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Terra Nova National Park of Canada

Terra Nova: A community with 'ties' to the forest

A jack ladder. Used to lift logs from Terra Nova Lake up to train cars, 1930s.
A jack ladder. Used to lift logs from Terra Nova Lake up to train cars, 1930s.
© Mary and Al Freeman

Not far from the boundaries of Terra Nova National Park is the charming hamlet of Terra Nova. Today, this scenic town of 48 permanent residents sits quietly near the eastern end of Terra Nova Lake; however in its heyday, Terra Nova was a bustling area with a thriving logging industry. Located where the railway line once crossed the Terra Nova River, this area offered good access to the timber and the river provided an excellent means for transporting logs. Before logging, Terra Nova had gained an international reputation as one of the best-known caribou hunting grounds on the island; the railway gave guides and hunters access to herds of native caribou and later they came to hunt the introduced moose that were flourishing in the area.

The earliest logging operations and settlement in Terra Nova started around the turn of the century, but they were short lived; however, by 1915 a small hotel railway workers was established. The first permanent settlers were: George Rowsell, a woods foreman with the A.N.D. Company (Anglo-Newfoundland Development), William Holloway, a railway section foreman, and woodsman Herbert Head. By 1935, the community was thriving as the A.N.D. Company's eastern headquarters for a network of woods camp supplying the pulp and paper mill in Grand-Falls.

Looking toward the trestle with the train station in the middle, 1953.
Looking toward the trestle with the train station in the middle, 1953.
© Joe Louie Crossing the trestle, 1953.
Crossing the trestle, 1953.
© Joe Louie

By 1924 the first school was built and in 1939 this school was replaced with a school/chapel combination. When logging operations at Terra Nova amalgamated in 1950, the population grew to two hundred and a larger school was built to accommodate the increasing enrolment; soon after, the former school of 1939 was made into a church, ‘Holy Trinity'. This very unique church was fitted with an altar at one end for the Anglican congregation and one at the other end for the United congregation. Amazingly, the pews had backrests that could pivot to face the altar of your choice. Services for the visiting clergy were arranged to avoid conflicting schedules. The railway remained the only link to Terra Nova until a road was constructed to the Trans Canada Highway in 1958. By this time most of the logging operations were in decline, and by 1962 all logging had ended.

Today, the lake, surrounding ponds, and the old logging roads are used recreationally, providing summer and winter access to the heart of this wilderness area as they did so many years ago for the A.N.D. Company. In the community, permanent and seasonal residents take great pride in the maintenance of the town hall, but the older homes from the logging era seem to stand beautiful, historical monuments to Terra Nova's rich ‘ties' to the forest.

For more information on the community of Terra Nova, please visit the Road to the Beaches website.