Canadian Heritage

Historical Vignettes

Working in the Mill: From the Forest to the City

Many workers would be involved in the construction of the mill and then in its internal operations. 'The old Wood Room' was Mr. Oneil Couturier's workplace for forty-six years as well as a book he wrote reporting the realities of the workers of his department from 1918 to 1970.6

Too often forgotten in the official, financial, and historical reports tracing the history of the company, the labourer represents an essential element in the life of an industrial business. Fraser Companies Limited is no different from the others in this respect. From the construction of the mill in 1917 until today, hundreds of workers have contributed to the expansion.7

During his years of service to the Fraser mill in Edmundston, Mr. Couturier kept a journal serving to note the history and daily realities of the workers. In his journal, he includes reports on working conditions after World War I and World War II, the employer-employee relationships, the evolution of the product and especially the memories of the many workers who left their mark on the mill.

We can establish that they were not school kids. They had all known a hard life, having been raised for this type of life from the age of twelve or fourteen. Their mentality, their habits, and especially their language were impregnated with it. However, for others, the law of the logging camp prevailed. It was the rule of the strongest; the rest were sent packing.8