EARLY LUMBERING DAYS IN MANVERS TP.
RECALLED WHEN LAST VIRGIN PINES FELL
Crowning the height of land, in the southern end of Manvers Township, Durham County, stands the last of the virgin pine in that section of the country, and one of the very few remaining stretches in Old Ontario. For some reason, when the district was being cleared up in ’75, this fifty acres was left unmolested. Perhaps the owner was very busy elsewhere, or some misfortune occurred in the family; at any rate this piece of bush was spared until today, when it is worth ten times the original value of the whole 200-acre farm. Here one is able to picture the Banner Province in pioneer days. On the uplands there are magnificent white pine towering close to a hundred feet and over a yard in diameter in the butt log. In the lower places, cedar and tamarack jostle each other, while here and there through the holding, one finds groups of hardwood.
Fifty Acres of Virgin Pine
The last battle of the old guard is being fought two miles south of Manvers Station. The whole bush covers 200 acres, being composed of 50 acres of virgin pine, 40 acres of second growth pine, some hardwood and the remainder, small stuff coming on as yet unfit for timber.
Turning into a winter road winding through the trees, one descends into a little valley, where a scene once familiar, but now almost forgotten in Old Ontario, greets the eye. In the centre a sawmill is working full blast. Two traction engines each twenty horsepower housed in a rough board shack sputter and belch smoke as great logs are drawn against the circular saw in the mill above. Men dressed in the garb of the northern lumbermen struggle with more logs on the side hill, guiding these huge pieces down a rough skidway where every available inch is made into lumber. Flanking the mill, and protected snugly by a hill covered with young pine, are cook and bunkhouses, stables and feed shelters.
At the Face
If your interest is sufficient, wander up the narrow road which curves away from the mill, out of the valley to the rear of the holding. Be careful to listen for approaching teams, so that you will be able to select your own place to pass. The writer, in a cutter, had to give way to a load of giant logs, and this meant unhitching, backing cutter off the beaten path, and then flounder into four feet of snow with a very unwilling old Dobbin.
At the end of the trail one finds a clearing, perhaps five acres in extent, the whole covered with small piles of firewood and brush. Two men are busy with a crosscut saw, another pair with axes. A fifth, with a husky horse, snakes the logs, which are cut in length from ten feet up, to a small skidway, where they are piled, and ready for loading on the sleigh.
A Glimpse of the Old Days
One’s mind turns back to the pioneers. Even in a small patch of a couple of hundred acres the clearing made by four to eight men in several months looks small. One is cramped by the wall of trees on every side. It must have been a heart-breaking task for the people who battled single-handed with the Manvers forests in ’75.
The history of this particular piece of bush is brief. A. Jackson of Kendal purchased the place over thirty years ago, and, realizing that $10 pine would soon be a thing of the past, decided to hold it a while before harvesting. Last summer it was sold to an Aurora lumber firm, and C.J. Thornton, ex-M.P., of Orono, and Arthur Allin of the same place, were given the contract to get the lumber out.
A Veteran Lumberman
Mr. Thornton has been in the lumbering business off and on since he was seventeen, and as he is now tackling a job at a period in life ten years after many men would consider that they had earned a rest no one will doubt his experience. “This is just about the same way as we lumbered in the old days,” he told the writer a few days ago. “Of course, our mill, which is known as a portable, is a bit more modern and we are sawing a lot of stuff that would have been thrown away a few years since, but everything else is about the same. We have built our own shanties, have our own gang, and live right in the camp.
A Bad Season
Old-time lumbermen who delight to tell about the hardships of half a century ago may be disappointed to learn that conditions are rather worse than usual in ’24. “It has been the hardest winter for this sort of business in forty years” stated the ex-member of Parliament for Durham. “There have been few years in my experience when the snow has been as deep or men have suffered more from the cold. For several days we could not work at all, and with four feet of snow in the bush it has been very difficult to get logs out.”
Even the inexperienced spectator noticed that the work about the mill was not as smooth as it might be. A canthook was placed on the wrong side of one of the logs on the skidway, and a second or two later that log had rolled off into the snow. In unloading the sleigh there was a little fumbling. But what would you expect? The young man in Old Ontario today is a farmer, not a lumberman. Mr. Thornton had to run the saw, oversee unloading of logs, give directions about guiding the dangerously heavy pieces down the skidway, besides lending a hand here and there. Mr. Allin directed operations in the bush. “I had no trouble in securing all the men we needed,” stated Mr. Thornton, “but there are few experienced lumbermen left in Ontario.” Fourteen men are employed on the job, which will take about two years to conclude.
A Million Feet of Pine
It is expected that the 90 acres of pine, original and commercial second growth will turn out between 900,000 and 1,000,000 feet. This is valued at $30 per thousand sawn and delivered at a yard a short distance outside the bush. It is rather hard to value the hardwood, but the pine alone, to be cut from approximately one hundred acres, will be worth close to $30,000. The cost of handling the trees logs, sawing, preliminary drying, hauling two miles to the local station and loading will probably amount to $10,000; but this is only a rough guess. One point, however, is clear: Much of the land, especially a few miles west of Manvers, would be worth forty times as much as it is today had it never been settled.
Worth Cutting at 25 Years
The virgin pine are about one hundred years old, according to Mr. Thornton, and the second growth, from 25 years up, has been worth cutting. Although this place has never had cattle fenced out, and frequent open spaces with heavily limbed trees have resulted, there will be sufficient new growth coming on to make cutting worth while in another twenty years. The tract could have been made to yield a steady, good-sized annual income indefinitely if one man had cared to live on the place. With care and annual thinning there would have been a continual harvest similar to that in European countries.
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