Town of Millertown

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About

In the 1880’s England depended mostly on Sweden for its lumber and timber needs. Lewis Miller, a timber baron and merchant from Crieff, Scotland, established sawmills in Sweden through special arrangement with the King and Government. Later with the exhaustion of timber on his limits at the end of the 1890’s, the operation was no longer viable. Having heard of Newfoundland’s vast timber resources from his friend R.G. Reid, Miller decided to send his trusted woods manager Alexander ‘Mack’ McCrombie to determine the potential for development in this country.

McCrombie arrived in Newfoundland in the late fall of 1899. His objectives was to cruise the Red Indian Lake area in search of pine timber to supply the purposed sawmill operation. Mack snow-shoed to the lake from the private Reid rail car located in Joe Glodes pond (later known as Millertown Junction). Eventually, Mack returned to St. John’s and forwarded his positive report to Miller in Scotland.

Lewis Miller arrived in St. John’s in August 1900 after closing his operations in Sweden. He brought several Scots and over one hundred Swedish lumbermen, mill workers, families, and their household effects. Miller also brought equipment for two mills and winch boats (alligator side wheelers). A mill and winch-boat were destined for Glenwood.

To accommodate the workers and families at Millertown, a suitable town site had to be planned. The ultimate site was unforgettably beautiful with the stand of pine laid out on a spit of land extending from the south-east shore of the lake. It was almost the opposite shore where the Mary March River flowed into the lake. The point of the spit of land is commonly referred to as a Beothuk encampment site in proximity to where Mary March was captured and eventually returned for burial following her death in Ship Cove (Botwood).

The new town was planned and laid out with three streets, all running at right angles to the main road and parallel to the lake shore. Eighty Swedish style two-room cottages were built along the streets, each with a frontage of 100 feet. This feature was mainly for fire protection.

In addition to the eighty cottages there were several larger two-story houses of the staff-house type for large families, supervisors, and bosses. On completion of the houses Miller decided to construct a Church/School. The Church built on the hill overlooking the lake still stands today as a continuing place of worship.

Lewis Miller divested his holdings to Harry Crowe of Newfoundland Timber Estates in 1903. In 1905 Crowe sold to the newspaper barons, the Harmsworth brothers of London, England, who planned a paper mill in GrandFalls. The new Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company (A.N.D. Company) brought prosperity to the region.

The original town site was moved to higher land prior to the construction of the Exploits dam near Millertown resulting in the lake’s higher water level in 1926-1927. Some of the early houses, the rail bed, and remnants of the sawmill steam plant (iron wheel) exist today.

In 2000, when the town founded by Miller celebrated its centennial, a descendant of Miller named Audrey Johnson MacDonald (grand niece) visited from Ontario and participated in the celebrations. Later, John and Peter McCurdy (great grandsons from Nova Scotia) visited Millertown and more recently Winifred Kelly (great granddaughter from Crieff, Scotland) came to connect with their heritage.