Lumbering Played Vital Role

Lumbering Played Vital Role

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This article appeared in the May 26 1999 issue of
The Digby Courier

Lumbering played vital role
Bear River, Weymouth were county's major ports

Taken from Digby Weekly Courier Illustrated Magazine printed in 1897


When DeMonts and his brother explorers first visited Nova Scotia, they were no more pleased with the natural beauties of the hills and waters which unfolded before them in panoramic profusion than with the prospective value of the immense forests of 'divers kinds of wood' which clothed these hills to the water's edge.

It was apparent even in that far-off day that the future would see a large lumbering industry upon the shores which then were disturbed only by the visits of the wild cat or the pursuits of the native Indian. And, forsooth, the ax was not long in coming.

In these days when our best woods are becoming scarce, one cannot but think with regret of the whole lumber yards of choicest oak and ash and pine that have been ruthlessly destroyed. In our own county, and within this century, there has been the most wanton of waste in the timber fields. When Digby Neck was first settled, the pioneers vied one with another in making the biggest bonfires of forest trees. They were clearing their land and burning up whole banks of money. But there is yet remaining enough of Nature's primeval carpeting to rank Digby County high among the several lumbering districts of the province. Our industries are varied, and this of wood craft is one of the most important, employing as it does several hundreds of our earners.

The districts in the neighbourhood of Digby town and Bay settlements having long ago been cleared of their wood, lumbering operations are now carried on in the back country. Bear River and Weymouth are the two shipping ports of the county, and the cargoes sent from each place are brought in from distances of from five to 20 miles.

In some cases, the raw logs are drafted down the streams and manufactured nearer the towns, but it is now the favourite plan to carry the' mill back in the woods, saw the lumber on the spot, and team to the wharves. In Bear River, especially, the winter is thus a busy season, and the waterfront of the town has the appearance of one big lumber pile, with duplicates along the road for miles back. A goodly proportion of the export from this place is cordwood and piling, about 4,000 cords of wood and 400,000 feet of piling going out each year, and representing a value of $20,000. The lumber shipped is worth from $60,000 to $65,000, thus totalling the Bear River wood and lumber trade at from $80,000 to $85,000 per year. About 200 men are employed in the output of these quantities.

The enterprising firm of Clarke Bros. lead among the lumber dealers of eastern Digby. Their annual export is between five and six million feet, beside 2,000 cords of wood and 200,000 feet of piling. Their lumber, about 12 cargoes per year, goes to Cuba and South America, and is all shipped from Bear River, excepting an occasional cargo from Digby. The vessel which does their best carrying is their barquentine Ethel Clarke, a craft the sailors all unite in calling a 'nautical daisy'.

Clarke Bros. owns a 10,000 acre lot of woodland, chiefly in Digby County, from which the greater part of its cut is secured, although it buys extensively from smaller manufacturers. They are now cutting spruce and pine only, but have in reserve a magnificent hardwood supply, which will in a few years become a very valuable possession. Their operations extend back 20 miles on the Liverpool Road.

Clarke Bros. has a reputation in the lumber market that speaks volumes for its business enterprise.

The lumbering centre of the county is Weymouth. The dealers here control from their own town and adjacent Bay ports a wood and lumber trade of $135,000 per year. Over 12 million feet of lumber is manufactured and exported, and this represents about $125,000. Cordwood and piling may be figured at $10,000 additional.

As at Bear River, this lumber is chiefly brought in from the back country and represents the united cuts of numbers of small mills, selling to the larger concerns which do the shipping. The timber lands extend from 10 to 30 miles from the Bay shore to the boundary of Queens County, and are rich forest wealth. A serious difficulty is presented in connection with the carriage of the lumber from these lands to the shipping port. Ox teams can always furnish motive power, but one Weymouth concern has a better method. Messrs. Stehelin, of New France have a pole railroad, the second of its kind in the province covering the 10 miles between their settlement and Weymouth. By this means, their lumber is very easily transported from mill to vessel, and steam displaces ox team.

Messrs. Stehelin, who came to this country from France some two years ago and purchased a 19,000 acre tract of land, with wharf property in Weymouth, naming their settlement New France have now about 2,000,000 feet of lumber ready for export. Their mill is lighted by a private electric plant, as are also their residences and storehouses. They are introducing new methods for Digby County lumbering, which promise well for future development.

What Clarke Bros. have been to Bear River, Chas. Burrill & Co. has been to Weymouth. They control the shipment of nearly 5,000,000 feet of lumber per year, shipping to South America, the West Indies and the United States. They load their vessels chiefly at Weymouth and Belliveau's Cove, having a valuable wharf property at the former place. An enterprise of these proportions means a vast deal for the local labor market, and Burrill & Co. fully deserves the excellent standing which It has in Digby County's industrial circles.

Among the manufacturers of the county a representative position is taken by Mr. S. Wood of Digby. He has a well fitted establishment in town which is the birth place of much of the woodstuff used around Digby. Beside a rotary with which he makes the larger frame-material and lumber, he has complete plant of planing and moulding machines, and his sheathing is equal to the best of the market. His specialty is box-stuff, and in this he has almost the entire trade of the Digby and Digby Neck fish packers.

Mr. Wood is an experienced millman, as well as an extensive contractor, and is known as one of the keenest business men in the place. He was one of the builders of the Digby water works system and is thoroughly at home at such work. Prompt, obliging, affable, he is one of those who ralse the tone of a town and its industries, and in the local lumber trade, his establishment is a prominent feature.

Besides the Bear River and Weymouth lumber exports, about 3,000,000 feet is shipped via Yarmouth from Meteghan Station; 2,000,000 feet from Port Gilbert; and from 2,000,000 to 3,000,000 feet from a number of various other ports throughout the county. From the head of St. Mary's Bay along its entire length to Salmon River, there are at distances of two or three miles a succession of wood and lumber wharves from which goodly quantities are regularly shipped. There are many dealers beside those we have mentioned, our references being to the representative men in each place.

It will thus be seen that the lumber industry of Digby County is one of the most important, entitling us to rank among the foremost. In such a matter, it is always difficult to arrive at exact estimates, but the totals as we have given them are approximately correct. The sum of all would represent a revenue to the county of some $235,000 or $240,000 per year.

So closely associated with the lumber industry is the manufacturer of wood pulp that mention of the one should include the other. Digby County has one pulp mill, which has been in operation some three years. The Sissiboo Falls Pulp Company has its factory on the Sissiboo River, about nine miles above Weymouth. The factory is in many respects a model one, run by water power and electric-lighted. About 2,000,000 feet of logs are handled each year, and the manufactured product is bundled in 100-lb. packages, and shipped chiefly via Halifax to the English market, and also to the United States. This concern is in a very prosperous condition, and creating as it does a large demand for local labor is one of the worthiest business institutions in the country.




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