Labrador sees future in the past

Adam Randell
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The abandoned communities of the shores of Lake Melville are the primary focus of the Labrador Heritage society. The society is looking into the history of well over a dozen communities to document the history of the area.

Areas such as Mulligan, Pearl River and Gillard's Bite today are nothing more than a few cabins, but in the 1900s they were prosperous and contributing communities of Labrador.

In this photo from the 1940s, Arch Goudie and Murdock McLean saw wood. - Submitted photo

Happpy Valley-Goose Bay -

The abandoned communities of the shores of Lake Melville are the primary focus of the Labrador Heritage society. The society is looking into the history of well over a dozen communities to document the history of the area.

Areas such as Mulligan, Pearl River and Gillard's Bite today are nothing more than a few cabins, but in the 1900s they were prosperous and contributing communities of Labrador.

Ernest McLean, president of the Labrador Heritage Society, said the society will be looking into all facets of the area's past: family ancestry, why the communities were settled and for how long, the livelihood those people pursued and why they moved away.

McLean said it's important to have this information documented because the communities no longer exist, and people need to know their history.

"If you don't keep on it all the time, (history is) difficult to know," he said. "The young people don't talk about it because they were born and raised (in Happy Valley-Goose Bay) and it's not until they get older these places take significance."

Another focus of the research will be to gather information on the lives that existed within the communities. McLean said it was a different lifestyle in those days because, "subsistence turned into your industry."

He said summers were spent fishing. During the fall, berries were picked and ducks were hunted, and winter was time for caribou hunting and trouting. People did their trading in between.

McLean said there is some history of the communities gathered in bits and pieces, but he would like to see it all gathered and documented.

The society hopes to collect information from Them Days magazine, diaries and related books, and interviews with former residents. The group will also be digging into old photographs from the communities and comparing them with current photos.

"There's documentation all over the place," McLean said. "Our aim is to try and put a couple of researchers in place to get them on the project to document this.

"If we can capture all of that it will be an extremely interesting scenario of our history and how it evolved."

This project will be one of the last pieces to a plan that began in 1990, he added.

A group got together some 20 years ago to consider the town's future. Tourism was discussed at that meeting, and since then a museum has been established, as well as an interpretation centre, local monuments, a developed riverfront and different celebrations.

"People thought we were kind of nuts for a small community to look at this sort of stuff, because it was pretty big plans," McLean said.

Even though the society would like to compile a written history, it could still serve as a great tourism attraction, he added.

Once the document is completed each community could get its own section and brochures made, along with locations and co-ordinates pinpointed on maps and GPS, he said.

"That's the concept of what we want to do, because different family names lived in different areas," McLean said. "People can come here who heard their family lived in one of these communities, view this document and have some sense of where ancestors came from."

The Labradorian

Organizations: Labrador Heritage society

Geographic location: Labrador, Goose Bay, Happpy Valley Lake Melville Pearl River Happy Valley

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