Reproduced with permission from Beacon Columnist, Frank Tibbo


Union East

It only exists now in people’s memories but Union East was an adjacent community east of Gander Airport, which was resettled, not by Joe Smallwood but by the Government of Canada.  The deal?  Sign over your house and receive a building lot in the Town of Gander valued at $350.

Many of the people from Union East were resettled on Blackwood Drive”, Carol Walsh.

Workers at the airport were accommodated in bunkhouses and barracks but there was a shortage of married quarters.  Dozens of men took it upon themselves to build houses in an area known as Union East.  It seems that the first settler was Joseph Baker who had a sawmill some years before the airport was built.  The railway had a siding to facilitate produce from the mill and it seemed to be a logical place for airport works to construct homes for their families.

From  “GANDER... Report on The Municipal Plan 1957 – Population in this area is concentrated in three areas: 

  1. The Airport containing in 1955 some 3,300 people.  It is intended to reduce this to about 100 people by 1965.  People removed will be housed in the townsite.  It is the intention to prevent “fringe communities” to grow up beyond the area which has been or can be, serviced for residential purposes.

  2. Union East:  This is a small community on the eastern side of the Airport which has grown in haphazard fashion since 1945.  There are some 112 residents in this area of whom 83 are children under 19 years of age.  All wage earners are employed on the Airport or in the Town.  One small store exists in the Union East which will undoubtedly move to the Town when the settlement is reduced.

  3.  Range Road:  This is a further rural community similar to Union East and just north of it.  There are some 17 residents of whom 10 are children under 19 years.  The intentions regarding this settlement are generally similar to Union East.

Children from these outlying areas attend schools in the Town, transport being provided by bus subsidized by the Provincial government.

Clyde Burt, a retired teacher, and former resident:

Union East was earlier known as Union Siding and reamed by a Mr. Baker; probably the original homesteader of Union East.  It was located near the north side of Deadman’s Pond, about a quarter mile east of Milepost 211 on the Newfoundland Railway, and about two miles east of Gander Airport.  There was  a sawmill located on the shores of Deadman’s Pond in the early to mid 1930s.  The mill manufactured barrel staves for a butter manufacturing company from St. John’s.  The company packed its butter in small barrels or tubs.  The term “Union Siding” may have referred to a railway siding that serviced this sawmill.

I was seven when I came to live in Union East in 1943 and at that time, there were approximately eight families with a population of around 30.  The family names that I remember are Baker of which there were three families, Power and Chaulk.  The men in these families were civilians working for the military force at the airport.  The military could accommodate the workers but not their families so some men with families built houses and walked to the airport to work.

There was another man who lived there and he worked for the Newfoundland Railway.  His job was to patrol the railway on a hand-powered vehicle as far as Benton.  The coal-burning steam locomotives dropped hot coals which ignited fires on the railway ties and one of his duties was to extinguish these fires before the fire spread to the woods.

There was no electric power so we used kerosene lamps and burned wood in our kitchen stove.  Several community wells supplied our water and everyone had outdoor plumbing, euphemistically referred to as outhouses.

The community’s proximity to a military base became obvious on occasions, particularly so when rumours of spies and saboteurs brought fully armed soldiers with bayonets fixed patrolling the little community.”  - Clyde Burt.

As kids growing up on the Army Side, we would walk to Union East via the railway track to go swimming during the summer.  It was quite a walk for us or at least it seemed to be for young kids.  We had to walk through the village down a road to the shore of Deadman’s.  The place was ideal for swimming with warm, shallow water and a sandy bottom.  There wasn’t much of a beach because the sawdust banks led right to the water’s edge but no one seemed to care.  During a warm summer afternoon, the area would become very crowded with adults and kids.” – Jack Pinsent.

Two small shops, one operated by Joseph and Hattie Baker and the other by Russell Wilkins, supplied goods to the residents.

I have not been able to trace the origin of the name although years ago someone said the name came from the “Union East Telegraph Company.”  There is no evidence of this that I am aware of, so the origin of the name remains a mystery. 

The first residents seem to have been Joseph and Hattie Baker with children, Albert, Eliza, Myrtle and Silas.

Some of the family names of former residents of Union East are Baker, Brennon, Byrne, Chaulk, Flemming, Frost, Fry, Kelly, Lewis, Noseworthy, Parsons, Power, Price, Rose, Sheppard, Smith, Stead, Stuckless and Wilkins.

With thanks to Clyde Burt, Pat Byrne, Agnes Geange, Gus Lewis, Jack Pinsent, Maurice Power, Francis Rose and Carol Walsh.

Frank Tibbo


Researched by Carol Walsh


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