The Men Who
Made the Lumber
The face of the
early lumber industry in Alberta was made up not only of the companies and their
owners, but also the men who worked for them. There were generally two areas of
labour in the industry: mill work, and bush work where the men lived in lumber
camps. Most of the latter was back-breaking manual labour; the kind of work
unskilled labourers could quickly master.
were not fastidious. They were usually designed simply as places to house men
while they were in the bush. Few had anything even remotely like luxuries.
Bunkhouses were usually just lined with beds and heated by wood burning stoves.
Lice could usually be added to the list of furnishings. One can easily imagine
the dirty, pungent atmosphere: the smoke from the stove mingling with the smell
of cheap tobacco, sweaty clothes and a hundred or so grimy bodies. In some of
the camps with the poorest accommodations, not even a desperate need for a job
could convince some men to stay.
bunkhouses, most camps had site offices, repair sheds, and the cook shack.
Feeding a camp of 200 or more men was no easy task, especially when the supplies
had to be hauled 30 or 40 kilometres into the bush from the nearest railhead.
Bush camps also had corrals for the horses that provided the only source of
transportation and power in the bush. The Great West Lumber Company had as many
as 75 teams working in the bush at peak periods during the winter.
Kelly Buziak. Toiling in the Woods: Aspects of the Lumber Business in Alberta to 1930. n.p.: Friends of Reynolds-Alberta
Museum Society and Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism, Historic Sites and
Archives Service, 1992. With permission from
of Reynolds-Alberta Museum.