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History of the Lumber Industry of America
Chapter XII. Ontario—Early History

As the early history of the Ontario lumber trade goes back to tbe time when this great section of Canada formed a part of Quebec, any time selected for its beginning, save that time when the pioneers of New France began to sell timber to their neighbors, must be purely arbitrary. This is true for two other reasons also: First, because the great avenue of the lumber trade, the Ottawa River, is the boundary line between the two Provinces; and, second, because Upper and Lower Canada, after being separated in 1791, were again united under old legislature from 1840-1 to 1867. While the public records were in a measure kept separate they operated under the same laws, while the capital city changed every four years from Toronto to the fortress of Quebec. Some things which equally affected the trade in Ontario have been described in dealing with Quebec and are only touched on here, while other things, which it has been deemed advisable to treat in connection with this Province, were matters of momentous importance to the lumbermen of Quebec. However, for the purpose of this description of the lumber trade, Ontario history may be considered to begin with the setting apart of Upper Canada as a separate province in 1791. This was the period when the only persons authorized to cut timber in the King’s forests in Canada were the contractors for the royal navy,, who, under their licenses, managed to cut a good deal for the general market without returning any revenue to the Crown. As a part of Quebec, Ontario had part and lot in the regulations regarding the running of the rapids in the St. Lawrence and the preferential duties granted by Great Britain.

The lumber industry was one of the first mechanical activities established in Ontario, and dates back to the early days of the settlement of the country shortly after the American Revolution. At that time the entire country now embraced within the limits of the Province was densely wooded. In the southern portion, where the first settlements were made, the hardwood varieties predominated, largely interspersed in some localities with the white pine and other coniferous trees. In the more northerly sections, however, and especially in the Ottawa Valley, the pine, hitherto the main factor in the forest wealth of Canada, and its kindred species grew in profusion and at an early date became a valuable and much appreciated source of revenue to the pioneers, who depended largely on the means realized from the timber export trade to procure the supplies they required.

Incidental to the work of clearing the land, the settlers in many localities where small sawmills were established were enabled to procure supplies of lumber for local consumption^ but the Ottawa Valley, with the means of transportation furnished by the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers, early attained that preeminence as a source of the export trade on a large scale which it has since maintained.

In treating of this phase of the subject it is difficult to confine this account strictly to the trade of Ontario, as the industry in the early days developed simultaneously upon both sides of the river, some of the largest mills drawing their supplies from Ontario being located on the Quebec side.

The watershed of the Ottawa embraces a region of about 80,000 square miles, much of it good agricultural land, and producing originally some of the finest pine timber in the world. Two hundred and fifty miles to the northwest of the City of Ottawa the river expands into a long and narrow sheet of water known as Lake Temiscamingue, which presents sixty miles of unbroken navigation and receives numerous important tributaries—including the Blanche, the Montreal and the Quinze rivers. Navigation on the Ottawa is interrupted by numerous rapids and falls, the most notable being the grand falls of the Chaudiere, immediately above Ottawa City, which furnish the power for many extensive mills and factories. The territory drained by the numerous tributaries of the Ottawa before its confluence with the St. Lawrence includes some of the richest and most valuable timber yet remaining unexploited.


The pioneer in the timber trade of the Ottawa Valley was Philemon Wright, an adventurous American, whose descendants have occupied prominent positions in the Ottawa district. Mr. Wright was a citizen of Woburn, Massachusetts, and the first man to appreciate the natural wealth and advantages of the Ottawa Valley as a field for colonization. His first visit was made in 1796. In the following year he returned and, in the face of many hardships and difficulties, explored the country on both sides of the river as far as the Chaudiere Falls. He was particularly impressed with the value of the timber (“ sufficient,” as he afterward reported, “to load a thousand vessels ”) and with the possibilities of the Chaudiere Falls, or the Asticou, as the Indians called them. This cataract, or Chaudiere (caldron) as the French-Canadian lumbermen christened it, is situated at the place where the mighty Ottawa, contracted from the width of over a mile to a few hundred feet, pours itself over rocks thirty feet high, into a boiling, steaming pot with force sufficient to drive all the busy wheels of a great modern city. This fall represents the point where, for four hundred miles in the course of the Ottawa, the shores of the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec approach most nearly to each other.

Mr. Wright left Woburn February 2, 1800, with five families, and had in his train fourteen horses, eight oxen and seven sleighs. His destination was what was then a wilderness inhabited by a few Indians only. He settled opposite the present City of Ottawa, having obtained an extensive grant of land from the Government. Mr. Wright, like the patriarch, had the whole land before him and could choose either the right hand or the left. He chose the Quebec side and founded the city of Hull, doubtless without dreaming that on the high, rocky cliff on the other shore would within a century be seen the Gothic spires and turrets of the “Washington of the North,” the capital of a country stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The first tree was felled on the site of his homestead March 7 of the same year.

In 1807 Mr. Wright took the first raft of square timber down the Ottawa to Quebec. The few settlers declared such an undertaking to be impossible on account of the obstructions in the river, but,Mr. Wright was determined to make the attempt and, in the face of gigantic difficulties, accomplished the trip. It required thirty-six days, as the venturesome pioneer and his assistants were unacquainted with the river and had to proceed with great caution. He continued, during subsequent years, floating to Quebec white oak and the finest qualities of pine. The squared oak was withed up by the ends with lighter material to keep it afloat, or loaded on white pine cribs. It took both time and patience to get acquainted with the dangerous parts of the river and, until improvements were made, many cases of drowning occurred.

He built his first sawmill and grist mill in 1808. These were burned and were rebuilt with his characteristic pluck in sixty days. Square timber was hastened to market as rapidly as possible, the mills being rebuilt with the. proceeds. The business grew and flourished and Mr. Wright eventually derived a large income from it. He built the first timber “ slide,” on the Hull side of the river, in 1829. Mr. Wright was elected the first member of the Canadian Parliament to represent Ottawa in 1830. He died in 1839, and his name has been perpetuated in Wright County, Quebec. His son, Alonzo Wright, was for many years' a striking figure in the Canadian Parliament, in and out of which he was known, from the tributary of the Ottawa which his family and himself bad done so much to develop, as “The King of the Gatineau.”

The City of Ottawa, the present center of the lumber business, remained in a state of nature for some time after Philemon Wright had formed the nucleus of a settlement on the opposite shore of the river. In 1826 it was covered with bush and had only one house on the present site of the Upper Town. The first impetus to settlement was given by the construction of the Rideau Canal, projected mainly as a military work, under the superintendence of Colonel By. This work was completed in 1831, and in the succeeding year the village of Bytown, as it was then named in honor of Colonel By, had about one hundred and fifty houses. Thereafter it grew rapidly and Hull became practically a suburb.

Meanwhile lumbering operations had been extensively pushed in the district and manufacturing developed to a greater extent than elsewhere in the Province. About 1815 a Air. Story built a sawmill on the Ottawa; and it is stated that when the man in charge “gigged” back the carriage for a fresh cut he would sit down on the log and eat his dinner, which would be about finished when the cut was done. It is no wonder that heart failure and nervous prostration were then unknown. Robert Gourley, prominent as an author and a political agitator, in his “ Statistical Account of Upper Canada,” published in 1818, mentions that sawmills of the best construction were in operation on an island in the Ottawa River opposite the higher part of Hawkesbury Town ship t on a scale superior to that of any other in the Province. “The business seemed to be carried on with great spirit, about fourscore people being employed in the works on the island.” They were first owned by Mr. Mears, of Hawkesbury, but, at the time he wrote, they were the property of Mr. Hamilton, from Ireland.

Statistics compiled from the assessment rolls of the Province of Upper Canada give nine sawmills as the number existing in the Ottawa district in 1823, the total number in the eleven districts into which the Province was then divided being 363. The great majority of these, however, were run merely to supply local requirements.

The town of Pembroke, about one hundred and twenty miles up the river from Ottawa, was founded in 1828 by Colonel Peter White, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, who was for many years one of the principal timber merchants of the Ottawa Valley. His sons have been actively engaged in the lumber business, and by their enterprise have done much to build up their native town.

The town of Deseronto, on the Bay of Quints, near the eastern end of Lake Ontario, was founded by Hugo B. Rathbun, of Auburn, New York. In 1854 Mr. Rathbun engaged in the manufacture of lumber at Mill Point, now Deseronto, Ontario. Later his son, Edward Wilkes Rathbun, was taken into partnership and was given the complete charge of the Deseronto business. About 1868 the Rathbun lumber yards were established at Oswego, New York, and sawmills were built later at Gravenhurst, Lindsay, Campbellford, Fenelon Falls, Tweed, Mani-toulin Island and Bancroft. The Rathbuns owned two railroads, one from Deseronto to Tweed, a distance of thirty miles, and another connecting Gananoque with the Grand Trunk railroad. They also owned a line of steamers operating on the Bay of Quints. They manufactured one million railroad ties a year and also owned the cement works near Napanee, gas works, sash and blind factories, match splint factory, chemical works, ship yards, locomotive works and car shops. The firm also operated four lumber yards in Canada and the United States. Edward Wilkes Rathbun died in November, 1903, and was succeeded by his son, E. W. Rathbun.

Henry Franklin Bronson of Bolton, New York, came to Ottawa (then Bytown) in 1853 and built on Victoria Island, in the Ottawa River, the first sawmill which shipped lumber from the Ottawa River to the American market. The venture prospered and grew, and many fortunes were made in the trade.


V. H. Hickox, .of Niagara Falls, tells of the first paper mill in Ontario. He says:

It was in the summer of 1841 that my father and another paper maker, whose name was Samuel Prine, engaged to go to Toronto and start the first paper mill in Upper Canada'. They left Niagara Falls in June of that year. This mill was located about three miles from the city, up the River Don, a beautiful clear stream of water, well supplied with trout and other kinds of fish in abundance. The country round about was a vast wilderness of heavy timber, mostly pine, with here and there a little clearing with log cabin homes of the early pioneers.

Eastwood and Skinner, brothers-in-law, two enterprising Englishmen, built the first mill and received a cash premium from the Canadian government. In connection with the paper mill there was a grist mill, a brewery and distillery, owned by the Helliwell Brothers. The place was named Don Mills.

My father made a sojourn of seven years, during which time he started a second paper mill on the Don River, two miles above the first mill. We moved to Hamburg, west of Buffalo, about 1848. In the year 1851, Albert H. Porter sold the paper mill on Bath Island and my father, by this change, secured his old position as superintendent of the upper Don paper mills. Then he moved back to Toronto in 1851, where he remained for many years, respected as the man who made the first sheet of paper in the Upper Province of Canada.


During the earlier years of the lumber industry there were practically no restrictions on the cutting of timber upon the public domain and no thought on the part of the Government of deriving a revenue from the forest resources. When the British took possession of the country in 1763 elaborate instructions were furnished to Governor James Murray as to his administration. The British government was solicitous for the preservation of large areas of forest land as a source of supply of timber for naval construction, and the Governor was ordered to set aside in every township “proper quantities of land” for fortifications, barracks and other military or naval services, and more particularly for the growth and production of naval timber, “if there are any woodlands fit for that purpose.”

The policy which the British government laid down for the formation of Crown timber reserves in Quebec for the preservation of timber for the royal navy was reaffirmed when Upper Canada was set apart as a separate province. The Duke of Richmond, governor-in-chief of the Province of Upper Canada, in 1818 received elaborate instructions that no land should be allotted to settlers until the district had been surveyed and those parts containing masting or other timber fit for the use of the royal navy reserved. Difficulties intervened and these regulations, wise in many respects, were never carried out.

These instructions, though subsequently repeated, were never observed, possibly because the governors had many more urgent matters to engage their attention and no doubt regarded the reservation of forests as altogether superfluous in a country where the timber, until a much later period, seemed inexhaustible.

It was not until 1826 that the earliest steps were taken to secure revenue from the forests on the Crown lands. Previous to this the only persons authorized to cut timber on the public lands were the contractors for the royal navy or those holding licenses for them. In the early years of the Nineteenth Century licenses to cut timber in the Canadian forests were granted by the Imperial government to contractors for the royal dock yards, who, in addition to filling their contracts, took advantage of the privilege granted them for that purpose to do a general business in supplying the British markets. Their mode of operation was to issue licenses to merchants and lumbermen in Canada who were then legally authorized to cut timber as their agents. While these favored firms had a legal monopoly of cutting timber on the public lands, for which they paid nothing to the revenue, a number of unlicensed lumbermen pursued the business actively without asking the leave of anyone. It was found impossible to suppress this practice so long as those who desired to engage in the industry were debarred from doing so in a legitimate manner. The unfairness of the system led to its abolition.


In 1826 the contractors' monopoly was abrogated and for the first time was inaugurated a system under which the cutting of timber on the ungranted lands of the Ottawa region was extended to anyone desiring to embark in the business, on payment of a fixed scale of rates. This was announced May 3, 1826, by a proclamation of Sir Peregrine Maitland, lieutenant governor of Upper Canada. The dues fixed in this proclamation were: Upon oak timber £6 5s a thousand, or 1/^d a foot; red pine £4 3s 4d a thousand, or Id a foot; yellow (white) pine, £2 Is 8d a thousand, or /^d a foot; sawed, 2d a log; staves, £4 Is 8d a thousand “to be paid in lawful money of our Province of Upper Canada.” For the purpose of preventing too small timbers being cut, double the amount of duty was charged upon all which did not square more than eight inches. The money was Canadian currency, one pound sterling of which was equal to $4.

In the case of some of the mills in operation at this early date in the Ottawa Valley, much of the supply apparently came from lands which had been granted by the Crown, for the exploitation of which no license was necessary. Philemon Wright, for instance, is stated to have obtained land grants amounting to 13,000 acres.

The first collector of timber dues on the Ottawa River was Robert Shireff, a pioneer lumberman whose son, Charles Shireff, acted conjointly with him without receiving any formal appointment. The system was modified somewhat in 1827 when Peter Robinson was appointed surveyor general of woods and forests for Upper Canada. It was provided that licenses to cut specified quantities of the various kinds of merchantable timber off a given territory were to be sold by auction, with upset prices fixed at considerably less than the previously adopted scale. The expenses of the surveyor general’s office were very modest. He was allowed £25 per annum for office rent, a like sum for a messenger, and £10 for fuel. Pay of clerks and assistants “as may be necessary and as the governor may deem reasonable” was allowed, but with a special proviso that the whole of such expenses was not to exceed one-sixth of the revenue derived from licenses.

Robinson was instructed to survey the forests in the Province and state what parts it was advisable to keep for the use of the King and | what might be sold. The generous instructions showed how little idea the British government had of the size of a province over 260,000 square miles in area, or only about 5,000 square miles less than the great State of Texas, and which, after three-quarters of a century of development, still has large areas unexplored and which will probably not be surveyed until a century from the time Peter Robinson started out. Such timber as was not required for the navy and which was deemed expedient to cut was to be put up for sale after due notice in the York (Toronto) Gazette. Each license was not to exceed 2,000 cubic feet and the upset prices were, per thousand feet: Oak, £3 3s 4d; ash, elm or beech, £2 10s; red pine, £3; white pine, £1 10s; staves, and handspikes, £1. The timber was to be cut within nine months and paid for within fifteen months from date of license. Measurers were appointed in each district to certify to the amount of lumber cut.

The attempt to regulate the price of licenses by competition was not at that time successful as, owing to the laxity of administration which then prevailed and the recklessness with which the public lands were granted in large areas to men of influence and to political favorites, lumbermen found it considerably more profitable to obtain the fee simple of timbered land, either directly from the Government or by purchase from the first holders of the title, than to pay timber dues. Hence the receipts for some years were small. In 1827 the first returns from timber licenses in Upper Canada were received, the amount being $360. The following year the revenue from this source was $3,134, and in 1829, $2,287.

It may be noted incidentally that about this time Canadians began to reckon in dollars and cents, instead of in pounds, shillings and pence, though for some time thereafter both systems were used. In fact, there are old farmers in the back townships who to this day calculate in “York shillings.”


The loose and careless business methods characteristic of the system of collecting timber dues, as well as other branches of administration in the years preceding Mackenzie’s Rebellion, resulted in a loss of many thousands of pounds to the revenue owing to business complications in which the Shireffs became involved. When, under Lord Durham’s administration in 1838, after the suppression of the rebellion, an exhaustive investigation was made into the abuses which provoked it, it was officially stated that the gross amount received by the Province of Upper Canada for timber dues, from the establishment of the system up to January 30, 1838, a period of about ten and a half years, was £58,085 4s lid.

Under the system in vogue at this period the licenses designated the quantity to be cut and the applicant was required to deposit in advance 25 percent of the amount of dues called for by the regulations on that quantity. A frequent practice, however, was to exceed greatly the cut stipulated for, as in this way the cash deposit required was proportionately reduced. A bond was given to cover ^he balance of the estimated dues.

A license granted to James Wadsworth, of Hull, in 1836 gave him the right to cut 40,000 feet of red pine timber oh the south side of the Bonnechere River on the following terms: “ Sum payable for this license £41 13s 4d currency, being 25 percent on £166 13s 4d, the value of 40,000 feet at Id. For the balance of £125, a bond has been granted payable 1st November, 1837.”

The descriptions of the limits in these old licenses were often rather vague and indefinite. That in the above mentioned document reads as follows: “The limits granted in the foregoing license are Butted and Bounded as follows, viz.: Commencing one Mile below Enoes’ or the Indian Doctor’s Landing and to extend up on the south side of the river ten miles more or less to its source or so far as it is capable of floating down timber and to run back five miles, more or less, half way to the waters of the Madawaska River on the course south 21 degrees west.”

Another license granted to John Supple, of Hull, in 1838 permits him to cut 25,000 cubic feet of red pine on the north side of the Inlet of Lake Dore, the rate and terms of payment being the same as in the previous case. His limits were described as “ Commencing at the head of Lake Dore to extend three miles up the inlet of the said Lake to be measured on the course S. 82 degrees W. and to run back four miles more or less to the limits granted on Indian River on the course North 8 degrees W.”

It is not surprising that, owing to the want of precision in the definition of limits, disputes often arose between limit holders. These difficulties often resulted in resort to physical force, in which the operator who happened to have the largest number of men on the ground generally came off triumphant. In fact, the frequency with which this rough-and-ready means for the settlement of controversies between rival lumbermen was resorted to became one of the causes of overproduction, as the limit holders, finding it advisable to have a large force of men on the spot should it become necessary, in diplomatic phrase, to “rectify their frontiers” and prevent their neighbors from construing the “more or less” qualifications in their licenses too liberally, increased the output considerably beyond the requirements of the market.

It may be noted that until the union of the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada in 1840, the disposal of timber, as well as of lands and other natural resources, was entirely in the hands of the Crown, that is to say, the administration of the day, without any responsibility to the legislature as to the expenditure of the revenue derived from them. The manner in which this privilege was abused for the benefit of the official classes and their friends was one of the grievances which caused the outbreak in 1837. The plan which was actually adopted and the system which grew up was for lumbermen to apply in the autumn for a license stating the quantity that they wanted to cut and paying 25 percent of the dues in advance. As they were not required to confine themselves strictly to the quantity specified they advanced as little money as possible. The timber was cut the next winter and rafted to Quebec City, to which point the collector proceeded and received the dues. In fact, the practice grew up of taking the notes of Quebec lumber shippers instead of the bonds originally given by the lumbermen, so that the timber was across the ocean and sold in London before the dues were actually paid. For many years this worked no harm; but later, when bad seasons came and several firms failed, the revenue suffered a loss of several thousand pounds.

This free and easy handling of revenues and treatment of instructions from Westminster was not the worst thing about the administration of this period. Great Britain had lost half the continent and was not inclined to lose the other half in the same way; but London was a long way from Quebec and Toronto, and the officials who came out to administer the affairs of the country were disposed to make hay while the sun shone and trust to the distance preventing the news filtering back to London. The people in the colony of Massachusetts rebelled because taxes were imposed without their consent; but the English settlers in Ontario and the French-Canadians in Quebec took up arms in 1837 because their great natural resources were alienated and given to friends and favorites with a lavish hand. The governor and the majority of his counsel were appointed; and, by methods familiar to all politicians in all ages, they practically secured all the jobs for their relatives and retainers. The administration was known, both in Lower and Upper Canada, as the “Family Compact,” which had become a synonym for jobbery and corruption.


In Canada, or any other colony, the difficulty would be speedily gotten rid of today by the legislature refusing to vote supplies, and the administration unable to carry on the government or pay its officials, would resign; but in 1837 the revenue which the administration received was sufficient to pay the running expenses of the government. There was a rebellion in both Upper and Lower Canada, in which all the nationalities represented in Canada joined. In Lower Canada it was led by a French-Canadian, Papineau, with English and Irish lieutenants; while in Upper Canada it was led by an irrepressible Scotchman, William Lyon Mackenzie. The United Empire Loyalists, who had left their fat farms and prosperous businesses in the United States rather than exchange King George for George Washington, were among those who most keenly opposed the Family Compact, and many took up arms, not against the King, but against corrupt ministers who thwarted his will.

The rebels had a good cause, but the fates were against them. They rose on December 4, 1837, and trusted to gain possession of York (Toronto), and also of the Quebec centers of population, before the loyalists could be supported by reenforcements from the garrisons in Lower Canada. But, owing to one of the most remarkably open winters on record, ships were able to navigate Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence in midwinter and the rebels were crushed, beaten, the leaders forced to flee to the United States, and some who were caught were hanged by the victorious Family Compact.

It is said that success is the only justification for rebellion; but this rebellion was justified, though abortive, and the leaders returned from the United States and from their hiding places in the back woods to be elected to the highest positions within the gift of their countrymen. The reason for this was that the attention of the British government was called to the fact that the state of things in the colony was so desperate and so unjust that men were willing to risk their lives to wipe it out. Lord Durham was sent out to inquire into the whole matter, and as a result of that inquiry he released the prisoners still lying in the jails when he arrived, removed the governors, recalled the fugitives and forever put an end to the Family Compact by giving the people full, responsible local government.

The report of Lord Durham shows that the main abuse from which the country suffered was the granting of wiWl^QdsJu large tracts to persons who had no intention of improving them, but of simpIyTiolding them for a rise in value.

The effect of this practice upon the lumber trade was important. Much of this land, granted so far in excess of actual needs of settlement, was covered with valuable timber, and lumbermen speedily saw that it was cheaper to get hold of the land with all that was on it than to pay the prices charged for the timber licenses. This encouraged improved methods of lumbering. The repeated instructions of the Imperial government to set aside permanent timber reserves and to confine settlement to lands adopted to agriculture were unregarded, and much of the area granted was capable of producing nothing but timber to advantage. Lands could be bought for from 1 to 4 shillings an acre, while the timber dues on an average tract were 6s 8d an acre. Prominent men in the government of Canada urged that, as there was now but little pine left in the United States except in Maine and Carolina, prices should be higher for timber berths in Canada; and they gave as a reason why they were not the presence of the large areas of wild lands open to purchase.

The deputy postmaster general of British North America, T. A. Stayner, in giving evidence before a commission said that in 1835 and 1836 speculators came over from Maine and New York and purchased about a million acres of land said to be wooded with pine or spruce. The Americans estimated these lands as worth from $2 to $6 an acre. Charles Shireff, who has been previously spoken of as the collector of dues at Ottawa, mentions a party of Americans who purchased thousands of acres in the township of Onslow for ten shillings an acre, which price could not bear any proportion to the value of the timber. Many similar cases had occurred, he told the investigating committee, and the temptation to do it was very great because the purchasers were not required to pay the full amount of the purchase price, but only a first installment of varying size, say a fifth or a fourth, and the only penalty for the nonpayment of the remaining installment was the resumption of the land, about which, since the lumberman had stripped off the timber, he was naturally very indifferent.

Mr. Shireff urged that the Government should not sell lands unfit for settlement but merely the timber on them. Though this warning was stated and reiterated by every one interested in the permanent development of the lumber industry, it was many years before it was acted upon. It was acted upon at length, however, and now in Ontario the question is not as to the principle but as to how large a block of arable land in a forest belt should be to make it worth while for the Government to throw it open for settlement.

According to an official statement made at the investigation just referred to, the timber dues collected for a period of ten and a half years, from 1827 to 1838, amounted to £58,085 4s lid; this was exclusive of losses through loose methods of collecting dues and defalcation of upward of £9,000.


The result of the rebellion and all these commissions and reports was the union in 1841 of Upper and Lower Canada with a government responsible to the people through their elected representatives.

One of the first things which the new legislature took up was the administration of the timber lands. The collector at Bytown (Ottawa) was instructed to issue licenses in the usual form, but for a limited period, to relicense limits not properly worked and, where there were two or more applicants for the same berth, to put it up at auction for a bonus over the dues. The quantity of timber which the licensees were bound to take out was 5,000 feet a mile of river front and no limit was to exceed ten miles of frontage. This was the first time that the auction principle, now generally adopted, was recognized in Canada.

The receipts from timber in Upper Canada for the year 1839 were £8,244; and for the next thirteen months £18,881, a difference possibly due to the “house cleaning” before turning affairs over to the new government. Under the new regime the timber receipts for Upper and Lower Canada were in 1842, £37,572; in 1843, £46,301; in 1844, £28,828.

The representatives of the people did not seem to recognize the necessity of preserving* timber. Most of them appeared to think the tree their enemy, and the impression that the forest area was unlimited rendered them careless. The idea of reforestry and harvesting a periodic crop was not then bom in America. A motion to discuss a resolution to prevent the cutting of timber (apparently absolutely) off public lands received short shrift in 1846, but its exact nature and object can not be learned from the journals.

In 1842 new regulations as to the granting of licenses were adopted and the principle of competition between lumbermen in cases where there was more than one applicant for the same limit was put into effect. Willful trespass by limit holders upon public property not included in their limits, which had been frequent under the former conditions, was declared punishable by the cancellation of the license and the seizure of timber so taken, and limit holders were obliged to cut 5,000 feet per square mile off their holdings in each year.

In the earlier days of the export trade with Britain the shippers had to encounter a strong prejudice on the part of the consumer against Canadian pine, which was erroneously supposed to be particularly subject to dry rot and altogether of a quality inferior to that of the Baltic pine. The cause of this prejudice and the change of opinion that finally came about are fully treated in the first chapter on Quebec and, therefore, need not be repeated here.

Another noticeable change in the demand of the British market which occurred somewhat later was the increased appreciation of white pine as compared with red. Red pine, by reason of its similarity to the product of the forests of northern Europe, ever since the introduction of Canadian timber had been more highly esteemed. At an early day the dues on red pine had been fixed at one penny a foot, while white pine paid only one-half penny. So marked was the falling off in the British demand for the former that in 1852 the corporations of Bytown and the municipal council of Carleton County petitioned the Government for the reduction of the red pine duties to the same amount as those payable on white pine. Such valid reasons were advanced in favor of the change that the Government decided to make the reduction.

The year 1845 was an exceedingly prosperous one for the lumber trade, owing largely to the heavy demand in the English market at very remunerative prices. The temporarily favorable conditions resulted in considerable overproduction, which, coupled with a falling off in requirements abroad during 1846 and succeeding years, created a serious depression in the industry. The regulations of the Crown lands department had contributed not a little to stimulate production to an undue degree by requiring the taking out of a large quantity of timber on every limit, regardless of the requirements of the market or the convenience of the operator, under penalty of forfeiture of the limit.

More stringent regulations were adopted in 1846, when the limit was reduced to five miles in length along the river by five in depth, or half way to the next river. The then holders of licenses were allowed to hold them for two years longer, but after that time the limits must be subdivided to these sizes. New and renewed berths were to be put up at auction. The parties were to bind themselves to take out 1,000 feet a square mile a year and were to pay one-fourth of the dues upon this forthwith and bonds were to be given for the remaining three-fourths.

In 1849 the Legislative Assembly appointed a select committee to inquire into and report on the state of the lumber trade, the evidence taken before which indicated some important features of the license system in which reform was necessary. The committee reported that the regulation requiring the cutting of a certain amount of timber on each limit, together with the uncertain tenure of limits, tended to cause overproduction. They recommended the abolition of the deposit system and the substitution of ground rents.


The immediate outcome was the adoption during the same year of the first Canadian legislative enactment on the subject of timber licenses, which, with the regulations issued in accordance with its provisions, practically forms the point of departure from which the present system has been evolved. The characteristic and valuable feature of this legislation was that, by practically giving» the license holder a preferential claim to renewal of his license so long^as he complied with its conditions, and securing him against encroachment by rivals, it imparted greater stability and permanence to the industry and lessened the temptation to reckless overproduction and wasteful methods.

The modern lumbering system as contrasted with the old fashioned method of conducting the industry may be said to have commenced during the ’50’s and its development was aided by the changes in the law and regulations above noted and by further advances in the same direction introduced in 1851. In that year ground rent on limits was imposed, the principle being generally favored by practical lumbermen as the most effective means of preventing the monopolization of unworked limits. The ground rent was mixed at fifty cents a. square mile in addition to the dues and it was provided that this should be doubled for every year during which the limits remained unworked. While the general principle of granting limits to the first applicant, giving the preference to the previous occupant in case he had complied with the regulations, was left undisturbed, a modification was introduced by the provision that upon rivers where the cost of surveys rendered it advisable, limits might be disposed of at an upset price fixed by the Government, and awarded to the highest bidder in case of competition, an important move in the direction of the auction system as it now exists. All sawlogs cut for exportation were made liable to double rates of duty. This latter clause was the result of an agitation which had sprung up even at that early day against the shipment abroad of logs in an unmanufactured state.

During the continuance of the union, Ontario participated in the same laws and regulations as Quebec. These gradually grew more stringent during the first ten years and in 1851 had reached the beginning of the system at present in use in both Provinces^


In 1854 a committee was appointed to review the whole question of timber regulations. One of the snags which it endeavored to uproot was the cutting of timber by bogus settlers. The settler was required to pay down only one-tenth of the purchase price, and these bogus settlers, after having cut and sold the merchantable timber refused to pay the other nine installments. One solution offered was that the land should be sold only for cash; while another was that timber dues should be applied to the purchase of the land. This plan was open to serious objections in that the price of the land was not equal to the dues, and the squatter or settler it was desirable to get at, was never, at the critical time, where the Government could put its finger on him.

The adoption of reciprocity between the United States and Canada in 1854, which secured free exchange in natural products, including "'lumber, gave an impetus to the sawn lumber trade, and the trade in square timber declined. .This condition was discussed by the committee of 1854, and led leading men to urge the Government to speed the parting guest by reducing the dues on sawn lumber as 'compared with hewn. They did this on the ground that square timber caused a great waste, only the best sticks being used and only a portion of them. Large parts of the tree that could be worked up in taking out sawlogs were left to decay in the bush and to increase the danger of forest fires. It was estimated that three-fourths more of the tree was used for sawlogs than for square timber, and returns to the Government (owing to the greater number of feet produced) would be three times as muc^/in the former case as in the latter. No difference appears to have been made and the square timber trade declined through natural causes.

The difference between the Canadian and the United States methods of holding land was dealt with by the committee. The exposition of American methods before the committee went to convince it that, whatever the fault in Canadian methods of handling timber lands, they were to be preferred to those in vogue in the United States. The gentleman who explained to the committee the American system was Jonathan R. White, of Michigan. He said the United States wild forest lands were thrown open by proclamation and sold to the highest bidder at an upset price of $1.25 an acre. Lands not sold were open for sale at the upset price, and there was no limit to the amount any man could hold. Mr. White thought the system a very good one, getting the land rapidly under taxation and saving the timber, which under stumpage system was always more or less wasted. The fact that the land was of little value agriculturally was all the more reason for getting rid of it. The Canadian witnesses took issue with Mr. White, claiming the result of the introduction of that system into Canada would be to place the best timber lands in the hands of capitalists or companies who would exact toll on those who went in actually to work the land or cut the timber. The dues on two trees of very ordinary size, seventy-five feet, at a foot, would amount to $1.50, or more than the price of $1.25 an acre at which the land was sold in the United States. But an acre of well timbered land produced five times that amount of dues. This was considering the pine only, and the other woods and the land would still remain to the Government and these would always be worth something.

The wisdom of the Canadian view has been proved, because it keeps the unarable lands in the hands of the Government to license and relicense at ever increasing prices to the lumbermen, and to be reforested without let or hindrance, now that the country and trade is reaching the stage where this method is practicable. Even at the time of the com' mittee of 1854 the idea of an annual crop of timber from a permanent forest was put forward. Fire prevention was discussed also and the lumbermen held then as they do today that the best way to prevent fires was to prevent squatting in forests, and to confine settlements wholly to agricultural. It was pointed out that scattered settlement on odd bits of land in the midst of pine forests was of no permanent value to the settlers, and by reason of starting fires was ruinous to the lumbermen. Attention was also called to the fact that in Ontario the arable and pine land lay in belts in such relation to each other that the development of timber provided a good market for the farmers and thus helped the development of the agricultural portions.

The regulations of 1855 chiefly affirmed the right of the Government to make any changes it desired in ground rent and the conditions of license, in other words, the license conveyed no vested rights. The growing nature of the industry is shown in receipts for ground rents, timber dues and slide dues. These were: 1856, $262,872; 1857, $289,839; 1858, $232,624; 1859, $316,656. In the regulations of 1860 further steps were taken to stop the squatters, the most effective being a plan of survey to determine what districts should be thrown open to settlement. To prevent the shipping of lumber cut by trespassers on Crown lands to the United States, all vessels previous to obtaining a clearance were obliged to furnish the collector of customs with evidence that the dues had been paid. It was pointed out that the industry was one of the most important in the country. In seven years, ended December 31, 1863, the exports from Upper and Lower Canada amounted to $73,004,312, while the value of agricultural products exported in those yyais amounted to only $49,951,961. March 17,1866, the reciprocity treaty with the United States expired and on June 27 Canada put export duties on sawlogs and shingle bolts of $1 a thousand and $1 a cord.

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