Leander Pil­grim re­tires after 32 years as mayor

Pil­grim re­flects on mayor’s chair, forestry and state of town

Northern Pen - - EDITORIAL -

the roads paved to the town over the years.

Back when he started, he can re­mem­ber gravel roads and he says they weren’t in very good shape.

To­day, the big­gest chal­lenge fac­ing the town is the same as that of ev­ery other town in ru­ral New­found­land and Labrador: keep­ing the youth and sus­tain­ing the pop­u­la­tion.

But Pil­grim says Main Brook re­mains a pros­per­ous town for its size. The town got snow­clear­ing equip­ment in the last five years, which he feels was a big achieve­ment with such a small tax base – the town’s pop­u­la­tion is 243.

When he de­cided to re­tire, Pil­grim was wor­ried about who would take over. Those wor­ries went away when he learned it would be Barb Genge.

He calls her one of the best peo­ple out there for the po­si­tion.

“I think she’s go­ing to make things big­ger and bet­ter,” he said.

To­day, the main em­ploy­ers in the town are the sawmill, fish plant, Tuck­amore Lodge, and meat shop.

And Pil­grim has had his hand in much of that.

Start­ing up in Main Brook Pil­grim’s own story ac­tu­ally starts in St. Carol’s where his fam­ily lived un­til he was 16.

They moved to Main Brook, where his fa­ther sought greater and greener forests: here, there was big­ger and more plen­ti­ful wood for his sawmill.

Back in those days, they were still us­ing buck­saws. And in the win­ter, when they did most of the log­ging as they fished in the sum­mer back then, they used dog-teams and ko­matiks to ship wood across the land.

When they got horses, they thought they had it made.

“That was a big im­prove­ment,” said Pil­grim. “I was only a boy then, right out of school.”

In the early days, Bowa­ter was har­vest­ing pulp­wood and ship­ping it out to Cor­ner Brook.

Be­fore Bowa­ter closed its Main Brook op­er­a­tion in 1968, Pil­grim says they em­ployed peo­ple from all over the Northern Penin­sula try­ing to make a dol­lar.

“They were em­ploy­ing peo­ple from ev­ery­where and when they closed down, they pulled the rug out from un­der our feet,” Pil­grim told the Northern Pen.

By that time, Leander was man­ag­ing the op­er­a­tion with his four broth­ers. His fa­ther had passed away at the age of 52, and he was tasked with keep­ing the op­er­a­tion go­ing as the old­est of the 12 si­b­lings.

The Pil­grim Broth­ers When Bowa­ter left, Pil­grim Broth­ers Ltd., as their busi­ness was now called, took on a big­ger role.

They lined up an­other com­pany to come into town, Labrador Liner­board, and the Pil­grim Broth­ers cut pulp for them.

“We was the only em­ployer in Main Brook then,” Pil­grim re­called. “Once Bowa­ter pulled out, there was noth­ing.”

He es­ti­mates there were 65 peo­ple on their pay­roll, most of them from the Main Brook area.

They per­formed selec­tive cut­ting, mean­ing they just har­vested smaller trees so that it wouldn’t af­fect the de­vel­op­ment of the rest of the for­est.

It was a win­ter and sum­mer op­er­a­tion with the sawmill and pulp­wood plant run­ning.

Their har­vest was shipped out from Main Brook to Stephenville.

When Labrador Liner­board went un­der, the Pil­grim Broth­ers were stuck with 10,000 cord of wood on a land­ing wait­ing to be shipped.

“That was one of our dis­ap­point­ments,” said Pil­grim.

They were un­able to sell it to Bowa­ter.

Peo­ple ended up com­ing from all over the place to take the 10,000 cords of wood to sim­ply use for fire­wood.

“The Strug­gle”

In an­other cou­ple years, with both Bowa­ter and Labrador Liner­board long gone, it looked like the bot­tom was gone out of the forestry in­dus­try.

So the Pil­grim broth­ers looked to­wards the fish­ery.

They built a 55-foot long­liner out of their own tim­ber.

Pil­grim says it was one of the big­gest long­lin­ers around at the time.

“She was a real heavy boat, the tim­ber that went into her was big tim­ber,” he said. “A real hearty boat.”

The broth­ers, per­haps fit­tingly, called the ves­sel “The Strug­gle.”

“Ev­ery­body knowed about The Strug­gle,” said Pil­grim.

For a cou­ple years in the sum­mer, they used the boat for fish­ing up off the shores of Makkovik, Labrador.

While his broth­ers con­tin­ued on in the fish­ery after sell­ing off The Strug­gle and get­ting a smaller boat, Leander de­cided to go back into forestry.

He formed his own com­pany with his town sons – Main Brook For­est Prod­ucts.

Main Brook For­est Prod­ucts “We used to do plain lum­ber for peo­ple and their houses and we shipped all over the place, Labrador and up the coast, Stephenville, and places like that,” said Pil­grim.

He added that the peo­ple of Main Brook were never de­pen­dent on some­one else for a job – they al­ways cre­ated their own em­ploy­ment through lo­cal busi­ness.

That was a role Main Brook For­est Prod­ucts ful­filled.

This op­er­a­tion ran un­til the mid-1990s. In 1994, his wife, Isabella, started a meat shop, Isabella’s Coun­try Meats, and the fam­ily has been busy with that ever since.

They’re still hir­ing peo­ple at the shop, where they process meat.

“If you can cre­ate a job for peo­ple, that’s a good thing, it’s very im­por­tant,” Pil­grim ad­vises. “But you got to have a nat­u­ral re­source avail­able to you.”


Leander Pil­grim of Main Brook stepped down as mayor after 32 years. He’s long worked in the forestry in­dus­try in the town as well.


Leander Pil­grim was mayor of Main Brook for 32 years in to­tal. Leander is pic­tured here with his grand­daugh­ter Sarah Pil­grim.

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