By the time he was thirty, he had already had a variety of jobs, supervised the building of Station Road in Grand Falls, herded reindeer through the wilderness, ran logging camps, and had his name immortalized in one of Newfoundland’s most well-known folksongs. He was one of the first employees of the A.N.D Company and worked for them for over forty years, for over thirty of them he was superintendent and de-facto mayor (or ruler) of both Badger Logging Division and the community of Badger. He was an Englishman from Surrey, educated the famous public school at Rugby, he made a career in the forests of Newfoundland, he was Hugh Henry Wilding Cole.
Cole was born in Farnham, Surrey in 1883. He was the son of a brewer, Robert Cole. The elder Cole was the son of a merchant captain and the family appears to have spent some time in India[i]. The family must have had some money as Hugh attended a prestigious public school.
He first came to North America at the age of 19 in 1902. Over the next three years he worked on farms in Manitoba, on railroad and timber surveys, as a cook in a lumber camp and as a manager of a hotel in Winnipeg. He joined the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company in April of 1905, one of its very early employees. His earlier experience in surveying was put to work by the Harmworth paper company. In 1906 he was assistant to Michael Sullivan in the first survey of the A.N.D Company’s initial timber holdings.[ii] Then at Grand Falls he oversaw the building of the first road between the railway line and the town and mill site. In the spring of 1907 he was also engaged by the Company as employment agent and was tasked with visiting Placentia and Conception Bays in search of prospective laborers for the Grand Falls project (Evening Telegram, 1907 05 04). After that he was engaged in something completely different.
During the winter of 1907-08 Cole participated in one of the strangest episodes in the history of Newfoundland. Dr. Wilfred Grenfell had brought in a large number of reindeer to St. Anthony, with hopes that they could be utilized in the same manner they were in the Lapland area of Scandinavia. Knowing this, officials from the fledgling Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company thought that the reindeer might be effective draft animals for hauling pulpwood. After all, Caribou were native to the island and thrived in interior, so wouldn’t their close relatives be an ideal alternative to horses for hauling wood in the same area? For this experiment, they acquired fifty animals from Grenfell.
The heard was to driven down the Great Northern Peninsula to Millertown. On this journey Cole was accompanied by noted Micmac guide Mattie Mitchell, Tom Greening; also from the AND Co, a Swedish interpreter from Millertown Morris Sundine, and joining them at St. Anthony was a family of Lapland Reindeer herders, headed by 65 year old Aslic Sombie.[iii] In an extraordinary feat the group led the animals 400 miles and arrived at Mary March River near Millertown on April 30, 1908. Nearby a corral was built for the Reindeer and the area still bears the name Laplander’s Bog. In any event, the experiment with reindeer was only successful in spreading brainworm to the native caribou population. It appears that the forage around Millertown was not suitable for the animals and they were forced to feed them the same fodder used for horses and oxen. The surviving animals were shipped back to Grenfell at no charge, by ship a short time later.[iv]
Over the next few years he presumably worked with the company in its logging operations at Millertown and general area. judging from photographic evidence he must have ran some logging camps and may have contracted for the A.N.D Company. When in 1910-11 the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company started its second logging division, at Badger, Cole became part of the management. It is not known if he was the first Superintendent, but he was Superintendent of the Division by at least 1915. In 1911 he married Eva Monroe, daughter of a St. John’s physician. At the time of his marriage his profession is listed as “Overseer” and resident of Grand Falls. (Source) It was around this time that he was mentioned in the song “The Badger Drive.”
In 1917, at the age of 33, Cole enlisted in the Newfoundland Forestry Companies as a 1st Lieutenant. The unit was under the command of his old boss, now Major Michael Sullivan. The formation of this unit was heavily influenced by the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company, and Sir Mayson Beeton. Many seasoned loggers and logging supervisors from the A.N.D Company were drawn into its ranks. According to his service records, he was about 5 foot 8 and weighed 185 pounds, making him a bit of a blocky character and had a dark brown tan, no doubt from all the time spent outdoors as Superintendent of Badger logging Division.
Overseas, Cole was responsible for overseeing this contingent of Newfoundland loggers as it worked to cut timber for the British war effort. He seems to have endured his service in relative comfort as he was joined at one point by his wife and children.[v]By the end of the war he had been promoted to Captain.
Following the end of the war and demobilization in 1919 Cole went back to Badger as Logging Superintendent. It seems that he had been interested in different ways of moving wood for some time, at one point he inquired to the Canada Lumberman as to the feasibility of building logging railroads. He was advised against it on account of costs, despite this some logging railway construction was undertaken in Badger Division, but it appears to have been done in Cole’s absence. Even at this early juncture there were areas in the AND limits that were far enough away from driveable streams to make long hauls by horse impractical. In the early years of the 1920’s Cole would be involved in the first use of tractors for wood hauling in Newfoundland. At this early stage there was no supplier for Holt (later Caterpillar) Tractor in Newfoundland and dealing were with the Canadian branch out of Montreal.
As Superintendent living in a remote logging depot town, Cole had a number of responsibilities related to the community in addition to his role overseeing logging operations. The Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador paints a picture of Cole being the king of Badger, “King Cole” and ruling the town with an iron first. It even notes that he was instrumental in quashing the “Badger Riot” even though he had retired 13 years before and was an elderly man living in St. John’s at the time.[vi] Most of the old loggers who worked under Cole recalled him as a good man and one of these tough but fair characters. They often referred to him as Hughie Cole. Cole was the driving force in the building of not only an amalgamated school in Badger,but also an amalgamated church, similar to that in Millertown, and was an advocate of integrating denominational schools.Daily News
In 1934 he was in completion with then Millertown Superintendent Henry S. Crowe for the position of overall woods manager with the A.N.D Company, Crowe had also risen through the ranks of the A.N.D. Crowe, a Nova Scotian, had come to Newfoundland even earlier than Cole, working for his uncle Harry J. Crowe with Newfoundland Timber Estates. It was claimed that Cole felt that he should been given the job on the grounds that he was British and Crowe was not! This probably caused some bitterness since the difference in pay for the two positions was over $3000 at a time when most men in Newfoundland were lucky to make $300.00.[vii]
He retired around 1946 and was succeeded by Frank Hayward as Superintendent of Badger Division. Upon retirement he and his wife moved to her hometown of St. John’s, where he went to work with the Newfoundland Tractor and Equipment Company as a consultant. He also seems to have been involved in the development of Newfoundland’s hardwood industry.[viii]As noted above, Cole’s involvement with tractors had gone back a long way, even further than Ches Pippy and the Newfoundland Tractor Company. After that company was formed, Cole was overseeing operations in the most mechanized woods division of what would have been one of Newfoundland Tractor’s biggest customers. Cole saw the the A.N.D Company go from owning an initial handful of tractors to a total of 77 at the time of his retirement. As a consultant with Newfoundland Tractor Cole still found himself in his old stomping grounds as he still visited operations using Caterpillar Equipment in his new role. While in St. John’s Cole also became a prominent Rotarian.
Hugh Cole died in St. John’s in 1960.
Full tribute to Cole in the AND News. When Cole took over as Superintendent of Badger Division the community of Badger Brook was a tiny sawmill and logging community of about 130 people. When he retired the population was over 900 and hundreds of men worked in dozens of camps in the division.
It is reported that Cole kept a diary for many years, which ended up in the possession of Arthur Johnson in St. John’s.(daily News April 11, 1962) It is not known if it eventually ended up in the provincial archives. If this does still exist, I would be a very valuable source in relation to the history of Central Newfoundland.
[iii] Collins, Gary Mattie Mitchell
[vi] Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador
[vii] Newfoundland Census 1935, Grand Falls and Badger