Place: Gatineau River
Theme: From Bush to Mill
Year: 1900
Related Vignette(s):

1867-1960 - From Bush to Mill
Vignette
C4
Log-drivers, get your tools and go!

Canadian International Paper log-drivers trying to break a jam with their peaveys, around 1939.
Canadian International Paper log-drivers trying to break a jam with their peaveys, around 1939.
A large Pointer boat or Ottawa Barge around 1900.
A large Pointer boat or Ottawa Barge around 1900.
The various tools used by the log-drivers in their line of work.
The various tools used by the log-drivers in their line of work.
An alligator boat towing an Ottawa barge, better known as a Pointer boat.
An alligator boat towing an Ottawa barge, better known as a Pointer boat.
This photograph of an alligator boat is reveals the technical characteristics of this paddle-wheel tug. The winch attached to the bow (front) of the tug was used to break log-jams, to draw booms of logs, to pull heavy trees that had been felled close to the shore into the water, and to winch the alligator boat itself across the land, from one body of water to another, by having it crawl or slide itself on its flat bottom.
This photograph of an alligator boat is reveals the technical characteristics of this paddle-wheel tug. The winch attached to the bow (front) of the tug was used to break log-jams, to draw booms of logs, to pull heavy trees that had been felled close to the shore into the water, and to winch the alligator boat itself across the land, from one body of water to another, by having it crawl or slide itself on its flat bottom.
This scene depicts the importance of the pike pole in the log-driving and log-sweeping operations of a log-drive.
This scene depicts the importance of the pike pole in the log-driving and log-sweeping operations of a log-drive.
Around 1920, these two novice log-drivers are waiting for the impending spring break-up and for the ice surface of the lakes to be swallowed up, so that they may be able to run the foolhardy log-drive right down to the mills.
Around 1920, these two novice log-drivers are waiting for the impending spring break-up and for the ice surface of the lakes to be swallowed up, so that they may be able to run the foolhardy log-drive right down to the mills.
These calked boots are an essential security measure when working in log-driving operations.
These calked boots are an essential security measure when working in log-driving operations.
These two men are carefully preparing the dynamite that will be used to break the log-jam.
These two men are carefully preparing the dynamite that will be used to break the log-jam.
These three men are turning this capstan by hand. By rolling-up the rope, the log boom is pulled forward or warped across a body of water.
These three men are turning this capstan by hand. By rolling-up the rope, the log boom is pulled forward or warped across a body of water.
These tools played a major role in the lumber industry.
These tools played a major role in the lumber industry.

The driving of cribs or rafts of square timbers was quite different from the driving of the loose saw-logs and pulp logs that fed the sawmills and the pulp and paper factories. These logs were generally smaller than the square timbers. The methods used in harvesting the wood and in transporting it to the mills or to the export market, however, were much the same until the end of the Second World War.

Mainly, the lumberjacks who worked on the Outaouais log-drives made use of seven tools. The names given to them vary considerably; however, the English terminology was dominant even in French-Canadian usage. They were: (image)

  1. The hand-hook: A steel hook with a three-foot long (one metre) handle used to handle the unbarked logs.
  2. The pike-pole: A ten to fourteen-foot long pole (three to four metres) to the end of which is fastened one or two steel hooks. It is used to prod and steer wood in water, squared timbers, saw-logs or four-foot long (1,25 metre) pulp wood bolts. (image)
  3. The cant-hook or cant-dog and the peavey: These two hand levers have a stout steel sharp-toothed curved hook that bites into the side of the log, making the rolling of logs easier. The cant-hook differs from the peavey in that it has a blunt toe with corrugations that bite into the log whereas the peavey has a spiked toe. The handle lengths also differ, the cant-hook’s handle is four and a half feet long; the peavey’s five and a half feet. The cant-hook is mostly used on skidways; the peavey on log-drives. The peavey was invented in 1858 by Joseph Peavey, an American blacksmith from Stillwater, Maine1.
  4. The loading hooks: Short curved steel hooks with steel ringed handles used in the loading and handling of logs.
  5. The cross-cut saw also called whipsaw or two-handed saw: This long saw has a wide blade, generally thicker in the centre, with handles at both ends. It is used for cutting down trees and for cross-cutting tree trunks2.
  6. The adze: This axe-like tool has an arched blade which is at right angles and perpendicular to the handle. It is used to cut away the rounded and barked surface of logs, the result being a well-dressed, smooth and plane wood surface. The adze is also used to make notches and to lop off tree branches.
  7. The charge of dynamite sticks: This tool was the foolhardy log-driver’s worst nightmare! The use of dynamite charges to break log-jams began with the advent of the pulp and paper industry, whose demand for pulp wood bolts knew no limits. Since the pulp-wood was destined to be turned into ground wood pulp in the mechanical pulp mills or into wood chips used in the sulphite pulp manufacturing process, it was of little consequence to blow up pulp-wood log-jams. But the same did not apply for saw-logs. They had to be floated down to the mills in perfect condition. The dynamite charge is made up of five or six paraffin-coated sticks or cartridges of dynamite tied to the end of an eight-foot alder pole. The detonator or percussion cap is pushed into one of the dynamite cartridges and the joint is waterproofed with soap. The cap is then connected to a coil fuse. It’s the fuse length that determines the amount of time that’s left to run to safety! One foot of fuse lasts one minute3. If the fuse is too short or if our dare-devil friend is unlucky and slips on a loose log, he might just capsize into Eternity! (image)

To this list of tools should be added three essential inventions that were in use in log-driving operations: The Ottawa Barge or Pointer Boat; the Winch4; and the Alligator tug.

  1. The Ottawa Barge or Pointer Boat is a flat bottom rowboat that facilitates the rapid transit of log-drivers and of their equipment on lakes and rivers5 (image). The pointers are light and easy-to-handle and their sharp and greatly inclined bow and stern permit easy-riding over floating logs and safe passage through a river’s white waters. They were designed in Ottawa by John Cockburn in 1859, for J.R. Booth, the Ottawa lumber baron6. The qualities of the pointer boat explain why it was used in the lumber industry throughout Canada and the Province of Quebec7.
  2. The Winch is a raft on which a vertical cylinder or capstan is installed in order to roll up a cable or heavy rope. (image) The men tie the rope to a log boom to haul it in a lake’s calm waters or upstream, against a prevailing current8. In order to do this; however, they have to hook on to something. That something is another raft, linked to the first one by a cable. This second raft carries a 1500 pound anchor, which when dropped in the water holds back the raft. The men would then be able to wind her in pulling raft and towed log boom up to the anchor. And the whole process would be repeated time and time again!
  3. The Alligator tug can also be used to haul timber booms across quiet and slow-running waters, especially on very large lakes. The horizontal winch that’s attached to the bow (front) of the tug and is powered by a steam engine or a motor can help break log-jams by pulling on the key logs, draw booms of logs across large lakes and pull into the water heavy trees that had been felled close to the shore. (image) The winch can also be used to pull the Alligator boat across the land by sliding itself on its flat bottom. The cable is pulled out from the winch and is tied to a tree that’s located ahead of the tug. When the cable is winded in, the tug is pulled forward, towards the tree to which it is anchored. Repeating this, time and again, winches the Alligator boat across the land, from one body of water to another.

Search the Web!
View Raymond Garceau’s film (in French only) on log-driving entitled ”La Drave”. This National Film Board production is an eye-opener in that it shows real-life film of log-driving operations. And the tools of the trade are on show. They can be viewed at:
Website

Learn more about Alligator tugs by viewing a video showing the « W.D. Stalker Alligator Steam Tug Boat ». You’re invited to drop in for a visit at:
Website

View the video “River Log Drive”, a documentary film from the Forest History Society at:
Website
River drives were a standard way of moving large amounts of cut timber to sawmills during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, prior to the expansion and adoption of railroads and trucks for log transport.

Discover a place like no other… The Forest Fire Prevention History Interpretation Center, located in Maniwaki. A visit there will make you discover the original « Pytonga », the lumber tug that towed for years on end millions of cubic metres of logs across the Baskatong Reservoir, one of the Upper-Gatineau’s largest bodies of water.
Website

References and definitions

1 John W. Hughson et Courtney C. J. Bond, Hurling Down the Pine, Chelsea, The Historical Society of the Gatineau, 1987, p. 64-65. Also: Donald MacKay, The Lumberjacks, Toronto, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1978, p. 124-125

2 For a short history of the cross-cut saw and of the filing and setting techniques used, see: Donald MacKay, Op. cit., p. 80-81.

3 Normand Lafleur, La drave en Mauricie, des origines à nos jours; histoire et traditions, Trois-Rivières, Éditions du Bien public, 1970, p. 90-91. Also : Donald MacKay, Op. cit., p. 136-139.

4 Normand Lafleur, Op. cit., p. 87-88.

5 « Longues de quelque vingt pieds, l’avant et l’arrière fortement relevés, ces embarcations à fond plat et étroit sont d’une souplesse étonnante. » Normand Lafleur, La drave en Mauricie, des origines à nos jours; histoire et traditions, Trois-Rivières, Éditions du Bien public, 1970, p. 83-84.

6 Ontario Department of Lands and Forests, Operations Branch, The Pointer Boat, Ontario, Ontario Department of Lands and Forests, Operations Branch, 1963.

7 Normand Lafleur, La drave en Mauricie des origines à nos jours. Histoire et traditions, Trois-Rivières, Éditions du Bien public, 1970, pages 83-84.

8 Idem. Voir aussi : A.R.M. Lower, The North American Assault on the Canadian Forest, New York, Greenwood Press, 1968, p. 37.

Secondary media sources and captions

PHOTO No 1
Source: City of Gatineau Archives, Canadian International Paper (CIP) Fonds, P030-01_0006_p0099.
Caption: Canadian International Paper log-drivers trying to break a jam with their peaveys, around 1939.

PHOTO No 2
Source: Province of Ontario Archives. Photographer unknown. Photograph taken from Hurling Down the Pine (Chelsea, Historical Society of the Gatineau, 1987), p. 64.
Caption: A large Pointer boat or Ottawa Barge around 1900.

PHOTO No 3
Source: Roland Saint-Amand, op. cit, p. 159 and Normand Lafleur, op. cit, p. 90-91.
Caption: The various tools used by the log-drivers in their line of work.

PHOTO No 4
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Photographer unknown..
Caption: An alligator boat towing an Ottawa barge, better known as a Pointer boat.

PHOTO No 5
Source: Province of Ontario Archives, photograph C-120-3-0-0-33. Photographer unknown.
Caption: This photograph of an alligator boat is reveals the technical characteristics of this paddle-wheel tug. The winch attached to the bow (front) of the tug was used to break log-jams, to draw booms of logs, to pull heavy trees that had been felled close to the shore into the water, and to winch the alligator boat itself across the land, from one body of water to another, by having it crawl or slide itself on its flat bottom.

PHOTO No 6
Source: Sketch by J.W. Evans originally published in Picturesque Canada, volume 1, 1882, p. 233.
Caption: This scene depicts the importance of the pike pole in the log-driving and log-sweeping operations of a log-drive.

PHOTO No 7
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. Photographer unknown.
Caption: Around 1920, these two novice log-drivers are waiting for the impending spring break-up and for the ice surface of the lakes to be swallowed up, so that they may be able to run the foolhardy log-drive right down to the mills.

PHOTO No 8
Source: City of Gatineau Archives, Canadian International Paper (CIP) Fonds, P030-01_0006_p0089.
Caption: These calked boots are an essential security measure when working in log-driving operations.

PHOTO No 9
Source: City of Gatineau Archives, Canadian International Paper (CIP) Fonds, P030-01_0006_p0113.
Caption: These two men are carefully preparing the dynamite that will be used to break the log-jam.

PHOTO No 10
Source: Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History, University of Maine, Orono. Taken from : Donald MacKay, The Lumberjacks, Toronto, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1978, p. 125.
Caption: These three men are turning this capstan by hand. By rolling-up the rope, the log boom is pulled forward or warped across a body of water.

PHOTO No 11
Source: Taken from : Donald MacKay, The Lumberjacks, Toronto, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1978, p. 74, 81 et 125.
Caption: These tools played a major role in the lumber industry.