Place: Black River, Pontiac
Theme: From Bush to Mill
Year: 1900
Related Vignette(s):

1867-1960 - From Bush to Mill
Vignette
C2
A typical workday in the shanties

Fellers cutting down a tree on the Black River, in Pontiac County in November of 1900.
Fellers cutting down a tree on the Black River, in Pontiac County in November of 1900.
A massive load of logs capable of arousing the jealousy and envy of the other teams of carters, most of them strong and foolhardy. Photograph dating back to the beginning of the 20th century.
A massive load of logs capable of arousing the jealousy and envy of the other teams of carters, most of them strong and foolhardy. Photograph dating back to the beginning of the 20th century.
Various timber wood-cutting and cross-cutting scenes around 1878.
Various timber wood-cutting and cross-cutting scenes around 1878.
Felling of a tree using a cross-cut saw around 1939.
Felling of a tree using a cross-cut saw around 1939.
Skidding and rolling of logs by lumberjacks around 1880.
Skidding and rolling of logs by lumberjacks around 1880.
Carting of waney timbers around 1895.
Carting of waney timbers around 1895.
Hauling of logs by sleigh on the Upper Ottawa around 1871.
Hauling of logs by sleigh on the Upper Ottawa around 1871.
Two typical lumberjacks standing at the door of a Blind River shanty in Northern Ontario around 1910. One is holding his felling axe, the other is showing off his cross-cut saw and his clay pipe. They are probably two of Richard McGregor’s sons.
Two typical lumberjacks standing at the door of a Blind River shanty in Northern Ontario around 1910. One is holding his felling axe, the other is showing off his cross-cut saw and his clay pipe. They are probably two of Richard McGregor’s sons.
The “cant-hook” or peavey was the indispensable tool needed to roll over large logs. These two young novice log rollers are standing proudly on logs that have been deposited on the frozen surface of this lake by the teamsters. They are holding cant-hooks, dreaming of the impending Spring break-up, when the logs will be going adrift.
The “cant-hook” or peavey was the indispensable tool needed to roll over large logs. These two young novice log rollers are standing proudly on logs that have been deposited on the frozen surface of this lake by the teamsters. They are holding cant-hooks, dreaming of the impending Spring break-up, when the logs will be going adrift.
This pile of logs is known as a “skidway” or “rollway”.
This pile of logs is known as a “skidway” or “rollway”.
Another means of hauling logs in the La Blanche Lake district around 1940. A caravan of large sleds is towed by a caterpillar tractor.
Another means of hauling logs in the La Blanche Lake district around 1940. A caravan of large sleds is towed by a caterpillar tractor.

The cook, his aides and the teamsters1 who were in charge of carting the timber were the first to rise, as early as four in the morning. They had to feed and harness the horses and thaw out the runners of the sleighs that were stuck in the ice since the night before. Soon after, at five o’clock, the lumberjacks get up and go to the table to eat breakfast. They have neither the time, nor the inclination to wash up, as the available water was literally frozen2.

In the heart of winter, the sun rises around seven o’clock and sets around four in the afternoon. Every single minute of daylight therefore had to be taken advantage of to do the work. The men must walk until they reach the cutting area, less than five kilometres away from the camp3. Two teams of two or three lumberjacks each work in close proximity to one another, calling on the same teamster, who, with his team of two horses, hauled the wood in turns to the closest lake or river. (image) Around Noon, the men stop to eat generally sheltered from the wind behind a large skidway of logs. A campfire was lit to boil the tea, to warm up the pork and beans, to toast the large slices of bread, and to roast grilled slices of salted pork4.

Whether they harvested squared timbers or logs used in the pulp and paper industry, the wood had to be hauled to the closest stream or lake.. Since the size of the harvested trees varies considerably, the hauling techniques used vary accordingly. The very heavy timbers were often skidded separately to the shoreline of a river or lake. Powerful oxen yokes or horse teams were sometimes called on to do the job (image). The wood used by the sawmilling or pulp and paper industry was generally carted away in sleighs, especially from January to March. It was piled along the shore of the streams or on the frozen surface of the lakes and rivers5.

The men walked back to the lumber camp before nightfall, supper being set for six o’clock. And the meal was followed by a well-deserved rest and a long drawn out pipe-smoking break:

“ The boisterous supper climax was followed by the sacred and tranquil moments that accompany the evening’s delectable tobacco pipe puffs. Later, the grinding stone was turned, and cant-hooks and axe handles were made; in short, they took care of their working tools. All around the heart and the crackling fire, mittens, clothes, stockings, socks and boots were hung up to dry on long poles tied to the ceiling. All of those things gave out a vapour-like smoke, the stench of which spread throughout the camboose shanty6

What comes out of all this is that those lumberjacks of yesteryear were very hard men . Life was tough and the going was rough, but they still found time to relax and to appreciate those rare blissful moments of peace that makes life bearable and liveable!

Search the Web!
Read up on the history of the Timber Trade 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 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 Employees who are in charge of hauling the harvested timber, using teams of horses or yokes of oxen.

2 John W. Hughson et Courtney C. J. Bond, Hurling Down the Pine, Chelsea, The Historical Society of the Gatineau, 1987, p. 84; J. E. Boyle, “My Life and Times in the Bush”Up the Gatineau, No 15 (1989), p. 10-11.

3 John W. Hughson et Courtney C. J. Bond, op. cit., p. 83 et 84.

4 J. E. Boyle, op. cit., p. 7-8.

5 Esdras Minville (Director), La Forêt, Montréal, Fides, 1944, p. 161-164.

6 Serge Bouchard (Ed.), Father Joseph-Étienne Guinard, o.m.i., Mémoires d’un simple missionnaire, Québec, Ministère des Affaires culturelles, 1980, p. 91.

Secondary media sources and captions

PHOTO No 1
Source: Province of Ontario Archives, Charles McNamara Collection, p. 22.
Caption: Fellers cutting down a tree on the Black River, in Pontiac County in November of 1900.

PHOTO No 2
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Photographer unknown.
Caption: A massive load of logs capable of arousing the jealousy and envy of the other teams of carters, most of them strong and foolhardy. Photograph dating back to the beginning of the 20th century.

PHOTO No 3
Source: George Munro Grant, Picturesque Canada; The Country as it Was and Is, Toronto, Belden Brothers, 1882, volume 1, p. 221.
Caption: Various timber wood-cutting and cross-cutting scenes around 1878.

PHOTO No 4
Source: City of Gatineau Archives, P030-01_0006_p0003.
Caption: Felling of a tree using a cross-cut saw around 1939.

PHOTO No 5
Source: George Munro Grant, Picturesque Canada; The Country as it Was and Is, Toronto, Belden Brothers, 1882, volume 1, p. 219.
Caption: Skidding and rolling of logs by lumberjacks around 1880.

PHOTO No 6
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Photographer unknown.
Caption: Carting of waney timbers around 1895.

PHOTO No 7
Source: McCord Museum, Notman Photographic Archives.
Caption: Hauling of logs by sleigh on the Upper Ottawa around 1871.

PHOTO No 8
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Photographer unknown.
Caption: Two typical lumberjacks standing at the door of a Blind River shanty in Northern Ontario around 1910. One is holding his felling axe, the other is showing off his cross-cut saw and his clay pipe. They are probably two of Richard McGregor’s sons.

PHOTO No 9
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Photographer unknown.
Caption: The “cant-hook” or peavey was the indispensable tool needed to roll over large logs. These two young novice log rollers are standing proudly on logs that have been deposited on the frozen surface of this lake by the teamsters. They are holding cant-hooks, dreaming of the impending Spring break-up, when the logs will be going adrift.

PHOTO No 10
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Photographer unknown.
Caption: This pile of logs is known as a “skidway” or “rollway”.

PHOTO No 11
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Photographer unknown.
Caption: Another means of hauling logs in the La Blanche Lake district around 1940. A caravan of large sleds is towed by a caterpillar tractor.