Posted by: munroja | April 30, 2015

Ellis Hancock, NL Forest Service


J. Munro Interview with Ellis Hancock, July 14, Aspen Cove, NL

When Ellis graduated from high school, he worked for a few years before joining the Forest Service. First he was with the Post Office for a year, and then worked on the US Base at Stephenville for 1-2 years. Then he came back to Carmanville and went fishing for 3 summers. Arthur Smith was the District Ranger at Carmanville and he recruited Ellis for the Government Fire Patrol. After the 1961 fire season he was kept on staff with the Forest Service full time, at first based at Gander. He was working with Ches Howell in 1961, when the fires started. Leo Howell was on the Tower near Carmanville.

Helicopter Crash During 1961 Fires

Ellis and Sam Greening were the two Forest Service people on the S 55 Canadian Navy Helicopter when it crashed near the intersection of the main highway and the Ragged Harbour River. There was also the pilot, co-pilot, two crewmen, and one RCMP constable, from Fogo. They were bringing a load of fire equipment from Musgrave Harbour to Carmanville. The fire edge had gone past Musgrave Harbour but had not reached Carmanville, and they were trying to get three pump units (including cans of gas) there to protect the homes and people.

The  pilot had had no experience in working under these extreme conditions. He was flying low, following the road to Carmanville, and got confused in the smoke and flames and tried to fly out. (The air would have been very unstable as a result of the fire). The chopper tail section separated, (perhaps because of air turbulence causing a rotor blade to strike it), and the helicopter started to spin out of control. The spinning made the passengers (and perhaps the pilot) pass out. The chopper piled into the trees, and landed on it’s left side. When he came to, Ellis tried to get out but found the main exit door blocked by trees. He called to the co-pilot who was outside and he opened an emergency hatch on the right side of the machine.  Ellis and the co-pilot helped the others get out of the cabin. The co-pilot and Ellis were the only ones who could work after the crash. Ellis was never interviewed about the crash and never heard of an investigation. The only person who questioned them was Lal Parsons, an ex RAF Pilot who was the Director  the NL Red Cross. 

After the crash they got the three pump units out of the helicopter before it could burn, (which it did), and he and Wes Freake took a pickup load of three pumps, hose and gas and drove through the smoke and flames to Carmanville. When they got there, the outside of the truck was too hot to touch. For the rest of the summer of 1961, Ellis was teamed up with Wes Freake and they were on all the major fires that year.

Ellis was also involved with the Labrador fires, such as the 1964 Esker fires and the 1967 Central area fires. He didn’t like working in Labrador because of the flies, sweat and dirt.

After 1961, Ellis was on permanent staff with the Forest Service, based in Gander. They did fire patrol in the summer and forestry work in the winter. He worked with Wes Freake and Blackie Drover, Calvin Prince, etc., on the seed collecting operations. While stationed in Gander, he also worked with Wildlife Biologist Neil Payne on some of his projects.

Ellis went to Ranger School about 1962, the year after Dick Carroll. The Forest Service sent him with Joe Foley, Wally Sutton (Baie D’Espoir), Jim Newhook and a few others. After Ranger School he was posted to Carmanville District for a while, then to Lewisporte as District Ranger. Then he was based in Gander as Regional Ranger, and after Jesse Stead retired he finished up as a Forest Fire Specialist. He also had responsibility for regional building construction.

Ellis liked working for the Forest Service. There was a good group of people and  interesting and challenging work. He retired in 1988. He had two years of sick pay to use up and he had back problems.    

John Munro

Posted by: munroja | November 24, 2014

The Bishop’s Falls Pulp Mill

Bishop's Falls Mill, 1979 Small (2) (1)

The Bishop’s Falls pulp mill was constructed on the Exploits River by the Albert E. Reed Company of London, which at the time, operated eight paper mills in the south of England. The mill had a capacity of 130 tons of pulp a day. Construction was completed in 1912, and the mill operated as an independent unit until 1928 when it was taken over by The Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company (AND) of Grand Falls. It finally ceased operation in 1952.

The timber limits for the mill were obtained from two companies controlled by Henry J Crowe of Nova Scotia. In 1907, 1369 square miles were acquired from the Newfoundland Pine and Pulp Company and 606 square miles were acquired from the Central Forests Company.

The mill, at least initially, was not profitable because of high construction costs associated with the construction of the power dam. In 1916 the company was considering the addition of a paper mill at Bishops Falls, but this plan was abandoned and instead 1282 square miles of timber limits were transferred to the AND mill at Grand Falls. This company claimed that the mill at Bishop’s Falls was not profitable in itself, but could be operated as an adjunct to the the Grand Falls. It was operated

as a source of pulp for the Grand Falls mill until 1952.

The pulp produced at Bishop’s Falls was moved  to Grand Falls as a slurry, through an underground pipeline. Towards the end of it’s life, in the late 1940’s, this line would occasionally leak and spew liquid pulp to the surface at points through the town, which we youngsters used to make mushy pulp balls to throw at each other and splatter on the sides of various buildings and boxcars. They could also be squeezed and dried in an oven if harder missiles were required.

J. Munro

Posted by: munroja | November 23, 2014

Wes Freake

Featured image

Wes and  Ruby

Wes was born on July 27, 1927 at Lewisporte. He started work with the Provincial Forestry Service in April of 1958. He retired from Government Service in 1987. He and his wife Ruby now live in the North Haven

Manor Sr. Citizens Home in Lewisporte, Newfoundland.

Gar Collins started work with the Fire Patrol in Lewisporte at about the same time. First Wes was based in Lewisporte and later was put in charge of the depot at Deadman’s Pond, Gander in 1963. Wes also worked on Labrador forest fires near Port Hope Simpson during the 1950’s, and also the major fires in Central Labrador in 1967. He was sent to Labrador on fires on other occasions as well.

Wes and Gar Collins were involved in a fire near Port Hope Simpson, Labrador about 1958. They couldn’t do much to stop the fire but fortunately the weather changed and helped put the fire out.

Wes was probably the only member of the Forest Service to fight a fire on the Horse Islands, which lie about 25 Kilometers north east of the Baie Verte Penninsula. He was based in Lewisporte at the time and a fire had been reported on the main Island, which was still inhabited. It was some distance inland behind the community. Although it was spring, there was still Arctic ice around, and snow was still on the ground in places. However, the ground that was not covered was dry and members of the community requested

Government help in putting the fire out , before it became a threat to their houses.

He was dispatched from Lewisporte by EPA Beaver GPA. He had the plane loaded with a DDVA pump, hose, and other equipment. He thinks the pilot was Ron Smith. After some difficulty, they managed to land near the community. Wes stayed there a week, boarding with the Justice of the Peace. There was no shortage of volunteers to help him, even the Pentecostal Preacher pitched in. It took some time but the fire was contained and put out. The local people told him that although they had requested help, they were surprised that someone actually showed up!

Although Wes boarded there for a week and had two motorboats hired to get equipment and men to the fire, no bill was ever submitted to the Department for these services. He did purchase some Acto (dyed) gas from a local man and in the rush he paid for it without getting a receipt. He had an awful time getting his money back from the Department without the receipt. When he left on the plane from the Islands, he had a big bag of canned ducks, turrs, etc., which he planned to take home. However he was diverted to another fire at Musgrave Harbour and all his food got eaten there.

Like many men on fire patrol Wes spent the full summer of 1961 fighting fires in various parts of the Island, such as Bonavista North and Old Perlican. He was occupied with this from June to October and he lost a lot of weight in the process. He remembers that he and Ellis Hancock did a back- burn when a fire was getting close to the Old Perlican Hospital. They took a can of gas and soaked a strip of brush between the building and the fire and lit it. It worked, burning the brush ahead of the fire and saving the hospital.

In October of 1961, Wes was based at Millertown, in the central part of the Island, working on wildlife law enforcement. There were problems there with compliance with the wildlife regulations. It wasn’t unusual at the time for field personnel to change roles as the need arose, from Forestry to Wildlife and vice versa.

After Christmas in 1962 Wes and Ellis were assigned to Whitbourne to help repair pumps and other equipment that required overhaul after the 1961 fires. Once they voluntarily repaired a pump being used by the community to flood a skating rink. They couldn’t accept payment for it but were rewarded anyway with a bottle of whiskey from the grateful townspeople.

Wes once covered for Sterling Hoddinott for a time while he was in St. John’s before being appointed Regional Forester  for Labrador.

In the fall of 1962  Wes was involved in a seed collecting program. That fall, work crews made up of men from the Fire Patrol, collected Black Spruce seed  cones from Crown Ridge and other areas in Central Newfoundland. The seed was extracted from the cones by drying them at Whitbourne. Seeding was started in 1964 using the S-55 Helicopter HJS piloted by Austin Garrett. A seed dispensing apparatus

was borrowed from the Ontario Forest Service and fitted under the helicopter to spread the seed over burned areas. Wes was at the fall cone collecting and seeding operation for three years

In the winter of 1963-64 Wes went on Wildlife enforcement work. He originally took the assignment for six months but stayed with it full time, until he retired as the Lewisporte District Wildlife Officer,  which included the area between Terra Nova Park and Bishop’s Falls. The work included doing both aerial

and ground patrols. At first he was on his own, but later worked with Reginald Bath and Calvin Saunders.

Posted by: John Munro | November 1, 2014

N & Lab. Forest Service History – Some Personal Experiences

Garfield (Gar) Collins Interview – notes July 7/2014 (re write)

   100_1967 Gar 2014

Gar was born at Seldom, Fogo Island on September, 23, 1930,  and went to school there. He started work with the Government Fire Patrol in April, 1958 at Lewisporte. Jack Carpenter was his boss. Roy Forward was also in the office and also Albert Fudge, Jack Freake, and Roy Mclean. Ed Cochrane was the Regional Director for the Central Newfoundland Region. Bert Brinson was in the Loon Bay Fire Tower.

Gar retired from the Forest Service in April, 1988.

After their first summer on the Fire Patrol, Gar and Wes Freake were retained on staff at Lewisport for general forestry field work for the rest of the year in the Notre Dame District. This would mainly involve checking ongoing woodlands harvesting operations on Crown Lands, as well as other field duties. For example, Gar would sometimes work as a cook on forest survey parties.

The Forest Service also had a patrol boat, The Umbretta based in Lewisport, which later was based at Baie D’espoir. It was used for accessing areas that could not be reached by road. Ralph Brown used to operate it and Sam Greening also had his ticket. As the road network expanded after Confederation in 1949, the need for such boats declined.

The Umbretta served her last days at Baie D’espoir in the 1960’s.

On one such occasion in the 1960’s, Gar had been working as a cook for a forest Survey party at Battle Pond in Central Newfoundland during the winter. The crew included Al Brennan, Joe Lowe and Hollis Oates. they were there for 10 days in February, 1962. Austin Garrett flew them in from Gander in a Beaver in two trips.

THey set up two tents. Al and Gar slept in the cook tent and Hollis and Joe LOwe slept in the other one. There was about 4 feet of snow under the tents. One afternoon it starte to snow and the crew had not returned gor supper. Gar was worried and walked some distance out from the camp, and set a lantern up high in a tree. He looked around and thought he saw a light in the distance, through the snow. He walked towards it and found the crew around a big fire, getting ready to spend the night there, because they were not sure of the direction back to camp. As it turned out they weren’t that far from camp and they all got home for the supper of fish and brewis that Gar had prepared.

After the survey party had finished their work at Battle Pond and were to move into an AND Company logging camp near Victoria Lake. Austin Garrett was moving them in an S 55 Helicopter and had dropped Gar at the new camp and returned to the Battle Pond camp.

Gar was in the logging camp and getting ready to cook supper for the others when they arrived. However the water pipes in the camp were not connected and he needed water, so he walked to a nearby pond where a brook ran in, with a bucket. He crossed over the snow by the brook and then fell through the ice into the water, sinking up to his chest. He tried to climb out but when he couldn’t. He was getting very cold and couldn’t get out.

Then he heard the helicopter coming and it was Austin on his way to Gander from the Battle Pond camp. Luckily his route took him over the AND camp and he saw Gar’s tracks leading to the pond and Gar in the water. Austin landed the helicopter and got a piece of rope, that he threw to Gar, but he was too weak to hold on to it, so Austin couldn’t get him out that way. Then Austin put a loop on one end of the rope and Gar put his arm into it. With Austin pulling, Gar was finally able to get out.

He was pretty exhausted and Austin wanted him to come to Gander in the helicopter, but Gar decided to stay at the camp and was feeling fine the next morning. He was afraid if he went back to Gander, they might replace him on the survey and he wanted to stay with the crew.


Forest fire fighting was their main responsibility for the summer months and although they were based at Lewisporte, Gar and Wes sometimes found themselves fighting fires in remote parts of the Island and Labrador. They had to be ready to go at a moments notice during periods like the fires on the island in 1961, or the ones at Esker in Western Labrador in 1964.

In 1960, Gar was sent to a fire in Labrador which had started at Grand Lake, and was moving towards a Pine Tree Radar Site near the Goose Bay Airport. After that fire was under control he and Wes Freake were released to go back to the island on a coastal boat. Before they quite got home they were ordered back to Port Hope Simpson by beaver aircraft from Gander to fight a fire that had flared up there.

One day during 1961, Gar was at the Forest Service depot at Deadman’s Pond, Gander which was the Forestry seaplane base. He got a call saying The Minister, The Hon. W. J. Keough, might be dropping in make sure everything was ‘ship shape’. Gar put down the phone and went into the front room and found a stranger there with muddy boots messing up the floor. Gar gave him a lecture on the need to keep the place clean because the Minister was expected. Mr. Keough replied that he was the Minister!

While he was at Deadman’s Pond,Gar saw the initial smoke from a fire at Traverse Brook, near Gambo. The crew loaded a beaver with equipment and flew to Hare Bay

There Andy Kelley, Jim Eastman and others met them. They set up an initial operations headquarters in Wells Store at Hare Bay, and then set up pumps and hose in case the fire came out to the town. There was quite a crew at Hare Bay that evening including Chief Forester Ed. Ralph, Jack Carpenter, Earl Parsons, Ellis Hancock and others. This was the beginning of the 1961 fire that burned a large part of the Bonavista North Peninsula.

During his time with the Forest Service Gar made a total of 17 trips to Labrador on various occasions.

Reflecting back on his career with the Forest Service, Gar said he generally liked everything about it. He enjoyed the forest fire years the best because of the excitement and hard work. He also enjoyed working with saw millers and loggers on forestry operations. He found he could reason with people if there were problems with cutters not following regulations, and many issues were resolved on the spot in the field. He feels now that things are different and perhaps more confrontational between the field staff and the publ                                                                  Some members of the Central Region Forestry Staff, Lewisporte  at  Jack  Carpenter’s retirement as Regional Supervisor, c1962:

                    Featured image

Front row: Jesse Stead, John Munro, Harold Starkes, Jack Carpenter

Back: Ray Rolfe, (Ellis Hancock?), Gar Collins, Jack Foley, Albert Fudge, Andy Kelley.

Present but not shown; Gid Green, Frank Decker

Posted by: John Munro | November 14, 2013

A Good Place to Start a Wood Business

An account of the Grieve Family’s attempts to Start a Forestry Business  at Kaipokok Bay in Northern Labrador in the 1930’s and 1940s.

Posted by: John Munro | November 20, 2010

The Munros of Glenwood Family History

I have finished (I think!) the Family History of the Munros of Glenwood, Newfoundland. I have printed about 40 copies and distributed some free to family members who have helped with the research, and also to various Libraries and Clan Munro Associations. Copies are available to others to purchase for $25.00 Canadian plus shipping. The book has 70 pages of text and quite a few pictures, and includes genealogy charts. It deals with the pioneer family of Alexander Munro of Prince Edward Island (who moved to Newfoundland about 1891) and Julia Pelley of Black Island, Notre Dame Bay in Newfoundland. It was prepared mainly for the information of family members, but if anyone else is interested in getting a hard copy, you can contact me at:

Also, you can download an electronic PDF version here:

Posted by: John Munro | November 20, 2010

Early Forest Development Attempts in Labrador


This will highlight an Early Forestry Development attempt in Labrador at Kaipokok Bay, by the Grieve  Family of Scotland in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Posted by: John Munro | November 5, 2010

Publications and Reports by John Munro

Munro, John A. Public Timber Allocation Policy in Newfoundland. PhD Thesis for the University of British Columbia, Faculty of Graduate Studies. 1978.

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Posted by: John Munro | November 5, 2010

Remarks by John Munro on Receiving the Tree of Life Award

Remarks by John Munro on Receiving the Tree of Life Award, at the CIF Newfoundland & Labrador Section Annual Meeting at the Humber Valley Resort, on October 19, 2006

I am very pleased to receive this Tree of Life Award. To me it implies one is in a forest stand, supported by other trees and a root system for nourishment and mutual support.

This makes me realize how much I have benefited over the years from being part of the Canadian Institute of Forestry, both the Provincial Section and the National Office.

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Posted by: John Munro | November 5, 2010

Katherin Munro’s Owl Study Proposal

Boreal Owl

In 1999, the Western Newfoundland Model Forest started the Biodiversity
Assessment Project
(BAP) to develop a set of tools to predict the influence of various forest management scenarios on biodiversity (Dolter, 2005). Three species were selected for habitat modelling to act as indicators of how different management plans might influence the broader community. The three species are the Woodland Caribou, Pine Marten, and Boreal Owl, and were selected because of their specific life history requirements or conservation status, The Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus) was chosen because it is an obligatory secondary cavity nester and likely to be sensitive to forest harvesting practices. A habitat suitability index (HSI) model was developed as part of BAP for the Boreal Owl in Forest Management District 15 (Côté, et al., 2004).

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