Information re-published and shared by Friends of Beaubears Island Inc., Senior Historical Correspondent, John English.
The first part of a 2 part series.
New Brunswick's Rail Sector
Before Confederation, railroading in New Brunswick consisted merely of two disconnected short lines that didn‘t change the trade and transportation patterns of the colony. These patterns had been shaped largely by coastal and ocean shipping, and wagon roads. Trade was largely resource based and focused on exporting raw goods such as lumber and fish to Great Britain and the northeastern U.S.
The first two New Brunswick Railways fit into this pattern. The European & North American opened in 1860 between Saint John and Shediac, acting as a portage railway to link the Bay of Fundy with Moncton and the Northumberland Strait. The St. Andrews & Quebec Railway (later renamed the New Brunswick & Canada Railway) built a line north from the Bay of Fundy to the Saint John River town of Woodstock, serving as a means of tapping northwestern New Brunswick‘s timber wealth and bringing it down to an ice-free port for export.
The Intercolonial Railway of Canada (commonly known as the ICR in Atlantic Canada) – of which today‘s Newcastle Subdivision was a key component – changed this pattern, bringing the true benefits of main line railroading to New Brunswick. The ICR was built by the Government of Canada as a condition of Confederation in 1867. Under Clause 154 of the British North America Act, Canada committed to begin construction of a railway connecting Halifax with the eastern end of the established Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) at Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec, within two years.
Coupled with this main trunk line railway was the Macdonald government‘s National Policy, which irrevocably changed the trading patterns of Atlantic Canada. Macdonald envisioned an integrated, east-west economy independent of the considerable influence of the U.S. The ICR to the east and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) to the west, in combination with the well-established Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) in central Canada, were cornerstones of this policy.
The ICR‘s planning, construction and early operation were classic Canadian tales of political and parochial intervention. Despite these early handicaps, the railway eventually became one of the federal government‘s most valuable assets and a true economic lifeline for the Maritimes.
The ICR was completed in June 1876, and in July a through train from Halifax to Quebec officially marked completion of the railroad uniting the provinces.
As part of this policy, certain Maritime members of Macdonald‘s government armtwisted CP into a commitment to build a Montreal-Saint John route in 1885 in exchange for a loan guarantee to complete its western transcontinental main line. CP purchased a number of disjointed short lines and stitched them together with new line segments to create a through route that cut from southeastern Quebec at Mégantic across northern Maine and into New Brunswick near McAdam. Completed in 1889, this was (and still is) the shortest route between Montreal and New Brunswick.
With both the CPR and the ICR established as healthy east-west main line systems, expansion of their route networks through the acquisition of various New Brunswick short lines followed. Between them, the two systems then provided freight and passenger service to every corner of the province, with the ICR providing the most extensive coverage. The result was New Brunswick then possessed more miles of railway per square mile, and per capita, than any other jurisdiction in North America (see Fig1).
Fig 1. Phillips, Fred H. “Railways of New Brunswick Article No. 3”. The Maritime Advocate and Busy East 30, 11 (June 1940).
The above, unless otherwise noted, is from Revitalizing New Brunswick’s Rail Sector by Greg Gormick for the cites of Moncton, Dieppe, Bathurst, and Miramichi, the town of Riverview, and Enterprise Greater Moncton
The bridges across the Northwest and Southwest Miramichi rivers were no small undertaking. And as we will see the piers do degrade, likely from the forces of water, ice jams, and even huge log jams during the time when logs for sawmills were floated to sawmills in Miramichi from higher elevations by the flow of water towards Miramichi Bay.
Let’s look at the building of the one on the Southwest as a case study(I saw it or heard a train on it almost every day, as I grew up nearby). The following, unless otherwise noted, is from a study done by GEMTEC Consulting Engineers and Scientists Limited, Fredericton, NB:
The bridge was constructed as a six-span through-truss structure approximately 380 m long, with an approach embankment approximately 100 m long extending out from the south bank of the river. The bridge foundations are wooden caissons(see Fig 3-4), which were sunk down to foundation level by excavating from the inside through the open bottoms, and then were filled with concrete. The actual piers, which are about 11 m high, were constructed of stone masonry on top of the concrete-filled caissons. Local sandstone was used for the majority of the masonry, but imported granite was used to face the upstream ice breakers installed on the piers.
Fig. 3. Details of the original pier and caisson construction (Fleming 1876).
Fig. 4. Timber caisson constructed on land prior to being floated into place and sunk, circa 1872 (Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, P119 Frank Sayer collection, P119-MS2I-109).
Fig 5. Construction of bridge, circa 1874 (Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, P119 Frank Sayer collection, P119-MS2I-093).
Fig. 6. Construction of the Miramichi bridges on the Intercolonial Railway, southwest branch. Dredging machinery for pier F. Photo taken 24 September 1872(source: thecanadianencyclopedia.ca).
In 1901 the original through-trusses were replaced by new steel trusses of the same spans supported on the original piers.
In 2011, 2015, and 2016 underwater inspections indicated that a considerable amount of the lower concrete encasement had deteriorated and fallen off along with some of the concrete infill between the steel sheeting and masonry. Mortar joints in the masonry were significantly deteriorated, especially on the upstream noses, and the lower portion of the steel sheeting was extensively perforated by corrosion
Fig 7. A high resolution scanning sonar image of one of the piers in 2015 (Amec Foster Wheeler 2015). Remnants of the concrete encapsulation are visible along with the steel sheeting above it.
Supplemental for Miramichi’s connection to confederation, which was the impetus for the ICR:
The Miramichi is one of the few areas in Canada of comparable size and population which can boast of two Fathers of Confederation (source: superiorbeing.ca/archives).
John Mercer Johnson (October 1818 – November 8, 1868, see Fig 8) was a Canadian lawyer and politician from the Province of New Brunswick, and a Father of Confederation. He represented Northumberland in the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick from 1850 to 1865, and again from 1866 to 1867, each time elected as a candidate aligned with the liberal movement.
St. Paul’s Anglican Church(see Fig 9) 750 Water Street The earliest (1822-1823) example of a known building constructed by a noted Miramichi builder, William Murray. Records of burials and baptisms dating back to 1822 and marriages to 1833. John M. Johnson, Father of Confederation, two children of Joseph Cunard (Cunard Shipping Lines) and Dr. John Vondy are buried in the cemetery. (source: miramichi.org/historic-churches)
Peter Mitchell, premier of New Brunswick (1866–67, see Fig 10), lawyer, shipbuilder (born 4 January 1824 in Newcastle, New Brunswick; died 25 October 1899 in Montréal, QC). Premier of New Brunswick in 1867, Peter Mitchell was instrumental in bringing the colony into Confederation.
St. James and St. John United Church(see Fig 11) 555 King George Highway, Miramichi The graveyard surrounds the church on three sides and consists of tablets, obelisks, pilaster columns and pedestal monuments constructed of marble, sandstone, granite and slate. It serves as the resting place of many of Miramichi's founders and pioneers, including Father of Confederation Hon. Peter Mitchell.
Friends of Beaubears Island Inc, Board of Directors and Staff would like to thank everyone who attended our fundraiser over the weekend. Special thanks to Dr Shawn McCarthy for not only writing this amazing play, but putting the cast and crew together. You are appreciated for all you do Shawn. Much gratitude to the cast and crew! Les Amis de l'île Beaubears Inc, le conseil d'administration et le personnel tiennent à remercier tous ceux qui ont assisté à notre collecte de fonds au cours de la fin de semaine. Un merci spécial au Dr Shawn McCarthy non seulement pour avoir écrit cette pièce incroyable, mais aussi pour avoir réuni les acteurs et l'équipe. Vous êtes apprécié pour tout ce que vous faites Shawn. Un grand merci aux acteurs et à l'équipe !
Information re-published and shared by Friends of Beaubears Island Inc., Senior Historical Correspondent, John English.
Part 2 of a 2 part series
Sawmills and woods operations (Exerts taken from Nelson and its Neighbors, additional by John English)
A speech delivered by J. Mac O'Brien at a Rotary luncheon, Newcastle, Newcastle, New Brunswick. March 29th, 1954. Lumber business methods of the past fifty years
Within the scope of my memory of the past fifty years, I can recall many changes in the lumber business methods as carried on in our country about the Miramichi. Around the turning the century and within a distance of 15 miles along the river, one could count as many as 18 or 20 sawmills in operation; indeed, standing on the Newcastle side of the river, one could see 10 of these mills. Today, there are three or four sawmills in operation on the Miramichi (in 2022 there are none beyond the mill at Doaktown, Arbec at Chatham being an OSB panel operation). Logs, which are being cut today, would never have been touched 50 years ago, as they would have been considered too small. It is true, certain quantities of the smaller logs were cut at the time but to be used only as skids on which to pile the larger logs in the mill yard. In those earlier days, 8 or 10 logs usually made 1,000 ft(so if the logs were 8 feet in length, it would take 9 logs measuring 18 inches at the smallest end(that size has 110 bd ft - source: woodworkersjournal.com) (That’s really nice wood! I was a scaler in a previous life). Whereas today, 25 of which are required to make a thousand feet, are considered a good size. Log prices, too, have changed. Then, logs landed in the boom brought in the vicinity of $7 or $8 per thousand feet while sawn lumber sold at $12 or $15 per thousand. In those days, 70% of the deal would be 9 or more inches in width. Then, the lumberman knew particularly a year in advance just what size operation he would be doing the following year. Hence is 6 million ft was to be cut, this amount was sold in advance and then logging operations for this amount started early in the fall. If the size of the intended cut require new camps to be built on new ground, this was given first attention. Old camps served for several years or as long as there were enough logs to be cut on that particular site. When new camps had been built and the old ones repaired, a crew, including a cookie and a cook went into the woods, and operation started.
In 2017 I interviewed a senior lady, who with an older sister, were cookie and cook (see Fig 1.0 for what their kitchen would have looked like) at an O’Brien’s woods operation (see Fig 1.1, which are cooks & cleaners from an O'Brien Woods operation). She could very well be shown in it as she was born in 1931, finished her grade 8 schooling in June (she walked 3 miles to get to school) and started working in the following August. I think the young women on the far right is a potential contender. She worked in 1945-46, up on The Big Sevogle(see Fig 1.2 for an O’Brien’s woods operation at that time).
Her first wage was a dollar a day, .She was 15 when she got her first check (accumulated for the entire cutting season because that was a normal practice back then – a person was paid once at the end of the season). The bank wouldn’t cash it because she was too young to have what she called a “card” – a working permit. She came over to Nelson and told Mac O’Brien that she couldn’t get her money. So Leonard and Mac O’Brien both sighed her paycheck themselves. She went back again to the bank, and with those signatures the bank gave her the money. Her sister with her pay bought a 7 piece hardwood bedroom set, probably at Lounsbury’s Furniture (The Lounsbury story began as one small store on a wharf in Newcastle in 1878, source: lounsburyfurniture.ca), and moved it into their parent’s home (they were unmarried at the time). My gal when she married bought that bedroom set ($249) from her sister, and the bedroom set went with her. She said that she still had it when I interviewed her.
Part of her duties at the camp was to bring water up from The Big Sevogle, climbing a cliff, with steps carved out of the ledge, and in the winter time. She remarked that they were slippery. She made her wages the honest way – the hard way. Her and her sister cooked for a hundred men, without the conveniences of today. Everything was made manually. The cook-stove was big enough for 6 large cast iron frying pans. The next picture is a saw filer at his craft in the 1940’s at an O’Brien camp (see Fig 1.3). The filers and the cooks/cookies were the most important employees to a keep the camp moral up and the woodsmen productive.
An interesting video that was taking at the NB Woodsman museum of a lady that cooked in a lumber camp up the Dungarvon River: youtu.be/ZQ3l6gzkWFU (source: Karl Wade & Miramichi Heritage)
Miramichi lumber camp is shown in Fig 1.35 and 1.36.
Horses were used for all kinds of work, much of what which is done today by truck and tractor. So the men, already in the woods by early fall, worked there throughout the winter, some remaining through even the Christmas season. Most of the mills had a supply of logs in the in the mill boom, held over from the previous year, so the mill would be able to carry on until the logs were rafted and brought down from the boom. In this way, men had year-round work.
See Fig 1.362, right-hand side, for part of an enlargement showing a boom just upstream from where the Nelson pulpmill was located.
See Fig 1.363 for what is left of those booms (I think past spring floods with foot-thick pieces of ice levelled them).
Wages for wood's work were then about $26 with board, per month. Today wages are $100. The trip into the woods was a very large undertaking in those early days. Sometimes it took two days to reach a camp and the only way of getting there was by walking in from the settlement, sometimes the distance of 40 miles. Today, traveling over bulldozed roads, trucks can take men and supplies right to the camp door in many instances and with an average load of three or four tons, sometimes even more. Such a trip into a camp and return can be made in a few hours. But formally, portage teams would take two and sometimes three days to carry a load of supplies into the camp. These supplies were taken by team of horses to a depot which was about halfway on the trip, here, the men could put up for the night. In the morning a relay team would take the supplies from the depot to the camp. In many cases, the portage road would be in such rough condition that half a ton would be found a load. The comfort of today's roads is a far cry from the hardships encountered on the earlier unbroken roads. Taking a trip into the woods around the Tomogonop’s country during the early spring of 1953, we traveled over remarkably good roads and I could not help recalling the long and hard trips I had taken in my youth, over the same ground with the portage team. Then it was indeed almost impossible to get along, especially on a truck wagon, over the large rocks, tree stumps and deep ruts, ruts which were in many places filled with water which came in over the box of the wagon. This flooding of roads was caused by beavers building their dams near the road and causing the water to back up.
The drive of years ago was a very dangerous undertaking, requiring men who were experienced in running boats through high and swift waters, managing log jams and rescuing men from the river. See Fig 1.364 of Chelmsford/MacKinleyville area log drive crew early 1900's. In the blue circle the hobnail bottom of a boot can be seen. The logs, being driven down in the spring (see Fig 1.4 for a part of a Miramichi log drive). freshet by a number of different companies, arrived in the booms all mixed together when they had to be sorted and run into special pockets according to their mark. Each mill owner used a different coloured paint as well as different mark, some using a stroke, some an X while others used a spot. The mark of my father’s mill was two or three white spots while that of the B. J. Snowball Company was one white spot. This later firm took exception to the use of white spots by other than its own firm, contending that they had used this mark for years; it having been chosen to represent a snowball. My father, with his mark already registered at Ottawa, reasoned that his mark represented mothballs. Years ago, there would be in the vicinity of 100 and 50 million feet of logs in the south west boom and from 50 to 60 million feet in the north west boom, when the drive was in. In the last few years, there have been from 8 to 10 million feet in both booms. My father, the late Mr. John O’Brien, established his lumber business in the year 1867 when, for a number of years, he cut logs on his own limits and also on ground which he had stumpage. Pit props had not been heard of in this country at that time (these were shipped abroad for supports in coal mines). Pieces of pit props had to de-barked by hand too, see Fig 1.5.
Logs were sold to the best advantage as was also the pulp, which then, was cut mostly in long lengths. These logs and pulp came through the booms as at present, having to be run from the booms to their mill destination, by river or by what was known as “running by hand”. See Fig 1.52 of the Chemsford boom crew circa early 1900’s and identified as: 1. Abe MacKinley, 2.Fred Carnahan, 3. George Vye, 4. ??, 5. Bryce MacKinley, 6.Weldon Robinson, 7.Wilbert Touchie, 8.Marshall Bryenton, 9.Everett Clark, 10.Earl MacGregor, 11. Thomas Clark, 12 ??, 13. Richard Walsh, 14 ??, 15 Clem Walsh, 16.George W Clark, 17James Jardine, 18 Thomas Dawson, 19. ??, 20. ? Dawson, 21.??, 22 ??, 23.Freeman Bryenton, 24. Leo Chambers, 25. ??, 26. Joe Kelly, 27. ??, 28. John Chambers, 29. Will Clark, 30. ? Harper, 31.Robert Harper, 32. Ambrose Harrigan, 33. Fred Kelly, 34.George Harper, 35. Calvin Clark, 36. ??, 37. Wm B MacKinley, 38. Newton Bryenton, 39.Asa Parks, 40. ??, 41.Lawrence Parks, 42. Ira Clark, 43. Alex AC Clark, 44. Everett Bryenton.
Three men worked on this job carrying on a large raft boat, the ropes and anchor and any other equipment necessary for the trip. Ropes were used to secure the logs while the anchor was needed to secure the raft when the tide was against them for, of course, they could only run with the down tide. The anchor was also sometimes used to steer the raft, should it be near the fishing stand and net. Bringing down the logs by this old-time method might take two or three days, when the men would sleep along the banks of the river, boil the kettle for tea and prepare their food at a fire along the shore. Drinking water had to be carried along in jugs, while in a covered box contained their food supply. Rafts were followed in time by steamboats and gasoline boats and later by diesel towboats. By now the trip could be made in part of a day, sometimes, even two trips being possible, depending on the amount of help received from the down tide. On these later boats, the men had good sleeping combinations, the boats also carrying a cook, for by now the boats, requiring a captain and an engineer, the crew had increased to five men. See Fig 1.55 of the South West Miramichi boom circa 1890’s.
(source: nbgsmiramichi.ca) I believe the first towboats on Miramichi were the Zula, owned by the late Mr. Thomas Power and the Loyalist, owned by the late Messrs. Thomas and John Flett of South Nelson. These boats were steam powered, with large paddle wheelers on either side, hence their name “side wheelers”. They drew very little water and for that reason were able to reach very shallow places in the river. At the present time, the logs are mostly truck to the mills and that does away with the drive, the cost of which had greatly increased, due to our milder climate and low water, which prevented good quick driving. It would in all probabilities take twice the time to bring in a drive since the last 10 years as compared with the early years of the century. The bulldozing of roads through the forest by tractor had made possible the trucking of lumber from the cut logs to the mill. My memory carries me back vividly to the year 1902 when my father started to build his first sawmill in South Nelson, N.B. First, the block or wharf on which the mill was to be erected, had to be built. This was done by placing large hemlock logs, one on top of the other in such a manner as to form chambers. The logs were held together by means of notches cut into the logs with an axe. These chambers were floored near in position. Waste from the mills operation was placed in these chambers on top of the rock and so the wharf was built. By the spring of 1902, the mill was ready to operate. I will remember what was probably my first job in the mill. In a squared ended boat, known as a punt, I, along with a chum, ferried men and materials from the shore to the wharf which was a considerable distance by water. Piles of lumber in the mill yard were about twice as high as there are today, being then from 30 to 40 feet in height (see Fig 1.6 for O’Brien’s lumber yard in the 1920’s).
Well known Miramichier surnames listed as the men shown in Fig 3.2:
Most of the deal at that time averaged 16 to 18 feet in length, 9 to 12 inches in width, with a thickness of three inches(by today’s tree dimensions, this is a remarkable statement) and came green from the saw. At the first of the century, men carried the heavy deal on their shoulders with only a felt-lined leather pad about 6 or 8 inches square for protection. The men had to carry the sawn lumber to the top of these piles, walking on a plank, with more planks added as the pile grew in height. On windy days, it might be necessary to stop when halfway up, until the deal (plank) could right itself in the wind. When the fall came, these gangplanks slippery from the frost, had to be turned upside down and sometimes spread with ashes to keep the men from slipping. Today, the lumber is stored on sorting tables and hauled by tractor or by horses and specially built wagons to pile where it is rolled out the wagon and two men pile it. The top of the pile today can be reached without climbing, as they are only 15 feet high. See Fig 1.72 for the sawmill in the 1940’s.
Shipping was at a high point at the turn of century. Both sailing vessels and steamers were a common sight on the Miramichi, carrying lumber to the export market. Many times, there would be notice received well in advance of its arrival. Nowadays there is very little advance notice of a steamer’s arrival in port. When these old sailing vessels came for cargo, they remained in port for a considerable time as the deal had to be put on board one piece at a time. Very impressive was the sight of these large sailing vessels coming upstream averaging 4 masts to the vessel and with all four white sails spread. Some of these vessels were towed by boat. The steamers at the time were larger than those with drive in port today. They employed the same method of taking on lumber as is used at the present time, that is, by steam winches. But today’s steamers are modern in every detail, a great many run by oil and equipped with oil-powered winches. Some of those earlier steamers carried three or four million of lumber or, particularly, a mills whole cut for the season. I recall one steamer many years ago taking on a cargo on of about 4,000,000 feet and clearing at the mill now owned by Chatham Industries. This steamer went aground opposite St. Patrick’s church in South Nelson, shortly after she had left the dock and the whole deck load had to be unloaded and brought to shore before the steamer could be floated. To a great extent, lumber was loaded by placing a line of rollers from the pile to the vessel. These rollers were about 20 feet long and many lengths were required. To do away with as much piling as possible, lumber was carried to the front of the dock near the point of loading thus reducing loading cost. The rollers were then moved from pile to pile. Lumber was loaded and stowed on a vessel until the captain decided he had enough cargo. Then one bill of lading was made out. Today the lumber is loaded from trucks or wagons drawn by horses, a bill of lading is required for an average of 50,000 feet and all bills must be signed by the captain. Lots are marked off by strips of paint and there are as many as 30 or even more bills required for cargo. Steamers, today much smaller, carry in the vicinity of 1 ½ million feet of lumber, this reduction filled in, in some places; thus making the water too shallow for heavier cargo. A sand bar at the mouth of the river has also filled in thereby allowing a steamer to draw only in the vicinity of 20 feet of water and get over the bar, without grounding. With the fall of the year and the shipping season ended, the purchasing company of those earlier days had made a survey of all unshipped lumber, the piles were stamped with the company’s name and the lumber as well as its warfage until it would be shipped in the following spring was paid for. Wharfage, at that time, was about $1 per 1000 foot. As the years passed, they bring progress and that is true of the lumber industry as of every other. But I doubt if in the future we can ever match the pioneer spirit of those early lumberman of the Miramichi, their courage and foresight and their untiring industry (I doubt that we will ever see the size and quality and quantity of wood that previous generations enjoyed too). Governor's Mansion (see Fig 1.8) is a two-and-a half storey Classic Revival residence located on St. Patrick's Drive in the former Village of Nelson-Miramichi. John O'Brien, the original owner occupant of the residence, became a successful businessman and politician within the community. John O’Brien’s son, J. Leonard O'Brien, carried on the family business with his brother and pursued a political career like his father. J. Leonard's many distinctions in life include Speaker of the House at age 26, MLA, MP, Lieutenant-Governor and benefactor. Governor's Manor was his official residence during his tenure as Lieutenant-Governor. Source: historicplaces.ca. Presently is a very interesting Inn.
The O'Brien Bridge (see Fig 1.9) that spanned the Miramichi from Bateman's point in South Nelson to Wilson's Point on the other side. The Bridge was built by John O'Brien circa 1884 and collapsed into the river in 1912 (source: courtesy David Roger, Remembering Nelson fb). ... See MoreSee Less
Wellness has many variations for many people. This week, we would like to share a different version of wellness. The walking stick Jack is holding was donated to us by a veteran. Veteran Mullin likes to do woodwork, makes him happy. Do what makes you happy we say. Veteran Mullin has donated a few walking sticks to Beaubears Island Interpretation Centre. This summer, if you want a walking stick to walk the island, we encourage you to come see us. Thank you Vetern Mullin for your service and for your amazing walking sticks.
Le bien-être a de nombreuses variantes pour de nombreuses personnes. Cette semaine, nous aimerions partager une autre version du bien-être. La canne que tient Jack nous a été donnée par un ancien combattant. Le vétéran Mullin aime travailler le bois, ça le rend heureux. Faites ce qui vous rend heureux, nous disons. L'ancien combattant Mullin a fait don de quelques bâtons de marche au Centre d'interprétation de l'île Beaubears. Cet été, si vous avez envie d'un bâton de marche pour arpenter l'île, nous vous encourageons à venir nous voir. Merci Vetern Mullin pour votre service et pour vos incroyables bâtons de marche.