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Deep Bight resident rebuilding historic water wheel


When Dwayne Dawe was a boy growing up in Deep Bight, he remembers cars being parked along the full stretch of road leading to the old mill.

People from far and wide came to see the old water wheel, which had been built by his great-great grandfather.

Click here for relevent video>>>

The water wheel was so picturesque that it still one of the easily identified water wheels in North America. But time takes it’s toll, and the water wheel fell apart in the 1980s.

Now Dawe wants to rebuild the wheel – a project he says will take three years and a lot of hard work and planning.

The Deep Bight water wheel was the last standing saw mill in Newfoundland. William

O’Avery built it in 1905.

Dawe says it lasted as long as it did because it was built out of rot resistant black spruce lumber. The original mill stopped running on the water wheel in 1945, but the structure of the building was used until the early 80s, when it fell and rotted away.

The mill contained a pit wheel, which ran through the floor. It was an overshot water wheel. It built up water from the dam and it had a chute on legs, which channelled the water through filling the buckets.

“At the turn of the century there were 150 of these water wheels in Newfoundland. This mill is a very small mill. A lot of these old mills existed on the East Coast because of the railway and mining it caused the logging boom. All these water wheels sprung up everywhere,” Dawe told The Packet.

There were 10 mills in Deep Bight and Adeytown alone, he says.

Robert Miller, president of the Society for the Preservation of Old Mills, is excited about Dawe’s restoration project.

So much so that he and several group members flew in from Ontario to see the site of the Deep Bight mill.

There are five chapters of the Society for the Preservation of Old Mills. Four in the United States and Miller is the founder of the Canadian chapter.

Dawe found the society through their Facebook page, and the two have stayed in contact ever since.

“I’d seen pictures of Dwayne’s mill over the years. I thought, ‘oh wow, look at the height of that wheel.’ I had no idea that I’d meet the guy that was related to the person who built it. That was the interest, because the height of the wheel which is higher than the outer wall of the mill,” Miller told The Packet.

When the mill is reconstructed, it will be very close to the way it was built 115 years ago.

Aside from preserving history, the mill also has great tourism potential.

Miller says the mill was featured in a famous book of mills released in the 1970s. It was so photogenic that it brought people from across North America to see it and get pictures.

“We get a lot of mills that are restored that are very popular for weddings. Not to have the wedding in the mill but for the pictures,” says Miller.

Dawe says he is looking at three years of work in order to finish the project. Especially the pit wheel, which is quite complex.

He had an article written in The Packet more than 10 years ago where he sought the public’s help in how to build a pit wheel.

“I had the blueprints, but it’s like someone giving you the blueprints to build an airplane. You’ve got the blueprints but how do you build it? I had those blueprints for 10 years and couldn’t figure it out,” he says.

With those who built the mills many years being long dead, Dawe feared this part of Newfoundland heritage was lost forever.

“At the turn of the century there were only 8 to 10 master builders in Newfoundland that could build these pit wheels,” says Dawe.

After the article, he got a break through the article. He was contacted by an 89-year-old man from Charleston, named Charley Fry, who knew a great deal about mills. Dawe asked if he had seen water wheels and pit wheels put together.

“He said, ‘not only have I seen them put together, I helped put them together,’” says Dawe.

“He was key to one of the oldest parts of our heritage here in Newfoundland. He was the key I had been looking for, for 10 years,” he added.

Dawe went to see the man and set up a camera to capture their six-hour conversation on how to build pit wheels.

Once again, Dawe would like to put out the word he is looking for help or information on mills and water wheels.

He’s hoping that he can use that information to rebuild the mill, and in a few years there will be cars lined up on old mill road in Deep Bight.

People from far and wide came to see the old water wheel, which had been built by his great-great grandfather.

Click here for relevent video>>>

The water wheel was so picturesque that it still one of the easily identified water wheels in North America. But time takes it’s toll, and the water wheel fell apart in the 1980s.

Now Dawe wants to rebuild the wheel – a project he says will take three years and a lot of hard work and planning.

The Deep Bight water wheel was the last standing saw mill in Newfoundland. William

O’Avery built it in 1905.

Dawe says it lasted as long as it did because it was built out of rot resistant black spruce lumber. The original mill stopped running on the water wheel in 1945, but the structure of the building was used until the early 80s, when it fell and rotted away.

The mill contained a pit wheel, which ran through the floor. It was an overshot water wheel. It built up water from the dam and it had a chute on legs, which channelled the water through filling the buckets.

“At the turn of the century there were 150 of these water wheels in Newfoundland. This mill is a very small mill. A lot of these old mills existed on the East Coast because of the railway and mining it caused the logging boom. All these water wheels sprung up everywhere,” Dawe told The Packet.

There were 10 mills in Deep Bight and Adeytown alone, he says.

Robert Miller, president of the Society for the Preservation of Old Mills, is excited about Dawe’s restoration project.

So much so that he and several group members flew in from Ontario to see the site of the Deep Bight mill.

There are five chapters of the Society for the Preservation of Old Mills. Four in the United States and Miller is the founder of the Canadian chapter.

Dawe found the society through their Facebook page, and the two have stayed in contact ever since.

“I’d seen pictures of Dwayne’s mill over the years. I thought, ‘oh wow, look at the height of that wheel.’ I had no idea that I’d meet the guy that was related to the person who built it. That was the interest, because the height of the wheel which is higher than the outer wall of the mill,” Miller told The Packet.

When the mill is reconstructed, it will be very close to the way it was built 115 years ago.

Aside from preserving history, the mill also has great tourism potential.

Miller says the mill was featured in a famous book of mills released in the 1970s. It was so photogenic that it brought people from across North America to see it and get pictures.

“We get a lot of mills that are restored that are very popular for weddings. Not to have the wedding in the mill but for the pictures,” says Miller.

Dawe says he is looking at three years of work in order to finish the project. Especially the pit wheel, which is quite complex.

He had an article written in The Packet more than 10 years ago where he sought the public’s help in how to build a pit wheel.

“I had the blueprints, but it’s like someone giving you the blueprints to build an airplane. You’ve got the blueprints but how do you build it? I had those blueprints for 10 years and couldn’t figure it out,” he says.

With those who built the mills many years being long dead, Dawe feared this part of Newfoundland heritage was lost forever.

“At the turn of the century there were only 8 to 10 master builders in Newfoundland that could build these pit wheels,” says Dawe.

After the article, he got a break through the article. He was contacted by an 89-year-old man from Charleston, named Charley Fry, who knew a great deal about mills. Dawe asked if he had seen water wheels and pit wheels put together.

“He said, ‘not only have I seen them put together, I helped put them together,’” says Dawe.

“He was key to one of the oldest parts of our heritage here in Newfoundland. He was the key I had been looking for, for 10 years,” he added.

Dawe went to see the man and set up a camera to capture their six-hour conversation on how to build pit wheels.

Once again, Dawe would like to put out the word he is looking for help or information on mills and water wheels.

He’s hoping that he can use that information to rebuild the mill, and in a few years there will be cars lined up on old mill road in Deep Bight.

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