The Search for Old Tom Joe.

There’s a brook up in Sandy-Badger that goes by the name Tom Joe. It’s named for an old Miꞌkmaq trapper from over a hundred years ago. It isn’t much to look at from the road, it’s probably about forty feet from bank to bank.  But it goes a surprisingly long way into the country, really surprising. I have been to the headwaters, on a old (recently old) logging road where the brook eventually peters out into a bog near Tobacco Pond, close to twenty five kilometers away from where you cross the brook on the “New” Sandy road.

There are a few places that still bear the names of the old time Miꞌkmaq trappers that once traversed the interior: Noel Paul Brook, John Paul’s Steady on the same, Joe Glode’s Pond, Mattie’s Brook, and others. We know about some of these men like John Paul and Louis John. But what about old Tom Joe?

Tom Joe Brook
Tom Joe Brook is a minor tributary of the Exploits River. The area around it was logged three different times over the course of one hundred years. It no doubt received its name from a man who trapped beaver, muskrat and otter along its course.

The more I dug, I came on more questions, and an interesting story. There was a Tom Joe that lived in Badger during the early part of the 20th century, he died in Sydney, Nova Scotia in 1918. He was trapper and a fur buyer, it was said that he had made a fair amount of money through this. When he died in 1918 there was no trace of his fortune. He had at least two brothers, James and Stephen. At the time of his death James was overseas recovering from wounds received at Beaumont Hamel. A few years after Tom’s death I guess Stephen gets wind of some sort of fortune his brother had amassed.  His search goes so far as the place advertisements in the local papers asking for more information on his brother. To this end he was contacted by Mr. Coleman in Badger, who said he knew the whereabouts of Tom Joe’s riches.

We don’t know if Stephen Joe ever found the money. Perhaps there is still a treasure hidden somewhere in the wilds of Sandy Badger. The ages of his brothers and other information cast some doubts to if this Tom Joe was THE Tom Joe that the brook is named for and the possibility that that Tom Joe may have been his Grandfather.

Tom Joe 1914 Speck.jpg
Man on the right is noted to be the younger Tom Joe. he young man on the left was noted to be Frank Paul.  This Tom Joe appears to have been the Grandson of an earlier Tom Joe. Taken by Speck at Badger Brook in 1914.
Tom Joe and Frank Paul. 1914. Note the large old stumps in the background. (Frank Speck, 1914)

Further research suggests that Andrew Joe had been given the trapping rights in the Exploits River area from his father Tom upon his death. Now Andrew passed while his sons were too young to take over the territory, so the territory passed to John Paul, who was noted to be Andrew Paul’s son in law. Joe’s young sons were then taken in by John Paul at Badger. Since Tom Joe Brook was known by that name as far back as 1912 it is not terribly likely that it was named for the younger man in the pictures. So it looks like we go way back to the 1860s or 70s to the original Tom Joe, who appears to have been a contemporary of Noel Paul.

Old Tom Joe, like Noel Paul, was a man that existed in this great void in the recorded history of the Exploits Valley. A time in the 19th Century after the demise of the Beothuk people and before the coming of the railway,  when these remarkable Miꞌkmaq trappers were some of  the only people that traversed the expanse of the Central interior. Their names were attached to these landmarks during this time after the names given by the original inhabitants vanished from human memory.

-Bryan Marsh


Speck, Frank Beothuk and MicMac,

page 172

Page 180

-turned over trapping territory to son Andrew Joe, who turned it over to son in law John Paul at his death.  It is most likely that Tom Joe Brook was named for Andrew Joe’s father.

-John Paul took in Tom Joe’s two youngest sons. Page 181

Service record James Joe

James Joe had brother Tom who died at Sydney in 1918. He had been living at Badger previous to this.

James Joe’s father was Andrew Joe, so probably old Tom Joe was Grand Father. Mother’s name was Julia.

James Joe had been born in Cape Breton in 1895.

Treasure of Tom Joe


  1. I had a friend in Badger, Nish Paul, in 1947. Great guy, fun to go geneing at Christmas.

    On Fri, Apr 3, 2020 at 3:38 PM Anglo Newfoundland Development Company wrote:

    > Bryan Marsh posted: “There’s a brook up in Sandy-Badger that goes by the > name Tom Joe. It’s named for an old Miꞌkmaq trapper from over a hundred > years ago. It isn’t much to look at from the road, it’s probably about > forty feet from bank to bank. But it goes a surprisingly lo” >


  2. Hi, my name is Jerry Wetzel, I organized and led the founding of what is now known as the Federation of Newfoundland Indians back in 1973. I interviewed many of the older Mi’kmaq elders who were in their 70’s or older back in the early 70’s.

    To add to the information you have found I can tell you this:

    All of the Mi’kmaq elders you speak of where still nomadic in those days and moved from place to place for hunting, fishing and trapping with the seasons.

    Andrew Joe had a living place in Halls Bay. He and his sons guided, hunted and trapped in the exploits and what was birchy valley, which, if you know the country, you can get to from exploits and red Indian lake.

    Old John Paul was born at the Grandy’s brook Mi’kmaq village around 1836. He was half Mi’kmaq and half Beothic. John Paul was married 3 times. A Jeddore lady from Halls Bay was his first wife and, as it was told to me, she died of TB or some other European disease before she and old John had any children.

    Old John Paul’s second wife was one of Andrew Joe’s daughters. They had one son, Andrew Paul, who eventually settled in Point Leamington. As I understand it, John Paul’s father was Beothic, his mother was Mi’kmaq.

    So, Andrew Joe was old John Paul’s father in law. Again, as it was told to me, Noel Paul, may have been old John Paul’s uncle. Tom Joe may have been Andrew Joe’s father. I am not sure if Tom Joe had 2 son’s, but I know there was a Tom and Stephen Joe who lived in Badger. I understand they moved into or lived near Badger and started fox farming. I believe these are the Joe boys that old John Paul reared up.

    One thing I feel sure of is that Noel Paul’s steady and Tom Joe’ s brook were named by European settlers who may have knew them. Old Mi’kmaq people never named part of the country by anyone’s name. Landmarks in the country were always named for their physical features. In fact the surnames, Joe, Paul, John, Francis, all known to be Newfoundland Mi’kmaq family names are missionary names and not their true Indigenous names.

    I am sure you will ask how does Wetzel know all this. I can assure you I have reaearched all of the above and there is so much more to it, I just do not have time to spend hours typing all of the information I and my wife have about Mi’kmaq family histories and Newfoundland, or in Mi’maq, I have written a book about Ta’kam’kuk Mi’kmaq history, it is an LLM thesis called “Decolonizing Ta’kam’kuk Mi’kmaq History”. A copy of it is in the MUN library. But the thesis does not contain all that I know as I have contiued learning from other Mi’kmaq elders. So, I probably should write a book about it all.

    Hsope the above fills in some of the gaps you were interested in.

    Jerry Wetzel, Miawpukek – fast current in the middle-( Conne River, ) Ta’kam’kuk


    • Hi Jerry very interesting post. I am from Badger and I am looking for information on my great grandmother Maggie Joe. My dad had passed away when I was 8 and his mother passed away when he was 2 so I don’t know much about my dads family.My grandfather was Tomas Saunders and his wife was Genevieve Chassion. Can you help thank you for your time, Annette


      • Hello Annette. My great grandmother is the sister of Maggie Joe. They also had a brother Joseph Joe who lived in Cape Breton. Did you find out anything on Maggie and her Joe family?
        Trudy Drover.


      • Hi Jerry thank-you for the info, I have had not much luck. My dad’s mom had died when he was only 2years old and then my dad died when I was 8 so I don’t know much about my family. My dad’s farther Thomas Saunders never acknowledge us as his grand kids. I had my dna done at I am 3% Native so I would like to know more about Maggie Joe.


      • Maggie Joe is my hubands great grandmother. He is the grandson of James Saunders, the brother of Thomas. We are also looking for information on Maggie. Please let me know if you have found anything


  3. My grand father was John Paul he lived in badger for many years. I was call after my grand father. My mom was Maggie Paul. Daughter of John Paul .


      • Hi Annette, sorry I did not reply sooner. I have heard of Maggie Joe and Maggie Paul. Did you find Speck’s book, “Beothuck and Micmac” ?? The pictures and information he collected should be a good starting point for you. I can tell you my wife is descended from the Joe lady, possibley Maggie Joe’s sister, who came to Conne River in the late 1880 or 90s. She had a child with her, her child, named Stephen Joe, who was called ‘wenooch” here in Conne because his father was a french man. Wenooch in Mi’kmaq means “frenchman”.

        Steven Joe married Harriet Louis here in Conne and had several children. I know off the top of my head, one was called Maggie Joe and he had a son who was called Andrew Joe. Andrew married a Mi’kmaq lady. Amelia Benoit, who was from the Benoit family at Bay du’Nord. Those Benoits came from Grandys Brook/Burgeo, and their ancestors had come from Bay St. George. All the old Mi’kmaq people kept naming the children they had after their own brothers, sisters, aunts uncles and grandparents. So, you find people with the same names in Badger, Halls Bay, Conne and around Bay St. George.

        Have you had any luck with documenting your own Mi’kmaq family tree??

        Jerry Wetzel


  4. For those following this discussion. I know where the burying ground is for the Mi’kmaq (who were probably part Beothuck) who lived St themouth of the Indian River near Springdale. If you would like to do something to preserve this place, please contact me
    Jerry Wetzel ar Conne River, 709 882 2021 or mgwetzel@


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