Miguel Mountain (Great Rattling), Martin Lake and a host of others I have forgotten.

George marsh woods August 27 1948.jpg
One of the few tangible reminders of my Grandfather’s years working as a logger for the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company was his name listed as new arrival back in Bishop’s Falls Division in August of 1948. Pop was 17 years old and was most likely headed to Les Rice’s camp. His name can be seen in the upper right corner. It was around the same time that Pop worked in the woods, that employment in  Newfoundland’s forest industries hit its all time high. (Western Star, August 27, 1948, Memorial University DAI)

He didn’t tell me about how onetime he got a stick in the face, which landed him in the Lady Northcliffe Hospital the same time they unveiled the plaque on the Cenotaph dedicated to those killed in World War Two.

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The first thing I ever wrote about logging.

He didn’t tell me of the time when he and his brother, Uncle Art, and a man by the name of Billy Patey had a contract for pulpwood on the Point Leamington-Botwood Road. It might have been this same operation that I was told he peddled a bicycle to every day in summer from Point Leamington to the work site. That winter, which was either 50 or 51 they hauled the wood to the roadside with the ox belonging to Mr. Patey. Uncle Art said Pop drew the short straw and had to do the cooking and they ended up with prune pie for dessert.  As far as I know this was the last year he spent logging pulpwood.

Not long after he and my Grandmother got married he found work closer to home. He worked for Wes Parmiter in his sawmill and on his coasting boats. Wes has the distributorship for Coca Cola and for one of the breweries (whatever beer Gaden’s distributed) for a big area of Western Notre Dame Bay. It was while doing this he completed the bookkeeping course, doing two years worth of work in one.

That bookkeeping course got Pop and the family to Botwood in 1954, he worked for Bram Thompson in his store and later as manager of Irving Oil. Then in 1959 a young former bank manager  named Ches Penney needed an manager with accounting experience to help run the newly opened Eastern Tire store in Grand Falls. In 1965 Pop went into business for himself.

Marsh Motors Central
In 1965 my Grandfather started his own business, which still exists today. He would sell a few of these Volkswagon Beetles to the Woods Department of Price Newfoundland. Hard to imagine today but they were a great machine on woods roads.

Pop didn’t talk much, but I am glad that I talked to him that day. My Grandparent’s living room on Birch Street in Grand Falls where I interviewed my grandfather was a very long way from the bunkhouse on Hynes Lake. 54 years and at least as many kilometers away.

-Bryan Marsh


Hayward George (George) Marsh was born in Winter House Cove, near Glover’s Harbour, Notre Dame bay on October 27, 1930. He passed away suddenly at the Central Newfoundland Hospital on Friday, September 20, 2002, he was 71. His father, a fisherman/logger died when Pop was two and a half, his mother was in her early twenties widowed with three children. It was the middle of the Great Depression, they ended up in Point Leamington when my great grandmother married a man who had children who were as old as she was. He attended the United Church School in Point Leamington until grade 9.  For over 35 years he owned and operated a car dealership in Grand Falls-Windsor (in Windsor and later in Grand Falls). The the garage they referred to him as “Skipper” the same as you would the captain on a boat or a foreman in a camp. 

I was in my second year of university.

If your family came from the same areas as mine did, chances are you had a grandfather that worked in the woods. 

4 comments

  1. Great story Bryan.
    Nothing was easy in those days.
    Your grandfather was a wise n hardworking man!
    A true entrepreneur.
    I remember him well.
    Nice to read your tribute to him!!
    Keep up the good work lad.
    Frank.

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  2. I remember your grandfather sort of a no nonsense guy I had 12 Volkswagens back in the day the first being a 1967 Bug. Had many repairs done at the Garage in Windsor the mechanic there was a Pike I forget his first name. His younger brother Dan Pike and I worked together at Hydro when he did his work term while studying Engineering at MUN

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  3. I think we are cousins. My dad is Elias Marsh from Bishops Falls (he grew up in Locks Hr)/ his parents were Elijah and Bessie Marsh.

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    • Think so, Elijah Marsh was my great grandfather Marsh’s first cousin. They also lived close to my Grandmother and her family in Lock’s Harbour. I think both Bessie and my Great Grandmother Rowsell were from Triton.

      Like

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