Saturday, May 26, 2007

Forest Workers Memorial Park

Lake Cowichan Heritage Days May 18th-20th featured the opening of the Forest Workers Memorial Park, the first of it's kind in BC. Funded by a Commemorative Brick sale, the local Credit Union Legacy Fund and local industry, the park honours workers and history of the forest industry around Cowichan Lake. The area was home to the beginning of the IWA forest industry union in the early 1930s, and has a rich history of lumbering and sawmilling.

Key features of the park are a chunk of concrete foundation from the CNR bridge over the Cowichan River, which symolizes the many logging railways around the lake; a fountain which recognizes the mountains, lake, and rivers in the Cowichan Lake area; three interpretive panels richly carved in yellow cedar and depicting historic scenes from the forest industry; and the commemorative bricks recognizing workers and companies past and present. Special brown-coloured bricks with a tree emblem recognize workers who lost their lives on the job.

The day began with sun in the sky, and a parade of logging trucks from the 1930s, 50s and present day. The local Kaatza Museum was open with a series of logging and mining displays. As the park Grand Opening drew near the heavens opened and the rain poured down, as if to remind all in attendance that forest workers work outdoors in the harshest of elements. The Royal Canadian Legion was present, along with Mayor and Council, MLA, MP, and visionaries from The Cowichan Lake Forest Cooperative who sheparded the park idea from conception to completion. The big moment was the throwing of the switch to set flowing the water in the fountain.

For more Lake Cowichan logging history, try cutting & pasting these links into your web browser:

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Reader request - Log Booming

Tim-ber has received it's first request, thank you. A business trip away, and a stumble with uploading images using the blog editing template have delayed the response.

Reader mr. beer n. hockey suggested I write about boom men, those agile workers who rode the logs and manouvered them with pike poles and peaveys.

This request brought back good memories, as I began my own career on the log booms.

Anyone who has spent any time on or near the coast of BC will recognize the image above as a log boom, a group of logs likely assembled 'up coast' and towed to a sawmill or pulp mill. In the old days most of the making of the booms was done by hand. Now boom boats do much of the work.

Here is an artist's impression of an early boom man at work.

Stay tuned for more on the topic of log booms.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Early BC Forest History

In British Columbia history, the time before European explorers reached our shores is referred to as 'pre-contact'. During this period it is known that indigenous peoples cut down cedar trees for use in buildings, and stripped individual planks from trees to use as boards. These remaining cedars are known today as 'culturally modified' trees.

European explorers who reached our shores by ship, cut fir trees as spars or masts for their ships in the late 1700's, taking additional cargos home for use in naval yards. American sawmills in Washington & Oregon state also reached north for timber. Captain William Brotchie attempted an unsuccessful spar business, running his barque Albion aground in 1849 on a reef south of Victoria harbour which now bears his name, Brotchie Ledge.

Today's Brotchie Ledge Beacon

The Hudson's Bay Company is credited with building the first sawmill in BC, at Victoria in 1848. It may have exported lumber to Washington State and even to Hawaii. This painting depicts both the sawmill (on the right) and a grist mill on Millstream near today's Six Mile Pub.

This was followed by an improved 2nd mill, and a mill in Nanaimo also by HBC.

Captain William Stamp (Stamp Falls) built a sawmill in Alberni in 1858, which ran out of logs soon after. Stamp went on to greater fame in Vancouver, a story which will be told later on this blog.