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Home > History of Development > Early Industry: Case Studies > Forestry > The Men Who Made the Lumber

Early Industry Case Studies

The Men Who Made the Lumber

Spring Boarding—Used For Cutting Down Trees, c.1910.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.

Logging Camps, c.1910.Lumber camps 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.

Winter Storage Of Logs, c.1919.Besides the 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
Friends of Reynolds-Alberta Museum



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