Place: Plaisance
Theme: The Sawmills
Year: vers 1920
Related Vignette(s):

1867-1960 - The Sawmills
Vignette
C15
North Nation Mills

Village of North Nation Mills, around 1920, just before it was wiped off the map.
Village of North Nation Mills, around 1920, just before it was wiped off the map.
Plan of the Mill Reservation Lot drawn by Joseph Bouchette in 1826. The site of the old mill and of the new mill as well as the wood slide or “aqueduct” are shown on the plan.
Plan of the Mill Reservation Lot drawn by Joseph Bouchette in 1826. The site of the old mill and of the new mill as well as the wood slide or “aqueduct” are shown on the plan.
Plan of the Municipality of Plaisance pointing out the location of the Falls of the Petite-Nation, the Mill Reservation Lot and the demolished village of North Nation Mills.
Plan of the Municipality of Plaisance pointing out the location of the Falls of the Petite-Nation, the Mill Reservation Lot and the demolished village of North Nation Mills.
The Sault-de-la-Chaudière or Chaudière Falls as it appeared around 1980.
The Sault-de-la-Chaudière or Chaudière Falls as it appeared around 1980.
The Sault-de-la-Chaudière or Chaudière Falls as it appeared around 1980.
The Sault-de-la-Chaudière or Chaudière Falls as it appeared around 1980.
The Sault-de-la-Chaudière or Chaudière Falls as it appeared around 1980.
The Sault-de-la-Chaudière or Chaudière Falls as it appeared around 1980.
Plan of the Seigneury of the Petite-Nation. Please note the Côte du Moulin located at the western edge of the seigneury as well as the site of the sawmill.
Plan of the Seigneury of the Petite-Nation. Please note the Côte du Moulin located at the western edge of the seigneury as well as the site of the sawmill.
Peter McGill (1788-1860).
Peter McGill (1788-1860).
Sketch drawn by Alanson Cooke showing the timber limits he was asking for in his request dated January 1st 1851. They were all located to the North and outside the Seigneury.
Sketch drawn by Alanson Cooke showing the timber limits he was asking for in his request dated January 1st 1851. They were all located to the North and outside the Seigneury.
W. C. Edwards (1844-1921).
W. C. Edwards (1844-1921).
Towing of a boom of saw logs cut on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. Those logs are to be cut in the W.C. Edwards sawmill in Rockland.
Towing of a boom of saw logs cut on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. Those logs are to be cut in the W.C. Edwards sawmill in Rockland.
The W.C. Edwards Company No 1 sawmill in Rockland around 1920. That company was established in Rockland in 1871.
The W.C. Edwards Company No 1 sawmill in Rockland around 1920. That company was established in Rockland in 1871.
A Bon (Bond) or voucher worth one dollar and dated July 1st 1896. It can only be redeemed in the Edwards Company store in Rockland.
A Bon (Bond) or voucher worth one dollar and dated July 1st 1896. It can only be redeemed in the Edwards Company store in Rockland.

Five kilometres North of Plaisance, on the Petite-Nation River, is the Sault-de-la-Chaudière (Chaudière Falls), one of the Outaouais’ most spectacular waterfalls. The wild waters of the river are swallowed into a narrow canyon-like rocky channel, and fall all of a sudden from a height of 67 metres. A visit to this enchanting site is compulsory for nature-lovers. And it is a must for those who nurture an interest in the Outaouais’ forest history. The sawmilling village of North Nation Mills was located on the edge of this impressive waterfall. For more than a century, its daily routine was linked to the tempo of the sawmilling industry. But its very existence will be sacrificed to the sawmilling industry of the Ontario side of the Ottawa River, in Rockland and Ottawa for instance. The timber resources of the Quebec shore were being used, as always, to supply first and foremost the undertakings of the south shore of the Ottawa River.

In 1801 and 1803, public notary Joseph Papineau, the father of the celebrated Louis-Joseph Papineau, bought the Seigneury of the Petite-Nation from the Quebec Seminary and the Quebec Chapter.1 As early as 1807, he launched the development of his seigneury by hiring lumberjacks to exploit its potential forest resources2. But it seems that managing such an operation from far off was a long way from being a picnic! On January 17th 1809, Papineau decided to sell off part of his seigneury to Robert Fletcher, a Boston merchant.3 Fletcher promised to work the seigniorial forest and to build a sawmill at the Sault-de-la-Chaudière. He moved up to the Petite-Nation with 160 New England lumberjacks in order to fulfil his dream4. But his dream turned into a nightmare and Fletcher, indebted all over, and desperate, committed suicide. Faced with this dramatic turn of events, the creditors worked together to find a solution to the problems that arose from this situation5. Fletcher’s heirs relinquished the inheritance which was saddled with too many debts. All that part of the seigneury which had been conveyed to Fletcher reverted back to Joseph Papineau as well as the mill that had been built by Fletcher. The other creditors would split the profits accruing from the sale of the squared pine and oak timbers and of the split staves that were waiting to be shipped.6

The sawmill of the “Mill Reservation Lot” seems to have been rented to a new lumberman by Joseph Papineau after Robert Fletcher’ sad demise. However; in 1817, as soon as Louis-Joseph Papineau becomes the owner of the seigneury, he decided to invest in the renovation of the sawmill to facilitate renting it out.7 His move is a good one because he gets to rent the mill to a person of note, Thomas Mears of Hawkesbury, a friend of Philemon Wright. Mears is the tenant of the mill until 18348. In 1826, during Mears’ administration, Surveyor Joseph Bouchette stops in for a visit. He gives a written description of the place. He says that the sawmill cuts from 45 to 50 000 thick planks and deals a year and a large quantity of shingles. The sawn timber is floated down a wood slide 2 400 feet long, from the mill to the foot of the falls. It is rafted there in order to be floated down to the Quebec market9.

A few years before the 1837-1838 Rebellion, in 1834-1835, Louis-Joseph Papineau brought important improvements to his sawmill10. From 1834 to 1847, the grist mill and the sawmill were rented out to Peter McGill.11 Alanson Cooke, Asa Cooke’s son, took over as manager from his father from 1847 to 1854. In 1851, Cooke reported that he manufactures one million feet board measure of planks and deals thanks yearly to his sawmill’s 42 saws. And he added that about forty men were working there.12

Alanson Cooke’s reign will be a short one. His administration of the mill property and timber limits was open to question.13 Gilmour and Company, who have timber limits in the townships located north of the seigneury, invests in the building of timber slides, booms and dams to facilitate the log-driving operations on the Petite Nation River. The firm set up the Petite Nation River Improvement Company to carry this out. Louis-Joseph Papineau gave his full backing to Allan Gilmour in the furtherance of this project and Alanson Cooke offered to cooperate.14 On October 28th 1853, Cooke sold out to Gilmour15. But Allan Gilmour was unhappy about the turn of events and cancelled outright the arrangement that he had arrived at on September 27th 1854.16 The following month, on October 17th 1854, Louis-Joseph Papineau sold the property to Alanson Cooke17. But something went wrong because Papineau changed his mind, cancelled the contract and sold out to Gilmour and Company in the weeks that followed.18 The wording of that sales contract implied that Cooke had defrauded Louis-Joseph Papineau and that word of his misdealing would have gotten back to Papineau much faster if Allan Gilmour had not been confined to bed for so long because of illness.19

Gilmour and Company owned and operated North Nation Mills from 1854 to 1869. In that year, it transferred its plant and timber limits of the Petite-Nation Sector to a new company, the John A. Cameron Company, the shareholders were J.A. Cameron, J.C. Edwards, James MacLaren, Thomas Cole and D.A. Cameron.20 North Nation Mills was under the control of that firm until August 31st 1882. After, it was subjected to the whims of the W.C. Edwards Company21 the main sawmills of whom were located at Rockland and at the Rideau Falls22. The Sault-de-la-Chaudièr» or North Nation mill was finally closed. It was demolished around 1903. The village went into decline and in 1920 disaster struck! The W.C. Edwards sold out all of its plant and timber limits on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River to the Gatineau Company Limited23. Obviously, the village of North Nation Mills24 and the sawmilling industry as a whole25 don’t carry much weight in the Canadian International Paper (CIP) Empire.

North Nation Mills played a major role in the Outaouais’ forest industry. Its first sawmill, built in 1809, was one of the oldest of the Ottawa Valley. Its story is a good summary of the evolution of the region’s lumber industry. That’s the reason why it deserves to be a hall-mark in our recollection of the past.

Search the Web!
Learn more about the life of Louis-Joseph Papineau by looking up his biography in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography online at:
Website

Discover a bit more on Allan Gilmour by looking up his biography in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography online at:
Website

Visit:
Discover the Plaisance Falls and the Plaisance Heritage Centre on the “Outaouais Heritage Web Magazine” online at:
Website

Arrange for a visit to the Plaisance Heritage Centre and its permanent exhibit located in what used to be the local Roman Catholic rectory of Plaisance at:
Website

References and definitions

1 The « Quebec Chapter » designates the assembly of cathedral Canons.

2 Claude Baribeau, « Louis-Joseph Papineau, seigneur de la Petite-Nation », in L’Outaouais : Actes du colloque sur l’identité régionale…, Hull, IHRO, 1981, p. 35 and 37.

3 It’s a portion of the seigneury which measures 160 arpents in front (width) by five leagues in depth, located to the west of the seigneurial lands. See: Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Centre d’archives de Montréal, CN601, S185 (Notary Jonathan Abraham Gray), January 17th 1809.

4 Claude Baribeau, La Seigneurie de la Petite-Nation, 1801-1854, Hull, Les Éditions Asticou, 1983, p. 28.

5 Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Centre d’archives de Montréal, CN601, S185 (Notary Jonathan Abraham Gray), March 19th 1810, « Acte d’union entre les créanciers de feu Robert Fletcher ».

6 Idem.

7 Claude Baribeau, op. cit., p. 103.

8 Ibid., p. 104.

9 “Petite Nation River” in Joseph Bouchette, A Topographical Dictionary of the Province of Lower Canada…, London, Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, 1831. Bouchette distinguishes clearly the sawmill that’s on the Petite Nation River (North Nation Mills) from the seigniorial sawmill and gristmill that’s located on the site of Papineauville: “A small river runs through the middle of the first front concession and drives a corn-mill with two sets of stones and also a sawmill having only 4 saws. These are sufficient for the wants of the seigniory”.

11 Rental contract agreed to between L.-J. Papineau and Peter McGill, September 20th 1834, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Centre d’archives de Québec, P417 (Joseph Papineau Family Fonds), 1960-01-243 / 16. Correspondence file entitled “Allan Gilmour” (1854) and file dealing with the “ moulins de la seigneurie de la Petite-Nation, 1817-1863”

12 Nominal Census of the Côte du moulin of the Petite-Nation Seigneury for 1851. Information regarding Alanson Cooke.

13 To document and have a better understanding of the difficulties that were brought on by Alanson Cooke’s conduct as administrator of North Nation Mills (the village was known as Cooke’s Mills during his reign), one would have to read through his business correspondence and that of Louis-Joseph Papineau and Allan Gilmour. Those files are to be found in the Joseph Papineau Family Fonds. See: Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Centre d’archives de Québec, P417, 1960-01-243 / 2 and 16.

14 “Bargain and Agreement by and between L.-J. Papineau and the Petite Nation River Improvement Company” and “Bargain and Agreement by and between the Petite Nation River Improvement Company and Alanson Cooke”, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Centre d’archives de l’Outaouais, CN701, S10 (contracts of Notary François-Samuel MacKay), contracts nos 769 and 770 of February 18th 1852.

15 Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Centre d’archives de Québec, CN301, S51 (contracts of Notary William Darling Campbell), contract no 108 of October 28th 1853.

16 Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Centre d’archives de Québec, CN301, S51 (contracts of Notary William Darling Campbell), contract no 215 of September 27th 1854. The text of the cancellation of the sales contract of October 23rd 1853 is to be found at the end of contract no 108.

17 Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Centre d’archives de Montréal, CN601, S311 (contracts of Notary Casimir-Fidèle Papineau), contract no 1197 of October 17th 1854.

18 That sales contract is dated «854. It has to have been written after the October 17th 1854 contract passed in front of Notary Casimir-Fidèle Papineau. It must have been written therefore in November or December of 1854.

19 Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Centre d’archives de Québec, P417 (Joseph Papineau Family Fonds), 1960-01-243 / 16, Allan Gilmour correspondence file (1854).

20 The Ottawa Evening Citizen, 18 September 1929, p. 9. Obituary of John C. Edwards entitled “John C. Edwards died today in his 89th year .”

21 For a biography of W.C. Edwards and a survey of the history of the Rockland sawmill, see: “The Ottawa District”, in The Timber Trades Journal, February 20th 1897, p. xxxviii.

22 Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Centre d’archives de l’Outaouais, CN701, S10 (contracts of Notary François-Samuel MacKay), contract no 6566 of August 31st 1882. A list of the timber limits sold out to the W.C. Edwards Company is given.

23 Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Centre d’archives de Montréal, CN601, S563, (contracts of Notary J.-L. Narcisse Lachapelle), contract no 33429 of March 8th 1921.

24 The site and falls of North Nation Mills are sold to the Gatineau Power Company by the Gatineau Company on April 15th 1932, just like all the other water powers held by the Gatineau Company. The transfer of assets from the mother-company to a subsidiary was a way for the CIP (Canadian International Paper) to make substantial fiscal savings. When the electric companies were nationalized by the Quebec Government in 1962, the magnificent Sault-de-la-Chaudière fell into Hydro-Quebec’s lap. See: Contracts of Notary George Carlyle Marler (Quebec politician who was born in 1901 and who died in 1981), contract no 6335 of April 15th 1932.

25 In 1920, the lumber firms who were still involved in sawmilling were unable to stand up to the rapid growth of the pulp and paper industry. Anticipating the building of its Gatineau Mills industrial complex by the CIP, the Gatineau Company bought out the Riordon Company which had gone bankrupt as well as Gilmour and Hughson, W.C. Edwards, Kipawa and Ticonderoga Pulp and Paper. See : “Gigantic Merger of Pulp and Lumber Concerns”, in Canada Lumberman and Woodworker, June 15th 1920, p. 57-59.

Secondary media sources and captions

PHOTO No 1
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Photographer unknown.
Caption: Village of North Nation Mills, around 1920, just before it was wiped off the map.

PHOTO No 2
Source: Archives d’arpentage / Greffe de l’arpenteur général du Québec, ministère des Ressources naturelles du Québec, PL70L025.
Caption: Plan of the Mill Reservation Lot drawn by Joseph Bouchette in 1826. The site of the old mill and of the new mill as well as the wood slide or “aqueduct” are shown on the plan.

PHOTO No 3
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Plan drawn by Louise Leclerc in 1984.
Caption: Plan of the Municipality of Plaisance pointing out the location of the Falls of the Petite-Nation, the Mill Reservation Lot and the demolished village of North Nation Mills.

PHOTO No 4
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Photographer: Pierre Louis Lapointe.
Caption: The Sault-de-la-Chaudière or Chaudière Falls as it appeared around 1980.

PHOTO No 5
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Photographer: Pierre Louis Lapointe.
Caption: The Sault-de-la-Chaudière or Chaudière Falls as it appeared around 1980.

PHOTO No 6
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Photographer: Pierre Louis Lapointe.
Caption: The Sault-de-la-Chaudière or Chaudière Falls as it appeared around 1980.

PHOTO No 7
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Plan drawn by Louise Leclerc in 1984.
Caption: Plan of the Seigneury of the Petite-Nation. Please note the Côte du Moulin located at the western edge of the seigneury as well as the site of the sawmill.

PHOTO No 8
Source: Library and Archives Canada, C-22874.
Caption: Peter McGill (1788-1860).

PHOTO No 9
Source: Archives d’arpentage / Greffe de l’arpenteur général du Québec, ministère des Ressources naturelles du Québec, PL92357.
Caption: Sketch drawn by Alanson Cooke showing the timber limits he was asking for in his request dated January 1st 1851. They were all located to the North and outside the Seigneury.

PHOTO No 10
Source: Library and Archives Canada, PA-25460.
Caption: W. C. Edwards (1844-1921).

PHOTO No 11
Source: University of Ottawa, Archives of the Centre de recherche en civilisation canadienne-française , PH83-R35F6.
Caption: Towing of a boom of saw logs cut on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. Those logs are to be cut in the W.C. Edwards sawmill in Rockland.

PHOTO No 12
Source: “Gigantic Merger of Pulp and Lumber Concerns”, in Canada Lumberman and Woodworker, June 15th 1920, (vol. 40), p. 57.
Caption: The W.C. Edwards Company No 1 sawmill in Rockland around 1920. That company was established in Rockland in 1871.

PHOTO No 13
Source: University of Ottawa, Archives of the Centre de recherche en civilisation canadienne-française , PH83-R39F8.
Caption: A Bon (Bond) or voucher worth one dollar and dated July 1st 1896. It can only be redeemed in the Edwards Company store in Rockland.