Pioneer Lumbering

The arrival of the explorers and fur traders in this area, brought the “Coureur des bois” or bushman.

There were plenty of trees to be cut, trimmed and shipped to the capital for exportation. J.R. Booth was one of the biggest employers in this region in the 1850’s.

Many shanty camps and make shift mills were built along the Mattawa and Ottawa rivers during the last century to supply his demand.

Building of a mill along the Ottawa River
Ritter’s Shingle Mill along the Mattawa River

Living in a shanty camp was not an easy life. You were miles away from civilization, in a one room camp which consisted of a common kitchen and beds for the workers. You ate what the cooks fed you and you slept in cramped quarters surrounded by men. You rarely saw women in these camps and, if you did, they were cooks.

Shanty Camp

Whether summer or winter, many means of transport using roads and rivers needed to be developed to move the logs.

A team of horse pulling out a load of logs during the winter season
The men are tying a group of logs together to make a raft to float on the log drive down the Mattawa River
Log jams were not unusual along the creeks and rivers. The loggers would have to risk life and limb to walk on the logs that were floating to release the jam.
A water tank used to make roads in the bush in the winter.
A crazy wheel used to pull logs up and down the mountain side.

The arrival of the railroad along the Ottawa River in 1881, allowed them to ship more logs to his mills in Ottawa and brought in more laborers to work his limit

A load of logs on a railroad bed ready to be shipped

After Booth Lumber had moved out of the area at the turn of the century, the logging industry continued to grow because the people who worked for the Booth company, decided to stay and try to make it on their own. Many opened independent saw mills along the Mattawa and Ottawa rivers and prospered, while some just opened for a few seasons, then closed.

Bigger companies like Guelph Cask Veneer and Plywood and Weyerhauser moved to Mattawa which kept many newcomers and locals employed and the town prospering.

Guelph Cask yard working at full capacity

Lumbering has been a thriving industry in Mattawa since the 1830’s.


Related Articles

Doug Mackey, 29:October 27, 2000 – A closer look at lumber baron J.R. Booth
Doug Mackey, 55:July 6, 2001 – Lumberman William Mackey recalled
Doug Mackey, 56:July 20, 2001 – Story of J.R. Booth’s Kiosk logging operation
Doug Mackey, 57:July 27, 2001 – Staniforth Lumber Company comes to Kiosk
Doug Mackey, 115:December 6, 2002 – Lumberman William Mackey Memorial