Visit to Deer Harbor, 1951

Jim Peddle, January 2022

In the early summer of 1951 (not all that long ago, only a little over seventy years) I went up to Deer Harbor with Uncle Bige (Abijah), his wife Aunt Glad and my older cousin Gerald who was their son. Uncle Bige was the warden on the salmon river there, or to give him his full title, Fish, Game and Fire Warden. He was warden on the river for thirteen years and this was to be one of his last. He was having a lot of trouble with his knee by this time and in later years he was confined to a wheelchair, still he lived into his ninety’s. They lived across the road from us. Dad and Uncle Bige were brothers. Mom and Aunt Glad were sisters. We were what is known as double cousins.

When I was invited to stay a couple of weeks with them in Deer Harbor, I went straight to the Co-op store next door to get a cardboard box for my supplies – bread, tea, milk, comic books – whatever would fit in a butter box. I was only eleven but I was old enough to know that you don’t go off in the wild depending on others for food and entertainment.

The long journey from Hodge’s Cove, down the Arm then up the Bay in a open motor boat with a ”make and break” engine, took most of the day. The weather was good and for my first trip there I got the chance to take in the scenery. People were still living in St. Jones Without at that time and I could see houses out at the mouth of the harbor as we passed by. As we went into Deer Harbor, I was shown John’s Chin and his Gun, rock formations high up in the cliff.

Clarence King and Mr. Strickland at the Upper Deer Harbour sawmill. (Photo donated by Clarence King)

Apart from John, his Chin and Gun, it was nothing like the Deer Harbor I came to know in later years. On the right was a mill with a water wheel and a small cabin all owned by the Spurrell’s from Little Heart’s Ease. Across on the other side was another mill owned by the Adey’s in Adeytown. Up at the end of the harbor was the Warden’s Cabin across from the river. And that was it, so I thought.

The cabin was small with the main room at the front and two small bedrooms at the back each with bunkbeds. I noticed through the open door to the bedroom there was a 303 rifle leaning against the wall with a handful of cartridges on a small table beside it. This was bear country. Bears usually leave you alone and stay out of sight if you keep food and garbage inside. But there is always the chance of an unexpected visit, wither you are home or not. Another table nearby had a half finished model of a battleship. Both my father and Uncle Bige made models of schooners and battleships as a hobby. I’m sure it was a great pastime during the time he was there alone. Usually two weeks at a time. This model was about two and half or three feet long. About a meter. I saw it later when it was completed in full detail.

This time he brought his radio since Aunt Glad was coming too. In no time he had the aerial wire strung out, the ground wire put down and the big heavy battery connected, all of which was necessary to bring in stations from St. John’s and around the world if you switched to shortwave. Gerald and I just wanted to hear VOCM. They were ok with Doyle’s News in the evening.

The water in this part of Deer Harbor was very shallow and a motor boat could only come in there on a high tide and had to remain there until the tide came in again. But Uncle Bige had a small flatbottom rowboat which he built himself. Myself and Gerald used this to exploring all over the harbor. He was used to being there. The mill I discovered had three mill tables, two driven by a water wheel and one by a mill engine. I never did see them in operation but it must have been a busy place when lumber was being sawed.

One day we took Aunt Glad there to the cabin to bake bread. The cabin there had an oven. The stove at the Warden’s Cabin did not. Gerald and I got the fire going and in no time she had bread baked.

Walter Shaw’s camp at Upper Deer Harbor (Photo courtesy Levi Churchill)

I noticed out through the woods past our cabin there were several other cabins. None of them in use. Walter Shaw from Montreal, (not the Walter Shaw from Little Heart Ease) built them. He was a related to the Shaw’s in Caplin Cove and so to the Churchill’s back home.

He built them to start a tourist operation and while the idea was good it came before its time and sadly it never got off the ground.

One day a schooner came in the harbor. It was Barnet Spurrell in his new schooner. I don’t remember its name but it was build right there in Deer Harbor. One of many. He was there for a load of slabs from the family mill. Gerald and I spent days down by the mill carrying slabs out to the schooner where they were stored down in the hold. It takes a lot of slabs to load a schooner. By that time our two weeks were up.

When we were ready to leave Barnet and his crew took our motorboat in tow and all of us came back in the schooner and anchored in Hearts Ease Rattle. Aunt Glad went ashore and spent the night at Barnet’s mothers house. Uncle Bige, Gerald and I slept in the schooner. I would say there were enough bunks there for a dozen. The next day we got in the motor boat and all four of us came back home again. A great trip.

But the summer was not over yet.