West Lumber Company
1906 Alberta was in the midst of the settlement boom. Tremendous building
demands fostered the rise of what became central Alberta's largest lumber
company, the Great West Lumber Company (G.W.L.). It was the product of the
amalgamation of several smaller companies in the Red Deer area, and interested
investors from Manitoba and British Columbia. The G.W.L. planned to use the Red
Deer River to transport logs. This was not a new idea, as the river had been used by
other companies. However, the G.W.L. undertook to tame the river a little by
dredging new channels, building a mill pond, and eventually building a dam on
the James River that flowed from the west into the Red Deer River.
predecessor, the Alberta Lumber Company, the G.W.L. was a success. The company
established logging camps on the headwaters of the Red Deer River. The two camps
employed approximately 440 men housed in enormous bunk houses that held up to
120 men, two to a bunk. The mill employed roughly 100 men and ran two 10-hour
shifts each day throughout the summer and fall. In 1909, a mill worker's wages
for a 10-hour shift were $1.70.
continued to expand until by 1911 it produced 2,438,400 metres of lumber. New
equipment included a 350 horsepower engine, an electric generator, a new gang
saw, trimmer, a huge lathe and a power drill. To accommodate it all, the mill was
lengthened by 15 metres. Unfortunately for the company, a series of setbacks
combined to reduce the output drastically. That, together with the general
economic recession in 1913 and the subsequent labour shortages of the First
World War, spelled the end of the company in 1916.
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.