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Lumbering industry enjoys long, prosperous history

by M. Eulalia O'Halloran

Editor's note: Miss O'Halloran is a St. George historian I am sure many of you are familiar with.  We are grateful to her for allowing us to reprint Lumbering in Easter Charlotte County.

Part II
Lumbering in the Pennfield Area

    In 1884, Millen McDowell had a sawmill at Woodland near the shore.  By 1890 there were two more mills in that area: Caleb Hawkins' mill in Pennfield and James Hunter 's further up the brook.  A water-powered mill was started up by Judson Jackson in 1910 and Luther Smith began a large steam mill in that same year.
    More recently, the JD Irving Company has operated a large sawmill in Pennfield which has become the area's largest single employer.
    Before the turn of the century, the little settlement of Spear Mill on what was then the old Saint John road had several mills producing boxwood and lathwood that were sold mostly to the Seacoast Canning Company at Eastport, Maine.  The farmers in the area added to their cash income by cutting pilings and weir stakes while coopers turned out barrels and barrel-hoops much in demand for flour, apples and lime.  The first pulpwood cut in the Spear Mill settlement came from the Joseph Brine property at Utopia.
    Earl Smith of St. Stephen ran a sawmill and lumbering operation at Seeley's Cove in the 1940's, while about the same time a Sussex firm had a mill at Nigger Harbour along the Seeley's Cove Road.  The George Spear mill was running in Mill Cove in the early 1900's and lumber for the last house in Upper Letang was sawed for James Spinney.  A sawmill at John Hunter's pond near Crow Harbour was run by a water wheel.
    Lumbering created considerable activity in the Lepreau area during the 1920's.  Arthur Biggs had one mill and Charles and Keith Anderson another.  By 1938, the Andersons were cutting pit-props for the British market.  In the 1950's, the Flemmings had a mill and a large lumbering operation at Goose Lake, near Lepreau.
    Joshua Knight was a big lumber operator in the New River area in the 1860's with mills at New River and Musquash.  He cut 'ton timber'--a term for semi-cut squared timber destined for the British and European markets.  Less wood was cut away in the forest because damage to the surfaces from driving and rafting meant that the stick had to be re-hewn when it reached England, Norway and other destinations.
    The Knight firm later bought out the Prescott and Lawrence mill in Pocologan which had been shipping to New York.  Aubrey Russell had a sawmill at New River Station in 1930.

The early years of Beaver Harbour

    In 1783 Beaver Harbour was founded by a group of people called the Society of Friend or Quakers.  Within a short time they had built a thriving community and had two sawmills.
    Disaster struck in 1790 when fire swept all before it, wiping out the entire settlement, including the Quaker meeting house and all other homes save one.  At one point, the fire threatened the other settlements and in fact destroyed the first St. George.
    It was a great blow to the pioneer Joshua Knight, who had high hopes that Beaver Harbour would become the major port on the Bay of Fundy.  He moved on to other goals, but Beaver Harbour was reborn and has survived, admittedly in a more modest way.
    Typical of its determination is the modern effort of Earl Hawkins, a veteran Beaver Harbour boat-builder, who within the past year launched a wooden fishing vessel, which he named after his two granddaughters.

The Connors Bros. Mill at Blacks Harbour

    The present mill was constructed in 1926 after two earlier ones had burnt, the last in 1921.  The first mill foreman was Winfield Sherwood; others included Alfred Bowden and more recently Albion Richardson, the renowned boat-builder from Deer Island.
    Charles V. Davis was the surveyor in charge of Connors Bros. woodlands for many years.  Some of their logs came from the Magaguadavic and others from the Lepreau area.

Mills at Mascrene

    This settlement was named by Neil McKenzie, who came out from the Mascrene area of Scotland in the late 1700's.  His son George worked with him and together they established a mill, an extensive woods operation and shipyard.
    On of their better known ships was the barge Sophia McKenzie, whose log book was donated to the Charlotte County Historical Society in 1974.  It described her voyage from Calcutta to London in 1852-32.  The log had been preserved by Miss Alberta McKenzie, the great-granddaughter of Neil.
    According to Miss McKenzie, the 478-ton barge was built on the Magaguadavic three and a half miles below St. George.  Her timbers had been felled locally and cut at the McKenzie mill at Caithness.
    During its lumbering heydays. Mascarene had four wharves: Dicks, McLeods, McDiarmids and Stewarts.  One sawmill stood on the Thomas Leland property and another was near McVicar's on Leland Creek.

Gillmor family operations at Second Falls

    Shortly after the energetic Arthur Hill Gillmor arrived in the St. George area in 1876 from Machias, his son Daniel built a watermill at Second Falls, a beautiful cascade that tumbles over a perpendicular rock in the Magaguadavic river.
    Successive generations of Gillmors' maintained mills on both sides of the river at Second Falls and at Linton Stream, the outlet of Digdeguash Lake.  Two ships registered in Daniel Gillmor's name, the Ben Bolt and the Eldorade, carried their lumber to New England and Ireland.
    Other families besides the Gillmor's established mills in the same area.  Andrew and William John Maxwell built one at Linton Stream that was always known as the John Maxwell Mill, while Robert Johnson had one for many years at Second Falls.
    With so many logs being cut by different firms, each group made sure it's registered pond markings were placed on each of its logs.
    Daniel K. Gillmor's mark was a K with a diamond; Arthur H. Gillmor's was an open rectangle; Arthur S. and Roswell Gillmor chose a double 'v', one placed above the others, as theirs.
    Yet another Second Falls firm was Brockway Brothers.  All these companies had their timber stream-driven to a common boom just above Second Falls Bridge, where the logs were separated according to individual markings.
    Many logs had had their marks obliterated or mutilated by chafing on rocks.  These were placed in a side-boom called a 'price-boom' and were periodically sold at auction to the highest bidder.  The auction proceeds were used to defray the expenses of the boom-master and his helper.
    Allison Craig's great grandfather, John S. Craig, was an official boom-master all his working life and he was succeeded in turn by his eldest son Albert.
    From the Second Falls Boom, the logs were rafted down river to Ludgate's Landing or to a fresh-water point, where two-wheeled carts drawn by oxen transported them to the wharves.
    Red Rock runs eastward from the river road at Second Falls, eight miles north of St. George.  The road crossed the Magaguadavic by a covered bridge and goes on to Red Rock Lake and McDougall Lake.
    Like many other pioneers, people in this area worked on their farms and as well cut lumber for the mills and took part in the annual river drives.  The lumber camps along the river each had about 35 men and about 50 horses.  Good axe-men were plentiful and took pride in their work and in their animals.  Their teams were usually nicely matched and there was much rivalry as to which driver could haul the most logs and still have the fattest team come spring.  The highest pay went to experienced rivermen who could run logs through white water.
    The story is told of a contractor, Hamden Lee, who had a large operation throughout the late 1800s and into this century.  When a young man asked Lee for work, he gave him the job of building a new camp.  After a day or so, the young fellow complained to Lee that there were no windows for the camp.
    'It will not make any difference,' said Lee.  'You won't see daylight at the campy anyway.'
    The average pay for lumbermen in these years was $5 per 1000 feet.

The founding of Brockway

    In the early 1800's, Reuben Brockway came out from New Hampshire with his wife and family and homesteaded in what is now known as the Gowdie Place on the banks of the Magaguadavic.
    He purchased the crown land for 50 cents an acre and hacked out a small clearing from the forest.  He was later joined by others, including James Young, who came up from St. George in 1834 to become the village blacksmith.
    Brockway had learned his trade as an apprentice in Bedfast, Ireland.  One of his first enterprises was a shingle factory, established at Lower Trout Brook by Young and William Jordon.  This same location was chosen for a saw mill which also had a  machine to make matches.
    In the early years, oxen were more common than horses and provisions were brought up river in skiffs that were poled up from St. George.  The last part of the supply route was 30 miles of hilly terrain.  The first mail was brought in by a man who had worked all the way from Fredericton.  On the second delivery, he used a horse.

Early settlement along the Digdeguash

    Most of the original grantees were Scottish soldiers who had been trained by George McKay , the great-grandfather of Alvin McKay.  The surrounding area proved to be excellent for lumbering and soon several mills were operating.  Five dams were built along the Digdeguash to reserve the water for the mill runs during the dry summer months.
    The terrible Saxby Gale of Oct. 4, 1869 struck this area too, devastating the woods for miles.  The next spring, a fire swept through the settlements from Pomeroy Ridge to Bonny River but a late spring snow storm dumped four inches onto the smoldering forest and by May 24th all the danger had passed.
    The Digdeguash had the distinction of having the first gangsaw mill in Canada--built in 1803 by Mr. Osborne .  It turned out many a squared timber of the British market.  A steam mill built in 1868 at the Stillwater Bridge produced orange crates for Florida.  Unfortunately, fire destroyed this operation a year later.
    During the early years, a ferry ran across the Digdeguash narrows below the basin and later a draw-bridge was installed.  It was attended by Harry and Herbert McAleenan and remained in operation until a large steel structure was built.

Flume Ridge

    The first mill owner in this area was Thomas Campbell, who later sold out to William Clark and James Sullivan.  After the mill had been in operation for over 100 years, Clarence Clark shut it down and moved to Fredericton.

Some early lumber and land surveyors

    One of the earliest surveyors mentioned in the records was lawyer Peter Davis, who worked as a surveyor, calculator and estimator.  He lived in the St. George house now owned by A. Fraser Steeves on Carleton Street.
    According to the 1886-87 McAlpine Charlotte County Directory, other surveyors were William Mahood, Willmam Dulac, John McCallum and William W. Shaw.  In the 1900's came William Bowden of Second Falls, Thomas B. O'Halloran formerly of Prince Edward Island and Sydney Hyslop from the St. Stephen area.
    Some of the pulp-wood scalers were Lawrence Craig, Norman Gillmor, Morton L. Kennedy, William Spinney, Stephen Campbell and William Hoyt.


    The lumber trade in Charlotte County and the rest of New Brunswick and the British Colonies was fostered by a heavy duty imposed on timber from the Baltic Region.  The ships that carried masts and deals to Great Britain returned with immigrants and in this way the population was increased.
    Today, New Brunswick forest lands can still provide more wood, better wildlife habitat and improved recreational opportunities.  The Crown Lands Forests Act requires that Crown forests be managed to provide an example of how this can be done.
    All New Brunswickers should consider the multiple benefits our forests can provide.

Transcriber's note:  This was, with the exception of the highlighted surnames, transcribed as it appeared in the original Saint Croix Courier article.  This includes spelling.  If there are any disagreements, please consult the original.

SOURCE: "The Saint Croix Courier" (November 30, 1983) - written with permission.

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