NL GenWeb

Oral History

Notre Dame Bay ~ Exploits District


The information was written by the Laurenceton / Burnt Arm Come Home Year Committee. The Book Committee consisted of John Tetford, Sr., Janet Humphries, Roland Butler Jr., and Jamie Boyd. While we have endeavored to be as correct as humanly possible, there may be typographical errors.


A project of the Laurenceton/Burnt Arm
Come Home Year Committee

Book Committee
John Tetford, Sr.
Janet Humphries
Roland Butler Jr.
Jamie Boyd

Before the arrival of European explorers and settlers, native people occupied the area of Laurenceton and Burnt Arm. The earliest evidence of native culture is found near Winterhouse Cove where large stone tools typical of Maritime Archaic Indians were uncovered in 1993. Archeologists speculate the tools may be part of a grave site at least 3,000 years old. On Sandy Point, numerous arrowheads and lances of Beothuck origin have been found. Sandy Point was probably an important camp site during the annual Beothuck migration from the Bay of Exploits in summer to the interior during winter.

In 1768, explorers John and George Cartwright visited the region and produced maps of the area which first recorded the place names of Kite Cove and Burnt Arm. John Cousens, Lieutenant David Buchan and John Peyton were among some of the first explorers to visit the area in the early 1800s.

Although there are no official records, it is believed that Kite Cove and Burnt Arm were settled in mid-nineteenth century. As of 1874, Kite Cove had 65 inhabitants which increased to 120 in 1884. In 1886, J.P. Howley, a government geologist and surveyor, reported abundant timber and good farmland in the area. During his visit, he recorded 13 acres under cultivation. Howley proposed a road be constructed from Norris Arm to Burnt Arm and Kite Cove due to the relatively large population and expanding forestry industry in the area. Kite Cove was renamed Laurenceton in 1911.

In the decades that followed the Second World War and Confederation, Laurenceton was one of few communities that grew in population. During the period of resettlement in the 1960s, several families moved to Laurenceton. By 1976, the population had reached 311. Since then, the population has declined to approximately 170.

Burnt Arm was first included in the Census of Newfoundland in 1891 with a recorded population of 107. In 1921, a census records 237 people living in Burnt Arm compared to 232 in Laurenceton. Laurenceton and Burnt Arm each established its own school and church in the early 1900s. Families who lived along the west side of Burnt Arm during the early 1900s included William Butler, Eli Butler, Frank Elliot, James Ellsworth, John Diamond, James Hayward, Charles LeDrew and his sons Stanley, William, Solomon, and Thomas; Andrew Curtis, Arthur Purchase, Isaac Lidstone, George Sceviour, Gordon Hayward, Joseph Curtis, Jacob Hussey Sr, George Dawe, Phillip Dalton and Thomas Sceviour.

Families on the east sisde of Burnt Arm included Thomas Peyton and his sons John, Thomas, Levi and Jonathan; Fredrick Boone, Isaac Dean, Aaron Diamond, Albert Peckford, Richard Peckford, Solomon Dean, James Stockley and sons Alfred, John and Enoch; Abraham Collins, John Elliott, Benjamin Elliot, Samuel Elliot, William Pope, Stephen Pope, William Woolridge and Robert Keats. Robert was the last person to move from the east side of Burnt Arm.

The population of Burnt Arm rapidly decreased after 1921 to only 117 people in 1935, and 65 residents in 1945. During the Second World Ward, Botwood became an important military base. Many people from Burnt Arm secured employment in Botwood and travelled to work daily in boat. In winter, workers would walk or skate to Botwood. Many people who worked at Botwood decided to move there after the war. When Newfoundland entered Confederation other families resettled to Laurenceton. By 1960s, no permanent residents remained in Burnt Arm.

Other settlements in the area included Indian Point, Cain’s Point and Winterhouse Cove. At Indian Point the Gill family included John, Peter, Alfred, James Edward and Lucy. Thomas and Henry Coates and their families also lived at Indian Point. Families who lived at Cain’s Point included William Chynne and Andrew Curtis. The Purchase family lived for a short time at Winterhouse Cove. In the early 1900s the only roads in the area connected Laurenceton, Burnt Arm and Winterhouse Cove. Travel to other communities was by boat in summer or by horse and sled in winter.

Some of the families who settled in or near Laurenceton are briefly profiled below.

BAKER - Levi Baker came from Norway and settled on Baker’s Point. He made a living from farming and salmon fishing to support his wife Alice (Gill) and six children Jabez, William, Jack, Ephraim, Peter, Fred and daughter Agnes.

BALL - Thomas Ball married Mary Gill on Exploits Island where they had their first child, Eli. They subsequently settled in Laurenceton next to Mary’s father, Charles Gill. The couple had a second son, Robert, who later married Charlotte Brown, daughter of George Brown. Robert worked with his father as a lumberman for many years including 14 years at Drover’s mill in Brown’s Arm.

BROWN - George Brown moved to Laurenceton in the late 1800s from Joe Batt’s Arm and lived next to the Chynne family. George married Miriam Manuel from Exploits and they had six children, Elizabeth, Solomon, Amos, Pharmenus, Selena and Charlotte. George participated in the annual Labrador fishery.

CHYNNE - William Chynne settled in Cain’s Point after leaving Wales, England in the 1840s. Initially, he worked in the lumber industry but his career included farming, fishing, building steam engines and iron working. William’s son, John Chynne, moved to Laurenceton in 1923 where he bought land from Pharmenus Brown. John married Ellen Miller from Exploits and engaged in farming.

GILL - Charles Gill lived next to Levi Baker near present Baker’s Point. He was married twice, having four children in his first marriage; Mary, Sophia, Samuel and Joyce. In his second marriage he had two more children; Diana and James.

HUMPHRIES - Thomas and Helen Humphries moved to Laurenceton from Indian Point in 1929. Helen was the daughter of George and Kate Gill. Thomas and Helen raised a family of ten children.

HUTCHINGS - George and Emma Hutchings moved to Laurenceton from Change Islands. They had eight children, Frank, Lucy, Dorman, Lewis, Alice, Hedley, Cyril and John. George had a house where his grandson Douglas Hutchings now lives. George operated his own sawmill near his home. In 1926, the Hutchings family lost their home and all their possessions in a fire, saving only a sewing machine. The family moved into Frank’s house until a new house could be built. Within a few months, the family sawmill produced enough lumber to build another home.

JEFFERIES - George Jefferies lived at Exploits. He was married to Clara Dalton, daughter of John Dalton. They moved to Laurenceton in 1902 and raised ten children.

LeDREW - George LeDrew and his family of eight children came to Laurenceton in 1919 from Change Islands. He bought a house from John Dalton. George was a fisherman and sailed in Labrador for most of his life on several different schooners, the last being the "Harold Johnson".

MANUEL - George Manuel was a boat builder at Kite Cove and was married to Martha Stryde. They had four children; William, Sandy, Ambrose and Hersler. George’s relative, Josiah Manuel, operated a store across from Bramwell Jefferies’ home. Josiah’s son, Solomon, managed the business after his father retired.

PERRY - George Perry lived on Exploits Island for many years before moving to Laurenceton. George was a fisherman in summer and also a lumberman during the winter. He married twice, with children Abel, Peter and George from his first marriage and children James, John, Thomas, Hosea, Titus, Prennie, Christie and Mary Jane from his second marriage with Sarah Walker. John Perry returned to Laurenceton from Exploits in the early 1900s with his wife Minnie and son Selby. Their other children were Gladys, Evangeline, Ira, Alex and Lloyd.

PURCHASE - Andrew Purchase left England and became one of the earliest settlers at Laurenceton. He was married before he moved to Laurenceton and had five children, Jacob, Alfred, William, Arthur and Frank. Jacob Purchase was one of the first babies born in Laurenceton. Andrew’s house was located near Mervin Keeping’s home. The houses owned by his sons were situated along the road to the present home of Glen Purchase.

TETFORD - John Tetford was one of the first settlers of Laurenceton. He was born in Ontario on December 14, 1860 and at the age of 22, settled in Sparble Cove (near Porterville) with his wife, Elizabeth Tetford. John became a fisherman, lumberman, and a boat builder. After Elizabeth died during childbirth, John and his nine children settled in Laurenceton where Maurice Tetford now lives. John is credited with building one of the first watermills in Notre Dame Bay. He also built a schooner called "The Lizzie" which he and his sons sailed to Labrador for 33 years. John married three more times while in Laurenceton and had six more children. After a very prosperous life, he died on December 13, 1955, one day before his 95th birthday.
After Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949, additional families settled in Laurenceton. Some families moved from islands in the Bay of Exploits, Burnt Arm or from other parts of Newfoundland. The Bessey, Boyd, Budgell, Dawe, Potter, Pardy and Hayward families all moved to Laurenceton after Confederation.


In the early years of the twentieth century, the forestry industry was the largest source of income for residents of the area. There were many sawmills which produced lumber from prime stands of timber located nearby. Lumber was transported to Botwood and subsequently shipped to other regions. The first watermill in Notre Dame Bay was built by John Tetford Sr. on Big Brook Falls. Later, another watermill was built by Walter Lidstone. Unlike John Tetford’s mill, which was powered by the weight of the falling water, Walter Lidstone’s mill was powered by the current of the brook and was only one third as powerful.


The Hutchings family had a large sawmill east of Big Bog near Hutchings Steady. The mill was powered by a small motor and was operated for 12 winters by George Hutchings and his sons. Four camps housed workers and two barns sheltered the horses near the mill. In winter, the lumber was pulled to Burnt Arm by a team of horses and placed on the shore until spring. The lumber was then transported to Botwood by boat which could hold ten to twelve thousand pieces of lumber. The selling price was $16 per every 1000 pieces of lumber. Unfortunately, the mill and surrounding timber was destroyed by a forest fire in 1952.

There were numerous other sawmills that operated in the area. Joseph and Walter Tetford had sawmills at Burnt Arm Pond and at Second Pond. The LeDrews had a sawmill in several locations including near what is now the beginning of Bursey’s Road. Bursey’s Road was named after Joe Bursey who constructed the road to Burnt Arm Pond to cut pulpwood during the 1960s. Workers at LeDrew’s sawmill often told people that the rabbits were so plentiful that they could make just as much money selling rabbits as they could sawing lumber. The Sheppard family had sawmills in several locations near Burnt Arm Pond which employed some men from Laurenceton. Families of the workers would sometimes live in small camps near the sawmill during winter.

There were also a number of sawmills operated in Laurenceton. George LeDrew had a sawmill at Jefferies Point, Wesley Philpot had a sawmill on the shore behind Cyril Boyd’s. Roland Langdon employed men in his sawmill which was located across the road from his store. Ralph Tetford, Douglas Hutchings, Earl Tetford, Clarence Purchase and Maurice Tetford have all operated sawmills in recent years. In Burnt Arm, a sawmill was located on the shore near Big Brook. Luke Dean and the Woolridge family also had sawmillls in Burnt Arm.


There has been a lighthouse located at Sandy Point for nearly a century. The first lighthouse had living quarters attached to it and was operated by Mr. Abraham Lilly who came from Exploits Island. His first wife died leaving him with two sons, Llewellyn and Paul. The oldest, Llewellyn had a passenger boat called "The Honeymoon" that would ferry people from Botwood to Twillingate and also brought people to Sandy Point for picnics. He would often spend the winter with his father at Sandy Point. The youngest son Paul, brought supplies to lighthouses for several years after Mr. Lilly moved away from the lighthouse.

While Mr. Lilly lived at Sandy Point he enjoyed the company of many visitors from Laurenceton, especially young people. He would sometimes conduct tours of the lighthouse for visitors. An item of great interest at the lighthouse was Mr. Lilly’s radio, one of the first owned in the area. After living alone for many years he married again to a woman named Rose Jenkins who served as a midwife. During Christmas, youth would dress as mummers and visit the Lilly family at the lighthouse to get some cake and goats milk.

Mr. Lilly was the last lighthouse keeper at Sandy Point. In 1935, the kerosene light was replaced with a revolving electric light. Since then two lighthouses have been built. The site of the former lighthouse is presently marked by an electric beacon.

The fishery in the Laurenceton area traditionally focused on caplin, herring, cod and salmon. Catches were sold to merchants operating in Botwood and later, in Lewisporte.. Some families had schooners that went to Labrador each summer to fish for cod. This included LeDrews, Browns, Tetfords and other families.


Some of the schooners of Laurenceton are noted with their captains below:

"Prince Albert" Sam Rose(1910)
"Lettie Brown" Amos Brown (1911)
"Lettie Cybil" Amos Brown
"Star of Hope" Andred Moyles (1915)
"The Lizzie" John Tetford Sr (1903)
"Harold Johnson" George LeDrew (1930s)
"Curtis and Bruce" Walter Tetford
"Lizzie Dibbon" Walter Tetford (1930s)



In 1889, a Methodist mission was established in Laurenceton to serve the Bay of Exploits region. The 1901 Census of Newfoundland records that a Methodist church was established between Laurenceton and Burnt Arm. This church served both communities until another church was built on the south side of Burnt Arm in the early 1900s.

Some of the early Ministers of the Methodist Church and United Church since 1910 are listed below:

Rev. W.J. Morris (1910)
Rev. W.H. Webber (1912)
F.H. Gillingham (1913)
Rev. Watson Boyes (1917)
Rev. H. Coppin & W. Boyes (1918)
Jampes P. Kay and John Tetford (1924)
Stanley Tilley (1925)
H.V. Parfitt and R. Ball (1926)
R. Ball and H. Gillingham (1927)
Clarence Halfyard (1928, 1929)
H.S. Belbin (1930)
Rev. Herbert Yarr (1931)
Rev. James Connoly (1932)

In 1926, Laurenceton was pioneered in the Pentecostal Faith. During the 1920s and early 1930s, the Pentecostal Church began to grow with 36 of the Pentecostal faith being recorded by the 1935 census. The first Pentecostal services were first held in the Orange Lodge and at several homes before the first Pentecostal Church was built in 1931. The Pentecostal faith continued to grow in subsequent years. In a 1945 census, 73 people in Laurenceton and 7 people in Burnt Arm declared their faith to be Pentecostal.

A list of Pentecostal pastors of Laurenceton:

Miss Oxford (1931, 1932) Wilson Etsell (1957-1966)
Miss Eva H. Burton, Elsie Simms Fred Roberts (1966-1972)
Pearl Brown (1938) Elliot Baker (1972-1978)
Mr. & Mrs. Ball (1938-1940) Ross Perry (1978-1981)
Olive Sparks (1940-1942) Eric Goudie (1981-1982)
Nettie Belbin (1942-1944) Robert Thomas (1982-1984)
Roy Langdon (1944-1946) David Vaters (1984-1990)
Herbert Rideout (1946-1953) Donald Snow (1990-1995)
Joseph Whalen (1953-1957) Nathaniel Osmond (1995-Present)


Over the years, Laurenceton has had three different schools. The First was built in the 1890s and was only a one room school and could accommodate fifty students. All students in the school were taught by the same teacher. The Methodist school was built across from the home of Alex and Martha Pardy and was in operation for almost thirty years.

In 1919, a second school was established by the United Church near the first building. Initially the school consisted of a single room staffed by one teacher but as the school population increased to over fifty, a second room and a second teacher was added.

The next school was Pentecostal and was built in 1954. Initially, no suitable location could be found to build the school until Selby Ball offered a piece of land for the sum of two dollars. In 1986, the school was closed and the elementary students were transported on a school bus to schools in Lewisporte. Over the many years that the first two schools were open, many different people came and taught in the schools. Teachers were paid a salary of fifty dollars every month.

Some of the teachers included: Ambrose Rose, Olive Young, Mr. Snelgrove, Florence Carnell, Barbara Burry, Ida Burry, Rowena Baggs, Mae Baggs, Irez Reid, Frank Boone, Harold Saunders, Mr. Blundon, Ms. Melendy, Mr. King, Harry Butt, Miss Brooks, Ray Bruton, Ms. Scott, Mr. Reynolds, Lester LeDrew,, Nina Manuel, Mildred LeDrew, Hilda Mercer, Nora Adams, Clarence Taylor, Daphne Hodge, Ms. Warren, Stan Feltham, Ms. Loder, Ms. Christian, Mr. E. Jones, Jane Hunbry, Carrie Parsons, George Janes, Gordon Stewart, Cyril Stokes, Everett Whiteway and Mr. Humber.

Marina French and Shirley Newman taught children in Janet LeDrew’s store until the Pentecostal School was built. The Pentecostal School was open for a little more than thirty years and during that time, teachers included Doyle Burt, Geraldine Perry, Katie Hover, Robert Peddle, Joyce Perry, Ms. Hunt, Maxine Tetford, Helen Mercer, Joan (Hague) Hayward, Ms. Reid, Irene Bessey, Blanche Baker, Velmer Bessey, Gayle Purchase, Shirley Hutchings, Olive Tetford, Claudette Boyd, Pansy Purchase and Glen Purchase.


One of the busiest places in Laurenceton was the Orange Lodge. The lodge was built in 1905 and was a favourite gathering place for many residents of the community. Events were held in the lodge throughout the year. The largest event occurred on East Monday when the Orangemen’s parade passed through the community. After the parade, the Orangemen and community residents would gather at the lodge. The lodge was also a place for meetings, ceremonies, meals and "times". Soup suppers were conducted as a fund-raising activity.

The Lodge was also busy during Christmas. A tree was decorated and a traditional concert was held with children reciting their verses. During Christmas, some families decorated a tree and every child would hang up their socks hoping to get a treat.

The present Community Centre, in some ways, has replaced the lodge. After the Pentecostal school was closed, the building was soon renovated as a community building where the Laurenceton Volunteer Fire Department is also housed. The building is a place for gathering during Christmas, the Winter Carnival in the winter, and for the Laurenceton Day during the summer. Banquets and suppers are also held there throughout the year.


The first store was opened in Laurenceton in the early 1900s. It was owned by John Manuel from Exploits and was located near Bramwell Jefferies’ place. The store was later operated by John’s son, Josiah Manuel. Later, William Lidstone and son Isaac had a store. It was located across the road from the government wharf. Another store was opened by the Whiteway family near the present Pentecostal Church. After that store closed Stanley LeDrew bought the store from the Lidstone’s and operated it for many years. He sold dry goods supplied weekly by the coastal boat, S.S. Clyde.

Roland Langdon started his store in the mid 1920s next to Randy Hayward’s property. He operated a large sawmill across the road. Arthur Baker also had a store for nearly 15 years. It was located across the road from his home.

Another store in Laurenceton was operated by Janet Ball and Selby Ball, which opened in 1938. Their first store was located near the beach adjacent to the McLay home. After several years, they had a new store built by Neil Jefferies across the road from the first store and operated it for nearly fifty years before selling it.

In the fall of 1956, Maurice Tetford moved the former school building from Burnt Arm and used it as a store. The school building was constructed with lumber salvaged during the removal of the United Church from the south side of Burnt Arm. Maurice opened his store in 1957 and operated for many years.

In subsequent years, stores were operated by the Bessey family, the Ings family, Dexter Jeans, Dave and Norma Bessey and Ada Keeping. Presently, the only store in Laurenceton is Corner Convenience and Crafts operated by Christine Pardy and Debbie Keeping.


The mail came to Laurenceton from Point of Bay, Northern Arm and Norris Arm. It was first brought by William Curlew and later by Ephraim Jones. Mail was brought by boat during summer and by horse or dog team during winter. Post offices were usually small and after school during the winter children would crowd inside the post office to get the mail and to get away from the cold. For many years, Allan Tetford travelled the mail route to Norris Arm.

People who operated post offices in Laurenceton include:

George Brown & Mr. Jewer (1903)
Thomas Green (1907-1917)
Bertha Tetford (1918-1931)
Hazel Tetford
Beulah Baker
Florence Tetford
Martha Pardy
Jocelyn Freake



A list of men who served in World War 1 from Laurenceton and Burnt Arm included:

Archibald Lidstone
Edgar Tarrent
Robert Pope
Stephen Peyton
Bertram Brown
Ephraim Jones
D. Jones
Allan Tetford
William Jefferies
Ernest Lidstone
Phineas Boone
Neil Brown
Walter Lidstone
Edagr Brett
Zenas Boone

Allan Tetford was wounded in action and returned from Europe with a bullet embedded in his chest. The bullet was so close to his heart that doctors advised against surgery. He kept a X-ray showing the location of the bullet.

Men from Laurenceton and Burnt Arm who served in World War 11 included:

Fred Purchase
Horley Diamond
Grant Tetford
Nelson Purchase

World War 11 (1939-1945) was a time of activity in the region due to the establishment of a seaplane base and military port at Botwood. Two artillery sites were constructed at Phillip’s Head and Wiseman’s Head to protect Botwood from naval attacks. Wiseman’s Head, located three kilometers northeast of Laurenceton, included two gun stations, barracks, canteen, artillery bunker, observation tower, houses, a wharf and a telegraph line to Brown’s Arm. Cement was mixed by hand with sand from Botwood and carried to the hilltop. The base even had a water system constructed to a pond on top of a cliff. In addition, some roads were paved. At one point, over 500 soldiers served at Wiseman’s Head.

During training exercises, the guns at Wiseman’s Head could be heard throughout Laurenceton. The guns fired shells each weighing 600 pounds and measuring ten inches in diameter. Following the war, much of the base was dismantled and the guns were removed.

Several men from Laurenceton worked on the site including Stanley Humphries, John Tetford and Edgar Baker. Peter Baker cooked meals for the soldiers. Soldiers often visited Laurenceton on training exercises and to socialize with the young people of the community.


As the name "Burnt Arm" suggests, the area has been the site of numerous forest fires. A fire which occurred in 1931 was accidentally started at Indian Point by young people roasting caplin. The fire burned a small area between Indian Point and Pope’s bog.

Another fire started near Herman’s Pone in 1952 by several men who had built a fire to boil a kettle at lunchtime. The fire became uncontrollable and spread northeast toward Lewisporte. The fire burned for nearly one month and was fought by men from Laurenceton who were paid 50 cents an hours.

The most recent fire in the area occurred in 1986. It was first noted on the afternoon of Friday, May 17 and burned for the three following days. Many residents of Laurenceton and Brown’s Arm prepared for possible evacuation. The fire destroyed a large tract of forest from the south side of Burnt Arm northeast to Porterville.

© John Tetford, Sr., Janet Humphries, Roland Butler Jr., Jamie Boyd and NL GenWeb
Exploits District