The Early History of Badger Revisited

I am not from Badger, nor do I really have any connection to the Town. But for some reason I have an obsession with the early history of this Exploits Valley town. I may not have any connection to the Town, but I have many connections and a history with the geographical area that once was Badger Division. Some of my great grandfathers worked in that division back a hundred years ago; I spent many days as a kid up at Badger Lake, oblivious to the days when it was a highway for logs coming down from the Twins. My first trip to the “Sandy” side of that division, well the first I can remember, I was about three or four. All of my life Dad had a cabin up there, when I was in Junior High-school he built a new one for himself-right at the very end of the old logging division. To get there you have to pass many of the landmarks of the old Sandy District of Badger Division.

Maybe the quest for the early history of Badger is because there was so little of it recorded. Millertown’s early history with its huge sawmills, Swedish loggers, and steamboats has all been well recorded in print and in photograph. In nearly twenty years of looking I have yet to locate a single solitary photograph of any of the sawmills that operated at Badger before 1920. Unlike Millertown the late Roland Goodyear didn’t chronicle the operations there, and unlike Millertown, there were a few operators and a few mills over a short few years.

Lumbermans camp badger brok
Logging Camp at Badger. Judging from the age of the the photos in the this collection this would have been a camp cutting for the Exploits Lumber Company in Botwood Circa 1890’s. The cook might even be a Frenchmen! (Howley Collection, MUN).

Imagine it is 1894 and the Reid Newfoundland Company is slowly pressing the track-bed into the interior of the island. One early beneficiary is whatever company is operating the big mill in Botwood at the time, the Exploits Wood Company, or the Exploits Lumber Company, for convenience I will just call it the Botwoodville Company. Each year they are logging their way through the white pine of the Exploits Valley, as early as 1890 it was reported that they had already cut a trail all the way from Botwood, to Little Red Indian Falls, southwest of Badger. After only about four years in operation Badger Brook becomes a railhead for the operators of the Botwood mill. Being able to use the railway from Norris Arm, or Bishop’s Falls, was surely a welcome alternative to portaging supplies along many miles of rough trail. Unfortunately, the railway also brought one feature which would be common in logging camps for decades to come; rats. When Howley was there in 1894 he noted that the depot at Badger Brook was overrun with the rodents. They reportedly came in on the ships offloading at Clode Sound and Norris Arm, and spread all down the line.  (For more information see Howley: Reminisces.)

From Badger Brook the Botwoodville Company will supply camps within its far flung timber limits on the Exploits, and up Badger Brook. By 1898 the trans-insular railway is complete and regular traffic crosses the island. Badger Brook is not only the railhead for logging operations but also for passengers hoping to join the train from Green Bay. It is also an important section headquarters for rail maintenance. The permanent population is still minuscule and likely consisted of one or two families of Mic Mac trappers (the Pauls and the Barringtons) and some railway workers. The first marriage in Badger Brook took place on March 31, 1900 when Henry Fraser, Telegraph Operator, married Fanny Lundrigan.

In 1901 the Exploits Lumber Company decides to install a potable sawmill at Badger Brook. The reasoning may have been to cut down on loss from the long log drive all the way out the Bay of Exploits, and to bypass the worst trouble sports on the River: the Grand and Bishop’s Falls. The other factor was that by 1901 with Millertown operating shipping facilities were available via rail though Burnt Bay (Western Star 1901). Whereas at the time Botwood did not have a rail connection, but logs could be driven there on the Exploits River. It’s also interesting to note that because of the Millertown development, there is reference to lumber from there being stored on sidings at Badger, as it would be easier to combine the shipments of lumber from the mills at both places.

The Exploits Lumber Company’s portable mill at Badger was a success in that first year. The next year the decision was made by that company to install two more of them at Badger Brook in 1902. (Western Star 1902). Naturally the Exploits Lumber Company would need to set up near both the Exploits River and the Railway. It appears that there operation was located in a fairly large section of present day Badger bounded on the North near the Railway track, to the west by present day School Road and on the other sides by the waters of the Exploits River, Badger Brook and Little Red Indian Brook. Basically that big area that contains the Badger Stadium today.

Soon after the Exploits Lumber Company expands at Badger, Harry Judson Crowe arrives on the scene in Newfoundland as the Representative for a Canadian-America syndicate (which would come to be Newfoundland Timber Estates). Both the Badger and the Botwood sawmill operations were being eyed by them as possible acquisitions. (Western Star December 24, 1902). Details are scanty, but it appears by the fall of 1903 Newfoundland Timber Estates now numbered the Badger mills among its many sawmills in Central Newfoundland (Western Star, October 28 1903).

A few months later, in February 1904, the Western Star noted that Mr. E.W Roberts was building a mill “near Badger Brook” (Western Star February 1904). The location of Roberts’ mill is not known. Things become a little muddled here, as I believe there may have been an issue with Harvey and Company in St. John’s, which was eventually resolved,  with a Mr. Coleman being appointed the manager of Harvey and Co’s mill at Badger at some point. It is not known if the Roberts mill and the Harvey mill were the same operation. Yes, by the way, sometime in the 1904 Harvey and Company operated a mill at Badger. To further confuse things, I also believe that E.W Roberts had a mill in Badger Bay around the same time. There was a land grand for E.W Roberts east of Badger Brook near the mouth of Junction Brook on the Exploits River. Could this possibly have been the site of a mill? Further to this, the Exploits Lumber Company was also granted a piece of land in this same area. Again to confuse things further; It was noted that a company going into operations on Grand Lake was going to install the equipment from Badger Brook which they had “recently purchased,” it is not know which concern they purchased it from.(Canadian Life and Resources 1904)

The Harvey mill was apparently located near the railway station, and would likely have been located somewhere on Badger Brook, possibly near one of the road bridges. Reports from the time indicate that Harvey and Co took their logs from around Mary Ann Lake, where they owned about 150 square miles of “well timbered lands.” Initially the mill operation was overseen by Mr. J.W Moore from Nova Scotia, with his son A.W Moore overseeing the woods operations. A cookhouse, bunkhouse and company store were also built here by Harvey and Co.(Badger Brook Notes)

Harvey and Company operated in Badger from 1904 to 1906. I am not sure if it has anything to do with it, but Harvey and Co were early agents for the nascent Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company. And who did Harvey and Co sell out to? Newfoundland Timber Estates of course. (Western Star December 12, 1906)

So by 1907 there appears to be at least two mills at Badger, and the were no doubt busy proving lumber for the construction going on at nearby Grand Falls. At some point around that same time the mills of Badger change hands from Newfoundland Timber Estates to the Newfoundland Pine and Pulp Company. Harry J. Crowe was one of the principals and a vice president of the former, but also had controlling interest in the latter.

Having succeeded in offloading many of the Newfoundland Timber Estates timber holdings to either the Harmsworths or the AE Reed (Newfoundland) Company Crowe set up the Pine and Pulp Company as a supplier of pulpwood for both operations; cutting on both Pine and Pulp limits as well as those of the AE Reed Company. This would somewhat mirror logging operations in the latter part of the century when pulp and paper companies contracted with sawmill operators being supplied with pulpwood and making exchanges for sawlogs. Naturally, the western headquarters for Newfoundland Pine and Pulp’s western Exploits logging operations was at Badger. The mill manager for Pine and Pulp at Badger was Henry S. Crowe, nephew of Harry J. Crowe.(Source)

It should be noted that in those early days forest fires were common and a very real danger that could wipe out an entire company’s timber holdings and even whole communities. In July 1908 a forest fire started by a passing train threatened the little community. At the time some 50-60 men were mobilized in putting out the blaze and others were brought in from a Bishop’s Falls.(BIG FIRE AT BADGER BROOK.)

By 1910 a little community has developed at Badger Brook, three companies: The Reid Newfoundland Railway, Newfoundland Pine and Pulp/A.E Reed (NFLD), and the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company are all represented here. Roland Goodyear in chronicling early lumbering operations noted that in his original agreement with AE Reed, H.J  Crowe was entitled to all logs over 10 inches in diameter on some of the limits in the area, this became a headache for contractors and as the Anglo-Newfoundland Development company expanded in the first few years they bought up most of Pine and Pulp’s timber limits.

By 1911 the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company sets up headquarters for a second logging division at Badger, though it appears they had an office their under the supervision of Andrew Porter before then. A concrete date for the establishment of the division has yet to be pinpointed; though, it was noted in August of 1911 that the management of A.N.D Co had decided that a “complete set of books” accompanied by a bookeeper and cashier were to be sent to Badger because of the increased logging activity in the area that season. (AND Co Finance Committee).   Gradually they buy up all of Pine and Pulp and Reed’s timber limits in the area. On a much higher level it is apparent, in hindsight, that the latter company’s growing dependence up the Harmworths is leading to it being slowly swallowed by Lord Rothermere and Anglo-Newfoundland. The entrenchment of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company led to growth for Badger Brook. By 1915 activity in the area led to the building of a new postal telegraph office.(JHA 1915) It was around this same time that Hugh Wilding Cole becomes the Superintendent of Badger Division, a position he would hold until 1946. 

Ellison Collishaw, a man associated with the Reid’s, Crowe, and the Fishermen’s Protective Union was noted to be operating a sawmill at Badger around the time of the First World War. Some of his timber came from an area west of Badger, and transported to Badger by rail. The loading point was known as Collishaw’s Siding for many years. I do believe that Anglo-Newfoundland operated at least one sawmill mill at Badger in the early years, for how long, I can’t tell, but I believe it had ceased operations sometime in the 1920s. By that point, Badger had been firmly entrenched as a divisional headquarters for the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company. At this point in the early 1920s Badger is headquarters for camps between there and Grand Falls, an ever increasing number of camps on the Twin Lakes, camps and a loading operation at Skull Hill, and a handful of camps on Black Duck, Pamehoc, and Tom Joe Brooks. 

Years ago I looked to see if there was any trace of all of this at Badger. I guess floods, bulldozers and scrap metal dealers have obliterated any signs of any of the sawmills that once existed at Badger, not a boiler or any heavy iron part; besides my cursory explorations, I’ve asked former residents too, nothing. 

Other Sources:

Badger Logging Camps Evening Advocate 1917

Badger Logging Camps Advocate Part 2

Building Halls Bay Road 1921

Forest Fire at Badger 1919

Electrical Storm hits Badger Telegraph Office

Men wanted for Summer Logging

Badger FPU Local

Cook at Badger Evening Advocate 1918.

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