Interior Flotilla-Part II

People can have short memories. So it normally comes as a surprise to many to learn how long Abitibi-Price moved pulpwood on the Exploits River to the Grand Falls mill. It is true that the practice became less common place in later years, compared to the heyday when just about every stream in this part of the country was dammed. After the 1960’s driving smaller streams became less prevalent, but the Exploits River and parts of its watershed served as a highway for pulpwood until about 1992.

Despite an extensive road building program and the proliferation of trucking, around 100,000 cords of wood still came to the Grand Falls mill by water well into the 1980’s. The main reason for this persistence was that dumping and floating the wood was just so cheap. A floating log burns no fuel!

Wigwam brook air photo circa 1970
Air Photo of the log boom at Rushy Pond, circa 1964. The movement of wood by water required quite a few boats. There would have been boats used here and at the boom at the mill. Even more would was dumped into the river below the boom, including at the area opposite the golf course, which is now part of the expanded 18-hole course.

Since I wrote the first part on this matter I have learned more and found more pictures. Then the a while back when I was compiling sources for a section on further reading I hit a jackpot.

I had been aware of two pieces done by Mr. Andy Barker on logging for man many years. One was an exhaustive compilation of interviews that he had done at the behest of Glen Stroud with the Mary March Museum back around 1979 and the other was his Master’s of Education thesis which basically outlines a social studies unit on logging in Central Newfoundland. I knew that the latter included slides. The last time I attempted to view those slides was probably 15 or 16 years ago at the MUN library, I think because of limited hours and technical issues I did not look at them then. Then the other day I discovered that they had been digitized. You may think I am nuts for being excited about photos of a logging operation in 1980, but I am. I haven’t seen many and they depict an era that has been rarely studied.

A few weeks later, somebody from Millertown sent me a picture of an old tug that was still up in the woods. It is not much more than a hull but it has the distinctive shape of a steel winch boat. It shouldn’t be a surprise that there are still a few boats up in the woods. It was reported that in 1959 there were 16 motorboats in use in conjunction with logging operations in Badger Division alone “on the river, its tributaries and lakes”Daily News 1959.

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Dumping wood from a pallet truck into the Exploits River, 1980. (Andrew Barker Photo)

In the weeks previous I had also come upon a few other photos of the tugs that worked on Red Indian Lake in the post 1960 period, which has led to this reexamination of the use of boats and the movement of pulpwood by water.

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Tugboat at Red Indian Lake (most likely the Fleetway II), Date Unknown (photo Courtesy of Andy Barker, photo of photo originally in  files of Abitibi Price)

I have also gained some valuable insight on some of the wooden boats that were in use in towing operations. I have mentioned the Sir Vincent and the Henry S. on South Twin Lakes. They were built in 1946-47 under the supervision of Andrew Manuel and launched for operations in the Spring of 1947. I had a chance to speak with Mr. Otto Verge, who worked at the South Twin Depot back when these boats were in operation. According to Mr. Verge, these boats were equipped with the the same engines that would be in a D-8 tractor, they were about 42 feet long and that they started to rot out within only a few years.  Mr. Verge recounted a story of how the “grumps” were so rotted after only about 3-4 years that they were torn off one day when he was tasked with hauling a boom into the water. Both of these tugs were hauled up after about ten years of service. After the depot at South Twin Lake closed, around 1956-7, the tugs were hauled up and the large engines were cut out of them for future use. Reportedly the engines were shipped to Millertown where the were stored under the old shed that was used as a rink, and consequently rusted beyond repair. 

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The Frances H II, was used by the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company to supply its camps on the south side of Gander Lake. AND had some blocks of timber area in this area normally associated with Bowater. When this picture was taken circa 1960 there were two camps with about 150 men working in the area. (News-Log)

From what I can gather, at least a couple of larger tugs were used on Red Indian Lake into the 1980’s. These were used in conjunction with a slasher that was cutting tree length logs into four foot junks and dumping them directly into the lake. The booms were, as had been done since 1908, towed to the Exploits Dam to be floated down the river to Grand Falls.

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Tug towing a boom of wood, 1980. (Andy Barker photo)
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The Fleetway II, Miss Millertown and the fire patrol boat Mary March hauled up at Millertown.
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The fire patrol boat Mary March somewhere in the Victoria Lake area circa 1960. (Photo courtesy of Mac Squires)
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Two steel tugs working a boom on Red Indian Lake, circa 1980. Andy Barker photo.

In addition to the Fleetway II there were at least a couple of other steel tugs used on Red Indian in the later years of towing. From what I can gather they were the Miss Millertown and the Shanawdithit. In consulting with Steve Briggs, an expert on Russel Boats, these later vessels were reported to have been war surplus “Ville” Class tugboats built for the Royal Navy during the Second Work War. The date in which AND/Price acquired these boats is unknown. The Miss Millertown may have been acquired the same time they got the Fleetway II in the mid-50’s. The  Shanawdithit seems to have been brought in at a later date, probably after 1962. In October of 1968 the Grand Falls Advertiser reported that Price had acquired a new tug for work on the lake. The boat was reportedly the Canvik from Montreal Harbour. From what I can gather this might have been the Canvik No1, built by Canadian Vickers in 1956. I am not sure if this boat was renamed, and is one of the ones mentioned above, or not. All I can find was that she was reported to be 15 tons and had a innovative German propulsion system that allowed her to move sideways. 

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The Miss Millertown docked at Millertown in the summer of 1962 (AND News-Log)
Tug Red Indian Bill Perry
Probably the last tugs used on Red Indian Lake. Boat identified as the Miss Millertown. According to some sources, this boat may have started life as small navy tug boat during the second World War. The date in which it came to Newfoundland is unknown. The date on this photo is apparently 1991! (Photo courtesy of Bill Perry)

Besides the bigger boats there were an undetermined number of smaller boats. It would be impossible to note all of the smaller wooden boats used in towing and sacking on the smaller lakes in the A.N.D Company’s timber limits. Many of them were built in the lumberwoods or brought in from outport communities. from what I can gather and from the little photographic evidence I have most of them would have been built along the lines of a traditional trap skiff or rodney and usually powered by the same inboard engines as their saltwater counterparts. One such example was built at Sandy Dam in about 1960’s. It was 25 feet long and was used for towing on Three Angle Pond. A similar wooden boat still exists somewhere in the vicinity of Pamehac Brook. I have seen pictures of it. It’s a wooden boat that had an inboard motor. From what I can gather, it must have been used in the 1970’s when they started cutting around Pamehac and 5-Mile Lakes. It is in extremely good condition for something that must be close to 50 years old and should realistically be rotted away.

About fifty years previous to this there was, what was described as a tug boat, used to tow large dory like supply barges from Badger to a place called Black Duck Landing near Red Indian Falls. This would have been early in the 1920’s. (Andrew Barker, Logging History). 

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Russel boat Leonards lake
Russel winch boat towing a boom of wood on Leonard’s Lake circa 1962. Leonard’s was part of a water system that fed the drive on Sandy River. It is most likely that this is the same boat that is still at West Lake, since West Lake and Leonard’s are in the same watershed. (AND Co News-Log)

Besides the wooden boats there were an undetermined number of steel winch boats. By and large most of these appear to have been Russel Winch Boats. These workhorses, manufactured in Owen Sound Ontario were so common in Canadian driving operations that they even made it on to the old one dollar bill. I have yet to determine how many of these boats AND Co/Price acquired, but I have reports and evidence that there are still at least four of these at different places. One steel boat I am particularly curious about, was used on John Paul’s Steady and Noel Paul Brook. She was called the Ironsides. This boat dated from at least the 1940’s and there may be a possibility that it still be somewhere in the vicinity of Pine Falls or John Paul’s Steady on Noel Paul.

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Pontoon loading pulpwood for rail shipment to Grand Falls 1958. You can see a steel Russel type winch boat near the crane. In cases such as this these boats would be used to push and doze the wood. From what I can gather, this boat was moved to Bishop’s Falls a few years after this picture was taken. (Photo courtesy of Bond Noseworthy)
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The mill manager being escorted on a tour of the Victoria Lake area in a Gander River boat sometime in the late 1960’s. (News-Log)

In the last decades the most common boat to be seen on the Exploits system would have been the Gander Bay or Gander River Boat. This adaptation of a locally designed wooden freight canoe was developed to move people and goods down the Gander River from Gander Bay to Glenwood. With the introduction of the outboard motor it was decided to adapt these boats by putting in a square thwart to mount the motor. The Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company started to use them in driving operations around 1960 and they would be used right up until the last river operations in the 1990’s.

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Gander River boats…on the Exploits. The Gander River Boat largely replaced the old bateaus beginning in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. The ability to mount an outboard motor made these boats much quicker and maneuverable. Here they can be seen with the last cleanup crew on the Exploits River in 1994. Interestingly many of the log drivers, especially in later years, were from the Gander Bay area. (Abitibi-Price Grand Falls News)

In addition to all of this, through the work of Rev. Calvin Evans,  I have come across the possibility that there was another large boat built at Red Indian Lake in 1917, thus being in between the Lady Mary of 1908 and the Fleetway of 1921. This boat was also built under the supervision of Adam Chaulk. Did the Lady Mary sink before 1917? or was this boat ever completed? Did it sink? of is this the boat the one in the background in the picture of the Lady Mary? If this is the case, how many boats are sunk in the debts of Red Indian Lake? How many old hulls are rotting on other lakes and rivers? are there steam boilers sunk or buried in the interior?

Interior Flotilla Part I

5 comments

  1. Two comments:
    (1) The truck dumping wood into the exploits is dated 1980. I joined Abitibi Price in 1977 and I think that practice stopped before that.
    (2) The mill manager and others in the Gander River Boat are all wearing hard hats I wonder why ?

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    • They were driving until 1992, I would guess they dumped until then. As for the hard hats, they were standard safety equipment in the woods after about 1963. I think they made a point to set a good example. Plus they were visiting a slasher set up during this same trip.

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  2. Bryan!
    I was born in Millertown in 1934 and lived and worked there up until 1957. There were a couple of boats there and one was The Kerosene I think that was the name and it was the fire boat I think it may be the one you call Miss Millertown. Bill Freeman and I took it up to the mouth of Lloyd’s river one time to remove the fire signs. Could this be the same boat.

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    • Angus, Mac Squires sent me the following, but had some issues posting it here:

      Hello Angus. Great treat hearing your comment, and I remember you well. My memory has the Kerosene and the Miss Millertown as two different boats. I can’t recall what happened to the Kerosene for sure but I can recall it drifting ashore during a fall storm and seeing it on its side.”

      Mac

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