Canadian Heritage

Historical Vignettes

Working in the Forest: a Strenuous Routine

The logs then followed the natural flow of the watercourse and moved along, stopping only when it reached its destination at one of the many mills (see historical vignettes # 1, 2 and 4) or at its place of shipment for faraway markets. (see historical vignette # 1)

In the springtime, the brook, overflowing by the melting of the snow, seized the enormous logs deposited on its banks and drew them into the fast current. The logger chased them, a long forged pole in hand, pushing them in front of him, and followed them to the mechanical sawmill, which made wood beams and boards. Other pieces entrusted to the current of the river went down to Saint John, always escorted by the loggers. The log drivers only left them after having loaded them on the boats that would transport them afar.13

Wood was transported this way until safer and more effective means of transportation appeared and connected the logging camps to the factories. Typical work in the forest, as it was done during the second half of the 19th Century, would find itself transformed during the 20th Century with the dawn of technologies and new procedures.

In spite of this, the lumber camps would not be relegated to the past just yet. Several loggers will work there during winter months, but see their work changing radically with automation and industrialization. Horses would gradually be replaced by log haulers, then timber jacks. Their work crews would go down from ten to two or three men, while their working conditions would no longer be associated to lumber sites, but rather to the mill.