Miles’ Sawmill

(as told by the late Hubert Miles)

Sometime around the late 1800s, a Sawmill was built at Simm’s Brook (near Pool's Cove) by Samuel Miles, his son George Joseph and his adopted son William. George and William operated the Mill as partners.

One of the most important factors in choosing a location for the Mill was an adequate water supply. After scouting the countryside, they found a pond and dammed it, and that gave them the water needed to supply power all year round. The huge water wheel was 20 feet in diameter by four feet wide. The buckets that held the water to turn the wheel were approximately three feet deep.

Inside the Mill was an assortment of small and large pulleys with leather belts to run the four saws. They sawed anything that was needed for houses, boats, dories, etc. such as fence palings, clapboard, shingles, lobster lats, dory boards, timbers – whatever the customer wanted. The Mill shipped lumber to merchant companies on the South Coast, from Port aux Basques to all of Fortune Bay. Eliza Ann, wife of George, was bookkeeper for the Mill operations.

The Miles’ were also boat-builders. They built a number of schooners, including a 3-master in 1919 (when George was 45), called Stanley Newton Lake, for Lake Brothers at Fortune. They also built two for Shirley & Sons Ltd. at English Harbour West, the Joyce Shirley, and the Sadie Shirley. In addition to the building, they repaired numerous vessels from Grand Bank and other places along the coast.

Men came from all over Fortune Bay to get lumber sawed. They brought logs in their boats. Anyone who couldn’t afford to pay for sawing, Miles sawed ‘on the halves’ – meaning he took half the sawed lumber as payment.

'There were 14 of us in the family,' Hubert said. 'We all worked at Mill at various times. When I was 14, I first started there as cook. Ray built boat for the Davidges in Bay du Nord; she was pride of Bay du Nord or anyone who saw her. In my time off, after cooking, I used to work with Ray on the boat, such as passing lumber, nails, tools (planes, saws, etc.).'

'We also did some farming in between other things. We kept cattle, sheep and goats, and grew all our own vegetables – potatoes, carrot, turnip, cabbage, parsnip and beets. Our main diet in those days consisted of salmon, trout, rabbits and partridge and plenty of home-grown vegetables.'

Sawing was done from May when the ice went out of the pond, up until December, when the ice came again. 'We all went home for a jolly Christmas - 1 week only.' After Christmas they would spend the rest of the winter cutting logs in the country. They would build a log cabin to stay in, and then cut all the logs in that area. A new location would be chosen every year, which meant building a new cabin every year. 'We had no mattresses to sleep on in those days. Our beds were framed with logs and filled with boughs.'

Oxen were used to pull the logs out close to the river in those days. The Miles family had one named Winslow. When spring thaw came, after the first big rain, the logs would be driven about 12 miles from the lakes down to the Mill.

They used to go from Pool’s Cove to the Mill and stay for a week at a time. From time to time they would get short of certain things because there were no fridges in those years. One night Hubert was lying awake in bed and he thought about trying to train the dog, Tingle, to go to Pool’s Cove for supplies.

His brothers laughed at the idea. His father thought it wouldn’t work, that he was wasting his time. It took several attempts before he got the dog to do what he wanted, but finally he had him trained. He made a pack to go on Tingle’s back and would put a note in the pack for his sister Audrey at Pool’s Cove, four miles from the Mill, to get supplies needed. Tingle performed this task faithfully for several years.

One day a boat arrived at the Mill with logs. The first thing the boat owner asked for was a plug of tobacco. Of course Hubert told him no one smoked or drank there. Then he said he could send the dog for the tobacco, which cost 25 cents a plug at the time. The man said, 'No, no. Trust a dog with a quarter? No way!' Hubert replied, 'Okay, we’ll do it my way. I’ll give the dog a note to go home for the plug of tobacco, provided you pay me the quarter when you receive the tobacco.'

About an hour and a half later, as they were having lunch, the dog returned with the tobacco. The boat owner got the surprise of his life. He must have told the story everywhere he went for it wasn’t long before all of Fortune Bay knew the story of Tingle the dog.

© 20 Fay Herridge
Published in Canadian Stories, Oct/Nov 2012

Non Fiction
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