Canadian Heritage

Historical Vignettes

Working in the Mill: From the Forest to the City

The arrival of the railway network and numerous sawmills (see historical vignettes # 1, 2 and 4) towards the end of the 18th Century brings a breath of fresh air to Madawaska, considered until now as a region isolated from the rest of the world. These news realities will gradually see the return of lumberjacks and log drivers to towns and villages where they will experience considerable upheaval in their working conditions as well as their living situations.

The Baker, Connors, Murchie, Michaud, Burgess and Fraser1 mills, just to name a few, grow like mushrooms along the Saint John River Valley, and will greatly influence the economy of the region. Up until now, timber coming from logging camps to be transformed, floated down waterways in log drives, toward mills located in Fredericton, Saint John and even overseas. This seasonal cycle would soon change following the building of sawmills in the area but even more so, after the coming of the railways.

The first sawmills encouraged the development of a primitive type of market economy by creating a small exporting business bringing money to the region while providing work to local farmers during wintertime. (...) In the second half of the 19th Century, the railroads entered the region, offering farmers and loggers the opportunity to sell their products in larger markets.2