The Upper Humber Settlement is a defining name for us. It's representative of the place that shapes us, gives us purpose, and connects us to our roots. The name is a blend of a place and a historical program used to encourage farming after World War II. The term ‘Upper Humber’ means the upriver portion of the Humber Valley and the ‘land settlement’ was the name of the program that provided the funding for the veterans to get established.
Farming in Cormack Begins
In 1946, the first war veterans arrived at The Upper Humber Land Settlement. The Upper Humber Land Settlement was designed and intended to both rejuvenate the island's declining agricultural industry and provide an area for returning war veterans to settle. Under this program, farms in Cormack, NL were created by giving each family; 50 acres of land, of which 10 acres had to be cleared before settlement, plus a small bungalow and some money for the purchase of foundation livestock, farm implements, seeds and fertilizers, barn construction, and one winter’s maintenance allowance.
163 veterans were approved for the program but had to complete training to follow through with the relocation scheme. The first families endured harsh conditions, labour-intensive work, and tough winters. At the time, Newfoundland was still under British rule known as the Dominion of Newfoundland) and there were very few roads, often settlers had to walk 10-15 miles to Deer Lake for supplies or medical care. They had to work for a living in the woods, complete the work on their houses and harvest enough firewood for the winter months.
96 houses were built in Cormack between 1946 and 1948. The style was all the same and has become an icon of the community and the historical Veteran settlement. The original 28' x 30' houses were large enough for a family but they had many problems: Green lumber was used for construction, they had no insulation or basements and the brick chimneys often developed large cracks in them. These houses were extremely cold and draughty. A replica has been built in the Town Centre as part of a historical preservation project.
In 1948, this settlement was founded as a community and named Cormack. After a few years of isolation, cold, backbreaking labour and challenging farming conditions, 15 farms were vacated and 12 other settlers gave up farming altogether. Of the 92 original homestead farms, only 65 remained occupied. Local Storyteller and family member Ran Parsons tell us that in 1951 only 6 families overwintered in the community given the harsh winters.
For more information on the history of the farming, program click here.
Why is it called Cormack?
Cormack is a fitting name for this land, which was named after Newfoundland explorer, William Epps Cormack in 1948. He travelled across Newfoundland by foot in 1822 with a local Mi’kmaw guide, Sylvester Joe. Cormack documented his journey and his data on the flora, fauna and geology of the interior of Newfoundland in the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal in 1824. But another key topic of interest for the explorer and researcher was the Beothuk People.
The story, My Indian, was written by Mi’sel Joe and Sheila O’Neill and it shares the story of Cormack’s exploration through the lens of his Indian, Sylvester Joe.
He was hired by Cormack to guide him through and across Newfoundland to document the interior of the island for Cormack’s own curiosity and for future colonization, as well as, to establish a relationship with the Beothuk People. This story portrays the perspectives of the Mi'kmaw and their relationships with the Beothuk and European Settlers and is a brilliant storytelling of William Cormack’s Narrative that has been easily accepted as history. This story was written with the purpose to shed light on the indigenous lens of Cormack’s exploration and to reclaim the identity of Sylvester Joe. It is worth a read if you are at all interested in the indigenous peoples of Newfoundland.
William Cormack also shared his home with Shanawdithit, the last known member of the Beothuk and he founded the Beothuk Institute, which today still supports Beothuk historical research. In addition, Cormack also robbed a Beothuk grave of 2 skulls and sent them to Scotland where they remained until 2020, finally returning to the province of Newfoundland. Steps are being taken and Indigenous communities are actively working to ensure the skulls are laid to rest respectfully. Details are still to be released.
There is also a statue of William Cormack in Milton, NL which you can visit today. Future projects and funding initiatives promise even more research, museums and the sharing of this significant knowledge of the Indigenous Peoples of Newfoundland in the near future.
How has the Community of Cormack changed?
With confederation (joining Canada) in 1949, came major changes to the Cormack farming community primarily the removal of the tariff restrictions to the Canadian mainland however Cormack was primarily root crop producers and couldn’t compete with mainland prices. Loans were given, allowing some farmers to continue, but many left for better jobs in Deer Lake, Corner Brook or Stephenville.
Cormack got its first school in 1951, a new school in 1967, then closed the school in 1998 as enrollment declined. All students are now bussed to Deer Lake and the community has easy access to the town via highway 430, The Viking Trail.
Do People Still Farm in Cormack?
Cormack has had many periods of decline over the years. Ongoing challenges with weather, produce distribution and access to markets but today, with advancements in technology, transportation and having a more diverse agricultural base, Cormack is one of the larger agricultural areas in Newfoundland. With lamb farms, dairy farms, and a plethora of smaller vegetable production farms, and 2 Abattoirs. Cormack's struggle over the last 80 years to become a sustainable farming community is becoming realized. The area is now attracting people who want to homestead and retire in the quiet of the countryside and others who want to establish their small businesses.
As of 2021, the population hovers around 500 people, with about 10+ farming operations from small-sized like us here at the Upper Humber Settlement to larger operations like N and N farms a larger dairy farm located right here in Cormack.
List of Operating Farms in Cormack
A & J FARMS
Ashland Farm Inc.
Deep Roots Farm and Market Formerly know as “Unnamed” for and market
Cornerstone Farm Ltd
Fred Wells Farming
Fresh Island Produce
Rocky River Farms Ltd
Larch Grove Farm Limited
Our Families Cormack History
Cormack is our home. It's where our parents were born and the place our forefathers have settled and pioneered into one of the most unique farming communities of Newfoundland. We take pride in our heritage and are proud to have started our small sustainable farm in our home community.
Mark’s great-grandfather, Gordon Parsons, was among the first of the War Veterans to settle in Cormack in 1946. He moved to the settlement with his young Newfoundland wife, Dorthy (Sparklin) Parsons. They settled with 2 young children and had 12 more children while living in Cormack. Gordon Parsons stopped farming in his later years but always maintained a family garden on the hill behind his home. After he slowed down his farm, Gordon began bussing children to the community school.
Violet Parsons, Mark’s grandmother, was the 4th oldest child and was born in 1948. His grandfather, Willis Luff moved to Cormack when he was 15 to work on a family farm with his father and older brother who purchased a farm in the early 1960’s. The two met in Cormack in the year of 1963 and were married in 1964 and Mark’s mom, Doreen Luff, was born later that year. Although they spent 8 years living in Toronto, it didn’t take much to realize that Cormack was home, so they returned and in 1974, Mark’s Aunt Cathy was born.
Lauralee’s grandfather and grandmother moved from the nearby town of Corner Brook. They purchased a farm sometime between 1957-1960. Together they had 13 children and raised them on the back by-road which was known as L-road. Jack Tapp, her grandfather, often worked away and Maude would tend to the vegetables, the household, the children and even the firewood. More than a few people have shared stories about Maude and her hard work and strong work ethic, oftentimes, people exclaim how Maude was the first woman they ever saw using a chainsaw. A machine from those days was not the light ones used today. Lauralee takes great pride when locals refer to her as “Little Maudie.”
Nobalee, Lauralee’s mother, was born in 1969 and is the 3rd youngest of the 13 children. After Maude had passed, Nobalee was sent to Northern Alberta to live with her older sisters in Fort McMurray. In 1988 she married Douglas Breen, originally from Coachman’s Cove, NL. In 1989, Lauralee was born in Fort McMurray. Lauralee has 4 siblings all born in Alberta, but in 2003 life became more challenging and her mother decided to move the family back to her hometown of Cormack, Newfoundland.
Mark and Lauralee met in the summer of 2004 and they became friends a year later and by 2006 they began dating. They purchased their land together in 2012 and built their home, which is now their B&B in 2014. They married on their homestead in 2016 and were going to start their homestead business journey in their hometown in 2017, but the travel bug kicked in and was not until 2020 that they started the Upper Humber Settlement.
Farming Experiences in Cormack
Taste the Land: You can experience a taste of this Newfoundland history firsthand during our Farm to Table Dinner!
Farm and Forage Experience: Join Lauralee on this foraging experience collecting and tasting edible plants of the land.
Farm Stay Experience: Similar to a B&B experience or a cabin rental, our Western Newfoundland FarmStay is ideal for travellers, families or business trips.
Swim at Rocky Brook which trickles behind Rocky Brook Acres. Both Mark, Lauralee love to keep off in the trickle on those hot Newfoundland days
A visit to the Cormack Farmers Market promises a few great finds including local Cream, Fresh butter and homemade bread, as well as many other local products.
The Cormack Bee Company has a newly established Craft shop located right next to their Bee Apiary.
Enjoy some great tastes at the local watering hole at the Crooked Feeder Brewery. A local tap room right in the family’s old sawmill building.
The Funland Poutinerie is also adding some local flair to this year's summer menu as well.
If you are staying at the FarmStay B&B, we recommend heading out to the local Abattoir either D and D Farms or CountrySide. Both have a great selection of local and fresh cuts of meat for a great evening BBQ (charcoals and propane available on site)
Learn more about the history by visiting the local museum or read the full history of Cormack on the town's website. Our town has done a great job of documenting the timeline and publishing it on its website.