Millertown and Red Indian Lake
Millertown is a small community in Central Newfoundland sitting on the edge of beautiful Red Indian Lake. The community is filled with Beothuk Heritage from the 1800's and Millertown Sawmill History from the 1900's. It has a local Museum, the Lewis Miller Room, across from the Millertown Community Centre with lots of facts and information about the area.
Red Indian Lake originally got its name because it's first known inhabitants were the Beothuk Indians. Beothuks were also known as the "Red Indians" due to covering their skin in Red Ochre, a red clay found in certain areas around Newfoundland. They used the Ochre as a sign of Tribal Identity, and covered the skin of their babies with this Ochre as a sign of initiation.
The Beothuk lived all over the island of Newfoundland with the first encounter dating back as early as the mid 1500's. They normally lived near the coast during the summer months, the men fishing the oceans and the women digging for clams onshore, while during the winter months they would move to a more inland camp, away from the harsh coastline. They often hunted seals, fish and various shellfish, as well as birds around the coast. They would also hunt Caribou in the Fall, as they ate the meat, but also used the fur to make warm clothing, as well as tendons as string for sewing. They did most of their Caribou hunting near large bodies of water such as the Exploits River, using trees as drive lines to force them into the river, where they would hunt them as they struggled to get over the large banks.
The Europeans started having more encounters with the Beothuks, as they started to move away from St. Johns to the coastline to take part in the Fur Trade. As they started moving in on the Beothuk territory the encounters became more common and often ended in violence. Not only were the Beothuk losing their hunting ground from the Europeans, in 1720 there was a conflict between them and the Mi'kmaq Tribe over hunting grounds. The Mi'kmaq started to move in on the west and south coasts, reducing the popular Beothuk grounds once again.
Violence went on between the English and Beothuk for the next 100 years, and the Beothuk were forced to live in their inland base camp at Red Indian Lake with their dwindling population. There were a few encounters on the lake, one with Mary March, being captured, as well as her husband killed. Mary March, Beothuk name being Demasduit, eventually died of consumption and was returned to Red Indian Lake by her captors. Nancy April, or Shanawdihit, was the last known Beothuk and was found by the English, starving and weak. They took her in, where she acted as a slave for many years, eventually moving to St. John's where she died of consumption in 1829.
Interior Newfoundland was made accessible by the railway and the forest around Red Indian Lake attracted the attention of Lewis Miller, who started a logging operation in 1901. The lake was originally much smaller than it appears today, as it was damed at the Exploits River in 1925. Millertown used to be located where the mouth of Mary March River fed into Red Indian Lake, however they moved the houses from the shore of the lake to higher grounds, where they stand today due to the construction of the Dam.
The old sawmill and famous Iron Wheel are still seen in Millertown, and act as a constant reminder of how low the lake used to be during the logging days.
The lake is a man made lake and was flooded in 1927 for the purpose of providing power to the Pulp and Paper Mill in Grand Falls-Windsor. Red Indian Lake was then considered a vast storage reservoir to provide power to the mill, and eventually to the rest of the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor.
Present Day Red Indian Lake
Red Indian Lake is the second largest lake in Newfoundland, 64.4 km long and averaging 5.8 km wide. It contains 8 fairly large rivers that flow into it, as well as many small brooks. The Exploits River, the largest river on the island, is the only river that flows from the lake and has a variety of Water Dams to maintain the water levels. The Exploits River is famous for its Atlantic Salmon Fishing during June, July and August.
The water level in the lake varies from 148 meters above sea level in a drought season, to 157 meters at its high water mark.
Below is a diagram of Red Indian Lake, with areas of interest marked on the map. You may be able to check some of these areas out when you are fishing!