Bishop’s Falls-The Other Mill on the Exploits.
Bishop’s Falls was known throughout most of its history as a great railroading town. But it was not the railway alone that led to its growth. Before 1923 most of the people in Bishop’s Falls worked (confusingly enough) for either the Reid Newfoundland Company or the Reed (Newfoundland) Company.
There are a number of waterfalls and chutes on the Exploits River, the most spectacular of which are located on the lower part at Grand Falls and Bishop’s Falls and both are harnessed for hydroelectric power. With the demolition of the mill the Grand Falls complex seems destined to be a generating station like Bishop’s Falls. But what many younger people probably don’t know is that there was once a pulp mill in Bishop’s Falls.
The first decade of the twentieth Century saw a tremendous amount of timber speculation with regards to the interior of Newfoundland. The interior had been opened up and all that could be seen for miles were stands of spruce, fir and pine. In the days before aerial photography it would have been easy to imagine that this was an inexhaustible supply of wood.
The wood of the interior was suited to the making of pulp and paper and the Exploits River was suited to hydro generation. The Harmsworth brothers realized this and sealed a deal in 1905 and set to work on a mill at Grand Falls. But the Harmsworth only acquired the water rights at Grand Falls and the timber rights around Red Indian Lake. A huge tract of timber from Red Indian to the Bay of Exploits and the water rights on Bishop’s Falls still remained up for the taking. Or should I say the buying.
Once again Harry J. Crowe enters into the picture, He was the man behind Newfoundland Timber Estates-the company that sold the Red Indian Lake Timber limits to the Harmsworths. Besides Newfoundland Timber Estates, Crowe had two other companies that bought up mills and timber limits in the area-namely the Newfoundland Pine and Pulp Company and the Pine Lands Company. The Pine and Pulp Company absorbed the limits of the Exploits Lumber and Pulp Company; limits that had fed the lumber mill at Botwood for years. Between these two companies Crowe had interest in a vast stock of timber as well as sawmills at Badger, Botwood and Point Leamington.
The wood and water power on the lower Exploits caught the interest of a British-Newfoundland syndicate in 1905 and between the jigs and the reels this led to the formation of the Albert E. Reed (Newfoundland) Company in 1907.[i]
Originally the mill at Bishop’s Falls was going to be bigger than the one at Grand Falls, but by the time the Reed Company started work this had all been downsized into a ground wood pulp mill. Ideally pulp would be manufactured at Bishop’s Falls and shipped to England where it would be manufactured into paper in practice things would be a little different. The Bishop’s Falls operation gradually became more and more dependent on the Grand Falls operation. The Grand Falls operation owned most of the railway as a well as the locomotives and rolling stock, they also owned the shipping facilities. Lord Rothermere owner of the Grand Falls mill also owned a chunk of the share in the AE Reed (Newfoundland) Company. Truth be known the AND Company also provided much of the wood and lumber used for the construction of the Bishop’s Falls mill. The general manager during construction and during the early years of the operation was Mr. A.E Harris.
But the Bishop’s Falls mill did exist and operate as a separate entity, for a few years. Exactly when the A.N.D Company took over the Bishop’s Falls mill is a matter causing some confusion. Most written records point to 1923-shortly after which a pipeline was built by J. Goodyear and Sons to pump pulp directly to the Grand Falls mill. A.N.D Co ownership of the Bishop’s Falls mill can be traced back to 1916 when Lord Rothermere bought AE Reed (Newfoundland).[ii] By 1920 a new company by the name of Bishop’s Falls Pulp and Paper were running the mill. The fishy thing is that the directors of Bishop’s Falls Pulp and Paper were all senior men with the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company, including A.E Harris who by this point had become manager of he Grand Falls operation. This separate company existed until late 1929-1930 when it was sold outright to the AND Company for 2.55 Million including the mill all timber rights and properties.[iii]
This transaction formalized what had been fact for a number of years-that the Bishop’s Falls Mill was an extension of the Grand Falls mill with most of its pulp production being used by the bigger operation. The “plant” as it was known in Bishop’s Falls existed in this way for a little over twenty years. By the early 1950’s the machinery was getting old and the pipeline was deteriorating. In places it was leaking pulp, much to the delight of many local children.
It was decided by the A.N.D Co that it would be cheaper to add additional grinders to the mill at Grand Falls and truck wood from the mill pond at Bishop’s Falls directly to Grand Falls by truck. The cessation of pulping at bishop’s Falls lead to the installation of a jack ladder. A Jackladder is a conveyor that hauls logs from the water. The Jackladder at Bishop’s Falls would dump wood “nail keg”[iv] style into the back of a dump type truck. The trucks would then drive to Grand Falls and dump the wood at the mill pond there. This operation went on until 1966 when it was decided that all wood from Bishop’s Falls Division would be trucked directly to Grand Falls.[v]
Parts of the Bishop’s Falls mill remained and remain in operation. Around 1953 new generators were installed to maximize the hydroelectric generating capacity and to this day the dam is still generating electricity. The mill buildings were used as storage by the AND Co for some years and later lay unused and became derelict. Their poor condition coupled with the massive flow of the river led to them being washed away in the flood of 1983.[vi] Today a person would have a job to imagine that a rather large pulp mill existed on the site.Ω
[i] Hiller, James Pulp and Paper.
[iii] Registry of Deeds, Newfoundland various files.
[iv] Literlly like nails in a barrel or box with no order to them, just dumped in a tangle of logs in the box of a truck.
[v] AND news Log 1966
Thanks for your story as I was reading through it and looking at the pictures especially the one with the truck dumping logs. I had a very vivid memory of those trucks passing my house as I grew up on what is now Grenfell Heights then known as the old Botwood Highway.
Again thank you
A suggestion I look forward to a story on the Red Wing bus line that traveled from Botwood to Grand Falls daily
thanks again for the memory keep up the good work
Joe Champion Fort McMurray
Awesome information about our town.Love reading anything to do with the history of Bishop’s Falls.
Love the pics
Are there any more pics if the jackladder in bishops falls, i built a house there 19 years ago and presently live on that location. i would love to have a framed pic of what it was like here back then.
Only a couple of others, I think there might be one of old Joe Thompson next to it somewhere. Pretty cool that you built your house there, I think the operation ran from about 1951-1966.
Thanks for your very informative story Bryan! Keep up the good work. There are many who do not know the part that ” Bishop’s” played in the paper making industry. Having grown up there in the 40’s and 50’s, I appreciate being reminded of these things, broken pipeline near west school and all.
Myself and Neil’s great grandfather Ambrose O’Reilly moved to Bishop’s Falls around 1911-12 to ensure employment for his sons at the mill. Granddad (Joseph) went to work there at the age of 12. He later left and started working for the railway. He was conductor on the “Buchans’ run” for many years.