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(Continued from Part 1)

Insight into the internal organization of the forestry industry in the 1850s and 1860s is provided by a lumberman’s diary, believed to have belonged to John Mather, woods manager for the Gilmour Company. The diary, now located in the National Archives of Canada, is interesting reading. A canoe trip up the Gatineau and Gens de Terre Rivers to examine northern timber limits is carefully recorded in the diary. Mather left Kirk’s Ferry at 7:30 a.m. on August 11, 1859. Upriver progress was slow and it was not until August 20 that he reached the mouth of the Gens de Terre River (spelled “Jean” in his notes).

The importance of local farms in providing produce for the shanties is stressed in the diary by the fact that the author spent considerable time describing the quality and quantity of crops on the farms he passed. He mentioned Desert Farm and Joseph’s Farm, both located near the present site of Maniwaki. Of the latter he observed: “The crops on Joseph’s Farm look very well, a large quantity of potatoes from appearance should serve 2 shanties.” Upstream, several other farms were passed and the condition of their crops was duly noted. On August 20, Mather reached the junction of the Gatineau and Gens de Terre Rivers and stated that the latter river appeared to take half of the Gatineau. The meeting of these two rivers is a sight now lost to history. With the building of the Mercier dam in 1928, the confluence of these rivers has been covered by the waters of the Baskatong reservoir. The Gens de Terre River now flows into a north-western arm of the reservoir, the Gatineau into a northern.

Mather’s journey took him up the Gens de Terre River to Hamilton Farm, located 20 miles from the junction with the Gatineau. Here he noted that the hay crop looked small, the oats well. Hamilton Farm was the last farm passed. From there the journey continued to the Bark Lake vicinity, now in the heart of La Vérendrye provincial park.

In addition to recording the 1859 trip, the lumberman’s diary also specified the amount of supplies consumed by the shanties over the 1858-59 winter. For example, the quantity of hay used by several shanties was as follows: O’Connel’s Shanty – 34 tons; Fozer’s Shanty – 26 tons; Cameron’s Shanty – 24 tons; McLeod’s Shanty – 21 tons. The average amount of hay used per shanty, therefore, was 26 tons. The average amount of oats used per shanty over the same winter was 17,508 bushels.

It is interesting to note the names of the shanty foremen as reported in the lumberman’s diary. An inspection of such names gives no hint of the fact that by the latter half of the nineteenth century the bulk of the labourers and river drivers working on the Gatineau were French Canadians. They seldom rose (were allowed to rise) above the rank and file. This ethnic segregation between worker and leader is preserved in the French Canadian folk song “Les Draveurs de la Gatineau,” the first stanza of which is:

Adieu, charmante rive
Du beau Kakabongué!Voilà le temps qu’arrive
Il faut donc se quitter
Les gangs se réunissent, les rames rassemblées;
Jack Boyd les conduira, cent hommes rassemblées,
Cent hommes rassemblées.

The great lumber families of the time were all Scottish. Leadership positions within the organizations were invariably staffed by men of British background like Jack Boyd who, although remembered in song, is unknown in history.

As the nineteenth century progressed, more and more people followed lumbering into the Gatineau Valley to seek a living from farming. The undertaking was possible because the lumber camps provided the farmer with a ready market for surplus produce as well as with winter employment. This pattern of activity combining seasonal farming and lumbering work continued well into the twentieth century.

In the early twentieth century, a second change in the nature of the Gatineau forest industry took place with the production of pulpwood succeeding sawn lumber. The end of the sawn lumber era in eastern Canada occurred in the 1920s and 1930s, hastened by the Depression, the exhaustion of the better quality trees, and the rise of the pulp and paper industry. All independent Gatineau Valley sawn lumber operators sold their limits to the International Paper Company between 1921 and 1925. In spite of the changed ownership of the Gatineau Valley forest industries, the organization of forest activities continued unaltered until the 1940s. Work was seasonal, providing local farmers and their teams with winter employment. In 1941, for example, C. I. P. had 800 horses working in its lumber camps in the vicinity of Maniwaki.

Following the Second World War, however, the traditional pattern of forest activities that had dominated the Gatineau for almost a century and a half, gave way. The seasonal, labour-intensive industry that had required unskilled workers and their horses changed into a highly mechanized year-round operation requiring the services of full-time, skilled workers.

The forest, however, remains an important Gatineau Valley resource. In spring, when the river is covered by a carpet of logs, history is easily recalled. It is fitting that this should be so, for the development of the Gatineau Valley is more intimately related to the forests than to any other single element.*

*Editors note: The above article appeared in 1977. The last log drive on the Gatineau River, and the last of its kind in Canada, took place in 1993. Reasons for the demise of the log drive in Canada included improvements in the trucking industry, environmental concerns, and safety issues.