The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 47
"Logging" and "saw milling" never will be industries to be much relied upon by newly-arrived emigrants from Europe, as the various descriptions of labour required are best carried on by persons who have had special training.
The West Cascade region of the province is densely wooded, chiefly with many species of gigantic conifers, but a very large part of the East Cascade region (see page 55) is generally unwooded, or but thinly wooded. Where wood exists in the East Cascade region the conifers still predominate.
The settler who is near any main line of communication should not look upon his fine timber as a valueless possession which may be wasted improvidently. The timber on his farm may, within his own lifetime, be worth as much as the soil of his farm.
In reply to many letters from Eastern Canada as to the "lumbering business" in British Columbia, I may state that it is already an important industry and capable of considerable extension. During 10 years ending 1870, about 60 million feet of rough and dressed Douglas fir lumber, with a quantity of shingles, laths, pickets, and about 3500 spars, were exported. This export has greatly increased since. Wages to woodmen range from 25 to 45 gold dollars a month with board, and the same in saw-mills, with higher wages for a few of the more skilled and responsible men. The snow is not of any use in logging in the seaboard districts. Logging roads are made through the woods, and the logs are drawn by oxen, and rolled into the water and floated to the mills. Work in the woods goes on throughout the year, but time is lost to workmen when it rains heavily in winter. Rivers are not greatly used for the conveyance of logs. The business at present is carried on almost entirely on salt water. There are 15 saw-mills throughout the province, but of these 3 only furnish cargoes for export. Logs delivered at the mill cost from 4 to 6 dollars a thousand feet superficial, and the cost of sawing adds other 5 to 7 dollars.
In British Columbia leases of unpreempted Crown lands may be obtained on very easy terms, but subject to preemption by individuals who, however, are not allowed to cut timber on the pre-empted land for sale, or for any purpose, except use upon the preemptor's farm.
As regards water power, the whole country is full of most picturesque waterfalls of all sizes, many of which might be used for local saw-mills and other mills. There is some doubt, however, whether, within the Douglas fir region, near the coast, many good water privileges can be found suitably placed, and with a sufficiently regular, powerful, all-the-year-round flow of page 81 water to drive large export saw-mills. Probably steam-power will always be found safest for large saw-mills.
With respect to the use of the British Columbian rivers for "logging" purposes, the lumberman must bear in mind the physical structure of the North American continent, according to which the long and gentle slopes descend from the spine of the continent—the Rocky range—towards the Atlantic Ocean, and the short and rapid slopes towards the Pacific Ocean. This gives a character to the rivers west of the Rocky range. The rivers generally are interrupted by rapids; they often flow compressed between gloomy rocky walls; they rise and fall with great rapidity. The aridness of the country east from the Cascade range in British Columbia diminishes the volume of the East Cascade rivers very much—the Fraser in fact being, as already said, the only one strong enough to get through the Cascade range to the sea.
That the Fraser River, if valuable timber grows near its upper waters, may be, by the adoption of "slides" and other improvements, made available for water carriage of logs from the East Cascade region to the seaboard for export purposes, I do not doubt, but the difficulty and expense will postpone this undertaking until the supplies of timber in the West Cascade region, both in English and American territory, are considerably exhausted. The saw-miller who proposes to cut for export must look at present for a saw-mill location and a logging ground in the West Cascade region.
The only timber exported in cargoes is that of the Douglas fir, commonly called "pine." It is a tough, strong wood, well adapted for beams, but good also for planks and deals. It makes excellent masts and yards, and is used for shipbuilding and housebuilding. It grows to the height of 150 to 200 feet, and attains a thickness of 5 to 8 feet at the butt. It carries its thickness well up. Dressed masts of 36 inches in diameter, at one-third from butt, and with proper proportions for the required length, have been supplied from the Douglas fir forests. This British Columbian wood is known in Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain, as "Oregon pine," though Oregon does not export it to these markets. A good growing demand for British Columbian Douglas fir timber and square timber exists in South America, Australia, and China, and a few cargoes of spars are sent annually to England.
This Douglas fir (or "Douglas pine," or "Oregon pine") predominates in the forests of the West Cascade region, but not in the arid parts of the East Cascade region. It is plentiful in Washington Territory (United States). The Douglas fir is also found in some of the Rocky Mountain valleys, on the Blue Mountains of Oregon, and here and there eastward as far as the head waters of the Platte. At present the principal seats of its manufacture for export are the coast of British Columbia, and in Puget Sound (United States). The Douglas fir does not grow in any quantity north of Millbank Sound, in lat. 52°.
The principal existing mills are in the New Westminster district, and probably that neighbourhood will continue to be the chief seat of the export of Douglas fir. The Nasse-Skena district looks like a good saw-milling country on the map, but the Douglas fir, as just said, is not found so far north. The inlets on the mainland, or some of the outlying islands between Millbank Sound and the New Westminster district, probably offer locations for export saw-mills, but it is not known, however, at present, that these places can be page 82 found readily. Many of the inlets are almost wall-sided, with short water-courses or torrents emptying into them the water collected among the surrounding gloomy mountains. The rivers generally which flow into these inlets are not good "logging" rivers. There is, however, a vast extent of sheltered water-line between Millbank Sound and the New Westminster district, and it is impossible not to believe that suitable places for large Douglas fir export saw-mills are to be found where practical saw-millers would make fortunes.
The West Cascade region is difficult to traverse, and has not been a tenth part explored by saw-mill men. If it should prove that suitable locations for large saw-mills are few, the value of these to the possessors will be proportionately increased.
The saw-mill business in British Columbia would be greatly helped if the San Francisco market were opened by the reduction or removal of the duty on foreign lumber.
None of the other conifers in the north-west are likely to take the place of the Douglas fir for export trade, until the latter is completely exhausted in accessible situations in both English and American territory. I may, how-ever, name a few of these conifers.
Menzies' fir ("spruce fir" or "black spruce") is plentiful; smaller than the Douglas fir, but still a Titan. Merten's fir ("hemlock spruce") is also a very large tree, with a straight trunk. The wood of these trees has little export value compared with the Douglas fir. Hemlock lasts well in the ground and makes good laths. Another large fir is the "Canada fir," but the timber is inferior, though when seasoned it makes boards, scantling, and shingles. The bark is useful in tanning. The "Contorted pine"—which some call the "Scotch fir"—is found through the valley of the Fraser on the high grounds; it grows from 25 to 50 feet high, and 1 foot in diameter. On the upper parts of the Fraser this tree is plentiful, but of little value except for its resin. The white pine (the north-western representative of the Strobus) is a fine tall tree, with wood like the white pine of Eastern Canada, but it is not known to grow sufficiently in groves to supply large export saw-mills. For local uses the white pine will be important.
In selecting a farm, the settler will find small cedar a most valuable farm-wood for fencing and roofing. It is durable and easily split. Cedar grows scattered among the fir forests. Many fine specimens are found on the mountains, 30 to 40 feet round at the butt, and 200 feet high. The Indians use cedar for numerous purposes; I speak of the Thuja gigantea. It becomes rare as you go north, and ceases about 58°. There is another fine tree of the same kind, the yellow cypress (Cupressus nutkaensis). This grows small in Vancouver Island and in the south of the West Cascade region, but north of 53°, up to about Sitka, it is plentiful, and as large as its southern congener, the cedar. The yellow cypress is tough, light, and fragrant, and takes a fine polish. I think it likely that it will be exported in small cargoes when the Nasse-Skena district is settled.
The alder is frequently met with among the fir-forests, chiefly beside streams, or in cool, humid places. It grows to about 30 or 40 feet, with a straight smooth trunk. Alder land is generally good, and is easily cleared. Alder makes good firewood. The large-leaved maple is our best substitute for hard wood; it grows 70 feet high and 2 or 3 feet thick, generally on the banks of streams and page 83 in rich river-bottoms. The Indians make snow-shoes, spear-handles, &c., of this wood, and weave baskets, hats, and mats, from the inner bark. It is plentiful in the Nasse-Skena district, but is found scattered in the West Cascade region generally (including Vancouver Island). The crab-apple is common in swampy places, but of no great size. It is hard enough to take polish. Birch is found scattered in the Nasse-Skena, and also again in the Kootenay districts. Some say the elm grows in the last-named district.
The oak (Garry's oak) is too rare a tree in British Columbia to be of much value. It is found in some parts of Vancouver Island—for instance, near Victoria—on lands over which firs have not yet encroached. It is a small crooked tree. I need not mention the arbutus, dogwood, cottonwood, and other trees, as the immigrant does not require a complete catalogue of trees.