Canadian Heritage

Historical Vignettes

The Forest Industry in Madawaska - a Wind of Change for the Valley

Towards the middle of the 19th century, numerous sawmills appeared along waterways, several of which were located near Fredericton. At that time, the most sought-after forest resources were: fir, white cedar, yellow birch, and especially white pine. After 1842, outsiders were greatly interested in the area's wood resources and became lumber barons of the region. They mostly came from the United States, Lower Canada or from New Brunswick and operated on both sides of the Saint John River. These families are remembered today as pioneers of the forest industry as we know it today: the Glasiers, the Morrows, the McLeans, and the Hammonds. The lumber industry meant important profits for these businesspersons and at the same time offered local farmers the opportunity to sell their products supplying lumber camps.8 The forest industry, which would gradually become more organized, would create employment for settlers of the area, thereby allowing them to diversify their economy and be competitive in the market place, proving to be very a very ferocious one.

The prosperity, which would shape Madawaska in the middle of the 19th century, was largely due to lucrative employment found in the forest, without neglecting the fact that a good part of their farm produce went to feed hundreds of men, as well as dozens of oxen and horses.9

Then began the construction of several mills such as the one owned by Bob Connors (1875), James Murchie's sawmill (1884) and the first Fraser mill in Baker Brook (1904) only to name a few. The construction of several railway networks would mark the end of the 19th century, opening other horizons for the inhabitants of Madawaska and therefore reducing their isolation10, marking a completely new era for Madawaska which would see the forest industry transform itself from a sawn lumber based economy to one based on pulp and paper (see the historical vignettes # 2, 3, 4 and 5).