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History of the Lumber Industry of America
Chapter IX. Quebec—Present Conditions

According to an estimate published in 1895 by the Dominion statistician, there were then in Quebec 116,5211 square miles of forest and woodland. This, however, included a considerable area unfit for lumbering and covered with a small growth of little merchantable value. That portion of the Province extending north of the Ottawa River to the Height of Land, and the districts watered by the Saguenay, the St. Maurice and their tributaries were originally covered with forests of great value, with pine their most important component, though now much depleted by fire and by lumbering operations— especially in the Saguenay and Lake St. John districts. North and east of this region there are considerable areas of spruce suitable for pulpwood. South of the St. Lawrence from the Gaspe Peninsula to the boundary only small and scattered pine forests remain. Spruce is the dominant tree, but owing to the demand for pulpwood the supply is rapidly diminishing. Much hemlock is cut for tan bark, and maple, birch, cedar and tamarack are largely cut throughout the Province.

Much of the present area of Quebec is still largely unexplored. The territory embraced within the provincial lines prior to 1895 has been largely surveyed but the additions made as a result of the legislation which then took place included territory that previously had been designated as a part of Labrador. The present northern boundary of the Province, beginning -at the west, follows the East Main River, which empties into the James Bay, a branch of Hudson Bay, nearly one hundred miles north of its southern extremity. From the headwaters of the East Main River at Lake Patamish, just south of the fifty-third degree of north latitude, it runs due east until it strikes the Hamilton River, which at that point runs almost due north. The Hamilton River is followed thence throughout its entire course and through Rigolet Bay to about the head of Hamilton Inlet, on the Atlantic, from which the boundary sweeps in a long curve a little east of south to the Strait of Belle Isle, striking it a short distance west of the fifty-seventh degree of west longitude. Exploration of the country north of the Height of Land and of the eastern part, except along the shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, has been confined to the principal rivers and lakes, many of which have not yet been defined as to their entire length or exact boundaries.

An enormous field for lumbering operations has been opened up of late years in the region made accessible to shipping ports by the Quebec & Lake St. John railway. In 1904 between twenty-five and thirty sawmills were in operation in this territory. Of a total of 19,200,000 acres in the Lake St. John district less than 500,000 are under cultivation or cleared, and the remainder is all wooded. Of the timber about seventy-five percent is spruce, and the remainder is made up of balsam, fir, white birch, cypress and a little pine. Fire has ravaged the forests in some places, but the effects of fires of thirty years ago are hardly visible, as there is a fine second growth.

The pulpwood supply in this district is very extensive. An official estimate places the first cut of pulpwood at one hundred million cords, which would give over sixty-five million tons of pulp. The water power of the principal outlet of the lake and of several large rivers by which it is fed is calculated at over 650,000-horse power. Pulp mills have been established at Chicoutimi and Jonquies on the Saguenay, at Shawenegan on the St. Maurice and at other points.


The timber lands of Quebec are leased by the Provincial government to operators, the right to cut being disposed of by public auction, subject to the payment of dues on the cut in addition to a yearly ground rent. By far the larger portion of the lands under license to cut timber in the Province of Quebec is found between the Quebec & Lake St. John railway on the east and the Ottawa and the provincial boundary on the west, and between the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers on the south and the forty-eighth degree of north latitude on the north. With the exception of a strip of country north of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers from the City of Quebec to just above the City of Ottawa and some unlicensed territory in the north, this immense tract of country, 350 miles long by an average of 125 miles wide, is all under license. South and north of Lake St. John and the Saguenay River are also large bodies of land under license, and smaller and scattering tracts are found all along the north shore of the St. Lawrence to its mouth opposite the west end of the Island of Anticosti. The land under timber license extends almost unbroken all along the provincial boundary from New Hampshire to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but the St. Lawrence River shore is open, as is the country surrounding Quebec and Montreal.

In 1903 there were 64,979 square miles under license, the receipts from which form a considerable portion of the revenue of the Province. During the year ended June 30, 1904, $252,554 was realized from sales of limits, $715,134 from dues, $176,226 from ground rents and $23,563 from fire tax, transfer fees and other sources, making a total of $1,167,477.

The dues payable on timber are as follows: Square and waney timber, per cubic foot, oak and walnut 4 cents, all others 2 cents; sawlogs, boom and dimension timber, per 1,000 feet b. m., white pine $1.30, red pine 80 cents, spruce, hemlock, balsam, cypress, cedar, white birch and poplar 65 cents; pulpwood, 65 cents a cord, with a rebate of 25 cents if manufactured in Canada.

The following is the cut upon which government dues were paid during the year ended June 30, 1903: Square timber, hardwood, 150,919 cubic feet; square pine, 950,451 cubic feet; spruce, hemlock, etc., sawlogs and boom timber, 377,219,740 feet b. m.; white pine sawlogs and boom timber, 175,072,927 feet b. m.; red pine sawlogs and. boom timber, 33,101,822 feet b. m.; white pine sawlogs eleven inches and under, 69,286,889 feet b. m.; poles, 94,079 lineal feet; pulpwood, 259,231 cords; fire-wood, 1,612| cords; railway ties, 780,960; pickets, 9,174; shingles, 2,424,500; rails, 426; hemlock bark, 23| cords; lath wood, 31 cords; white birch for spool wood, 11,710 cords, and posts, 1,255.


As has been indicated, the City of Quebec was, until comparatively recent years, the center of the timber and lumber export trade, but Montreal now holds that position. This change has been largely coincident with the growth of the trade in sawn lumber and the decline in square timber shipments. The first timber shipped from Canada to Europe was exported under the French regime in 1667. The export to England began in the early days of the Nineteenth Century when the continental ports were closed against British trade by Napoleon. The trade grew rapidly, and when at its height as many as 1,350 square-rigged ships entered the port of Quebec yearly to load timber. It reached its climax about 1864, in which year 20,032,520 cubic feet of square timber were exported, and since then it has gradually declined. Formerly, shipments of pine deals were extensively made from Quebec. In 1880 5,823,263 standards were shipped, but the bulk of this trade has now gone to Montreal.

The palmy days of Quebec City as a timber port were also characterized by much activity in shipbuilding, forty or fifty ships sometimes being built in a year. At one time the timber trade at this port gave employment to 5,000 or 6,000 laborers. The timber coves there extended for a distance of ten miles on both sides of the river. Now hardly a mile on the Quebec side is so occupied, with but two or three coves across the river.

The lumber export trade of Montreal dates back about forty years. It was commenced by Dobell, Beckett & Co. and has increased from year to year until Montreal has become the transshipping port for all the pine product of the Ottawa Valley that is sent over seas. During the season of navigation the deals are conveyed in barges, carrying an average of one hundred and forty-five standards each, down the Ottawa River and the Lachine Canal and transferred directly to the steamer. The forest product, at one time shipped in the form of square timber, is now manufactured into deals and boards, and Montreal has become the leading port of export, as the tendency of modem shipping operations is for vessels to load at the head of navigation. Montreal is practically a free port for shipping, and it is frequently the case that freights are obtainable there on lower terms than in Quebec. In 1879 the lumber shipments from Montreal amounted to 10,499,951 feet; in 1877, to 32,920,390 feet; in 1888, to 117,329,721 feet; in 1895, to 175,372,976feet; in 1898, to 335,429,190 feet; in 1900, to239,686,145 feet, and in 1904, to 153,989,912 feet.

The decrease shown of late years in these figures is due not to decline in the export business, but to the route which it takes. Montreal is a summer port only, as all the St. Lawrence ports are handicapped by ice during the winter and early summer so that insurance rates are usually higher from the St. Lawrence than from ports on the open Atlantic. This has led to a considerable shipment of lumber and other forest products in bond to Portland, Boston and New York, Portland being especially favored because it is a terminus of the Grand Trunk railway; while open Canadian ports, like Halifax, take some of the business which otherwise would go by vessel from the St. Lawrence. Much progress, however, has been made in the improvement of navigation on the St. Lawrence up to Montreal, the channel admitting vessels drawing thirty feet of water, and while the ice will always form a hindrance to winter business, the liberal policy of the Canadian government and the great improvements that have been made on the St. Lawrence are fast increasing the popularity of that route, so that it is not improbable that shipments of forest products from Montreal, and perhaps from Quebec, will in the future be larger than in the recent past.

The St. Lawrence is a tidal river as far as Three Rivers, about midway between Quebec and Montreal. In the original state of the river vessels drawing eleven to twelve feet of water could under careful pilotage reach the latter city. Dredging at bars and over shallow stretches so improved the channel that, as stated above, vessels drawing thirty feet of water can now dock at Montreal. Until a few years ago, however, navigation of the river was rather difficult, and was attempted by vessels of heavy draft only by day. A thorough system of buoys and channel lights has now made passage unimpeded during the season of navigation.

In 1868 the relative values of shipments of forest products were: Quebec, $6,659,686; Montreal, $631,239. In 1903, the value of forest products shipped from Quebec was $4,022,346, and of those from Montreal, $5,121,472. The trade of the former port has revived somewhat of late years under the stimulus of railway connection with the Lake St. John district, and other enterprises, but it is hardly likely to regain its supremacy.

The shipments of forest products from Montreal for the fiscal year 1903 included pine deals, $3,147,150; spruce and other deals, $684,070; planks and boards, $650,008 and pulpwood, $131,152. Those from Quebec City in the same year comprised pine deals, $122,960; spruce and other deals, $1,270,325; planks and boards, $68,539; pine (white, square) $1,297,427; oak (square), $411,313; red pine, $212,634, and elm, $296,496.


It is of interest to note the decrease in the number of sailing vessels clearing at Quebec, as the traffic is now almost entirely carried on by steamer. The following table shows the lumber laden sailing vessels cleared at the port of Quebec for sea between the opening and close of navigation in the years 1874 to 1904, inclusive, with their tonnage:

The extent to which steam tonnage has replaced sail, is shown by the fact that in 1902 the number of steamers entering the port of Quebec for part or entire cargoes was 186 of an aggregate of 507,097 tons ; in 1903, 185 of 538,672 tons, and in 1904, 165 of 506,702 tons.

The premier position of Montreal as a St. Lawrence port, due to its being the head of navigation for ocean-going vessels, is shown by the following table which gives the number and tonnage of sea-going vessels entered at that port for the years named:

Quebec is to be reached by sailing vessels, while Montreal is, for all practical purposes, available only to steam—and this is the age of steam navigation.


The most recent available figures concerning exports from Quebec are those for the year 1904, and these show a decrease in exports from River St. Lawrence points to Great Britain in comparison with the year 1903. The total exportations amounted to 302,932,776 feet, a decrease of 142,408,833 feet from the figures of 445,341,609 feet recorded in 1903. Quebec is a heavy manufacturer of spruce clapboards, and there was a decided reduction of export of this material, due to the stagnant condition of the spruce market.

The principal article of shipment from Montreal is pine in the form of deals and boards, while other St. Lawrence ports ship principally spruce deals and square and waney timber. Exports for trans-Atlantic markets during 1903 and 1904, by ports and shippers, were as follows:

Other St. Lawrence ports, including the City of Quebec, make the following showing for 1904:

While white pine and spruce make up the great body of the export of lumber from the Province of Quebec, other woods, including hardwoods, still figure in an important way in the trade of the Province. To show the volume of this business and the conditions surrounding it at the latest date available for this work, we give the following quotations from an annual trade circular, issued by J. Bell Forsyth & Co., of Quebec, bearing date of January 9, 1905:

White Pine.—The stock of waney pine shows considerable increase in recent years, while that of square pine is the lightest on record. The continued advance in price of both waney and square pine has at last told on the export. As the manufacture this winter will not exceed half the past season’s supply, and as makers seem unable to reduce their prices without actual loss, it seems evident present values must be maintained or manufacture cease.

Red. Pine.—The smallness of both supply and stock shows the approach of the end of business in this wood as square timber.

Spruce Deals.—The export from Quebec and the lower St. Lawrence has been restricted by absence of demand and the inadequate prices obtainable. The cost of production has materially increased owing to advanced cost of labor, enhanced value of limits, and other causes. The demand in the United States for spruce boards being good at fair prices, the tendency is for Canadian mills to send their production very largely in that direction.

Pine Deals.—The ruling prices in the United Kingdom, especially in the third and fourth qualities, have materially declined instead of meeting the ten percent advance paid by shippers for past season’s production. Ottawa mill owners can readily obtain from United States markets figures at least equivalent to those paid for deals. It is clear that export business can not continue under present conditions.

Sawn Lumber.—The demand from the United States has been good at fair prices, and in spruce the Canadian mills have cut boards for that market in preference to deals for export in many instances.

Oak.—The exports show a marked decrease, and the wintering stock a corresponding increase. The manufacture of this wood has entirely stopped, and will not be resumed until justified by demand, as western oak can not be profitably delivered at Quebec at present current prices.

Elm.—The supply continues to diminish and price to advance, which will probably be the case year by year till the wood becomes too expensive for export or can not be obtained at all. The stock of rock elm is very small, the figures largely representing soft elm.

Ash.—Will not be made this winter, as demand seems to have disappeared. The stock is ample for probable requirements.

Birch.—The export of this wood continues to diminish from Quebec owing to reduced supply, the most accessible wood having been cut away, and the less accessible requiring prices that are not yet obtainable to induce manufacture.

Through the courtesy of Messrs. Walcot, Limited, of London, we are able to present herewith a comparison of the square and waney supply (equivalent to production), exports and stocks of Quebec each year from 1850 to 1904, inclusive. There has been a marked change in the' character of the forest exports sent by Quebec to the mother country. In the early years shipments of boards from Quebec to England were almost unknown, the entire export being in the shape of logs, which were sawed into planks and boards by English sawmills or part sawed to meet the needs of the purchasers. In 1861 a distinction became necessary, the history of the development being thus stated:

Previous to 1861 the timber shipped was square and of large average, beautifully hewn by the lumbermen in Canada; but board pine—that is, short logs of large girth—were sent down the drives'with the other timber, and soon found their way into the market. Being cut from the lower part of the tree accounted for the waney character of the logs, but the quality of the timber was excellent. The loss in girthing them for conversion was considerable, but this was allowed for in the price to the importer. The decline in the quantity of square and waney pine made for the Quebec market is altogether due to the increase of the deal and board trade, and to some extent to the scarcity of suitable trees to manufacture into timber. A large proportion of the trees are still suitable to make into deal logs, but would not be sufficiently large to be made into waney board pine. This is exemplified by the smallness of the square pine that is now brought down from Ottawa. In former days square pine used to be made 70 and 80 and even 100 feet cube average; in the present day it is with difficulty that 40 feet average cube is procurable in square pine, and waney board pine is decreasing in girth annually. Formerly 20-inch and over average cube was easily procurable; today 17-inch is as large as most of the manufacturers will undertake, and they frequently fall below this average on delivery of the timber at Quebec. These changes are graphically portrayed in the following table:

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