CHAPTER III.--HISTORY OF NEWFOUNDLAND SINCE THE GRANT OF RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT.

The Period from 1895 to Present Day. (continued)

  109. In 1905 was constituted the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company, originated by Lord Northcliffe in pursuance of his policy of making his newspapers independent of foreign supplies. A large tract of land was obtained by the Company in the interior of the Island, and a paper mill was built at Grand Falls on the Exploits River, 41 miles from the mouth. A town was laid out, a railway constructed to the port of Botwood, and employment provided for hundreds of men both in the mill and in the woods. Newfoundland thus gained a new importance, as a centre of newsprint enterprise. The establishment of the mill at Grand Falls was followed in 1907 by the initiation of a wood-pulp enterprise at Bishop's Falls by Albert E. Reed and Co., Ltd., of London, which then operated eight paper mills in the South of England.* Some sixteen years later, a second great newsprint undertaking was inaugurated, a mill, now operated by the International Power and Pulp Company of Newfoundland, Limited, being established at Corner Brook on the west coast in 1923. In this case also a new town was laid out and fresh avenues of employment were provided for the people. We make detailed reference to these undertakings in Chapter VII.†

  110. With the establishment of the mill at Grand Falls, the development of the iron-ore mine at Bell Island, the competition of the railway, and the opening up of the west coast to settlement, it was felt that the Island had gone far towards freeing itself from complete dependence on the fishery. The years 1906-08 were largely occupied by disputes regarding United States fishery claims: these were finally submitted to arbitration and on 7th September, 1910, the award was given, largely in favour of Newfoundland. Thus by 1911, fishery disputes both with France and the United States had passed into history and the Island was left free to concentrate on schemes of internal development.

  111. At the general election of 1904 a curious situation arose. Sir Robert Bond was still working with Mr. (who now became Sir Edward) Morris, with whom he had formed a Liberal Coalition in 1900. In 1902 the Government had suffered a severe defeat in a by-election and the tide was thought to be turning against the Ministry when a number of factions developed in the ranks of the Opposition. At the general election of 1904 these factions joined forces against the Government but were forced to take the field under five leaders. This evidence of internal disunion was too strong for them. Only one of the leaders was returned and the Bond Ministry enjoyed a notable triumph. Three years later, however, Sir Edward Morris, then Minister of Justice, resigned owing to a disagreement with the Prime Minister and became Leader of the Opposition. His supporters increased and at the election of 1908, the result was a tie, the new House of Assembly consisting of 18 supporters of the Government and 18 members of the Opposition. In this predicament Sir Robert Bond requested the Governor, Sir William MacGregor, to dissolve the Legislature without giving it an opportunity to meet. The Governor refused to do so; Sir Robert Bond resigned with the members of his Cabinet; and Sir Edward Morris was called upon to form a Government. At the meeting of the House of Assembly, proceedings were frustrated by the Bond party and it was not even possible to elect a Speaker. The Governor then attempted to form a Coalition Government but, failing to do so, granted a dissolution. At the ensuing general election in May, 1909, Sir Edward Morris and his followers were returned with a large majority.

  112. The new Ministry, under Sir Edward Morris, embarked at once on a progressive policy designed to appeal to the electorate. Taxation affecting the fishermen was reduced; educational grants were increased; old age pensions were instituted. Most important of all, an ambitious programme was initiated for the linking-up of the outports in Trinity and Bonavista Bays by branch railways. The Reid Newfoundland Company was given the contract for the construction and operation of the lines. This contract differed from the previous contracts in that the Company was to be paid, for the construction of each mile of line, $15,000 in cash instead of $15,600 payable in bonds, while the land grants for operation were at the rate of 4,000 instead of 5,000 acres a mile. (Eventually, in 1918, a sum of $316,960 was paid to the Company in lieu of the lands thus granted.) In the next few years railways were built from Whitbourne to Heart's Content; from Shoal Harbour to Bonavista, via Trinity and Port Union; and from St. John's to Trepassey. The line to Harbour Grace was extended to Bay de Verde. Work was also begun on branch lines to Fortune Bay on the south and Bonne Bay on the west coast; this was later abandoned. The total cost of constructing these branch railways is estimated at some $7,000,000, now forming part of the public debt; the cost of maintenance, exclusive of depreciation, at $160,000 per annum. These railways have never paid even working expenses and the losses incurred in their operation have proved a severe drain on the resources of the Island. Their construction, as will be seen later, has had serious effects on the life and habits of the people; men were lured away from the fishery in the hope of regular and less arduous employment, while the coastal carrying trade, formerly done by schooners, was paralysed. To-day, when the branch railways are seen to be costly luxuries and are being, in part at least, closed down, schooners have been reduced to a mere fraction of their former numbers.

Shoal Harbour (Trinity Bay), n.d.
Photo by Holloway. From the album of photographs furnished to the Newfoundland Royal Commission, August 1933. Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (Coll-207), Memorial University of Newfoundland Library, St. John's, Newfoundland.
Larger Version (42 kb)
Shoal Harbour

  113. It was thus in a new atmosphere of activity that the pre-war period was brought to a close. On the outbreak of the War, Newfoundland, like the rest of the Empire, lost no time in making her contribution to the common cause. In September, 1914, a special session of the Legislature was held. Measures were passed providing for the raising, as a separate Newfoundland Regiment, of a volunteer force of 1,000 men, and for increasing the number of the Naval Reserve from 600 to 1,000 men. The existing cadet corps formed the nucleus of a regiment, and on the 12th October the first consignment of 500 men, known as the "Blue Puttees," arrived in England.‡ A powerful wireless telegraph station was erected by the Admiralty at Mount Pearl, 7 miles from St. John's, and the great value of the Naval Reserve was abundantly demonstrated. By the end of 1915, a military contingent of 2,200 men had been raised, and the Naval Reserve had been increased to 1,200.

  114. The achievements of the Newfoundland Regiment and of those Newfoundlanders who saw service with the Fleet have left a mark of which the Island may well be proud. It is recorded that:--

  "The seamen of Newfoundland had long been known in the Navy as efficient and resourceful, but the end of the War left them with a greatly enhanced reputation. They readily undertook almost impossible boarding operations in wild seas which others would not face. Nothing but praise was accorded by the Fleet. Further, the men of the Newfoundland Regiment, when once the serjeant-major realised the way to handle them, rapidly showed their adaptability, and ultimately developed a battle discipline equal to that of the old British troops. Newfoundland had preserved in its old west country stock those idiosyncrasies which gave the territorial regiments their dogged resistance. At Gallipoli they did well, but the test came to them at the action of Beaumont-Hamel on 1st July, 1916, when the regiment was set to take the village in face of a murderous fire; they went into action 753 strong, only 68 answered the roll call next day. A few weeks later they were again put to a supreme test against heavy odds at Gueudecourt. There out of strength of 383 they had 294 casualties, but carried out their task without flinching, and earned themselves a lasting name in British military records. On the field of Beaumont-Hamel now stands their memorial in France. It was a proper compliment to them that on the occupation of the German bridge heads they were given a special place, and marched into Cologne on 7th December, 1918, under the command of their own Major Bernard. The total number of men enlisted or enrolled in the Newfoundland Regiment and Forestry Corps during the years 1914-1918 was 6,859. Of these 5,482 went overseas; 1,300 were killed, and 2,314 wounded--a proportion which greatly exceeded that of any other contingent. The regiment thoroughly deserved their appellation of Royal granted in January, 1918."§


  * This enterprise was acquired by the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company in 1923.
  † Paragraphs 387-423.
  ‡ Cambridge History of the British Empire, vol. vi, p. 682.
  § Cambridge History of the British Empire, vol. vi, p. 682-3.


Image description updated May, 2004.



Partnered Projects Government and Politics - Table of Contents Site Map Search Heritage Web Site Home