Recently somebody sent out a request for information about the site on which Max Simms Camp presently stands. There seems to be some interest in putting up some information panels to illustrate the history of the site to the people who pass through every year.
Interestingly enough the history of that site has a direct connection to why this blog exists. When I was 17 an English language arts teacher suggested for some reason that I might write a research paper on the old logging camps. There wasn’t much in the way of sources until I realized that my Grandfather had worked as a logger when he was a young man. He was an accountant by trade, I never knew he had been a lumberjack. So I interviewed Pop, it was the first interview I ever did with a logger and triggered a fascination with the logging industry and the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company. Not only had Pop worked as a logger, but it also turned out that Nan’s father had worked as a logger and cook in the same logging division.
Pop was fifteen when he left Point Leamington to work in a logging camp on Hynes Lake in Bishop’s Falls Division for contactor George White.[i] On his way he would have had to pass through the Divisional Depot which was located at the same site as Max Simms Camp.
Max Simms Camp sits on the banks of Great Rattling Brook near where this tributary joins the Exploits River. Once upon a time the place was a little community known as Rattling Brook Depot and it was the gateway through which hundreds of loggers signed on and began their trek down the “Rattling Brook Line.” The Depot was likely first established between 1911 and 1919. It was first enumerated in the 1921 Census and at that point there were round thirty people living there. By 1945 the population had grown to 118 people.[ii] This number would have included depot staff such as blacksmiths and carpenters who would have been employed for most of the year maintaining logging equipment and buildings. I also believe that there was some farming done at the Depot to supply the camps. At that time there would have been dozens of logging camps in the area.
Rattling Brook Depot was named as such because it was the main Depot for the Anglo-newfoundland Development Company’s Bishop’s Falls logging division. Previous to this it was logging headquarters for the A.E Reed Company which supplied its pulp mill at Bishop’s Falls from the surrounding timber limits. In fact the camps in this area would supply that same mill between 1923 and 1951 after the A.N.D Co bought the mill.
Most of the loggers that worked in the Bishops Falls Division came from Notre Dame Bay. A large number came from the nearby communities of Point Leamington and Norris Arm. It takes a little more than half an hour to get from Point Leamington the Bishops Falls nowadays. Back in the 1930’s and 40’s the trek from home to work in the logging camps could take days. In the early days many loggers had no other choice but to walk. So they would set out from say Point Leamington, for Botwood. This would take them the better part of a day. Then they would maybe send the night at Botwood. If they were lucky they could catch the AND Company train for Bishop’s Falls. If not they would have to walk. Once in Bishops Falls loggers would travel across the Exploits River by boat to rattling Brook Depot. At the depot they would be assigned to a logging camp somewhere down the dozens of miles of logging road that made up the Rattling Brook Line. In the early days they would have to walk, by the 1940s they would be loaded into the back of a stake bodied truck which would drop them off at the main road closest to their camp. Safe to say it could take days to get to camp.
Before going down the line the men would be fed. For many years the cook at the depot cookhouse was Joe Snow. Snow was a veteran of the First World War who went to work at the depot shortly after the war. He would be responsible for feeding all of the men that passed though. One story was that if he received a phone call saying another 25 men were expected at the depot he was known to throw a bucket of water into the soup to stretch it out.
Rattling Brook Depot was also the scene of its own log drive. Great Rattling Brook is a tributary of the Exploits, it is a fairly large and long river in its own right. All of the wood that was cut in the area would have been driven off the lakes and streams that flow into Great Rattling and then driven down Great Rattling to the boom at Bishop’s Falls. From 1911 until 1951 the wood would then be hauled up into the Bishop’s Falls groundwood mill and turned into pulp. After 1923 this pulp would be pumped to Grand Falls through a pipeline. In 1951 the mill at Bishop’s Falls was shut down and wood was loaded on trucks via a jack ladder and delivered to the Grand Falls mill by truck. In August of 1966 the driving of wood on Great Rattling Brook was discontinued and all pulpwood from that area of Bishop’s Falls Division was trucked to Grand Falls.
By that point there was little need for Rattling Brook Depot to exist. The Robert Bond Bridge was put through ending the need to ferry workers across the river and the Baie D’Espoir Highway was pushed through into the area. The AND co and its successor Price Newfoundland consolidated woods operations in Grand Falls and many loggers at this point were also ale to commute to work because of improved road and the availability of vehicles. By that point Pop was long out of logging and into the car business.
At Present there are still some houses and cabins in the area that once was Rattling Brook Depot, there is also at least one farm there as well.
[i] Pop was not the only member of my family to work in Bishop’s Falls Division over the years. At least five of my Great Uncles and two Great Grandfathers and possibly Great Great Grandfathers worked in that Division over the years.
[ii] Encyclopedia of Newfoundland Rattling Brook Depot
I was born at the Depot and lived there for four or five years (4 or 5 years old). Believe it or not I have very happy memories from those early days. Our house was eventually pulled by tractors along the ice on the Exploits River to a site on the South Side of the River in the main town of Bishops Falls. Subsequently, and in the same manner, puller across the river to the North side.I lived there until joining the military in 1962
Alphaeus (Bob) Peddle