Memories of logging in Quebec in the 1940s
Back in 1943, when I was 17, I spent the winter logging in Quebec along with my father, Thomas A. Brown. As farmers, it was a good way to earn additional money to supplement our income.
Come late October, an initial group of men including a foreman, cook and a few others, headed from Ontario to a logging camp located in Quebec, about two and a half miles up the Schyan River. This logging operation was run by the Gillies Brothers Lumbering Firm of Arnprior, Ont. This was before the age of chainsaws and logging trucks. In those days, a large flat-bottomed boat called a scow was used to transport bulk materials. It would bring the necessary goods to the camp across the river, where they would then be transported the rest of the way by horse and wagon. A week later, more men would arrive at the camp to begin cutting the logs.
The buildings at the camp consisted of an office for the foreman and clerk, a kitchen for eating, sleeping quarters for the men and for the horses, along with a blacksmith’s shop. The outside toilet was quite open, so you didn’t linger too long when the temperature was -20°F.
The men would work in groups of three—about three to five groups in total, depending on the size of the operation. The foreman would assign each group an area to work in. Two men would fell a tree, cut a 16-foot log from it, then cut another 16-foot log—or a bit shorter. We had to be sure the second log was at least eight inches in diameter at the small end, or a fine would be imposed on the company by the Quebec government. It was not easy to be sure of the size while looking up at the top of the tree from the ground. Next, the man with the horse would skid (pull) the log to the skidway (an inclined platform on which logs are piled.)