Place: Ignace Lake
Theme: From Bush to Mill
Year: circa 1910
Related Vignette(s):

1867-1960 - From Bush to Mill
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The lumber shanties

Arrival of sleighs filled with provisions and supplies at Gilmour and Hughson’s Ignace Depot in the Upper Gatineau around 1910.
Arrival of sleighs filled with provisions and supplies at Gilmour and Hughson’s Ignace Depot in the Upper Gatineau around 1910.
Lumberjacks leaving the camp for a day’s work in the bush, around 1940. Some of the men are shouldering their bucksaw, which was a close second to the felling axe, as far as favourite tools go!
Lumberjacks leaving the camp for a day’s work in the bush, around 1940. Some of the men are shouldering their bucksaw, which was a close second to the felling axe, as far as favourite tools go!
The E.B. Eddy’s No 5 Shanty, somewhere on the Upper Ottawa, around 1932. The men are proud of their horses, those indispensable working beasts. The shot-gun can prove useful if by chance a prying and over-inquisitive deer draws near the camp. Wild game help alleviate the monotonous shanty menu. Amidst the lumberjacks, there are a few childlike gazes.
The E.B. Eddy’s No 5 Shanty, somewhere on the Upper Ottawa, around 1932. The men are proud of their horses, those indispensable working beasts. The shot-gun can prove useful if by chance a prying and over-inquisitive deer draws near the camp. Wild game help alleviate the monotonous shanty menu. Amidst the lumberjacks, there are a few childlike gazes.
A lumber shanty on the Upper Blanche River, north of Thurso, around 1940. Please note the extravagant collection of hats! The little luxuries of life: a good pipe and a glass of strong gin.
A lumber shanty on the Upper Blanche River, north of Thurso, around 1940. Please note the extravagant collection of hats! The little luxuries of life: a good pipe and a glass of strong gin.
A shanty of the McFadden Lumber Company, in Northern Ontario, near Blind River, around 1920. One of the Hull boys is here, surrounded by his following of friends, some of whom are proud of showing off the cant-hooks and peaveys they use to roll the heavy logs. The cooks, whose job it is to feed these hard workers, show off their wares, while others prefer hugging their favourite pet!
A shanty of the McFadden Lumber Company, in Northern Ontario, near Blind River, around 1920. One of the Hull boys is here, surrounded by his following of friends, some of whom are proud of showing off the cant-hooks and peaveys they use to roll the heavy logs. The cooks, whose job it is to feed these hard workers, show off their wares, while others prefer hugging their favourite pet!
A lumber shanty on the Lièvre River. The men are proud and happy to show off their favourite working tools. The cooks, with their white aprons, as well as the accordionist, are conscious of the importance of their role in the shanty. They help maintain the workers’ morale.
A lumber shanty on the Lièvre River. The men are proud and happy to show off their favourite working tools. The cooks, with their white aprons, as well as the accordionist, are conscious of the importance of their role in the shanty. They help maintain the workers’ morale.
Pukaskwa Depot, on the North Shore of Lake Superior, in Ontario around 1920. It’s in this region that many Outaouais “jobbers” came to work in the 1920s. Bill Kelly Jr. and Léon Raby of the Buckingham region as well as Eugène Bisson and Alfred Lafleur were amongst them. Philippe Lacoste built Eugène Bisson’s shanty there in 1923.
Pukaskwa Depot, on the North Shore of Lake Superior, in Ontario around 1920. It’s in this region that many Outaouais “jobbers” came to work in the 1920s. Bill Kelly Jr. and Léon Raby of the Buckingham region as well as Eugène Bisson and Alfred Lafleur were amongst them. Philippe Lacoste built Eugène Bisson’s shanty there in 1923.
“The Van”, the typical shanty store in which were kept the clothing, soap, tobacco and other items that the lumberjacks bought during their stay in the camp. They generally paid by deductions on their wages. It is said the word “van” was borrowed from the Amerindian word, wangan, meaning container.
“The Van”, the typical shanty store in which were kept the clothing, soap, tobacco and other items that the lumberjacks bought during their stay in the camp. They generally paid by deductions on their wages. It is said the word “van” was borrowed from the Amerindian word, wangan, meaning container.
The E.B. Eddy’s No 5 Shanty, somewhere on the Upper Ottawa, around 1932. The teamsters take great care of their horses, the indispensable working tools of their hauling trade.
The E.B. Eddy’s No 5 Shanty, somewhere on the Upper Ottawa, around 1932. The teamsters take great care of their horses, the indispensable working tools of their hauling trade.
Filing a cross-cut saw, in British Columbia, in 1919.
Filing a cross-cut saw, in British Columbia, in 1919.
Sharpening of an axe blade, in an Ontario shanty, in 1917.
Sharpening of an axe blade, in an Ontario shanty, in 1917.
Interior of a lumber shanty on the Upper Ottawa around 1906. All the lumberjacks have gathered tightly in neat rows for the group photograph. They smile for the camera for the sake of posterity, wishing to be remembered by their great-great-grand-children!
Interior of a lumber shanty on the Upper Ottawa around 1906. All the lumberjacks have gathered tightly in neat rows for the group photograph. They smile for the camera for the sake of posterity, wishing to be remembered by their great-great-grand-children!
A few lumberjacks are smiling and relaxing by smoking a good pipeful of tobacco inside an Upper Ottawa shanty around 1906. The smell of the good “Canayen” tobacco neutralizes a bit of the stench brought on by the drying mittens and socks and by the accumulated body sweat of these men. The darkness of night is closing in and even if they are dead-tired and aching all over after a long day’s work, the lice and bed-bugs will probably keep them from falling asleep right away. And the new work-day starts at dawn!
A few lumberjacks are smiling and relaxing by smoking a good pipeful of tobacco inside an Upper Ottawa shanty around 1906. The smell of the good “Canayen” tobacco neutralizes a bit of the stench brought on by the drying mittens and socks and by the accumulated body sweat of these men. The darkness of night is closing in and even if they are dead-tired and aching all over after a long day’s work, the lice and bed-bugs will probably keep them from falling asleep right away. And the new work-day starts at dawn!

The living conditions found in the lumber shanties of the 20th century were far better than those of the celebrated camboose shanties of the 19th century. The shanties administered by the large timber companies offered working conditions (salaries, food, cleanliness and hygiene) that were much better than those found in the “jobber” shanties managed by the small subcontractors where the living conditions were worse than those of the camboose shanties of yesteryear. J. Edgar Boyle testified to that effect: “Company camps were quite primitive, but compared with the small jobbers’ camp, they were luxurious1!” A good example of a jobber’s bush camp was given by Philippe Lacoste, who hired himself out to his friend Eugène Bisson, a “jobber” who subcontracted a lumbering operation at Pukakswa, on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Lacoste left the Seigneury of Petite-Nation to go into the self-exile with his wife in the Ontario bush. He was in charge of building Eugène’s lumber camp. This is how it was done:

… I had two thirty foot long poplars cut down and positioned side by side, one end resting on the ground and the other on a large rock…On the ground [crosswise, over the two poplars]I laid out logs that had been left in the river at the end of Spring. We built two camps, one of which was subdivided into three sections: One of the ends would house Eugène Bisson’s family, the middle section was for the kitchen and the other end was reserved for Joseph Lalonde’s family. The other camp was divided in two. One end, for the men, had a row of double-bunkbeds on one side of the room. On the other side was a wash-stand and a window. A two-sided squared timber, installed along the bunks, was used as a seat. The floor was made of round logs, the surface of which had been flattened with an adze. The bunks were built with small tree trunks, just like the roof. The roof was then covered with [tarred] paper. We had wooden boards for the doors. The other end of that building housed the office and the tools. We also built a stable for the horses and the cow and a shed and store-room for the provisions2.

Now let’s see what a large timber firm’s lumber camp looked like. Most of the available descriptions of these lumber shanties are quite similar. Depending on the number of bush workers involved, the camp included from six to ten buildings. The most important of these was unquestionably the main dormitory, a one-storey building capable of lodging about a hundred men. The interior was wide open and double-bunks were lined up, without partitions, on both sides of the barrack-like space. A wash-room, located at one of the extremities of the dormitory, was reserved for the washing of the blankets and men’s clothing. Each and everyone had to do his own washing, and that task was only allowed on Sundays. One of the buildings housed the kitchen, refectory and a root-cellar for the preservation of meat and vegetables. Itwas the exclusive domain of the cook, his aide and of a few chore boys who fetch the water (brought up from the neighbouring creek), do the sweeping, clean up, etc. The interior had to be impeccably sanitary. Other buildings that were found included a storehouse, a barn, a black-smith shop and an office. The pay-roll, time-sheets and log-book in which the number of trees felled by each lumberer is recorded were kept in that office. The company store or “van” was housed in that very same building: Thatwas where the men bought smoking and chewing tobacco, gum, chocolate, drugs and any of the other items that they needed. The office was also used as a dormitory for the shanty foreman, his clerk, the cullers and any special visitors: especially the Government agents and inspectors3 .Edgar Porter described, better than any other, the role played by those who worked in such a shanty:

… the camp staff includes a clerk that looks after the provisioning, keeps the men’s time-sheets, and pay-roll, and keeps track of the supplies of the “van” sold to the men; cooks, one in the kitchen for every twenty men in the camp; blazers or swampers, workers who mark the trees that should be felled in selection cutting, who blaze out the haulage roads that are needed and who clean out the underbrush in the pulpwood sections; woodcutters, one for every 100 cords of wood to be harvested; carters or teamsters, one for every 300 cords; drivers, one for every 400 cords; and a number of labourers. Which gives, for a shanty averaging a 5 000 cord cut, a staff of 60 men. The staff drops down to 35 approximately during the hauling period and to 25 during the log-drive. The manpower needs vary also in accordance with the potential of the cutting area, the hauling distance and the kind of stream on which the rollways are set up4.

The way these lumber camps were set up as well as the staff that was needed to operate them are representative of most of the shanties that were administered by the large timber companies during the first third of the 20th century.

Search the Web!
Read up on the Timber Trade History in the Canadian Encyclopedia at:
Website

View the National Film Board’s 1962 documentary film (in French only) on the Manouane Lumberjacks entitled « Les bûcherons de la Manouane ». Arthur Lamothe’s film is a masterpiece well worth the time spent watching at it at:
Website

Discover a place like no other… The Forest Fire Prevention History Interpretation Center, located in Maniwaki. A visit will allow you to discover the lifestyle of the intrepid and colourful lumberjacks when the horse reigned supreme in the timber shanties.
Website

References and definitions

1 J. E. Boyle, “My Life and Times in the Bush” Up the Gatineau, No 15 (1989), p. 7.

2 BANQ-CAO, P20, 1979-03-001 / 1, Mémoires de Philippe Lacoste, p. 161-162.

3 J. E. Boyle, op. cit., p. 7. Also : Edgar Porter, « L’exploitation forestière » in Esdras Minville (Ed.), op. cit., p. 155.

4 Edgar Porter, « L’exploitation forestière » in Esdras Minville (Ed.), op. cit., p. 154.

Secondary media sources and captions

PHOTO No 1
Source: Canadian Museum of Civilizations. Lantern Slide no No. Q.2.110.
Caption: Arrival of sleighs filled with provisions and supplies at Gilmour and Hughson’s Ignace Depot in the Upper Gatineau around 1910.

PHOTO No 2
Source: Canadian Museum of Civilizations. E.B. Eddy Collection, no 73-543.
Caption: Lumberjacks leaving the camp for a day’s work in the bush, around 1940. Some of the men are shouldering their bucksaw, which was a close second to the felling axe, as far as favourite tools go!

PHOTO No 3
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Photographer unknown.
Caption: The E.B. Eddy’s No 5 Shanty, somewhere on the Upper Ottawa, around 1932. The men are proud of their horses, those indispensable working beasts. The shot-gun can prove useful if by chance a prying and over-inquisitive deer draws near the camp. Wild game help alleviate the monotonous shanty menu. Amidst the lumberjacks, there are a few childlike gazes.

PHOTO No 4
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Photographer unknown.
Caption: A lumber shanty on the Upper Blanche River, north of Thurso, around 1940. Please note the extravagant collection of hats! The little luxuries of life: a good pipe and a glass of strong gin.

PHOTO No 5
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Photographer unknown.
Caption: A shanty of the McFadden Lumber Company, in Northern Ontario, near Blind River, around 1920. One of the Hull boys is here, surrounded by his following of friends, some of whom are proud of showing off the cant-hooks and peaveys they use to roll the heavy logs. The cooks, whose job it is to feed these hard workers, show off their wares, while others prefer hugging their favourite pet!

PHOTO No 6
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Photographer unknown.
Caption: A lumber shanty on the Lièvre River. The men are proud and happy to show off their favourite working tools. The cooks, with their white aprons, as well as the accordionist, are conscious of the importance of their role in the shanty. They help maintain the workers’ morale.

PHOTO No 7
Source: Gordon Fletcher Collection. Taken from: Donald MacKay, The Lumberjacks, Toronto, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1978, p. 289.
Caption: Pukaskwa Depot, on the North Shore of Lake Superior, in Ontario around 1920. It’s in this region that many Outaouais “jobbers” came to work in the 1920s. Bill Kelly Jr. and Léon Raby of the Buckingham region as well as Eugène Bisson and Alfred Lafleur were amongst them. Philippe Lacoste built Eugène Bisson’s shanty there in 1923.

PHOTO No 8
Source: Abitibi Company Archives. Taken from: Donald MacKay, The Lumberjacks, Toronto, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1978, p. 236.
Caption: “The Van”, the typical shanty store in which were kept the clothing, soap, tobacco and other items that the lumberjacks bought during their stay in the camp. They generally paid by deductions on their wages. It is said the word “van” was borrowed from the Amerindian word, wangan, meaning container.

PHOTO No 9
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Photographer unknown.
Caption: The E.B. Eddy’s No 5 Shanty, somewhere on the Upper Ottawa, around 1932. The teamsters feed their horses before they harness them for a long day’s work.

PHOTO No 10
Source: Library and Archives Canada, C-56694.
Caption: Filing a cross-cut saw, in British Columbia, in 1919.

PHOTO No 11
Source: Library and Archives Canada PA-61805.
Caption: Sharpening of an axe blade, in an Ontario shanty, in 1917.

PHOTO No 12
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Public Works Department of Canada Series. Photographer unknown.
Caption: Interior of a lumber shanty on the Upper Ottawa around 1906. All the lumberjacks have gathered tightly in neat rows for the group photograph. They smile for the camera for the sake of posterity, wishing to be remembered by their great-great-grand-children!

PHOTO No 13
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Public Works Department of Canada Series. Photographer unknown.
Caption: A few lumberjacks are smiling and relaxing by smoking a good pipeful of tobacco inside an Upper Ottawa shanty around 1906. The smell of the good “Canayen” tobacco neutralizes a bit of the stench brought on by the drying mittens and socks and by the accumulated body sweat of these men. The darkness of night is closing in and even if they are dead-tired and aching all over after a long day’s work, the lice and bed-bugs will probably keep them from falling asleep right away. And the new work-day starts at dawn!