NEWFOUNDLAND: LOGGING PRE and POST CONFEDERATION

 

Our Hemmingsen-Cameron logging operation in Port Renfrew BC, and its management, were classified as “essential” to the Allied war effort.1 That was due to export of the very finest Sitka Spruce to the UK, where it became a component of certain bombers. After the war, the company was sold to British Columbia Forest Products and our grandfather, Matt Hemmingsen, retired. That was mid-1946. 

With the family business sold, our father, John Oliver Hemmingsen, accepted employment in Newfoundland. We would move far from our close knit family. Here is a history of logging in Newfoundland before we arrived; before its confederation with Canada. We will follow with Dad’s work there, and then provide a perspective on our parents and theirs.

LOGGING IN NEWFOUNDLAND: BEFORE CONFEDERATION

The life of the logger is always difficult; that of the Newfoundlander surpassed, by far. The Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site is enormously informative. They have graciously allowed permission to link to a video. It is amazing in the first place, that the video was captured in that day in the weather that was, at active work sites – and is preserved.  It is amazing for the portrayal of working conditions and the awesome people it depicts.  To view it, click  “A Loggers Life Before Confederation” 

LOGGING IN NEWFOUNDLAND: AFTER CONFEDERATION

Newfoundland confederated with Canada in 1950.  The video ends indicating that logging was to go forward with mechanization and chainsaw. That is where Dad came in. His new job was “Manager Mechanical Logging Methods Development” for Bowater Newfoundland Pulp & Paper Company (Canada). 1a Here is a description of the job extracted from his Family History volume.  This was meant for family interest.

Section Titled “HEMMINGSEN FAMILY IN NEWFOUNDLAND”

In early 1947, J.O.H. left Victoria to meet A.W. Bentley of Bowaters in Montreal. The logging system in use employed 7000 men and 2500 horses. The trees were falled in the snow-free months and cut into 4 foot pulpwood lengths. These were then handpiled in rows. When the snow came, horses with sleds came up these rows and the 4 foot wood was hand loaded on the sled for transport to the river bank. In some cases the woodpiles on these rows were on ground too steep for horses. The method then was to use dogs pulling small light sleds. These would be loaded with a few pieces of 4 foot wood. The dog would go downhill fast and the wood would be unloaded where horses could operate.

A.W. Bentley advised me that my only restriction for mechanizing would be that I would have to do it on the basis of continuing with 4 foot wood ( a real mistake). I accepted the challenge. A.W. Bentley advised me to go onto Cornerbrook, and take up temporary residence at Westport Inn until my family arrived. Bentley then set out for the Phillippines to purchase some used WWII tractors.

John Oliver Hemmingsen. See note 1

The Westport Inn turned out to be the Glynmill Inn, as previously posted. Here is a set of abstracts on the mechanization process that he developed.

IMG_0145
IMG_0146

Under the horse and sled system there were steep areas – too steep for horses and sleds. In such cases dogs pulling very light sleds would navigate between the piles and hand load a few pieces of 4 foot wood onto the sled, then proceed downhill and unload at a point accessable to horse and sled.

To meet this situation, we created a portable spar on a tractor with a two drum yarding winch. With this system the mainline was pulled out to the piles of wood and then choked with the special choker – on a signal the mainline would go ahead and the whole pile would be skidded down to where the tractor and arch could pick it for transport to riverside.

I wrote a paper covering our progress towards mechanization and presented it to a meeting of the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association in Montreal. I received a plaque “To John Oliver Hemmingsen for the Best Paper of the Current Year on Mechanical Hauling – Based on Actual Experience”

John Oliver Hemmingsen

A LITTLE GENEALOGY: John Oliver Hemmingsen and Mary Margaret Dickson

It is not clear how Dad traveled to Newfoundland, but he probably took a train. It was late 1946.  The trip was about 4000 miles or 6500 kilometers. The last blog post spoke to we-kids’ week-long ferry-train-ferry trip with Mum, to meet him there, just after the New Year.  Population of Corner Brook in 1951 was about 11,000.  A great big city to kids who came from the camp site revealed in “From the logging camps”

Our parents met at University of British Columbia. Mum got her undergraduate degree at 20, in Zoology and Biology.  Dad was a Forestry Engineer.  Here are their graduation pictures, with an extra for Mum, to defeat the artificial finger wave thing. (These are actually scans of pictures, then pictures were taken of the scans.  So, fuzzy.) OK: because the originals are lost.

A LITTLE MORE GENEALOGY: Our Grandparents Retire

Grandad James Dickson was preparing to retire too, from his position as Chief Inspector of Mines for BC.  He did so, early 1947. That both grandparents reached retirement together seemed genealogical fun. They had shared another pivotal time frame much earlier.

James was born in Scotland April 1882, beginning his life’s journey with his adoptive family.  The last of his adoptive grandparents had recently died, so that his parents were the new “now generation”, stepping forth with their only child. Coincidentally in April 1882, six-year old Matt bid farewell to his beloved father, Ole. Ole left Norway alone, to establish himself in Wisconsin.2 He would bring his wife and children to the US over a five-year period. Matt, and his older sister were last, emigrating in 1887. 2

The die was cast for the future Hemmingsen-Dickson family; ours. About six years of age separated the grandfathers. Matt emigrated from the US to Canada in 1906 and James from Scotland, in 1911.1,2 They found themselves on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island.  One gentleman would distinguish himself in forestry and the other, in mining. Their professional statements had been well articulated as the 1940s crested.

Dad’s father was a “Woods Pioneer” according to one of his obits. But Granny held her own. Margaret Naysmith Alexander was waitressing in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island when she met Matt. She had started work by fourteen, having lost her father in a coal mine disaster.

Mum’s father was imbued with a passion for mine safety and rescue as realized in his position of BC’s Chief Inspector of Mines. But Nana, Janet Gray McArthur, was already employed by fifteen, as documented when her family came to Canada from Scotland aboard the Grampian.3,4 Her outbound document cited her as a photographer, while her landed record indicated a domestic.

Our four grandparents had most humble hard-working beginnings. Our parents were no less intense in their life journey than their own parents had been. “From The Logging Camps” pondered how it was that our remote logging camp, circa 1940, functioned with kerosene lamps, but had a crank telephone. *  The answer was provided by a snippet in a later employer’s company journal, circa mid-1950s; one of those “rah-rah” columns. Dad had included it in the business section in his book of our family history.1 It is quoted below.  He would have been about fifteen.

“During his school vacations, it was natural that he went to work for his father’s firm – and very often found himself “doing the toughest job in the show”. One of his first jobs out of school was clearing brush for a telephone line strung along the jungle-like West Coast of Vancouver Island. That happened in 1928 but the memory of it is still fresh with John.”

* The camp probably had access to generator electricity, but home night light was by lamp.

The next post will cover our life in Corner Brook, NL, from the late 1940s to just after confederation in 1950. 

Please scroll below to question, comment, like etc.

Copyright Notice, Notes and Sources

  1. The Hemmingsen Family Collection including “John O Hemmingsen / Mary Margaret (Dickson) Hemmingsen Family” authored in 1999 by John Oliver Hemmingsen. All materials posthumously published at marileewein.com copyright © 2018. All rights reserved.  1a. Who’sWho in America 41st Edition. Original Proof File No 462574
  2. The National Archives of Norway, the Digital Archives https://media.digitalarkivet.no Trondheim politikammer (1) Emigrantprotokoll V 23.07-25.04, 1880-1882//SAT/A-1887/1/32/L005 for Hemmingsen, Ole counter.205/239 in 1882 (2) Emigrantprotokoll VII 03.07-22.03, 1885-1888// SAT/A-1887/1/32/L007 (2i) for Mathis., Berit with Einer, Marie and Harrold in 1886 counter 78/190 (2ii) for Olsen Henrietta and Mathias in 1887 counter 177/190 Note: Einer, Marie and Harrold were erroneously booked under their mother’s (Berit) surname of Mathis; their surname of record, was Ols.
  3. Documents Accessed at Family Search (FS): https://familysearch.org ©2017 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc.  3a. “Canada Passenger Lists, 1881-1922” database with images. Quebec, QC >May 1910 > Grampian > image 39 of 61; Library and Archives of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. (Note: Janet McArthur is noted as Domestic at 15 years old.)
  4. Documents Accessed at FMP: Findmypast Ltd, Website: findmypast.com ©brightsolid online publishing ltd. ©2017 Findmypast and With thanks to Findmypast www.findmypast.uk.com  4a, Passenger Lists Leaving UK 1890-1960. Grampian departing Glasgow 30 Apr 1910 for Montreal Quebec. (Note: Janet McArthur is noted as photographer at 15 years old)

9 thoughts on “NEWFOUNDLAND: LOGGING PRE and POST CONFEDERATION

  1. It’s fascinating how your family moved from western Canada to the far eastern part. Until I read this post, I’d forgotten that Newfoundland had once been separate from Canada. It brings back memories of helping my children with stamp collecting – and how there was a separate section in the stamp book for stamps from Newfoundland.

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      1. What a interesting thought. I never would have thought about it in that way. You’re absolutely right – a stamp you once licked as a child may be in a stamp album buried somewhere in a closet at my house. It’s fascinating how people who live far from one another can be connected in some tangential way.

        Like

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