Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Forestry--The Spruce

Sir James Douglas, may have among his letters, a reference to what may have been the first logging activity on Haida Gwaii. In a letter dated, "Fort Victoria, 26th Aug, 1852," he writes about the American brig "Susan Sturgis" lately cut, and carried off a cargo of spars from the islands.

West end of Queen Charlotte City, 1916
Until the outbreak of the First Great War, logging and lumbering activities on the Islands were of a very restricted nature, for there was only one mill in operation at Queen Charlotte City in 1911. The growing demand for the aeroplane spruce during World War I brought the Islands to the forefront in the logging industry, for the finest Sitka Spruce along the Northwest coast of North America is found there. It was estimated that from Moresby Island alone a number of camps on Cumshewa and Selwyn Inlets shipped over 30,000,000 feet of spruce for aeroplane-manufacture.

Under the direction of the Imperial Munitions Board, this industry attained large proportions. The eight or ten large camps built on Cumshewa Inlet were only a part of this development. At Thurston Harbour, on Selwyn Inlet, where the Board's administration camp was located, all the necessary equipment was erected for making up Davis rafts large enough to carry up to 1,500,000 feet of timber to the Mainland mills, where is was sawn and shipped to factories in Toronto and Great Britain.

Judging by the news reports of the time, the workers in the camps seem to have been well treated--they received from $5.50 to $10 per day in wages. A hospital and a recreational house were built for them at Thurston Harbour, and the Y.M.C.A. operated a station there. A wireless station was erected to serve the logging area and a provision store was operated for the convenience of the independent hand-loggers.

Northward, on Graham Island, other logging operations supplied materials for war purposes. There were many camps located along Massett Inlet, and in 1918 there were no fewer than four large sawmills going "full blast" in the town of Massett. In order to supplement the sawing facilities of the Mainland mills, the Imperial Munitions Board began the erection of three large sawmills at Thurston Harbour. However, these were not completed at the time of the armistice and were almost immediately dismantled.