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History of the Lumber Industry of America
Chapter XX. New Brunswick—Recent Operations

Notwithstanding the extent to which lumbering has been carried on,, the supply of spruce will last for an indefinite period under the conservative methods of cutting, as the spruce is a tree of rapid growth and will attain merchantable proportions in thirty years. On the public lands no tree is permitted to be cut that will not make a log of ten inches diameter at the top, eighteen feet up, although many private owners allow the cutting of small spruce for pulpwood.

Many of the large limit holders follow a system of rotation. The land is laid off in strips of one and one-quarter or one and one-half miles wide and from five to ten miles in length. One strip is cut over each year and all the merchantable trees taken: The next year the adjoining strip is worked, and so on until the larger of the young growth of the first strip is available. The tracts nearest the great rivers have been most thoroughly worked and each year the operations are more distant from the point of shipment.

The portable or small rotary mill is much used on small tracts of private land, and the annual product is considerable in the aggregate, but does not figure in the provincial returns. While the large mills are most numerous near the river mouth, still there are many scattered through the interior with facilities for shipping their product by rail or floating it down the rivers to the coast. .

While spruce is the great article of export there is a large cut of cedar for shingles for the United States and local markets. A good deal pf hemlock is also sent to the United States as boards and there is a growing trade with Britain in birch for spool wood. The pulp industry is undergoing a great development and new sources of supply, tapped by railways in districts from which the large timber has been taken, provide raw material for the pulp mills.


St. John is the center of the lumber manufacturing and shipping trade. As the River St. John is over four hundred and fifty miles in length and has numerous tributaries, it drains an immense territory not only in New Brunswick but in the adjoining State of Maine and in the Province of Quebec, so that a large portion of the logs manufactured in the St. John mills come from outside the Province. The manufacturers as a rule do not operate in the woods, but contract at so much a thousand feet for the cutting, rafting and driving of the logs to their mills. There are three log driving companies—the Madawaska, St. John River and Fredricton boom companies and also a company on the Tobique, the chief tributary of the St. John in New Brunswick. Driving is always an uncertain feature, as the Grand Falls, 225 miles from the mouth of the St. John, have a descent of seventy-four feet, below which is a narrow and deep gorge through which logs must pass. Logs are often hung up for the season or damaged by a jam in the gorge.

The leading shippers from St. John are W. M. Mackay, who ex* ports about one hundred million feet annually, George McKean and the A. Gibson Railway & Manufacturing Company. W. Alexander Gibson* of the latter company, has been engaged in the lumber trade for about a half century. He commenced life as a poor boy and advanced step by step until he became manager of the finest mill in the Province. About 1864 he acquired the lumbering establishment of Rankine, Ferguson & Co. on the Nashwaak River about two miles from Fredricton and undertook a series of improvements, establishing a number of other industries such as cotton mills, tanneries, etc. The village erected by these activities is called Marysville. He subsequently extended his lumbering operations to the Miramichi district and built the Northwestern railway, opening up large tracts of timber lands in that region.

In 1871 the firm of Randolph & Baker erected a large mill two miles from the mouth of the St. John, which mill is one of the best sawing dimension lumber for the British market. The firm’s plant has an annual capacity of twenty million feet of long lumber, and it also ships quantities of lath to the United States.

Frederick Moore, of Woodstock, New Brunswick, was bom in Canterbury, York County, New Brunswick, in 1839. Between the years 1862 and 1884 he was one of the heaviest operators in Aroostook County, Maine, cutting from 5,000,000 to 15,000,000 feet of spruce annually for the St. John, New Brunswick, market. In 1884 he built a sawmill, with a planing mill, on the Maduxnakeag River, a branch of the St. John River, for cutting logs from the Aroostook region. He occupies a prominent position in the New Brunswick trade.

In 1904 a total of 183 vessels cleared from St. John with lumber, a slight increase over the 171 lumber clearances in 1903. In 1904 cargoes embraced 463,585 tons, or 172,995,507 superficial feet, while the cargoes of 1903 included 411,546 tons, or 174,360,562 superficial feet. The shipments were to Liverpool, London, Glasgow, Belfast, Dublin and ports in Spain, Australia and other countries. In 1904 the shipments of birch were 3,567 tons, compared with 4,498 tons in 1903. Pine timber shipments were fifteen tons, a marked decrease from the forty-eight tons shipped in 1903. Shipments from the thirteen other ports in New Brunswick in 1904 brought the total amount of deals and other lumber shipped from the Province up to 641,711 tons, or 358,851,893 superficial feet.

St. John’s export trade in forest products is larger than that of any other port in Canada, except Montreal, amounting in value during the fiscal year 1903 to $4,298,308, including the following items : Pine deals, $10,801; spruce and other deals, $2,496,467; planks and boards, $624,943; shingles, $339,699.


The Miramichi district has witnessed changes similar to those which have characterized the development of the industry in the region tributary to the St. John. It had formerly' its pine timber and lumber period and extensive shipbuilding operations. The trade of the present day is mainly in spruce deals, with some business in spool wood and a growing demand for pulpwood. There are two branches of the Miramichi, which unite about twenty miles from the bay into which it flows and have a tributary area of many thousand square miles. The streams extend far westward toward Maine. The great bulk of the cut is spruce, only about five percent being pine, with some hardwood, cedar and hemlock. Practically all timber lands tributary to the Miramichi and Crown lands are owned by the New Brunswick Railway Company. Under the regulations in force for cutting there is a chance for the spruce to reproduce itself and, while the average size of logs shows a decrease, there is no absolute clearing of the forest. The more desirable tracts are becoming less accessible yearly. The railway company looks carefully after its timber interests and has a staff of scalers and foresters, charging a rate of $1.50 per 1,000 feet to operators.

The log cut on the Miramichi for the season of 1902-3 was 125,000,000 feet, as compared with 123,000,000 feet for the previous season. Miramichi ranks next to St. John among the lumber shipping ports of the Province, the trans-Atlantic shipments for 1903 being 102,944,276 feet and for 1902, 123,000,000 feet.

The spool wood industry has attained its greatest development on the Miramichi, where 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 feet of birch are taken out annually for this purpose. Clark, Skillings & Co., of Glasgow, have three mills cutting about 2,500,000 feet each year.


In the Restigouche district there is still much virgin forest, spruce and cedar predominating. Some pine and a good deal of birch, maple and beech are also found. Nowhere else in the Province is cedar so plentiful and the export trade in shingles is large. The Restigouche River, two hundred miles in length, forms a part of the boundary between New Brunswick and Quebec, receiving tributaries from both Provinces, so that much of the cut of the Restigouche comes from Quebec lands. The shipping ports for this district are Dalhousie and Campbellton, the trans-Atlantic exports of lumber for 1903 from these points being respectively 20,910,384 and 18,075,362 feet. These figures, however, are considerably swollen by the amount of lumber manufactured in the Province of Quebec and forwarded by rail for shipment abroad.

The total trans-Atlantic shipments of lumber from New Brunswick ports amounted to 452,000,000 feet in 1902 and 391,000,000 in 1903.

Hon. Jabez B. Snowball, lieutenant governor of New Brunswick, has been prominently identified with the Miramichi lumber industry for over thirty-five years. He was born in England, reared in Newfoundland and made his success in New Brunswick. He did the latter Province valuable service in promoting and building a railway. His first mills were on the Miramichi River, and at Chatham he built a mill with a daily capacity of 170,000 feet, the largest on the river. In 1900 the interests of Mr. Snowball were converted into a joint stock company, which is known as the J. B. Snowball Company, Limited, and is composed of members of his family. The company cuts between 30,000,000 and 40,000,000 feet of lumber each year and owns nearly six hundred miles of timber limits on Crown lands, held on the twenty-five year system. It owns six tug boats on the Miramichi River, employs nine hundred men in the busy season and has extensive commercial interests. Mr. Snowball was the chief factor in the organization of the first electric street and domestic lighting service and also the first public telephone service in New Brunswick. His interest in forestry matters has been marked, and he has been 6f much service in furthering a better organization of the lumber industry.

Hon. John Percival Burchill, of South Nelson, New Brunswick, is a member of a family which for the last sixty years has been engaged in the lumber business in New Brunswick. He was born in 1855 on the Miramichi River, and in the year 1875 took charge of the outside operations of his father’s business. In 1881 he entered into partnership with his father and brothers under the firm name of George Burchill & Sons. They own over 150 square miles of timber limits in the Province. Mr. Burchill has taken a conspicuous part in public life. He was elected as a Liberal to the New Brunswick Legislature in 1882, and has served two terms as Speaker of that body.

James Murchie, of Milltown, New Brunswick, was born at St. Stephen, that Province, August 13, 1813, of Scotch parentage. He began life as a farmer and cut timber in a small way to sell to mill owners as an additional source of income. Gradually his transactions increased until in 1859 he engaged in the manufacture of lumber, taking his sons into partnership. James Murchie & Sons, in addition to their establishments at Benton, Deer Lake, Fredricton and Edmundston, New Brunswick, operated extensively in the adjoining State of Maine. They acquired large areas of timber lands and a strong financial position, although they suffered severe losses from fire. Mr. Murchie filled many leading positions, including the presidency of the New Brunswick & Canadian Railroad Company and the Frontier Steamboat Company. He died, at the age of eighty-six, May 29, 1900.

The late William Richards, who was one of the most extensive lumber operators on the Miramichi River, New Brunswick, was born in Cardigan, York County, that Province. He died at his home in Boies-town, New Brunswick, June 1, 1903, after more than a year’s illness, aged sixty-eight years.


Great changes have taken place in the conditions pertaining to the New Brunswick industry and trade within twenty-five years. One of the more notable of these changes is the effect of repeated timber cuttings on the size of the logs. The sawyer of the late ’70’s would have been astonished had he been asked to saw out a specification from such logs as are now being used. Half a dozen log surveys (spruce) chosen from a file at random and dated April and May, 1881, show nine pieces to the thousand feet; a like number, dated April, 1904, shows that seventeen pieces were required to make up the same quantity.

Each winter, as it came, found the logging crews penetrating farther and farther into the forests that bordered the main streams and estuaries of the St. John River, the Miramichi and the Restigouche. Most of the ground has been cut over several times, and in nearly all cases long before the new growth has attained a size at all comparable with the original growth.

What the ultimate result of this decline in quality will be is hard to\r decide. On the St. John River, where the industry is the oldest, the results are beginning to be apparent in a slow but sure curtailment of the annual output. In other sections of the Province the limits have not been worked for a long period and the timber is therefore better. One vital effect that is certain to follow the scarcity of large timber will be the lack of new blood and new capital in the industry. The virgin forests of newly settled countries are sure to attract those who have the desire and means to devote themselves to the manufacture of lumber. The demands of the pulp manufacturers for material in the shape of undersized logs have had,during the last few years, and will have in time to come, a tendency to still further reduce the average size of available timber throughout the lower counties of New Brunswick, and all other sections in the vicinity of pulp mills. Heretofore, trees that were not large enough to be manufactured into lumber were allowed to stand until they had attained the necessary dimensions; nowadays, in numerous instances, they are cut for pulpwood, the anxiety to realize upon them quickly being, of course, the chief inducement.

Another marked change in New Brunswick lumber conditions has resulted from the diminution of the annual output of pine. Until about 1888 pine was the staple forest product, American mills manufacturing little else. Year by year the quantity of pine logs cut has decreased, until in 1904 1,000,000 feet would easily cover the total manufacture on the St. John River. The logs secured in late years are small and of an inferior grade, compared with those of the last century. In the early ’80’s, when provincial logs were worth from $9 to $12 a thousand feet on the St. John, considerable variation was the rule, owing to the corresponding variation in the size and quality of the logs. They would probably be a great deal higher today were they obtainable. It is scarcely worth while to make any comparison with the present prices, as they are seldom on the market in lots of importance.

As pine gradually became scarcer, spruce came more into demand and also more valuable year by year, in spite of the gradual degeneration in size. This increase in value is due chiefly to three facts: The logs are harder to get; wages and supplies are more costly, and stump-age rates of the material have increased. From 1880 to 1885 spruce logs that could not be duplicated in the provinces today at any price brought from $7 to $8.50 a thousand feet at the mill; from these figures the price crept slowly upward until it reached $12.50, which price was touched in 1904. During the twenty-five years immediately preceding 1905, the market price of spruce lumber in the United Kingdom had been creeping up slowly but surely. In the year 1879 prices were extremely low, several large lots having been disposed of at figures that left from $5.75 to $6 a thousand for merchantable lumber. Of course, it would not be reasonable to use these figures as a criterion, for the year mentioned was one of light demand, forced shipments and the consequent lower prices mentioned above. For several years following, the trade showed a marked improvement both in prices and demand. A fair average price for the early ’80’s would have been $8.50 a thousand for merchantable spruce deals. From that time until the year 1900 prices rose gradually, interrupted, of course, by many periods of temporary depression, due to the presence of unfavorable conditions; but always, when the reaction set in, gaining more than had been lost. The end of the century found the figures in the vicinity of $11.50 for merchantable. Then followed three prosperous years. The demand during that period was extremely brisk and the shipments from the provinces were larger than they had ever been before, conditions being so favorable that in many cases the American logs (which are worth $2 more a thousand, because their product, when they are manufactured by an American citizen, is allowed to go into the United States free of duty) were sawed into English size and shipped to the United Kingdom.

The high water mark in prices was touched in 1903 when merchantable deals were sold in large quantities at figures that ranged from $13.25 a thousand to $13.75 f. o. b. steamer at New Brunswick ports. Early in 1904 the English market took a decided slump. Prices fell suddenly and emphatically until on September 1 purchases could have been made as low as $11.50 a thousand, with lumber plentiful.

The general decrease in the size of logs being sawed has had a marked effect upon the quantity of wide deals turned out, and the result is that the difference in the percentage of the wide lumber in the specifications is apparent and quite important in figuring the value of lumber.

In recent years it has been the general impression that the average quality of lumber produced is much lower than that manufactured twenty-five years previous. This is owing to the fact that the larger growth was certain to be cleaner and to have fewer knots and twists. Of course, in making a comparison of prices prevalent in recent years with those of former times, this depreciation in size and quality is an important element.

Twenty-five years prior to 1905 consignments to the markets of the United States from New Brunswick consisted chiefly of pine, the greater part of which was made up of one-inch boards. In later years, for reasons mentioned in an earlier paragraph, shipments of pine are few and light. With spruce it is exactly the reverse. In the late ’70’s and early ’80’s the shipments of spruce from the Maritime Provinces to the United States were not of great importance; recently spruce is the staple.

The spruce trade with the United States has also changed in this, that the smaller sizes have been much less in demand during the last few years, whereas formerly the demand was principally for plank and scantling. Recently it has run chiefly to three-inch stock.

On the whole the variation in price has not been so great as in the case of the English markets, although sudden fluctuations are more frequent. It is estimated that the output of spruce lumber in New Brunswick in 1904 was 80,000,000 superficial feet. The estimated output for 1905 was 95,000,000 feet. The output in cedar shingles in 1904 was about 260,000,000 pieces, as compared with 255,000,000 in 1903. The market prices of spruce lumber at Campbellton in 1904 were: $18 a thousand for 10-inch and 12-inch dimension, $14 for 9-inch and under, $16 for 10-inch and 12-inch random lengths 10 feet and upward in length, and $12 a thousand for 2x3, 2x4, 2x5, 2x6, 2x7, 3x4, 10 feet and upward in length; $11 for all other randoms 9 inches and under in size 10 feet and up in length; $11 for 5-inch and upward widths merchantable boards; $18 to $26 for matched boards; $9 for spruce boards; $11 for bundled furring; $8 for pickets, and $2 for lath. Spruce clapboards, extra, $42; clear spruce clapboards, $40; second clear, $38; extra No. 1, $32; No. 1, $21; No. 2, $12.

The market prices of cedar shingles at Campbellton were : Extras, $2.60; clear, $2.10; second clear, $1.60, and extra No. 1, $1.10.


According to the Canadian census of 1901, the number of sawmills in the Province of New Brunswick was 236 and the value of the product $7,041,848. As the census, however, includes only industries employing five or more hands, some of the smaller mills are not enumerated. The value of forest products in the rough is given as follows: Square, waney or flat timber, $34,484; logs for lumber, $1,667,694; pulpwood, $37,577; miscellaneous, $1,295,860; total, $3,035,615. The following are the quantities and values of the items under the two former heads:

The forests of New Brunswick always have been her greatest source of wealth, and lumbering has been her greatest industry. Her first important exports were lumber products and to this day the forests furnish employment for a large proportion of her people and a splendid revenue to her internal government. The volume of the product shows a wonderful persistence, and it seems likely that, with the practice of conservative forestry methods and the large area illy adapted to agriculture, the forests will forever remain the chief resource of the Province.

Complete figures of logical arrangement are difficult to procure, but the following tables give the most important facts as to the trade history of the Province, and many enlightening details.


Shipments from Miramichi for thirteen years, from 1892 to 1904 inclusive, in feet, were:

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