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History of the Lumber Industry of America
Chapter XXV. Canada—Its Lumber Industry in 1874


History is a kinetoscopic repetition of events. It is interesting to stop the film of time occasionally and to view in detail the conditions prevailing during a particular period. It is for that reason that here is interjected a chapter showing with considerable detail the extent of the Canadian lumber industry in 1874. This chapter is-drawn largely from an article prepared by a representative of the Lumberman's Gazette, a predecessor of the American Lumberman. The following is a pen picture of the Canadian lumber industry in 1874 :

Canada, as a whole, must be regarded as possessing within her borders the most extended and connected chain of lumbering establishments in the world; and, from the location of her forests, adjacent to and facing the great continental markets, with such grand maritime facilities, we must pronounce them the most important, for the general markets, of any yet developed.

Respecting sensational documents prophesying a timber famine in the near future, which have been industriously put forth, it is sufficient to say that they have a tendency toward good by their restraining influence. But, in an excursion through the whole field, a mention of these prophesies will be promptly met with decidedly derisive ejaculations, the general expression being, “We have stock enough secured for our mills for fifty years or more,” and that the mills now erected in Canada could cut their present yearly aggregate for that time and still have forests left. Exceptions in old districts will doubtless occur, but new ones are opening yearly, and forests yet unexplored for lumbering will be made accessible when required. In the North Simcoe section there are forty-nine mills of good construction, having 182,000,000 feet capacity yearly (rating low at that), which last year [1874] sent to Toronto 140,000,000 feet; and yet experts at woodcraft, thoroughly acquainted with these regions, say these mills (including other small ones) can be stocked probably fifty years longer.

We find, by careful computation of statistics given by parties of known credibility, that within the reach of these mills there is still of forest timber fit for the saw 4,550,000,000 feet of a merchantable character; also that the Georgian Bay mills, seven in number, have a still more extended and much less pillaged field to look to—all that region watered by the French, Spanish and other north shore streams, spread out many hundred miles, much of which country is yet unsurveyed and consequently unappropriated for any purpose. This section is estimated low at 20,000,000,000 feet, without including areas beyond those comprised within present explorations. It sent to the various points accessible by water no less than 90,000,000 feet in 1874, besides square timber. Its outlet is to. Chicago, Buffalo and Tonawanda, for the United States, and Collingwood and thence by rail to Toronto, for the Dominion. Taking the other side of the Bay, running over the whole of western Ontario, we have a vast area of settled country, with many small but high grade pineries interspersed, owned and protected by private parties, counting at least 2,500,000,000 feet, none too much for home supply, and not one foot of which should ever seek a foreign market. Yet twenty-nine mills, mostly of limited capacity, together with thirteen quite insignificant ones, send 70,000,000 feet of lumber and logs (embracing some square and spar rafts) to Cleveland, Erie, Buffalo and Tonawanda.

The above area includes the coast down to the lower wharves of Toronto, from whence we may take a run up the route of the Lake Nipissing railway and find a fair sweep of territory covered with fine forests, much of which is yet untouched and can not be utilized until the road is completed to its proposed terminus at the lake, where it is supposed it will be in line with the Great Pacific. The forests on this line are estimated of sufficient value to induce a board of astute capitalists to make a large outlay of money. Yet, from a cursory glance at the timber, we judge its grade scarcely warrants present handling, if immediate pecuniary margin is the object of the operators. The 11,000,000,000 feet which this division proposes to throw into the great aggregate of forest product will count with good results, If the cutting of it is not too hurried. This road is already constructed nearly ninety miles, and has drawn to it a considerable outlay in mills, about thirteen in number, mostly of small capacity, which sent to Toronto in 1874, 15,000,000 feet; and this will increase year by year, as other and larger mills are constructed.

Proceeding along the shore line of Ontario past Ports Whitby, Hope, Coburg, Trenton, and Belleville to Kingston, thence backward into the outlying country, embracing that extended chain of waters known as the Rice and other lakes, including the Trent, Moira, Scugog, Otonobee, Marmora, Napanee and other smaller rivers, reaching 150 miles toward the Grand Ottawa, we have a large area of country rich in timber, villages, farms and even iron and gold. Many first class sawmills are in operation, while the streams, many of them navigable to small steamers, are filled with floating logs and square timber for the use of mills all along the front. Several competing railroads cross each other within this stretch, having the posts before named, the large interior towns and the forests for objective points. Although it has been settled and worked for fifty years or more, the country still has many valuable timber precincts, which, although largely run over by the spar hunter and hewer, yearly send a vast amount of the same class of product, with logs and lumber, to the market. This product counted in 1874 285,000,000 feet, and the same grounds are computed to possess yet 7,750,000,000 feet for stock for her fifty-seven mills. This section has had the repute of yielding as fine a grade of stock as any portion of Canada, and holds its own very fairly in that particular.

The country in the rear of Kingston, Brockville, Prescott, Cornwall, etc., is also of great importance, as being the location of thirteen good sawmills, whose yield for 1874 was 106,000,000 feet of a good quality, together with considerable hardwood and basswood, while there remains on the main streams 2,250,000,000 feet of good, marketable pine, beside no mean amount of other woods of but little less value.

In all this stretch of country there is no thought of catering to other than the United States trade, save in the sections where a portion of the square and spar timber goes to Quebec and thence to Europe. We have not herein intrenched upon groves on streams that flow to the grand center, Ottawa. It will doubtless be a surprise to many, even in Ontario, to learn that on these grounds, many of which have been long worked, there remains tributary to the Great Lakes the amount of 45,550,000,000 feet. Yet Ontario is sparsely settled, and in all that vast range all was originally forest and water, with no prairie. Remembering this, the investigator is led to think that there should be even more timber than we have counted, and we think the future will prove that there is more. The country we have been considering extends 750 by about 436 miles, making 327,000 square statute miles, equal to about 209,280,000 acres in area. .

We approach Ottawa City next, as the great lumber and mill center. We find here, within a radius of about ten miles, twenty-four mills, nearly all of superior grade, embracing over a hundred gangs and six large circulars. These mills represent a capacity of over 400,000,000 feet annually, without night work, and have such timber limits attached to each establishment that scarcely one of them need have any fear of lack of stock for the next twenty-five, fifty, or one hundred years, even if an enlarged demand should decide them to run the whole twenty-four hours. Although many of these mills are located in Ontario, still they draw nearly all their stock of logs from Quebec. The Grand Ottawa is the dividing line between the two provinces. It receives from both sides a very large number of extended water courses, which drain an immense territory of densely timbered land. These mills have been erected mostly for, and are run to subserve, the American market, yet they annually contribute something to the European trade.

The Grand Ottawa is a very large and important river, over 750 miles in length, and draining an area of 80,000 square miles. It receives many tributaries varying from 100 to 400 miles in length. The whole valley has been, and is now, mostly covered with dense forests of white pine and red pine, and is held or allotted by the Government as timber limits, with but small exceptions. Besides furnishing stock for these mills, vast quantities of logs are cut and run to Montreal and other mills scattered along the St. Lawrence engaged in cutting deals. This is the great source from which the large timber houses and other concerns of Quebec draw their supplies for the European trade. It is estimated that the Gatineau alone can send to Ottawa over 12,000,000,000 feet, the Madawaska 4,000,000,000, the Upper Ottawa waters 75,000,000,000, theReviere du Lievre to the mills below 4,000,000,000, all of a good quality of white pine and red pine. The spruce and hemlock timber seem boundless and, although not now regarded of much value, will eventually be the basis of more real wealth than the pine has been, if not ruthlessly destroyed by man or fire. All these sections, though showing large by the figures above, will doubtless yield through the same channels, from adjacent higher lands and more northern regions when necessity demands it, enough more to duplicate their present claims.

The Ottawa region, unlike the other sections, occupies an enviable position, inasmuch as it has the privilege of choosing the best of three different markets and can ship to them all by water conveyance—to the United States, to Europe, or to South America and Australia. This region has such superb mill establishments and does the work of cutting in such a neat style that it often gets fancy prices for even a low grade article, because it looks well in bulk. Though its reserve stocks are 30,000,000 feet less than they were in 1873, and the cutting in the woods is exceedingly light, the harbors of this section being filled with held-over logs, members of the trade will be able largely to increase the aggregate for 1875 over that of

1874. It could be done to the extent of 100,000,000 feet if the demand should warrant it. These millmen, with those of the Lower Ottawa, and with the St. Lawrence operators, being in financial circumstances above panic influences, generally can watch and wait, or work as pleases best, and, having no burdens resting upon them in the shape of timber land taxes or interest, they can well afford to rest a season or two if exigencies require. These firms could put into the market for 1875, 450,000,000 feet without straining a single nerve, and the St. Lawrence mills could add 50,000,000 and make the sum 500,000,000, which, however, is not proposed by either party. But there is one feature regarding the Canadian forest product of which sight should not be lost. The square timber trade received such a rude shock that many of the houses have utterly refused to go into the woods at all this winter, which will have a tendency to clean out the stocks on hand and, doubtless, diminish the amount marketed considerably; and, as much of that wood is put into deals after it arrives in Europe, its loss may be required to be made good by the manufacturer.

The river St. Maurice is one of the largest of the St. Lawrence tributaries, and drains an immense scope of country. It is over 400 miles long, receives the waters of fifteen important rivers and numerous lakes, and is supposed to drain a widespread territory of pine, spruce and hemlock timber of great value. The Government claims to have yet on its waters over 3,000,000 acres of unallotted timber lands, on which, if we give but 3,000 to the acre, we have 9,000,000,000 feet outside the leased limits. Gaspd and Bonaventure counties are claimed to have 3,000 square miles of timber limits yet waiting lease, abounding in sawing timber, which, by applying the same rule, will add 6,000,000,000 feet.

The estimate so far gives over one hundred years’ stock for all the mills now working in the two provinces, yet, to show the probable accuracy of these details, we will state that Quebec records show in 1872,192,000 square miles reserved for timber limits, and at that time an allotment of 42,399 square miles had been made, leaving unleased land as follows:

Six thousand square miles St. Maurice territory; 2,000 in the Gatineau; 3,000 in the Upper Ottawa ; 139,000 in other sections of the Province, including Gasp£, Labrador, etc. In other words, they say they have 149,000 square miles of timber land to lease ; and, if we can award to them 3,000 to the acre, or about 2,000,000 to the square mile, we get 298,000,000,000, which is nearly three times the amount we had set down for the different sections en route, and yet we do not intrench upon the 42,399 square miles allotted. It is no more than reasonable to surmise that no practical millman or lumberman would purchase timber limits, and thus subject himself to a yearly rental for twenty-one years, without first ascertaining that such limits were worth the purchase. Therefore, if we give these men credit for common business tact, we must suppose their 42,399 square miles, or 27,135,360 acres, must yield at least 3,000 feet to the acre, less the amount cut off since their occupancy. This would give an additional amount of 81,406,080,000 feet, which we reduce by 15,000,000,000 as the amount cut off 5,000,000 acres, leaving 66,406,-

080,000. All this, it will be remembered, does not touch the Algoma, nor the Northwest Territory, which we know, from actual exploration, is very extensive and will come in for use when needed, though generations may pass before that time arrives. Neither does it embrace the amount assumed to be still In the Ontario forests, that being about 45,550,000,000 feet.

If the Government basis is correct those lands will yield all these figures have assumed for them. But it should be stated that the Gaspd and the St. Maurice territory, and what may be left on the Saguenay, embrace the spruce and hemlock as well as the pine. In that region those woods may be regarded as possessing a commercial value equal to the Upper Ottawa pine on its stump. On looking over the whole domain of the Dominion we would be surprised, indeed, if it did not furnish 500,000,000,000 feet of sawing stock, knowing what some of the sections that have been cleared have yielded.

The year 1874 was the occasion of a sharp and sudden decline in Canadian lumber values. At the opening of the season in 1874, about June 10, the following were the prevailing prices in Canada, a standard deal making 2,750 superficial feet to 100 pieces:

Pine standards, firsts,$108, or $39.28 per M feet board measure.
Pine standards, seconds, $72, or $26.19 per M feet board measure.
Pine standards, thirds, $306, or $13.09 per M feet board measure.
Pine standards, fourths, $28, or $10.19 per M feet board measure.
Spruce, firsts, $44, or $16 per M feet board measure.
Spruce, seconds, $36, or $13 per M feet board measure.
Spruce, thirds, $28, or $10.18 per M feet board measure.
Spruce, fourths, $28, or $7.27 per M feet board measure.

These prices fell off fully ten percent during the season. At the opening of 1874 pine sold at 35 cents to 20 cents per cubic foot, oak at 47 to 50 cents, elm at 37j£ to 40 cents, and walnut at 80 to 85 cents. All of these, except the walnut, fell off 12 percent in price during the summer. At that time the production of square timber was made up of about three-quarters pine, of which one-twelfth was red. Hardwoods manufactured embraced oak, ash, birch, basswood, white tamarack, walnut, maple and hickory. Spruce and hemlock represented about one-sixth of the total production, but the proportion has since very largely increased.

The following is a comprehensive statement of the extent of the lumber industry of Canada in 1874, the names1 of manufacturers and the location and capacity of their mills being given:

In preceding chapters of this history the reader has found figures epitomizing the production of lumber in the districts above named in years later than 1874. A comparison will show the changes in the industry in Canada between 1874 and 1905. Many names of importance in 1874 will be found to have been still prominent in 1905.


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