Battle Harbour – Newfoundland / Labrador

Slade’s, Baine Johnson & Co, Earle Freighting Services

From the early years of fishing activity on the south Labrador coast, Battle Harbour was the important and indeed crucial supply depot of the coastal region. Supplies of salt, food staples, marine hardware, fishing supplies and household items were staged by the mercantile interests at Battle Harbour to support the fish catching and curing activity and the hundreds of families engaged in the industry along the coast. Dr. Wilfred Grenfell established the first hospital in Labrador at Battle Harbour in 1893.

The early merchants in Battle Harbour were the Slade’s, succeeded in 1871 by Baine Johnston and Company. As the strategic interests of Baine Johnston changed from the production of fish for world markets, the Battle Harbour establishment was sold to Earle Freighting Service Limited of Carbonear who, from 1955 until the collapse of the ground fish industry in 1991, continued with the operation. In vacating the premises, Earle’s left them almost intact and other than from deterioration through time, the premises including wharves, shops, stores and equipment remained untouched until the Earle’s generously deeded their entire premises to the Battle Harbour Trust, who began a program of factual restoration circa 1929. They had much to work with and the restored village of Battle Harbour today is a replication of the working village of yesteryear.

Battle Harbour’s future will be linked to the tourist industry and modern, comfortable accommodation awaits history buffs and those seeking an out of the ordinary travel destination. Battle Harbour has since been fully restored and is a National Historic District, we are proud of the role our family played in the preservation of the salt fish premises and the business that Earle Freighting Service Ltd. carried out for  50 years. Bert Hardy passed away just a few years ago . He was manager of the Labrador operations for Earle. He was around to see Battle Harbour restored and took a active roll in helping in this accomplishment

 

How Captain Guy Earle purchased Battle Harbour by Keith Hardy

Captain Dowden was onboard that day on the Thomas S. Gorton when Guy Earle and company made port at Battle Hr. back in 1953 as they were working their way home to Carbonear . Along the way from Salmon Bight near Black Tickle while buying dried saltcod from the various harbours, islands and tickles on the way. Earle was known as nomadic showing up wherever he thought to gather some fish from other fishermen.  The Earle’s were like their father after all fishermen themselves from childhood.

The firm, Baine Johnston and Company, were very much established in Nfld. and certainly at Battle Hr. the jewel in the crown of their fish operations in Labrador. Managers hired were well versed in the mechanics of accounting, retail and in this case the fishery.  At that time Battle Hr. operation was the biggest on the coast and stood ground with some of the largest on the island of Nfld. .

The fishery was competiitive!  Here you had the company with salt, fuel, groceries and fishing supplies out on credit all season awaiting the local fishing crews to clue up and clear their accounts. On the other hand here was Earle going harbour to harbour buying from these same fishermen with cash .

Mr. Guy might have been a bit wound up when they tied on that evening after 6 pm. at the firm’s salmon wharf at Battle Hr. On the other hand it was Bert Hardy’s job as manager to uphold the companies interest . To have the competition to use the companies services and certainly without permission was against policy. Bert ( my father) went out and hailed to Guy that they could not tie on and had to leave the wharf ! ( according to Charl Dowden)

Guy on the other hand wound up by those watching from shore and on the wharf made mention he might come ashore and toss my father over the wharf!

My Dad according to onlookers that included Charl replied that if he thought to try it was up to him! ( Normally a gentle quiet man.)

Guy moved the vessel out in the middle of the harbour where they anchored for the night.

My father never once brought up the story again however Battle Hr. residents along with Charl had mentioned over the years.

During the winter Earle found people not banks willing to invest in their taking over Battle Hr.  The owners wanted out of that type of business so to spend more time at other interest and investments.

Earle’s people tackled the operation for one year on their own.  Great navigators, good fishermen and so on but were not trained in the day to day business end of such a large operation. I heard stories of them giving out endless fishing gear on memory and not entered in the ledger. The end of that first year with IOU’s written on cigarette packs and brown wrapping paper.

During this time Bert Hardy was still a full time employee of Baine Johnston working with that company at St. John’s .

Guy, in a proper way, inquired with that firm if he could approach Hardy to run Battle Harbour? Hardy had the accounting skills.

Hardy and Earle met for the second time where a friendship and keen interest in Battle Harbour and Labrador in general was formed.  Our Dad really enjoyed his many years at Battle Hr. while working with the Earles .

The first year or so father boarded here while mom and my two older brothers remained in the new Mont Pearl. He then moved them to rent on the crossroads in Carbonear . They searched for the new type bungalow coming out in the mid-1950’s however neither close to work to be found. Guy suggested the high roofed home that was recently closed and up for sale at 148 Water Street. Right in front of Arthur Earle’s or Fred’s house .

Well in conclusion father had 35 years at Battle Hr.  Guy, Fred and a few years later our dad also passed away.  I am sending you this little note on the story you mentioned …. you guessed it …. from 148 Water St., Carbonear.

The firm, Baine Johnston and Company, were very much established in Nfld. and certainly at Battle Hr. the jewel in the crown of their fish operations in Labrador. Managers hired were well versed in the mechanics of accounting, retail and in this case the fishery.  At that time Battle Hr. operation was the biggest on the coast and stood ground with some of the largest on the island of Nfld. .

Earle’s people tackled the operation for one year on their own.  Great navigators, good fishermen and so on but were not trained in the day to day business end of such a large operation. I heard stories of them giving out endless fishing gear on memory and not entered in the ledger. The end of that first year with IOU’s written on cigarette packs and brown wrapping paper.

During this time Bert Hardy was still a full time employee of Baine Johnston working with the company at St. John’s . The following winter while working in St. John’s my Dad was informed that the Battle Harbour branch had been sold to the Earle’s from Carbonear. In short order my Dad received a phone call from Guy and Fred to request a meeting. Guy, in a proper way, inquired with that firm if he could approach Hardy to run Battle Harbour? Hardy had the accounting skills.

Hardy and Earle met for the second time where a friendship and keen interest in Battle Harbour and Labrador in general was formed.  Our Dad really enjoyed his many years at Battle Hr. while working with the Earles . Thus the beginning of a life long career with the Earle Freighting Service Ltd., some 37 years as Manager of Battle Harbour and life long friend with Guy and Fred and families. As children we grew up in Carbonear and every summer sailed to Battle Harbour were we enjoyed the lifestyle, the culture and the friendship of this Labrador community.

Charl Dowden can still remember and detail the chain of events that led to this neighbourhood we all still call home. He can detail far better than I would put to paper!

regards,

Keith Hardy