You may hear people say “people who need help from food banks shouldn’t have pets.” If you can’t afford to feed your animal/your kids/yourself you can’t afford a pet. Easy to say. You could, however, also say if you can’t afford to feed your kids, you shouldn’t have them.
You may have decided to have kids when things were going well in your life, you had a partner, you had a job, money. Then you lost the job, you lost your partner. You can’t afford to house or feed those kids properly anymore. What do you do with them then?
Depending on the age of your kids and how well behaved they are, you probably could find homes for them. You may not find one person to take them all, but if you split them up, you might find enough homes. If they’re too old, not cute enough or badly behaved, well, you could be in a pickle. Maybe in a year’s time you’ll have a new job and be back on your feet and can afford the kids again. But what do you do during that time?
This isn’t likely to happen, or be expected, for kids. There’s welfare and child benefits. There are food banks – aid that started within communities because governmental help often didn’t adequately meet the need to keep body and soul together.
What if they got a dog when they were doing well? Should they have to get rid of their pet? Where is that dog going to go if they do? Killing (“euthanasia”) is a legal option for getting rid of healthy happy pets, but not a desirable one. The pound? Shelters? At least maybe the animals live, but it’s a high emotional and financial cost for all involved.
Help from food banks for kids and pets
Then a year later when those people are back on track financially, what do they do then? Probably go out and get another dog. Why not help them keep that first dog during the bleak time? Anyone who ever had a pet – even a goldfish – as a child knows how important that animal was to their young life. So even if you don’t care about animals or about adults who can’t make ends meet, think, as they say, about the children. The trauma of losing a beloved pet in any way in childhood is never forgotten.
We don’t bat an eyelid at people needing help feeding their children. When we shop, we buy an extra can of tuna for the food bank bin. We enjoy making up parcels to donate to Christmas Care. We buy for toy drives and mitten trees. So why would we begrudge a family a can of cat food or a pack of dog treats?
As a whole, we believe it is in society’s best interests – politically, socially and financially – to keep families intact. Those families may well include pets – indeed maybe should.
Pets are more than extra mouths to feed. They provide comfort, therapy, exercise and a reason to greet the day. We, individually and as a society, owe them as much as they owe us.
Jobs and relationships can come and go, but the love of your dog or cat is steadfast. That is a lesson many of us learn as children. But some of us forget it. It’s worth remembering. So too, when thinking about someone needing help feeding their kids and pets, it’s worth remembering, “there but for the grace of God, go I.”
First posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog on Sept. 23, 2011.
In 1971 my parents and I drove through West Virginia on our way from Ontario to Kentucky. We’d never been there before and it was stunningly beautiful. So we took back roads and made lots of stops.
The stop I remember most was at a small house. A wooden sign, “antiques for sale”. A table covered with old glass bottles and china. Over by a tree, machine parts and old tools.
Everybody came out to see the pickup with Ontario plates come in the driveway. A man from somewhere out back. Woman and kids from the house. Lots of kids, teenage to toddlers.
Mom looked at the glass, Dad the car parts. But I saw a kid holding a pup. Then I saw kittens playing in the flowerbed. Chickens scratching around the side of the house. I went to the kids, and the animals.
We stayed a long time, long enough for the woman to ask if we’d like a cold drink. So lemonade and cookies, served on a small table under a tree. When we left, with some blue medicine bottles, they asked if I wanted a pup or the kitten I held. A gift. No, sorry, our dog doesn’t take kindly to sharing.
That small farm in the hills was one of the most magical places I’ve ever been. They farmed a bit and they hunted. The kids knew the woods as well as they knew the inside of their house.
I don’t remember anyone mentioning coal. But it had to be coal country. Commercial coal mining had been a part of West Virginia for a century and a half by then. But underground mining, not strip mining. Not mountaintop removal. Not on a large scale anyway. Mountain-top removal mining started in the 1950s but didn’t take off as the preferred method of mining until the early 1970s. Just a couple years after we stopped at that house to look at glass bottles.
The oil crisis of 1973 gave an impetus to fast, cheap coal mining. Bulldozing and blasting soil, trees and rock to reach the seams of coal under the land. Taking down the mountain to reach what’s underneath. And taking it down further and further, to reach each seam deeper in the mountain. Until there is no mountain left.
All that soil, vegetation and rock has to go somewhere. Into the valleys, filling them. Thereby filling rivers and lakes, farms and houses. Then the mined coal has to be cleaned. More waterways polluted by the runoff from the washing process.
This is the industry that President Trump wants. Despite the demand for coal having dropped over the past years, due to no real need for it and no desire for the air pollution that burning it causes. Yes, less coal mining in Appalachia caused unemployment. But retraining and economic aid programmes were helping. Then Trump swore he’d revive coal. Miners would go back to work, he promised. Are there really markets for what they’d produce? Not so sure, even in China where coal-burning plants are being phased out.
EPA and coal lobby
The US Environmental Protection Agency, under Trump, is now headed by a former coal lobbyist. Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator, took over from Scott Pruitt, himself a former energy industry lobbyist and a big friend of big coal. Neither Wheeler nor Pruitt have rethought their former employment positions. Both have publicly stated their support for coal and energy industries, even their pride in their former work. Both in charge of the federal agency responsible for, well, protecting the environment. Fox guarding the henhouse?
Mountaintop removal coal mining has destroyed the mountains of West Virginia and throughout Appalachia. Destroying the mountains also means destroying the entire waterway system of lakes, rivers and ponds. It destroys wildlife and fishstocks and their habitats. It also destroys human habitats.
The other big industry in West Virginia is drugs; meth labs and distribution of opiods. That filled the economic gap left by the loss of mining jobs. It destroys people’s health and lives. But it doesn’t destroy the environment as well. Mining destroys people’s health, their homelands and the whole environment. That damage hurts Appalachia and everywhere else too.
If you want a quick primer in the coal industry and mountaintop removal mining, and a good story, read John Grisham’s 2014 novel Gray Mountain. He also writes about those fighting back. The lawyers and legal clinics who fight big coal and fight for the miners suffering black lung disease and other debilitations caused by their profession.
Today, the Trump Administration announced a major scale back of constraints on emissions from coal-fired power plants. The EPA said the regulations set by the Obama administration were “burdensome”. President Trump will celebrate this at a political rally in Charleston, West Virginia, tonight.
Vignettes of the West, by Don Morris (Apr. 11, 1992)
I was pleasantly surprised by the response to the two-part series on the story of the career, achievements and brief life history of Mattie Mitchell, the Micmac Indian, which appeared in The Western Star March 7 and 14. I got two phone calls from Corner Brook on the day the first column appeared; one from my good friend, Dr. Noel Murphy, who kindly gave me what information he had on Mr. Mitchell and family; the other from a granddaughter of the famed guide and prospector who expanded on Dr. Murphy’s data.
This particular caller said her grandfather had lots of descendants all over Newfoundland and elsewhere and on the very day the first column appeared many of them in the Corner Brook area, the caller informed me, were telephoning each other reporting that the Star “had an article on Mattie.”
Two other phone calls came during the days that followed, including one from John Mitchell who is a grandson of Mattie and whose father, also named John, was the person who travelled from Corner Brook to Curling to fetch a Roman Catholic priest to be at Mattie’s side at the time of death. This was one of Mattie’s last requests.
And letters came in also, including one from the United States. But probably the most informative of the phone calls and letters was a written communique from Ms. Irene Doucette… However, before dealing with Ms. Doucette’s letter, it is appropriate to state briefly here something about the man of whom I wrote.
Noted prospector and guide
Matthew Mitchell was undoubtedly the most noted of Newfoundland’s Micmac people. He was born either at Hall’s Bay or Norris Point about 1851. He was the son of a Micmac Chief whose ancestors came to Newfoundland in the mid-1700s from Cape Breton. He became widely known in the early part of this century as the prospector who, in 1905, discovered the rich ore bodies at Buchans River in the interior which was the beginning of the thriving town of Buchans.
While that made Mattie famous, (although not rich), his celebrity grew in 1908 when he was chosen by the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company to act as guide in the most unusual wildlife venture in the island’s history. The company, builders of the Grand Falls pulp and paper mill, had ordered from the Grenfell Mission at St. Anthony 50 of the 300-reindeer herd which the mission had purchased in Scandinavia as a supplement to caribou as a big-game animal for the northern population.
Men from the AND Company went to St. Anthony, accompanied by Mattie, to escort the animals 400 miles southward to Millertown. It was intended to make this unique “reindeer drive” over the sea ice. However, vicious winds and heavy seas made this impossible and the only alternative was to herd the reindeer down The Great Northern Peninsula. This was accomplished in the very difficult month of March when the land was constantly swept by blizzards and the weather was most times below zero. However, the trek was completed without the loss of a single animal. Mitchell then went on about his usual business as a popular, eagerly-sought guide and prospector whose clients included some wealthy and influential American, Englishmen and Canadians.
Irene Doucette’s letter
Now to Ms. Doucette’s letter which, because of the apparent popularity of the Mitchell articles, I shall quote in full:
“Dear Mr. Morris: I just had to write to you and let you know how surprised I was when I read The Western Star today (March 7) about the amazing career of Mattie Mitchell. The reason for my surprise was that Mattie Mitchell was my grandfather and to me he was a Newfoundland legend and more should have been written about him. But thanks to you it is now coming to light.
“I didn’t know my grandfather. He died in 1922 before I was born. He was 72. But I have heard so many wonderful stories from my father, John Mitchell (evidently Ms. Doucette is the sister of the John Mitchell who telephoned me) and my mother, Agnes Mitchell, with whom he resided, that I just had to write and give you the additional information you requested.
Mattie Mitchell and Mary Ann Webb
“Mattie was married to a woman named Mary Webb. She was from Flat Bay, St. George’s Bay. She died when she was about 60. It was then that my grandfather went to live with my mother and father here in Corner Brook. My father told me that Mattie was a great fur trapper. He would cure all his own fur skins. He was a very big man, six foot four and he wore size 14 shoes. I guess back then they were called moccasins. I have in my possession a walking cane that he made and to me that is a priceless object. I also have a picture of Mattie, also priceless.
“My mother told me that Mattie was a very gentle man. She told me she never heard the man say a bad word; he was a very religious man and had a Micmac Bible which he carried with him at all times.
“My grandfather had six children: three boys and three girls. My father, John, was the youngest. The other boys were Matthew and Laurence. The girls were Margaret Rumbolt, Bridget Sheppard and Lucy Duhart, and, of course, there are numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. My mother and father raised eleven of us. My father worked at the paper mill in Corner Brook for 40 years and he was very proud of his father. When my grandfather discovered Buchans’ mine he worked for the AND Co. and from what I understand he was given $2.50 (for the find). I also read somewhere that he was given a sack of flour for the discovery. I hope that the story about Mattie Mitchell hits the St. John’s papers as I have two sons and a daughter living out there. Thanks again for that long overdue story about my grandfather.”
More letters and calls
The other letters I received are similar to the one from Ms. Doucette, and all the writers are descendants of Mattie Mitchell. The one from the States came from John Alexander Atkins, a great grandson of Mattie. Apparently, the MItchell columns were sent to him by his mother, Helena Atkins of 29 Crescent Way, Corner Brook… This young correspondent said he worked as a logger and during his life had travelled to many places. He said he always wondered why he was so adventurous. May I suggest, John Alexander, the trait runs in the family…
Included in the phone calls I received was one from the west coast from a man who said he was a grandson of Mattie Mitchell. Although he gave me his name I shall not use it because he had some rather curious things to say which were not in keeping with all the other information I received on Mattie Mitchell. This particular caller said that Mattie Mitchell was of Beothuk extraction; was not at all friendly with the Micmac Indians; in fact detested them; and that he was not of the Catholic faith. I repeat, what this reader had to say goes against everything all other calls and letter writers have to say.
In any event, I wish to thank most sincerely all those who contacted me about the celebrated Mattie Mitchell. I agree with one writer who said that a monument should be erected to him and a definitive book written about his amazing career.
Newfoundland’s most noted Micmac Indian, Mattie Mitchell, passed away at Corner Brook in the autumn of 1921 at about the age of 71. He became locally renowned during his lifetime as the prospector who, in 1905, discovered the rich ore bodies at Buchans River in the interior which was the beginning of the thriving mining town of Buchans.
That was Mattie’s greatest claim to fame. But three years later, in March of 1908, he was chosen by the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company to act as guide in probably the most singular wildlife venture in local history. The AND Company, builders of the Grand Falls pulp and paper mill, had ordered from Dr. Wilfred Grenfell, founder of the Grenfell Mission, head-quartered at St. Anthony, 50 of the 300-reindeer herd which the medical missionary had purchased in Scandinavia. The animals were intended as a supplement to caribou as a food source for the northern population.
Reindeer in harness
However, the AND Company wanted 50 of them for an experiment; to see if reindeer could be used in harness for hauling logs in the lumber woods. These were originally intended to be landed at the convenient harbor of Lewisporte. However, when the overseas steamer arrived with the animals and their Lapland herders, it was found that Lewisporte was ice-choked and the deer were then landed at Cremaillere Bay near St. Anthony.
The mill builders sent a team of men north, under supervision of a key employee, Hugh Cole, to escort the reindeer south to Millertown. Mattie Mitchell was contracted to act as the guide for the company men and the reindeer. Because the sea ice was unsuitable, it was decided that the “reindeer drive” would be down The Great Northern Peninsula. The project was a first (and only) of its kind in our annals.
Reindeer drive route
It had been a long and severe winter. From the outset the drive showed promise of being an arduous undertaking. On March 22, the unusual caravan, which included four Lap herdsmen and their trained dogs, had reached the headwaters of Cat Arm River inside White Bay, after 20 days of torturous travel. Because of storms and sub-zero weather which had slowed both men and deer, provisions were now practically gone.
Forced to turn eastward in an effort to survive, the hikers and their charges reached an empty logging camp at Sop’s Arm River March 28.
20 miles in 52 hours
At Cole’s direction, Mitchell and another man headed by dog-team to the village to find food. When the pair reached the settlement, they found it deserted. The inhabitants had moved across the bay to their more sheltered winter quarters. The men pushed ahead, reached the people, obtained some supplies and returned to Cole’s camp. It took them 52 hours to make the round trip of about 20 miles. The party and the deer then continued towards Deer Lake.
At the foothills of the Long Range Mountains caribou were encountered and the trekkers dined on welcomed venison. Thirty days after leaving St. Anthony, the Cole party and deer had reached the summit of the great peninsula’s mountain range. But sub-zero temperatures and storms made travel appalling. When they eventually descended and again reached foothills on the other side of the range, the most difficult part of their journey was over. The intense cold and severe gales persisted, but there was more shelter and now the waterways were opened, permitting the herd to swim across St. Paul’s Inlet.
Reindeer on railway cars
Bonne Bay was reached April 23, after 53 days on the trail. Cole left his party and made a sled trip to the railway depot at Deer Lake where he took a train for Millertown to arrange building of corrals for the reindeer. Mattie Mitchell stayed with the party in his capacity as guide. Cole returned to meet his crew and the reindeer at a point halfway between Bonne Bay and Deer Lake. Then the animals were loaded into railway boxcars and eventually reached Millertown. The long, unusual journey was completed by April 30. They had been on the trail 58 days and covered 400 miles of the most grueling nature.
After a while the AND Company lost interest in the experiment of using reindeer as beasts of burden. But the animals, together with the Laplanders clad in their attractive native garb, proved to be a showpiece at Millertown and attracted visitors from as far away as St. John’s. Even the colony’s governor was curious enough to organize a party to go and view the novelty. Eventually, the reindeer were donated to the Grenfell Mission and shipped back to St. Anthony. The Laplanders returned home and Mattie Mitchell went about his business as a fishing and hunting guide and prospector. It is said he did not lack for clients.
Mattie married to Mary Ann Webb
Mattie Mitchell was married to a lady named Mary Ann Webb. They had a large family. One of their sons, also named Matthew, became a well-known guide and prospector in his own right.
Mattie, Sr. was a local celebrity when he died at Corner Brook. One of his last requests was that a priest be at his side in his final moments. This was fulfilled when one of his sons, John, travelled to nearby Curling and returned with a clergyman.
A Roman Catholic priest was at the veteran woodsman’s side when he breathed his last.
As disclosed in last week’s column on Mattie Mitchell, he was born either at Hall’s Bay or Norris Point about 1851 and was the son of a Micmac Indian Chief whose ancestors came to Newfoundland in the mid-1700s from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Information on Mattie’s parents or on his early years and on his own wife and family are indeed scanty.
I would be keenly interested in hearing from any reader who can shed more light on the family and career of this remarkable man. Are any of his descendants still residing in Newfoundland? If so, a letter from them would be greatly appreciated.
A highly interesting footnote to this two-column series on Mattie is that, according to several reference sources, family tradition has it that this particular Mitchell Clan had a presence in Bay St. George during the early days of the French migratory fishery and that Mattie’s great grandfather was given a vessel by the king of France in order… “to facilitate the movements of the Micmac on the water in the interests of France.”
In Mr. Morris’ next column, a Mitchell family member responds. I will post it next week. (Last week I posted Part 1 – Buchans.) The reference to Mattie’s great grandfather is from Frank Speck’s Beothuk and Micmac 1922 (Internet archive). For more on the Mitchell forebearers, see ‘father,’ ‘grandfather,’ ‘Captain Jock’ in sidebar of The Mattie Mitchell Webpage. Reindeer in Newfoundland as well as the 1966 Newfoundland Quarterly article is in a pdf newsletter 2010 from the Dept. of Environment and Conservation.
With the Lapps… 1907-1908
Interestingly, while looking through Amazon books, I found With the Lapps… A woman among the Sami, 1907-1908 by Emilie Demant Hatt (tap image to see more).
So, at the same time as Mattie Mitchell was herding reindeer with Saami herders in Newfoundland, a Danish woman was with the Saami in Northern Sweden and Norway herding reindeer.
Mattie Mitchell was a Micmac Indian with strong western Newfoundland connections. It was he who, in 1905, discovered the valuable ore lodes which gave rise to the mining town of Buchans. And it was Mattie who, three years later, acted as guide for an unprecedented “reindeer drive” down the Great Northern Peninsula from St. Anthony to Millertown, a distance of 400 miles. The man became a legend in his own lifetime.
Yet, frustrating, little is known about the early years of Mitchell. The Dictionary of Newfoundland Biography states he was born about 1851 at Hall’s Bay. The Smallwood Encyclopedia gives two possible birth places – Hall’s Bay or Norris Point. I was surprised to learn during research that Mattie (his given name was Matthew) was of Indian aristocracy. He was the son of a Micmac Chief whose ancestors came to Newfoundland in the mid-1700s from Cape Breton. It is obvious that Mattie gained an intimate knowledge of the local interior in his youth. It was this cognition of the Newfoundland wilderness and its resources which brought him fame in later life.
Before his discovery of the Buchans River mineral deposits and his subsequent guiding a group of white men and their herd of reindeer down the Great Northern Peninsula, Mattie was already renowned as a superb woodsman, fishing and hunting guide and his clients included many wealthy and influential American, Canadian and English sportsmen.
In the early 1900s Mattie was commissioned by the Anglo Newfoundland Development Company, builders of the impressive Grand Falls pulp and paper mill enterprise, to prospect for mineral deposits on their land grants which the English concern had obtained from the Newfoundland government. The company had sulphur particularly in mind; it being an essential ingredient in the pulp-making process.
Accompanying the Indian on a January, 1905, prospecting trip to the Buchans River area was William F. Canning, an English assayer who had studied mining engineering at McGill University. With some prior knowledge of the mineral characteristics of the region, Mitchell succeeded in locating the ore deposits which would one day give rise to the thriving mining town of Buchans.
The company was very interested in the rich ore bodies and claimed right over them. They held the ore bodies under concession for over a decade.
Then, in 1915, the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) learned about the Buchans River mineral deposits of copper, lead and zinc and began experiments for the separation of sulphides. In 1925 ASARCO was successful in concentrating the minerals and smelting them. The following year the American company made an agreement with Grand Falls mill builders by which ASARCO would manage and process the property. Two years later, in 1928, the mine milling operations began and the first shipment of lead and zinc was sent to Botwood. A 22-mile rail line was built to carry the concentrates to Millertown where the main railway took the ore to the Botwood seaport for overseas markets.
The town of Buchans had been born. The early employees lived in bunk houses and log cabins but by the end of 1928 the fledgling town had 60 houses, a post office, a hospital and churches. Schools and other facilities were to soon follow. By this time, Mattie Mitchell had been deceased for about seven years.
After the discovery of the Buchans River valuable mineral lodes, the enterprising Mitchell became involved in another historic adventure and this was also associated with the Anglo Newfoundland Development Company. But more directly concerned was the Grenfell Mission at St. Anthony established in 1892 by the famous medical missionary, Dr. Wilfred Grenfell.
Grenfell had bought in Scandinavia a herd of 300 reindeer to augment the food supply of the northern Newfoundland people. Fifty of the animals were earmarked for the AND Company which wished to try an experiment – the use of reindeer in harness for hauling logs in the interior. It was intended that the company’s portion of the herd be landed at the convenient harbour at Lewisporte. However, when the steamer arrived that port was ice-blockaded and the reindeer, accompanied by their colorfully-dressed Lapland herders, were landed at Cremaillere Bay, near St. Anthony.
A party of men from the company, under the direction of Hugh Henry Cole, a prominent employee with the mill builders, left for St. Anthony for the unique “reindeer drive” southward. And it was only natural for the company to choose Mattie Mitchell to guide the men and animals down the Great Northern Peninsula to Millertown.
At the Grenfell Mission Mattie and the AND Company men were joined by four Laplanders for the southward drive. This event, unmatched in the colourful, long history of Newfoundland, began on March 8 (1908).
Overland on Northern Peninsula
It was originally intended to drive the herd over the sea ice, but this surface was broken by violent storms. The alternative was the high, windswept plateau of the Great Northern Peninsula, a formidable route in summer weather, let alone in a harsh, punishing winter. But that was the only route if the company’s goal was to be achieved.
The men, particularly Mattie, were aware that it had been a late, lingering winter with the land being constantly swept by blinding blizzards. The herd consisted of 40 female reindeer all heavy with fawn, and 10 male deer. The Laplanders had four trained reindeer herd dogs which they had brought over with them, as well as six local huskie sled dogs.
It was, indeed, a very strange caravan which headed down the long peninsula towards the destination of Millertown, 400 miles distant.
NEXT WEEK: Conclusion: the arduous trek, final success and the passing of Mattie Mitchell at Corner Brook.
Published in the March 7, 1992 Western Star, Corner Brook. This column is the first of three that Don Morris wrote about Mattie Mitchell. I will post the others over the next two weeks. For more on the Buchans mine, see Buchans Miners Museum. To read more about the ore deposit and mining operations, see Great Mining Camps of Canada 3, The History and Geology of the Buchans Mine by J. Geoffrey Thurlow (2010). See Fred Powell’s Mattie Mitchell Webpage for more on the man himself.
Newfoundland Mi'kmaq, family history, Coronation Street, etc.