Friday, May 18, 2007


GAMBO (inc. 1964; pop. 1981, 2932). This incorporated town is situated in a richly forested river valley where the Gambo River meets the sea in Freshwater Bay, central Bonavista Bay. It is composed of three adjacent (and formerly distinct communities — Dark Cove, Middle Brook and Gambo — which form the town of Gambo. Until October 3, 1980 the community was known as Dark Cove-Middle Brook-Gambo; on that date the area, which had been a rural district, was reincorporated as a town and officially renamed Gambo by the Municipalities Act (1980) (Newfoundland Gazette: Oct. 3, 1980).
The names Gambo and Middle Brook were recorded for the first time in the Census in 1857; Dark Cove was first recorded in the Census in 1884. Before that time, all settlement sites in the area, which included Hay Cove, Man Point and Hare Bay, were enumerated under the heading Freshwater Bay, the name of the long indraft of Bonavista Bay along which they were situated. According to M.F. Howley (n.d.), the name Gambo is a corruption of the Spanish or Portuguese name “Bale de las Gamas,” meaning the Bay of the Does, the name by which the area appears on early maps. According to the Royal Gazette (Jan. 1964), the area Middle Brook-Dark Cove was renamed Riverwood on that date, but this name does not appear to have been used officially or unofficially.

The Gambo area, with its fast-flowing streams draining many ponds, and its heavily-wooded land with rich, dark soil capable of supporting small-scale agriculture, has been an attractive area for commercial salmon fishing since the Eighteenth Century and for industrialized harvesting of its large forest stands since the mid-Nineteenth Century. It was first visited by salmon fishermen, who fished the Gambo River and other streams in Freshwater Bay, in the early 1700s. In the 1720s George Skeffington, with the backing of St. John’s merchant William Keen, established salmon fisheries at Dog Bay (Horwood) and Freshwater Bay (Gambo) as well as stations at Ragged Harbour and Gander River, Notre Dame Bay (C.G. Head: 1976). According to Head there was considerable competition from other Bonavista Bay men for
the rights to these rivers.
By 1836 there were permanent settlers in Freshwater Bay, when twenty-six people were reported in the area. Gambo was first recorded on the Census in 1857, with a population of 105 (including one English-born resident and three people who were born in other British colonies); Middle Brook at this time numbered thirty residents. Dark Cove and nearby Dolmon’s Point were first reported in the Census of 1884 with populations of thirty-one and forty-one respectively.
The earliest settlers in the area probably came to Freshwater Bay through their connections with major merchantile firms in Trinity and Bonavista Bays, who were encouraged in the fishery by the Governor of Newfoundland. In 1786 it was reported that Benjamin Lester and Company of Trinity qv, Trinity Bay had salmon fishermen based at Freshwater Bay (H.A. Innis: 1954, p. 294). The company’s establishment may have been a response to a proclamation issued by Commodore Robert Duff qv, Governor of Newfoundland in 1775, which stated that “the considerable salmon fisheries [that] were then carried on in Freshwater Bay . . . and several other places on the north-eastern part of Newfoundland, might be greatly extended and improved” (quoted in L.A. Anspach: 1827, pp. 202-203). This proclamation established regulations for the salmon fishery which protected the large English firms operating from bases in Newfoundland.
In the Nineteenth Century salmon wardens regularly reported on the progress of this fishery and commented particularly on over-fishing. The fishery was prosecuted mainly by fishing servants who, having fished the brooks over a period of years, were regarded as the independent, sole proprietors of these waters. It was highly competitive, and even large firms jostled for the right to exclusive ownership with the year-round inhabitants of the brook sides. In 1856 it was noted by an irate warden, who supported the local fishery, that “at Gambo or Fresh Water Bay there are three considerable Brooks discharging into it their waters, viz: Gambo Brook, Middle and Taverner’s Brook . . . the heads of which no one but the occupier of the Brooks should be permitted to fish for salmon” (JHA: 1857, App. p. 345).
Settlers in the Gambo area .by 1871 were Edward Barrow, David, Jacob, Joseph and James Golong (Goulding), Alfred Inder, Jacob and Robert Oakley, Samuel Pretty and Job, John, James and William Pritchett, all fishermen (Lovell’s Newfoundland Directory: 1871). Most of these family names have earlier associations with Greenspond qv (E.R. Seary: 1976), and the Greenspond firm of Brooking and Company was known to be active in the salmon fishery. According to Seary the Pritchett family reputedly settled at Domino Point (Dominion Point), Freshwater Bay (and later at Middle Brook) after the patriarch, James Pritchett, had emigrated from Devon to Goose Bay in southern Bonavista Bay previous to
One source of local oral tradition (M. Pond: 1973, p. 3) maintains that the first inhabitants of the Gambo area were a Micmac family named Joe, who were encamped at Mitchells Point at the mouth of Middle Brook. Although an oral account of hostilities between the Micmac and white settlers exists, Pond maintains that relations between the two groups were peaceful and that the Indian population was eventually assimilated into the white population. Joe is a Micmac surname and Seary lists a Madeline Joe as a resident of Gambo in 1876. Head (1964, p. 31) relates that according to oral history Dole- man’s Point in the 1870s was “a point of cleared land, locally known as a not-too-old Micmac Indian encampment.” Indian occupation of the site seems likely: as Paul Carignan (1977) points out, the Indian populations preferred the long reaches of inner Bonavista Bay near heavily forested areas and good salmon streams, all features of the Gambo-Freshwater Bay region. According to Pond (pp. 9-11), the first white settlers were James Feltham (who settled at Middle Brook) and James Pritchett, both salmon fishermen who had reputedly left England during the War of 1812 to escape the press gangs.
Five male members of the Pritchett family were listed as salmon fishermen on the Gambo River in 1872. Their catch (21 tierces) was salted and sold to a Mr. Tessier (possibly of P. and L. Tessier of St. John’s) for £4, lOs per tierce (JHA: 1873, App. p. 817). In his report of the salmon fishery for the year 1872, John Pritchett noted that,
The Salmon fishery commences about the 10th June, and it leaves about the 10th August in Freshwater Bay. There have been more salmon seen in Gambo Pond this summer, more than there have been seen this many a summer; they were seen by the log cutters very plenty. We used to get half of our voyage at Gambo River, but since the sawmill have [sic] been there we cant [sicJ get not one quarter. If the shipping continue coming up for timber while the nets are set in the water, we will have to give up our fishery; the boats going to and fro in the river will make a complete sweep of it, and the noise of the steam mill turns the salmon from there [sic] course. The roaring of the steam can be heard three miles (JHA: 1873, App. p. 817).The sawmill referred to by Pritchett was established at Dominion Point on Gambo Brook during the winter of 1862-1863 by David Smallwood qv, a Prince Edward Island immigrant to Newfoundland and the grandfather of Joseph R. Smallwood qv, who was born in Gambo in 1900. David Smallwood set up a large steam-powered mill which was the first steam-powered mill used in tue lumbering industry in Newfoundland. According to a description of the apparatus in the Harbour Grace Standard (Oct. 9, 1872, p. 2): “One sees the logs continuously coming in, drawn by a force that never flags, and turning about he sees the lumber passing through the shute to the wharf, there being no hitch or confusion whatever in the intermediate operation. All goes on with mechanical regularity . . . we may mention the fact that six thousand feet of lumber were cut in the mill since August last and the little shingle machine in use is one of the prettiest imaginable.” Eighteen to twenty men were employed in the sawmill, most of whom had had very little previous experience working with that type of machinery. According to the Standard this enterprise could not have been undertaken but for the “indomitable Scotch pluck” of David Smallwood. The Gambo mill, around which a community had rapidly sprung up, was joined by a new and impressive mill at Mint Brook qv which was set up in 1876 to harvest the large stands of spruce, pine and fir that lined the streams flowing into Freshwater Bay. Mint Brook, located about 3.2 km (2 mi) south of Gambo, was established by John James Murphy, a Catalina native and later prominent businessman of Gambo who recruited his millworkers from the partly-Irish settlements of the southern shore of Bonavista Bay (Head: 1964, p. 26) and from New Brunswick (J.R. Thorns: 1967, p. 418).A townsite sprang up along the tramway leading to the mill which became one of the largest in Newfoundland, attracting large numbers of settlers to the site. Both the mill and the townsite were burnt to the ground in 1907 but at its peak the mill had produced up to 50,000 fbm of lumber per day and had attracted many new residents from the headland and island communities of Bonavista Bay to settle in the thriving, self-sufficient community that had grown up around the mill. According to J.K. Hiller (1980; interview, July 1982), the Murphy mill at Mint Brook had been sold in 1903 to H.J. Crowe of Newfoundland Timber Estates, a Reid Newfoundland Company. In 1908 the Gambo Lumber Company Limited was incorporated. This company, which ceased to operate in 1912, was owned by George A. Scott of Montreal and other shareholders. For the most part, however, large-scale milling operations developed by outside companies or interests ceased after

Murphys sawmill
1912, with the exception of the Anglo Newfoundland Development Company (AND.) mill built in 1911.
Between 1876 and 1906 Gambo changed from a small fishing-farming area to a bustling group of communities with large sawmills and a burgeoning population. In 1878 a family from St. Brendan’s dammed a small pond at Dark Cove and built a sawmill. A second family from Greenspond settled at Doleman’s Point, Middle Brook, and a sawmill was constructed which utilized the waters of Middle Brook for power. After the Mint Brook mill was destroyed by fire, Middle Brook became the site of a 40,000 fbm per day mill (Head: p. 34). While the pine forests were exhausted by the turn of the century (Hand- cock and Sanger: 1981, p. 46), numerous other small mills came into existence based on the spruce and fir reserves. Pond (1973) noted the building of the second mill (made of brick) on Middle Brook in the early 1900s. In 1921 William Pritchet also started a mill on Middle Brook, and Pond Brothers established a sawmill in a cove outside Middle Brook. That mill was later relocated on Middle Brook itself. Other sawmill owners and operatom included Lewis Pritchett, the Hender Brothers and George Pritchett. Most of these enterprises, with the exception of those of the Pond, and the Hender Brothers, were short-lived.
The establishment of pulp and paper mills in central and western Newfoundland created a demand for pulp logs and from 1938 to the 1960s the Gambo Valley was intensely logged for pulpwood by Bowaters of Corner Brook. Contract pulpwood cutting was also undertaken for the A.N.D. Company (later the Price Newfoundland Company) based at Grand Falls. The A.N.D. Company had also established a mill at Gambo in 1911 and employed many men in the area. This mill was also phased out in the early 1960s. A series of forest fires in the area in the early 1960s greatly reduced the commercial saw- milling and pulpwood operations and by the mid-1960s Bowaters had ceased all commercial logging in the area.
The beginning of commercial lumbering in the Gambo area in the 1870s was the drawing card for many settlers from the older headlands and island communities of Bonavista Bay to relocate in Dark Cove, Middle Brook and Gambo. This movement occurred in two phases:
from 1870 to roughly 1920, and from 1955 to 1965. As related, families from St. Brendan’s and Greenspond moved to Dark Cove and Middle Brook in the 1870s. In 1892 the railway running north from Placentia Junction reached Gambo and roads were constructed by 1894 linking Dark Cove, Middle Brook and Gambo. After fire destroyed the Mint Brook mill in 1907, the residents of that community abandoned it and moved to Gambo. During this era increasing local and world markets for timber, the coming of the railway and Gambo’s increasing importance as a regional administrative and service centre, attracted other new residents. In 1891 Middle Brook numbered ninety-three people; Dark Cove had thirty residents and Gambo River seventy-nine (Census). By 1911 Gambo had 344 residents (many from Mint Brook), Dark Cove had 242 and Middle Brook had a population of 281. The next major rise in population occurred in the 1950s, when twenty Bragg’s Island families resettled in Dark Cove mainly in three areas, known locally as “the Marsh,” “the Waterfront,” and “Pauls’ Hill
(Head: 1964: p. 97).

According to Head (p. 97) and Handcock and Sanger (p. 46), settlement in the area tended to follow denominational lines established in the first phase of large-scale settlement, with the majority of the Roman Catholic residents settling at Gambo, Anglican and many United Church families tending to settle at Dark Cove and other United Church and Salvation Army residents living at Middle Brook. In the early 1950s the nearby communities of Hay Cove and Mann Point qqv were abandoned and their residents moved to the Gambo area to be close to sources of employment and services. Other families from Fair Island, Deer Island, Gooseberry Islands, flat Island and Bragg’s Island qqv resettled with government assistance throughout the area in the late 1950s and early 1960s, mainly according to family ties and religious denominations, as had been the case with the initial Bragg’s Island to Dark Cove move in 1955 (See Iverson and Matthews: 1978). In 1956 the populations of Dark Cove, Middle Brook and Gambo stood at 808, 681 and 414 respectively. By 1966 they had reached a combined total of 2,446 and by 1976 they stood at 2,977.
The pull-out of the major pulp and paper companies from the Gambo area and the 1961 forest fire which started near Middle Brook proved to be crushing economic blows. Increasingly Gambo residents sought employment outside the community, particularly in Gander, which had provided many jobs during the construction of the airport there, and in jobs such as construction, logging, carpentry, mechanics and the service industry. The Gambo area itself had been a regional administrative and service centre from the 1930s for the Freshwater Bay area, and for the isolated island communities of the Bonavista archipelago. A Relief Officer, Justice of the Peace and other social services personnel had been in place since the 1930s and in 1960 a Federal Government building, housing branches of the Post Office, Department of Fisheries and Canadian National was opened. The Federal Building was built on the site of a hotel which had been built next to the railway station and which was torn down by the late 1950s (Pond: p. 22).

In 1982 the Gambo labour force continued to be employed in Gander, in airport, hospital and other service- related jobs there. Some people were self-employed, or found jobs in local services or seasonal log-cutting. In the mid-1970s most of the remaining sawmills had closed and the last, S.A. Pond, closed in 1980. In 1977 the GamboIndian Bay Development Association was formed to encourage economic recovery and development. Although Gambo has always been basically too far inland to prosecute the fishery (although ship-building was undertaken at one time), the Association has sponsored the construction of wharves, stages and slipways at Fair Islands and Bragg’s Island, for the prosecution of the summer fishery (Rounder: March-April 1981, pp. 35-36). Since the early 1970s prospective area farmers scouted for suitable land to cultivate and a local agricultural association was formed. In 1979 there was little local agriculture but the Development Association invested over $250,000 by 1979 to encourage agriculture in the region. In 1979 three farms, producing mainly vegetables and some fruit, were in operation: one at Dark Cove, one at Butt’s Pond and one south of Gambo (Rounder: May 1979, p.42).
Children were reported to be attending school at Gambo in 1884 and by 1891 there was a school at Mint Brook. According to Pond (p. 42), the first school in Gambo was reputedly established in Absalom Pritchett’s barn in the late 1800s by a Mrs. Churchill. This was replaced by a more suitable building by 1910. The first church, St. George’s (Church of England) was also built by this time and later other churches (Salvation Army, Roman Catholic and United Church) were built in all three communities according to denominational needs. In 1964 *J.R. Smallwood Academy qv was opened to serve the region’s highschool students. In 1982 there were three schools serving Gambo students: Bayview Heights Elementary (Kindergarten to Grade Seven) and Smallwood Academy (Grades Eight to Eleven) located in the Dark Cove area and Sacred Heart Elementary (Kindergarten to Grade Seven) at Gambo. See FORESTRY; PULP AND PAPER MAKING; SAWMILLS. L.A. Anspach (1827), Effie Barkhouse (interview, Feb. 1981), Paul Carignan (1977), J. Curran (1978), a. Goulding (1970), Handcock and Sanger (1981), C.G. Head (1964; 1976), J.K. Hiller (1980; interview, July 1982), H.A. Innis (1954), Iverson and Matthews (1978),
M. Pond (1973), D.W. Prowse (1895), E.R. Scary (1976), JR. Thoms (1967), Census (1836-1981), Harbour Grace Standard (Oct. 9, 1872), JHA (1851; 1857; 1873), Newfoundland Gazette (Oct. 3, 1980), Royal Gazette (Jan. 1964), Lovell’s Newfoundland Directory (1871), Rounder (May 1979; Mar.-Apr. 1982) Newfoundland Historical Society (Gambo). Map G. JEMP

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great story.Great town.