The last uncut stand of Parry Sound pine, in Blair and Mowat townships south of the French River and straddling the Pickerel River, fell to the logger’s axe in the 1920s.
It was a relatively young forest, and had so far been passed up due to the smallish size of the trees. Now, previous holders of the logging rights, the Lauder, Spears and Howland Company, had built a state-of-the-art sawmill at Lost Channel on Kawigamog Lake, and made a start at felling the stand. When plans to export lumber from the remote location via a ten-mile-long railway to link up with the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) landed them in financial trouble, the bank stepped in and American beer money stepped up.
In 1918, Schroeder Mills & Timber Company, a subsidiary of the giant Schlitz Brewing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, added the bauble to its assets. Then it made a smart move by engaging James Ludgate of Parry Sound, who had a good track record as woods manager for the Peter Lumber Company.
With the Key Valley Railway completed, Ludgate set up an office at Pakesley where the steel connected with the CPR, built multiple logging camps in the interior and filled them with up to a hundred men each. In the following decade the timber limit was systematically stripped of its merchantable pine, effectively writing fini to large-scale logging in the district.
When I began collecting loggers’ tales on audiotape, around 1960, the 1920s were not that long ago, so a number of my informants had worked for James Ludgate and Schroeders. To a man, they spoke well of the experience.
“We got $85 (per month, well above the going rate) and our board in at Schroeders,” enthused Jack McAuliffe, “and you got paid off in cash when you got out to Pakesley.” Camps and food were the best, equipment was up-to-date, and James Ludgate’s management style was kindly, even to the company horses which he insisted be treated as well as the men. (For more on this outstanding ‘bull-of-the-woods,’ see page 97 of my book Lots More Parry Sound Stories.)
The Schroeder workers I talked to were common lumberjacks, with one exception. That was James Ludgate Jr., son of the boss. While attending university, James Jr. spent spare periods at Pakesley making the rounds of the various logging camps as ‘walking boss’ for his father. On at least one occasion, during the mid-winter log-hauling season, he carried a camera. Years ago I borrowed and made prints from his negatives.
The pictures provide a glimpse of a landmark moment in the Parry Sound logging days, the felling of the last large stand of virgin pine. Here are a few, some with captions (in quotation marks) taken from Ludgate’s remarks.