The Murder of Thomas Rowsell
It is thought that people of the Maritime Archaic Tradition began frequenting this area because they were drawn to the spot where the New Bay River empties into the bay at Point Leamington.
In the 1700s migratory fishermen began making excursions to this area. The South West Arm of New Bay was frequented by the Rowsell family of Fogo and Leading Tickles from the early 1800s, for salmon fishing in the spring and early summer and fur trapping in the winter.
Contact with the Beothucks was sometimes violent, and the killing of Thomas Rowsell is a major event in local tradition. The Rowsell brothers, Thomas and George, worked the brooks for Matthew Ward of New Bay, who carried on a salmon fishery on South West Brook and West Brook.
The Indians trusted George but Thomas became their deadly enemy. According to Rev. W. Wilson in Newfoundland and its Missionaries, “Thomas was reputed as being a great Indian killer. He never went anywhere without his long flintlock gun and woe betide the unfortunate Beothuck who dared show himself where Rowsell was. He is said to have not spared any of the natives.”
However, the Beothucks sought their revenge on Thomas and in 1789 they caught him off guard while he was dipping salmon from his weir on South West Brook, where Mr. Joseph Phillips would later build his sawmill. Thomas was ambushed and murdered in the Beothuck fashion: beheaded, stripped of clothing and his body pierced with arrows. (Source: River Lords by Amy Louise Peyton.)
According to residents, his headstone was inscribed:
Do not come over to this brook
Unless you guarded be;
For Indians lie in wait,
To steal your life away.
After Thomas Rowsell’s death, his brother George assumed charge of the salmon stations and bought out the fishing rights from Matthew Ward for the sum of 90 pounds sterling. After George Rowsell died, his son Joseph operated the salmon post at South West Brook for forty-eight years, after which it was taken over by George’s grandson Henry. It was still being run by the Rowsells a hundred years after Thomas Rowsell’s death. (Source: River Lords by Amy Louise Peyton).
The First Permanent Settlers
The first year-round settler is said to have been Isaac Stuckless of Twillingate in the 1860’s, followed shortly thereafter by the family of John Cooper of Cornwall, England. Other early residents included the Harvey family from Twillingate, who came to the area for winter trapping and lumbering. In the 1880s Joseph Baggs from Spaniard’s Bay sheltered here one autumn and returned with his family the next year. By then trading ships were calling at New Bay, exchanging supplies for fish and furs. Some other early families included the Sharrons, Andrews, Rowsells, Parmiters, Mugfords, Hutchcrafts and Walkers.
The Mill River Sawmill
Joseph William Phillips operated a water turbine sawmill near the Mill River in the early 1870s to harvest the rich pine reserves in the area. The point on the south side of the harbour where the mill was situated was named Point Leamington by J.W. Phillips, after his son George Leamington Phillips. By 1911 the community, originally known as South West Arm of New Bay, had been renamed Point Leamington.
J. W. Phillips’ Great Trek
J.W. Phillips is associated with one of the greatest treks in Newfoundland history, and it is of special interest to the residents of Point Leamington that it began here. In March 1875, Mr Phillips was extremely anxious to get from Point Leamington to Toronto on urgent business. Those were the days before trains or roads, and in March navigation was still closed. But Phillips was determined to get to Toronto, so he hired two Mi’kmaq guides and, with a team of dogs, set out on March 12 to walk to Bay d’Espoir. With a 45-pound pack on his back, in freezing temperatures, he beat his way through deep snow on snowshoes to find boat passage to St. John’s. Phillips finally arrived at his destination only to find that there was no boat available to take him to St. John’s, but he was still determined to get to Toronto, so he decided to continue walking to St. John’s. Twenty-one days and 600 miles after leaving Point Leamington he walked into St. John’s, where he engaged passage for Toronto.
In the December 1939 edition of the Barrelman, J.R. Smallwood referred to Phillips’ trip as one of the most remarkable walks in the history of Newfoundland, and others have compared the feat to that of W.E. Cormack, who was the first known white man to walk across Newfoundland.
Mugford’s Hotel was constructed near the mill in the 1890’s to accommodate employees from other communities who worked at Phillips’ sawmill.
In 1891 there were 78 residents, most employed directly at the mill. Over the next decade the population expanded to 198, as more people were drawn in by a number of smaller mills that came into operation. Harry J. Crowe, an important force in bringing the newsprint industry to Newfoundland, acquired the Phillips mill in 1907. His company, the Newfoundland Pulp and Pine Company, operated the mill until 1911. Forest fires in 1907 and 1911 destroyed a substantial portion of the pine reserves.
Woods work continued to be the lifeblood of Point Leamington, and after the opening of the Grand Falls paper mill many residents found work in cutting pulpwood. Many of the newer arrivals came from Pilley’s Island and Tilt Cove, where mining operations were closing down. The newcomers included the Patey, Rice, Roberts, Thompson, and Saunders families.
Point Leamington’s ties with the native population date back to 1916 when Louise Woodworth of Point Leamington went to work at Badger, and while there met and married Andrew Paul. They moved to Point Leamington and started a family there. Doug Paul was the first of the Paul children born, and consequently was the first native born at Point Leamington. There has been a small native population in the community since then.
J.M. Sharron opened his first store in 1916. William Baggs established his business the following year.
The Forest Fire
The boom was halted near the end of World War I by a huge forest fire which damaged pulpwood reserves in the area. Among the population of 395 in 1935 the chief family names were Andrews, Baggs, Cooper, Curlew, Earle, Feener, Goulding, Inder, Paul, Roberts, Rowsell, Saunders, Sharron, Stuckless, Thompson, Warford, White and Woodworth. A substantial number of new residents arrived in the 1950s and 1960s from the isolated surrounding communities, the population peaking at 940 in 1971. They included the Sheppard, Kinden, Marsh and Ward families.
In the 1880s Joseph Baggs received the first grant to cut a path around South West Arm. By 1908 a path connected Point Leamington with Botwood, and a road was completed in the late 1920s. Construction of the road to Paradise (Pleasantview) was begun by the Canadian Forces and later completed by the Newfoundland Government in the late 1940s.
Coastal boats operated by the Reid Newfoundland Co. Ltd., most notably the Clyde, delivered supplies to the community. Before the arrival of the automobile most people travelled by boat, horse team, or on foot.
Religion and Education
The Methodists constructed their first church in 1884 under the direction of Rev. James Williams. The Methodist Church of Newfoundland later became a part of the United Church of Canada. The Salvation Army was introduced by Captain Peter Oxford in 1898, and a citadel was built shortly after. The Salvation Army and the Methodists had both constructed schools by 1911. The Pentecostal Assemblies came to the community in 1929 under the direction of Pastor Herbert Rideout. The Pentecostal school opened in 1957. For a number of years in the 1920s, the Seventh Day Adventists also had a church and a school in the community.
The I.W. A. Strike
Throughout the history of Point Leamington the forest industry has been, and to a lesser extent still is, the lifeblood of the community. Over the years many men from Point Leamington were employed in the lumber woods, and the seasonal trek to the logging camps in the fall and winter became a way of life.
However, the wages and the living conditions in the early camps were far from adequate, and despite several attempts to improve conditions, when the International Woodworkers of America (I.W.A.) arrived in the province in the late 1950s working conditions were still far from ideal.
Although Landon Ladd’s attempt at organizing the Newfoundland loggers into his union failed following the bitter strike of 1959, the Commission of Enquiry on the Logging Industry that followed in 1961 addressed the conditions of the camps, and this eventually led to improved conditions for loggers. Within a few years most of the Commission’s recommendations had been implemented, and many loggers attribute the improved working and living conditions in the logging camps (either directly or indirectly) to the I.W.A. strike of 1959.
How Early Families Lived and Helped One Another
During the period 1907-1911 women sold home-baked bread to the Norwegian sailors who came here to buy lumber from the H. J. Crowe Company.
Local women served as midwives with little or no remuneration. Ethel Woodworth delivered approximately 500 babies over a 35-year period.
During World War II women knit clothing for the Armed Forces under the organization of The Women’s Patriotic Association.
In order to maintain a subsistence standard of living, most women cultivated a vegetable garden and raised a few livestock.
In the early 1900s men worked in the logging industry for the Phillips and Crowe sawmills. Later they cut pulpwood for the A.N.D. Company, staying away from home for periods of up to three or four months. During this time the family obtained the bare necessities, i.e., sugar, tea, flour, from the merchant on credit. It was not uncommon for a man to be unable to totally square up with the merchant when he came home with his three or four months’ pay. (Minimum wage under Commission of Government was $25. per month. Men received $.90-$1.35 per cord for cutting pulpwood).
Untrained local people such as James Andrews served in professional capacities (dentist, doctor, pharmacist and land surveyor) often for no remuneration.
Children attended school when the weather permitted and they could be relieved of their chores. Both boys and girls took on adult work responsibilities at age 12 or 13, either working in the wood cutting industry or going into service with a family, doing domestic work for room and board plus two or three dollars per month.
Denny Andrews’ Star of Courage
On 28 December 1977 Denny W. G. Andrews, then aged seventeen, saved Ronald and Lorne Sheppard from drowning near their home at Point Leamington. The Sheppards, who were cousins, had been skating and fallen through thin ice some seventy-five yards from shore. Their cries attracted several residents, including Denny. Firemen arrived with a rope and ladder, but the ice was too thin to support their weight. When Denny saw that the Sheppards’ strength was failing he entered the water and pushed them toward the ladder. All three were subsequently brought to shore.
Logging Camps and Sawmills
Throughout its history Point Leamington has been linked directly to the forest industry, and it comes as no surprise that many of the town’s residents were, and still are, involved with logging camps and sawmill operations. Many men in the town and the surrounding communities worked at logging camps operated by locals such as the Rowsell brothers (Jim, George and Joe), Joe’s son Arthur, Les Rice, Amos Feener, Eli Stuckless, George White, and Theophilus Stuckless. The wood from these logging operations supplied the raw material needed to make newsprint at the A.N.D. Co. Paper Mill in Grand Falls, later the Abitibi-Price Paper Mill. Also, many of the locals operated sawmills within the Point Leamington area and employed many of the town’s men. Sawmills operated by George Baggs (and later by Harold Sheppard, and his father Alex), Johnny Cooper (and his son Calvin), Howard Feener, Hallett Boone, Dave Goulding, Joe Roberts, Wes Parmiter, Theophilus Stuckless (and his son Lloyd), Cedric Andrews, William Paul Sr., the Stuckless Brothers (Eli, Mark and Obed), Harry Parmiter and Charlie Rice supplied lumber for local buildings, shipbuilding, and export overseas.
Joseph John Thompson (1889-1970)
The son of James and Rachel Thompson of Point Leamington, Joseph, formerly a logger, became the founder and president of the first loggers’ union in Newfoundland, the Newfoundland Lumbermen’s Association (N. L. A.), which was active from 1936-1956. In 1937 the union’s membership peaked at 7000. The management committee’s offices were located in Point Leamington, and then relocated to Grand Falls. The bridge over the Mill River is named in J J Thompson’s honor.