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History of the Spanish River Area

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I Fur Traders (click here)

II Systematic Exploration (click here)

III The Lumber Industry

(a) The Early Period 1863 - 1883

At one time the whole of Northern Ontario was covered by a vast and seemingly endless forest. Until the arrival of the railway in 1883 this expanse was broken only by lakes of diverse sizes and shapes and deeply cut by swift, if often shallow rivers. The timber potential of the northern forests was often noted, yet scarcely exploited until the second half of the 19th century.

Lumbering on the Lower Spanish probably started around l863, for in 1865 Fitzgerald, a provincial surveyor, noted that during the previous two years, "....timber of a large and fine quality had been taken out in logging operations just upstream from the junction of the Sauble and Spanish Rivers." Two predominant factors delayed the exploitation of the timber resources of the Spanish River by lumbering firms. The first was the sheer distance to the nearest American markets, which were separated from the North Shore by the entire breadth of Lake Huron. Rafting logs,- a technique developed in the Ottawa Valley, was not entirely suitable to the open and choppy waters of a great lake. The economics of saw lumber operates within a narrow profit margin. To compete with American sawlogs Canadian timber had to be shipped in large- quantities. This could only be done at the time by joining timber logs into rafts, a procedure with costs in man hours that were unacceptably high. In the long run however, water transport (not shipping) was the only method which could obviate the risk posed by fluctuating timber prices. The second, and more formidable obstacle to the expansion of saw-logging, was the sheer remoteness and inaccessibility of the region. Large scale logging operations required an extensive construction program, beginning with camps, tote roads, and river improvements, as well as a transportation network that kept thousands of men and horses fed and supplied through all seasons. This supply and support could not be undertaken via the traditional fur trade routes which could not handle the large quantities required, and which were fairly inaccessible in winter during the height of the logging season.

It was not until the building of the railroad in 1883 that large scale logging became economically viable. The exhaustion of the forests in the northeastern United States and the Ottawa Valley had already encouraged some early attempts to log in the Spanish area. By the 1870's logging on the Lower Spanish was a regular, if low-key activity. The cut logs were floated downriver, and from there loaded on ships or towed for milling in Michigan. The coming of the railroad to the Sudbury district in 1883, provided the catalyst that set off phenomenal growth in the frequency and scope of logging around Sudbury. The effects of rail transport on the economy and life of the North Shore, underline the intimate relation of a staple economy with its modes of transport (See Report on the significance of Historic Resources on the Spanish, following this report for a discussion of the staple theory of history). The railway not only made logging operations economically more profitable, but it also made a program of settlement feasible. For the lumbering industry sizeable rivers were also a factor of primary importance to the economic viability of logging' operations, as Douglass C. North has written "the rate of growth of the lumber industry was directly related to the growth of markets reached by water". In the Sudbury district those markets could be reached by floating the logs on Lake Huron and Lake Huron could be reached most effectively from the hinterland, by driving the timber down the rivers. The Spanish River's size and location made it ideal for floating timber. Le Bourdais has described this transport during the lumber era "timber in the region around what later became Sudbury bad been taken out chiefly by way of the Spanish River on the east, and the Wanapiti on the west."

The following companies logged and drove sawlog timber on the Spanish below Biscotasing, before the Second World War:

Graves and Bigwood 1907-1925

C. Beck Manufacturing 1913-20

Spanish River Lumber Co. 1913-30

McFadden & Malloy 1808-13

This list excludes jobbers and small operators who usually sold their logs to one of the above companies for processing.

The relationship, between large scale lumbering and the railroad should be regarded as symbiotic. The early expansion of logging in the Sudbury area was due to the demand for railway ties. Later the economy of railroad towns like Sudbury was sustained by logging which by the end of the 1880's bad become the dominant economic activity in the region The railroad brought the Sudbury district into direct contact with the more developed parts of Canada. In this climate of prosperity, the Spanish River became for the first time attractive for settlers as well as merchants and craftsman who wished to benefit from the newly opened territory.


(b) Settlement on the Lower Spanish

The first town on the Spanish was in effect an outgrowth of La Cloche. The first settlers arrived by steamboat, and cleared land along the banks of the Spanish River. The Sudbury to Algoma Branch of the C.P.R. brought an additional number of settlers to the area and also its name; 'Massey' after a surveyor for the railroad company. Massey became an organized municipality in 1893, along with several other townships along the river. It was only in 1904 however, that it was incorporated into a town with a Mayor and a Town Council.

The railroad brought settlers as well as loggers, in fact they were often one and the same. The Act of 1868 required that all lands in newly opened townships, would be reserved as free grants for homesteaders and not be put on the open market for sale. The free grant was easily obtainable from the Department of Crown Lands, and many availed themselves of this opportunity. Those who arrived in the Sudbury district in the 1880's with the intention of farming found the quality of the soil to be uneven and only suitable for cultivation in odd places. The best agricultural land was confined to 'pockets' in the Canadian Shield,--small areas of arable land located in the depressions in the Laurentian upland.

A poetic image of this earlier time, was left by the Sudbury pioneer, Ann Maharles who described those early day's as follows.

"In the twenty years from 1860 - 1880 the Province of Ontario was -at its best in every way. The fine western counties bordering on Lake Huron and the Georgian Bay had been cleared and brought under cultivation and were yielding large crops. The prices of all kinds of farm products, including stock, were very remunerative, and farm lands were at their highest value. Most of the original settlers of that section of the province were still able to work and manage things in the good old thrifty careful way; and their families were grown up, and nearly all living at home and helping to work the farm. A better rural population in every respect than Ontario, east and west, had at the period would have been hard to find anywhere else in the world."

A late comer, but for some time, a vigorous competitor to Massey, was the town of Webbwood. Unlike Massey, whose economy and population was the result of farming and lumbering, Webbwood's development took a dramatic upswing in the late 1880's when the railroad came to the settlement. Webbwood became the base for intensive logging on the Spanish. A letter appearing in the Sudbury Star on April 26, 1906, recounts the story of that early boom. Part a complaint of neglect part fanciful history part advertisement, the letter describes the town as a place of great promise:

"Why is it neither the JOURNAL or Massey newspaper scarcely ever give any news from or about this town, which at present is one of the busiest towns on the 500 line? A year or two ago the cows grazed peacefully on the main street, 10 ft of good pasture right on the street, but now the streets are alive with lumber men, miners, tote teams and fast driving teams. So much more so that a person is in more danger of being run over here, than he would be of getting run over with the street cars in Toronto. W. J. Bell of your town started the boom going early last fall, by putting in several hundred men in the Spanish River Lumber Company's limits, right close to town, and have taken out an immense quantity of logs, which the company are now busy driving out of the small creeks into the Spanish River, with good prospects of getting them all safe into deep water."

The letter goes on to give extensive details of lumber operations on the Spanish above Webbwood. At the turn of the century Webbwood was a veritable hub of industry, as well as a boom in logging, the construction of a pulp and paper mill injected additional funds into the local economy and gave employment to many. Even a promising gold mine, the Shakespeare, added luster to the town's future. Those great expectations were never fulfilled. The lumber boom was temporary, the construction of Espanola drew away the employment provided by the pulp and paper mill, and the gold mine proved to be not so promising after all. Today Webbwood can be considered as a small town compared to Espanola and Massey.


(c) Lumber Camps and River Drives on the Spanish

By the late 19th century, logging throughout northern Ontario, had achieved remarkable uniformity regardless of particular firm or location. That uniformity of organization and routine, did not depend as it does today, on standard high technology mechanization. Instead, experienced loggers migrating from Quebec and southern Ontario, adapted traditional logging methods to the terrain and climate of the north. These new methods were quickly perfected and diffused, aided by the rapid mobility of experienced men in the logging industry. In the bush, the basic unit of operation was the logging camp. Its construction was achieved with simple tools, whose use required great skill and experience. The design of these camps was remarkably stable, and changed very little during the last century. Benjamin Avery describes the construction from 'scratch' of one such camp on the Spanish River:

"The first shelter was a lean-to or stretched canvas to protect men and various supplies from the weather. The camp had to be central to the cutting area and to reach the camp site a tote road had to be built, perhaps two miles long, maybe more. Once the camp site was purchased, selected usually by the foreman who bad looked over the area before the limit was purchased, trees were felled, logs made and skidded, camp site cleared and building begun. There was no time to debark the logs for buildings. They were rolled up, sides and ends alternately, with a man standing at each corner to notch each log as it was placed so that the next log rolled might fit as closely as possible to the one below. When the wall was the height of a man, the ridge pole was raised and. poles placed from ridge pole to eaves as closely as they might be fitted. If tar paper bad been supplied and that wasn't likely, it was used to cover the poles but in the earliest camps, the roof poles were chinked with moss or covered with cedar bark. The gables were fitted with shaped logs or with vertical poles. All walls were chinked with moss. Windows were few or entirely absent. A hole in the roof about the center of the building permitted smoke to escape and provided ventilation. Cooking was done over a fire in the center of the building. Double-decked "muzzle-loader" bunks were built along three walls, consisting of pole "mattresses" softened with balsam boughs, and bedding two men to each bunk. They were called muzzle loaders" because the men crawled into them from the open end of the bunk.

By the time the camp buildings, sleep camp and cookery combined, stable, blacksmith-handy men shop and outhouse were complete, the tug and scow with supplies arrived at the landing. It possibly landed cattle and pigs on the hoof, but certainly included a substantial quantity of salt pork ("Chicago chicken" to the lumberjack) and the balance of the logging crew.

Log cutting began at once and at the same time haul road construction under the direction of the "buck beaver and equipment production by the black smith and the handy man. The bullcook, in addition to his water carrying, wood splitting and cleaning duties began to build up. a reserve of dry pine and green white birch against the winter requirements."

The social structure of a logging camp could be characterized as rigidly hierarchic. Men were fired and hired at will up at dawn, they worked till evening at which time they ate their dinner in the traditionally enforced silence, all had to be in their bunks by 9 o'clock for lights out. The population of the camps was too transient to permit labour organizing of the kind that was occurring among the miners during the same period.

The degree of control exercised by the lumbering companies extended even to the circulation of cash. Transactions inside the camp were usually handled on the basis of credit, the Spanish River Lumber Company was in the habit of limiting the meals in the camps to bearers of pre-paid tokens. Stamped copper tokens were sold for 10 cents each and were the equivalent of a single meal, without them a man would go hungry, even if be could offer cash.
The lumberjacks were brought in from Massey and put to work in a smoothly functioning routine. "The workers", recounts Ernie La Plaunte, an old lumber man, "would come off the train with packsacks on their backs. They would have to walk for two or three days to reach the lumber camps". The lumberjacks walked on the. tote road to the various camps. The tote road's primary function was that of a supply link. The oldest and best known tote road on the Spanish extended from Webbwood across what is today Agnew Lake. John Obernick another of the old lumber jacks remembers that
"the Spanish River Lumber Company was the largest lumbering company operating in the area ... At one time it had as many as forty teams on the tote road all carrying provisions from the train to the lumbering camps. The drivers had to make 20 miles a day to sleep spaced out along the road where they could stop for the night."

Before the advent of mechanization and use of motorized transport in the forest industries the problem of conveying the timber to market was the first one that had to be solved. Traditional felling and log-making techniques were slow but effective and relatively independent of a particular terrain or operation. Saw logs were used for the building industry, and for this use even lengths from 10 to 24 feet, were most advantageous. Consequently the standard lengths for pine logs at the time were twelve, fourteen and sixteen feet, while their average diameter was about fourteen inches. Logs of this size were heavy and difficult to handle and formidable to transport. The easiest and most economic mode of transporting logs of this size to the mills was to utilize the water current in streams and rivers to propel and carry the timber. It was therefore crucial for a logging operation to be- able to use a river of sufficient magnitude to drive the quantities of timber cut. The control of a river for the purposes of driving timber was far from a simple proposition. It often required an elaborate system of dams, booms, jetties and occasionally flumes and log sluices to transport the logs.

River driving on the Spanish and other rivers was subject to a number of limitations which could have important economic consequences to the lumber company involved. River driving was dependent on a sufficient quantity of water in the drainage basin. During drought or prolonged winter, logs could be stranded or delayed for the next season, resulting in their deterioration or destruction. A large amount of the- timber is sunk, stranded, and most importantly damaged, during the rough process of transport. Damaged timber lost its value as saw logs with a resultant loss in profit. In Northern Ontario winter ice kept the logs on the timber stands for a period of months as well as keeping the mills idle during the winter. This could prolong the length of time ordinarily required for the realization of profit on the original investment, putting the enterprise in jeopardy. The river driver was only one user among many on the river, he had legal limitations on his operations which could hinder him to the point of denying him the natural advantages of river driving. This was to be one of the important obstacles to sawlog operations on the Spanish River. Bearing in mind the size of the logs and the above limitations, a river like the Spanish had to possess the following attributes to be considered ideal for a drive.


(l) The stream channel must be wide enough and deep enough to float the logs without the formation of jams.

(2) It must be relatively straight to avoid jamming at sharp bends in the stream.

(3) It must drain a sufficiently large basin to ensure an adjustable supply of flood water when needed.

The Spanish River was far from a realization of this ideal. It was often shallow, its rapids, especially the Graveyard Rapids, and changing course made jams both inevitable and difficult to break. However, the river did dispose of a large drainage basin. Biscotasing Lake was dammed around 1883, and Pogamasing was dammed around 1893 to provide additional reserve capacity. Many and varied types of dams were built to regulate and store water on the Spanish and its tributaries. On the Spanish River a dam at the mouth of Spanish Lake was sufficient as a backup for driving on the Main Branch. The Agnes and Wakonassin Rivers, were more extensively dammed, since their flow was not as strong and constant as the Spanish's.

In addition to the above mentioned dams, the following dams were built in the late 19th and early 20th century, most of these dams were built in the Upper Spanish drainage basin, creating a vast reservoir;

3 dams at the foot of Biscotasing Lake,

2 dams at the foot of Indian Lake,

1 dam at the foot of Mozhabong Lake,

2 dams at the foot of Ramsay Lake,

5 dams on Snake Lake waters,

4 dams on Kittle Creek waters,

1 dam at the mouth of White Pine River,

1 dam at the mouth of White Pine Lake,

l dam at the foot of Windy Lake,

1 dam at the foot of Bear Lake,

I dam at the foot of Red Pine Lake,

1 dam at the foot of Spanish Lake,

1 dam at the foot of Canoe Lake.,

1 dam on Upper Spanish River.

Two principle methods of damming were employed for driving the logs on minor streams The first was to flush the logs downstream through uncontrolled release of a large quantity of water. The second method, one akin to the one used in canals, was to float the logs downstream in stages. The first method required a large head of water and was most appropriate to a short stream, where a single flush of water would be sufficient to reach the main conduit. The second method is the one most suitable to long streams, its main disadvantage is the need to sluice the logs through the dam, as well as maintain a constant force of men just for this purpose. The most common, as well as the most dependable type of dam in use in the river, was the crib dam, some rafter dams were built, but their popularity never matched that of the crib dam; The crib dam is so called because the buttresses and wings are built of log cribs usually filled with stone to bold them down. The necessity for the use of stone is determined by the head of water carried and by the size of timber used in construction. Crib dams are made from round timber hewed on two sides, or from squared timber. A crib work is built up until it reaches the level of the stream bed, when it is necessary to provide a way through which logs may pass and also gates through which surplus water may be wasted. It is the crib work which survives the ravages of time, and remains can be seen in various parts of the area, on the Wakonassin and Cameron Creek for example. It took four men about twenty-one days to drive the piles, and ten days to build the structure. The rafter dam, is used where a large head of water is not required. The foundations are constructed in the same way as the crib dam. These dams are often referred to as "self-loading", because they depend almost entirely upon the weight of water on the sloping face for stability. This face slopes considerably less than in the crib dam. The rafter type is ideal for small, short-lived dams. It is short-lived because it is vulnerable to washouts. The dams and the other improvements have to be operated as an interlocking system otherwise their effectiveness is reduced. Systems of river improvements were constructed and utilized by experienced lumbermen without recourse to formal expertise or tools more complex than were commonly used to build logging camps. This relative self-sufficiency in tools and knowledge was epitomized by the drive foreman, who organized and orchestrated the river, evaluating the amount of water available, building additional improvements and positioning his men strategically. His operation began with a careful inspection of the dams; he then took the following measures:


(1) The release of surplus water, if high water levels threatened the dam.

(2) Determination of time to fill and empty the dam.

(3) Timing arrival of water at various points below the dam.

(4) Instruction of dam guardians on efficient dam operations.

(5) Determination, through observation, of the correct amount of water to release for maximum driving efficiency.

Maintaining a high water level, and sluicing the logs through the dam is by far the most efficient method for large scale driving. A typical sluicing crew consisted of two men at the gate, one on each side, leaving four men to push the wood through. The other method, that of flushing the logs down the channel required less manpower. It called for the accumulation of a sufficient head of water that would be released at the proper moment: this was an irreversible decision which could not be stopped or manipulated later. In various strategic places on and around the Spanish River this operation took place. This was especially true on such small and shallow tributaries of the Spanish, as Geneva Creek and the Agnes River.

The most important objection to this method was the increased damage caused by driving logs this way. The suitability of a stream channel for driving purposes depends to a large extent on keeping it narrow and its banks steep and high. Streams tend to widen after being driven due to the action of the large logs on the banks and the effect of successive flushes from storage dams. As a stream widens beyond a certain required width, its efficiency decreases due to the dissipation of the force of water. River improvements prolongs the driving life of a stream, and sluicing the timber instead of flushing it is more beneficial still. In the long run, however, driving tends to destroy the very environment on which it depends, as James S. Dobie, wrote in a survey report on the Sudbury district, around the Spanish River.

"Lumbering operations were started on these lakes in Northern Ontario in the late seventies and early eighties and from the very outset dams were erected to control the waters for lumber driving purposes. The result has been that all traces of the original high water level has disappeared and a new high water mark has been established and accepted as a matter of course."

This observation and its various ramifications will be returned to later, when considering the overall interaction of activity on the river and its permanent impact.

The drive foreman usually placed four to eight men per mile on small streams, bad boats' manned and the dams guarded. This carefully organized group of men depended on good communications which in turn were indispensable in the event of a log jam. All operations had to cease the moment a jam was formed and extra men had to be rushed in to break it. Elaborate safeguards were taken to prevent the formation of jams, it was the primary job of the men stationed on the river banks to nudge recalcitrant logs back to the proper channel. Around the Spanish River, jams would most frequently form in certain critical points such as the Graveyard Rapids and the Elbow. Particular attention had to be paid to the confluence of tributaries the Agnes and the Wakonassin where out coming logs bad to be boomed and directed downstream. Perhaps the most difficult spot in the river was at Big Eddy and High Falls. There the speed of the current often forced the logs together quickly building 'them into a tight jam that required dynamiting. Dynamite was a measure of the last resort since it damaged logs and was expensive in itself. Breaking log jams was the most dangerous undertaking in what was generally a dangerous pursuit. River drivers were the 'elite' among loggers, they were well paid, and highly individualistic, as befitting men who took constant risks while earning their living. Their reputation for explosive boisterousness was legendary; Avery has written that:

"Those were busy days on the river. Driving was rough, tough and often dangerous work. When the crews reached Nairn Center, the first sign of 'civilization', they had need of relaxation and suffered unquenchable thirst. Hotels flourished at every village along the river from Nairn to Spanish.
Whether or not the anguished cry of the mother, 'Martha, you come right back in here, here come those river drivers, and bring that dog in too', originated on the Spanish, it might well have."

John Obernick one of the old loggers on the Spanish has described the kind of risk the drivers were obliged to take in the line of duty.
"One time there was a heavy wind and the logs were blowing back on the log driver. The foreman got a rope around the logs, and the boom, and had the men pulling on it; to keep the logs on shore so they couldn't drift away. He hee-hawed and he-hawed, -and it wasn't coming. So he took out his jack knife and cut the rope. Everyman that didn't fall off, he fired!"

The beginning of the drive on the Spanish as on most rivers in northwestern Ontario started in the- spring.
"When the ice is out of the river, mid April perhaps, the drive begins. If the logs were bank landed, they must be rolled into the stream. The jam crew is placed along the river and the logs started away for their journey to the mouth where they will be boomed out and towed to the mill. If the mill is at Sarnia, it will be fourteen days and nights before the double boomed raft reaches its destination. When the logs are all rolled the rearing crew begins the 'sweep'. All stranded logs are floated, and the side and center jams broken down as the crew progresses down stream. A mile a day is the rule of thumb and if the drive started 20 miles upstream it will take 20 days to sweep the stream clean."

The availability of water was the key to the successful operation 6f a drive. The crucial task was the proper deployment of the spring freshet, and the reserve built up by the dam, each night. The logs bad to be floated at the right moment, too early and they would be driven over the banks into the bush, too late and they would be stranded before arriving at their next staging area.

The strategy of moving the timber logs by distinct stages called for the booming of streams and certain river locations. As the logs were moved from smaller streams to the Main Spanish those selected spots were boomed off, and certain optimal number of logs were gathered together, before they were driven further downstream to the next staging area. Remains of booms are still be located on the Spanish at several locations such as: Spanish Lake, at the mouth of the Agnes, above the Graveyard Rapids and on Geneva Creek above the dam. Wide bodies of water such as lakes presented a particular problem. Head winds on the surface of lakes could delay or even immobilize the drive. When this was added to the diffusion of current forces towing became necessary. The technique of towing, and the consequent development of efficient booms was an important precondition to the viability of large scale lumber operations in Northwestern Ontario. Log towing in large bulk was perfected on Lake Huron during the last half of the 19th century. The impetus for the development of new towing and booming technology was a direct result of the special problems involved in transporting logs across stormy Lake Huron which made such improvements imperative. Since most of the Canadian timber holdings of the Michigan lumbermen were concentrated along the French, the Spanish, and the Mississagi Rivers, the logs would have to be rafted over a great expanse of water.

By the 1890's the standard boom, which was used on the Spanish had been perfected. It was composed of logs, each about sixteen feet in length, and about thirty inches in diameter with six-inch holes bored through them two feet from each end. To form a boom, the ends of a huge l inch iron chain wire passed through the end boles of two of the sticks and then shackled and riveted together, thus forming a loop which acted as a sort of hinge connecting the sticks.

The Dingley export tariff of 1897, made the rafting of white pine uneconomical, and resulted in the transfer of many sawmills from Michigan to the North Shore. The lumber industry benefited considerably from the forced adaptation of towing techniques to the harsh conditions of Lake Huron. It made booming and towing on inland lakes and rivers safer and less wasteful. It also improved economies of scale in sawmilling. Large sawmills could be strategically located on the North Shore of Lake Huron and the timber rafted there. The traditionally small water-powered mills were displaced by large steam-powered operations. This brought down costs, but since it required large investment in plant and machinery, it also increased corporate concentration, and resulted in the demise of many small independent lumber firms. The problems and the techniques of towing logs on the Spanish River to the large mills at Spanish and Culter were described in detail by Bell to Justice Riddle, during the course of the timber commission.

"You must understand that in towing logs, especially in lake tows an apron is used which is an additional boom that extends after the raft and catches such logs as may drift out; and also there are good many other features of wastage. If a raft of logs is towed into a wind, there is scarcely a chance of loss, for the logs pile up against the back of: the boom and are held there. If the wind is after the raft, then the chance-of loss comes, because if the apron is too small of if the sea gets too heavy, it piles the apron up against the logs; in such an event, in the little inland runs we have, we simply dodge behind an inlet and wait till the wind goes down. I don't think there is much loss. I have gone behind a raft time and again in a small boat to check it up, and there were very few logs."

The narrow profit margin in lumbering led to a constant preoccupation with the cutting down of waste in operations during tree felling, river driving, and sawing. The push towards economic rationalization and efficiency was so pervasive, that even boom timber was cut up and sold once its usefulness was over.


(d)- The Spanish River Lumber Company

Although many companies logged the river up to the Second World War (as listed earlier), the Spanish River Lumber Company, proved to be the largest and the most important company to operate in the area. The history and operations of this company, does not differ to any significant degree from any of the other large lumbering companies of the region. But in the history of the Spanish River, it played a preponderant role, a role which merits special attention.

The Spanish River Lumber Company was incorporated on the 7th day of February 1882. Its original directors were: Daniel Willis James of New York, Emerson Coleman of New York, Alexander Folson of Bay City, Benjamin Walworth Arnold of Albany, and Alexander Stewart Girvin of the same city. This company, like many others operating in Nippissing, was from its very inception American inspired and directed.

At the turn of the century this company began a period of expansion and growth under the direction of William Joseph Bell, a self-made man who went On to gain control of the management of the company and later to become the co-owner. Bell's increasing importance was an outcome of a division of power and spheres of operation, between himself as the director of logging in Massey, and Benjamin Arnold who marketed the timber in Albany. His son and successor in the company bought the stocks from his partners and turned one third of them over to Bell making him an official partner. The Sudbury and Webbwood timber books do not show any record for this firm previous to 1907. It is known, however, that under his own name this company held limits on Baldwin, Shakespeare and Hallam Townships near Webbwood, and also township 123, 129, 130, Tennyson and Salter just north of Massey. During the years 1907-1920 inclusive, the Spanish River Lumber Company removed from the above townships some 140 million feet of saw-log timber. The Webbwood area logs were driven down the Spanish River and the Massey area logs down the Sable River to the Lower Spanish.

In 1904, the Spanish River Lumber Company, began, under the direction of Bell, a reorganization and take-over of numerous smaller lumber companies operating in the Sudbury area. Bell's scheme was to form several companies, bringing in new partners, while he or Arnold, or both, still maintained majority control. The take-over of smaller companies, meant additional timber stands, reduced competition, and streamlining wood operations. As well, this outward diversity permitted him to bid successfully for large berths without the inevitable suspicion of bid-fixing. Some of the companies that he formed, if often only for a few years were: Arnold and Bell, Ferguson and MacDonald: the Sable River Lumbering Company: and the Aird Trading Company. Most of these companies had a solely fictitious existence; they permitted what is often called 'creative bookkeeping', paper transactions to reduce expected profits. In 1910, The Spanish River Lumber Company completed this phase of its reorganization, when it bought the Massey Lumbering Company, thereby gaining considerable stands in the Main Spanish, area as well as, some more of Booth and Shannon Company's limits in the upper part of the river. This purchase consolidated the company's control over most of the Spanish River drainage basin, an area of almost a thousand square miles.

An idea of the financial scale of logging operations of this scope can be gathered if we consider the return on the original investment. The company began its corporate life with a capital of $200,000, by 1919 it had returned $l,l85,000.00. The original stocks repaid nearly 100% return after World War One, and since the contracts were arranged to circumvent American tax law, that figure can be reckoned as net profit. At the peak of their operation, during the 1906-7 season, the Spanish River Lumber Company cut 45 million feet of pine timber, which was transported by water to two of the largest mills on the North Shore. Among its limits were included the following townships; Victoria, Tennyson, (license issued in 1868), 123, 124, 125, (1B72 timber sale), 129, 130, 132; 144, and 145, as well as M, N, 0, part of J and I and K, E and F, A, B, Cl townships 115, Solski, Cotton, Valin and Beresford.

The Spanish River Company logged as well on Merrit, and later on Heldan, Nairn and Shakespeare townships. The two mills were used by this company ostensibly under separate ownership, in actuality they were both built and operated by the Spanish River Lumber Company at the cost of about $300,000 each.. The mill at Cutler had two bank saws, and two ripsaws, it could saw up to 140,000 feet of lumber per 10 hour working day. Spanish Mills, at the mouth of the Spanish River, had one of the most up-to-date mills in its day. It used a twin bank slabber and gang, and bank saw with a capacity of up to 200,000 feet in a working day such- quantities suggest a major industrial operation.


(e) The Sable and Spanish Boom and Slide Company

The management and control of river driving was usually undertaken by a single holding company, with- the sanction of the Federal Parliament. The company was jointly owned by the various lumbering firms that operated on the river. Theoretically, this ownership was distributed according to investment, with no single company possessing a controlling interest. This was supposed to reduce an officially sanctioned monopoly, to an amicable cooperative, setting tolls and tariffs in direct relation to driving expenses, avoiding competitive discrimination. In practice, one company often managed to obtain majority control; and hence possess effective monopoly over the operation.

In 1886, B. W. Arnold, the president of a newly formed Sable and Spanish Boom and Slide Company petitioned the Minister of Public Works "to be empowered by Act of Parliament to attach boom for timber, to the shore of the Spanish River, in the district of Algoma". The resulting act of Parliament (see Appendix •2) gave the Sable and Spanish Boom and Slide Company unprecedented control over the Spanish River, while restricting in theory its power to fix tolls. The company was owned jointly by Graves, Bigwood and Company; Waldie, MacFadden and Malloy, and the Spanish River Lumber Company, as well as a few other smaller companies. In actual fact, the Spanish River Lumber Co. owned a majority of stock in the newly formed driving company. This gave the Spanish River Lumber Company a considerable advantage over its competitors, because it was its own customer it gave itself priority in organization and cost accounting. The other lumber companies depended on the good graces of Arnold, and later Bell, to see that their timber would be driven promptly with minimum damage. If this power was not sufficient, there was always the question of rates, which changed every year according to driving expenses. The Boom Company did not suffer competition easily. When the Booth and Shannon Co. commenced logging operations along the C.P.R. line in Biscotasing, sometime in 1905, it built and operated various improvements along the Upper Spanish. It was only a question of time before their driving operations impeded on those of the Sable and Spanish boom company. Efficient driving operation could be mounted only if the drainage basin was operated as an integrated system. To drive out a potential challenge to their control of the river, The Spanish River Lumber Company paid Graham and Shannon twenty-five thousand dollars for a berth that had been completely cut. This purchase, as well as one of an adjoining berth, under similar conditions companies from The Little Current Lumber Company, weakened the fiction of the boom company as an independent corporate body. As Justice Riddle was frankly told:

MR. JUSTICE RIDDELL: Perhaps Mr. Bell can tell us when you bought from Graham and Shannon you paid $25,000 for what?
A. Mostly for some improvements on the creeks that ran through it that were necessary to us, your Lordship. That was the value we considered was in it, and we thought it was better to control the license, - We have done that before - though we did not get a great deal of standing timber on it, in order that our tote- roads and improvements might not be interfered with and mixed up with other people.
Q. What stream was that on?
A. On the west branch of the Spanish.
Q. Where there some improvements?
A. Yes.
Q. So you could run timber over it?
A. Yes, dam and slides.
Mr. JUSTICE RIDDELL: Did this west branch of the Spanish River run through any of your other limits?
A. Yes sir.

The Spanish River Lumber Company could maintain exclusive control over the river, as long as lumbering was the principle economic activity in the region, and as long as it was challenged only by other lumber firms.

This stable distribution of power, and the smooth working relationship among various lumber companies was disturbed by an economic transformation in the Sudbury district. The growth of the mining industry led to a shifting of economic and political power to this new industrial sector. It also meant a large demand for new form of energy; hydroelectric power, a demand that the Spanish River was well-suited to satisfy.

An article about the history of the Spanish River area was written by Joseph Lampel when he worked for INCO, sometime in the 1970's. I think it is of value to anyone who is interested in the area, and thus have decided to put it on a web page. My thanks to INCO for giving the permission to "reprint". And special thanks to Bill Blight from Espanola, for salvaging the report and passing it to me.

For a map of lumber camps in the mid-20th century, click here...



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