History of the Groundwood Pulp Mill
at West Sheet Harbour, 1925 to 1971In 1922 the Rhodes and Currie sawmill at West River, Sheet Harbour, along with their timber land of approximately 60,000 acres, was purchased by Wheeler Bros. of New York, which was the American Pulp and Wrapping Paper Company of Albany, New York.
Harry Hussey came to Sheet Harbour with Jim Sewell of Old Town, Maine, to cruise the Sheet Harbour company lands. He then went back to Maine to return in a year or two to work with the pulp company as a scaler, a cruiser, and renewing boundary lines on the company limits. The mill made the first groundwood pulp on October 5, 1925. The last made by the mill was in August 1971. In my possession are samples of the first and last pulp made by this mill.
In 1925 the company had the Fairchild Aerial Survey Company of the United States take aerial photographs of the company limits and adjoining Crown land, using a small aircraft on floats. This was the first aerial survey done by a company in the province of Nova Scotia. Another first for Nova Scotia was the erection of 80-foot steel fire towers. One tower was built at Little Caribou Lake near Governor Lake on the 12-Mile Stream. The other was a short distance west of the
Marinette fire tower.
One of the first two fire towers erected by a company in the province was by
the A.P.W. at Sheet Harour in 1923. The second tower is located near Governor
Lake. These locations were recommended by Mr. Abe Malay of Sheet Harbour.
village of Marinette on the Martin Cruickshank property. The first communication from the fire towers to the company offices was by means of a grounded telephone system. The line ran from the Governor Lake fire tower to the Pleasant Valley area, then on to the Sheet Harbour-Musquodoboit highway, and south to Sheet Harbour. Another telephone line was built from the Governor Lake tower, easterly along the old Guysborough Road, as far as the Power Commission's hydro line running from Malay Falls to Stellarton, Nova Scotia.
Sign posted by the company
in 1923, no doubt the first used in the province of Nova Scotia.
The telephone system was duplicated so that in the event of failure there would be a back-up of one of the systems. In this even of failure there would be a back-up of one of the systems. In this way a message from the fire tower could be given to the operator at the Malay Falls power house and then switched to the company's office at Sheet Harbour.
The Old Guysborough Road is interesting in its historic role. It was used by the mail riders in carrying the mail from Guysborough to Halifax. Checker or half-way houses were located one day's ride apart. Here, the mail riders on horseback would spend the night before completing their journey. In 1928 and 1929 I repaired this telephone line for the pulp company. As a result of my repair work, I located the basement of one of the checker houses. I was asked by the people of Musquodoboit, during the celebration of the bi-centennial of the Valley, if I would show them the location of my find. Since the area had been cut over for pulpwood and saw logs it took me four different trips to the area before I relocated it. When I discovered that this particular house had been operated by a Mr. David Archibald, I became interested in checking the old hotel register at Sherbrooke Village, to see if by chance Mr. Archibald had ever stayed there. I found the name of Mr. David Archibald in the register for the year 1904.
Mr. William Farnell of Pleasant Valley - sometimes known as Pinch Gut - relates a story about the Archibalds at the Checker house. It seems that during the hard winter, the Archibalds ran short of food and in order to conserve what little they had they had to "pinch their guts" to survive, hence the name Pinch Gut for the community.
There was a full-size basement under these Checker houses, enabling the manager of the house to keep vegetables and perishable food during the winter.
The telephone lines and the fire towers were built by Patrick Coady Jr. The telephone lines made it possible to install phones in certain residences along the Sheet Harbour-Musquodoboit Road. Phones were installed in the homes of Isaac Henley at Pleasant Valley, Sprott Fleming, Frank Paul, George Dean and Martin Cruickshank at Marinette. In the event of fire the person discovering the fire could go to any of these houses and report the fire to the company office at Sheet Harbour. Additional telephone lines were built to the Killeg Mines and Beaver Dam areas. This system gave the company excellent fire protection for the 1920s.
Only two fires of consequence occurred between 1923 and 1946. These were at Killeg-Mulgrave area and Pleasant Valley area.
In 1948 the Department of Lands and Forests of the province of Nova Scotia took over the operation of the fire
1924. Getting pulpwood
ready for the new mill. (1) Foreman Edward W. Connors; (2) John Butler; (3)
Murdock MacKeil's barn; (4) Guy Hall's store and house; (5) MacDonald Hotel;
(6) MacDonald barn; (7) John Angus MacPhee's and Scott Dean's houses, now Gammon
Brothers Grocery and Hardware; (8) Calvin Moser's garage; (9) Mrs. Conrod's
store, later the first bank and telephone office; (10) Henry MacKeil's house,
now owned by Joseph Martin; (11) Arch MacPhee (the man on the wharf).
towers and installed a 2-way radio system connecting the towers to a base station at my home.
During my time as Ranger I was indebted to the pulp company's woods crew. They assisted me on many occasions, extinguishing brush fires. These men were: Mr. Ernest Myers, the foreman of the crew; Joseph Martin, Lawrence Snyder, Henry Perry, Roy Myers, Everette Currie, Philip Currie, Willis Boutilier, and others whose names I do not recall. All of these men's efforts were deeply appreciated.
In the mill operation the wages for inside workers was 22 ½ cents per hour; for yard workers 17 ½ cents; and for woods labor, $1.00 per day plus board. Men cutting pulp were paid 75 cents per cord, from which income they paid their board. This would be in the 1920s.
The three-masted schooner
Favorian unloading pulpwood at the wood boom at West River, 1924. The
smaller vessel was owned and operated by Captain Howard Verge. The two men on
the boom are Carl Knight and Arch MacPhee. The buildings are as follows: (1)
John Behie's house and barn; (2) Dan MacPherson's house; (3) Bob Dean's house
and his son Tom's Store; (4) hawrhorn Cleveland house and bakery; (5) Abe Malay's
house; (6) Bob Hall's house, than a post office and custom house; (7) Theodore
Martin's barn; (8) Patrick Coady's house.
D. Francis Daugherty became manager of the Sheet Harbour operation in 1933. Shortly after a union was organized at the pulp mill, the wages for the stevedores in the late 1930s would be 40 cents per hour for a 14-hour day, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.! The ship Facto carried pulp from Sheet Harbour to the Albany River mill for a number of years, handling the total production of the mill.
The winter posed special problems when the ice made it impossible for the ship to come alongside the company wharf. The ice had to be broken by the ice breaker to enable the ship to dock, load and go back to sea. Sometimes the ship would be at the Harbour entrance waiting for the ice breaker.
The winter of 1932 there was no snow and very little ice. The company was very concerned about getting the pulpwood hauled to the rivers and lakes. The company assisted two contractors financially in the purchase of two D-9 tractors. Mr. Alex Cameron and Mr. Wm. A. Lowe were the recipients of this assistance. The company also purchased a tractor for themselves so that it could be used to assist other contractors. Behie and Westhaver purchased extra horses and made taildrag sleds. By this means they were able to land their own wood for stream driving.
Until 1947 pulpwood coming to the Sheet Harbour mill was stream driven from company lands, or came by scows which were towed by a tug boat as well. Some sailing vessels were utilized. Harry Kennedy and Captain John MacKenzie had a number of flat topped scows and a large tug boat, the Wasson, stationed at Sheet Harbour. Their office was the residence, office and warehouse buildings that had been occupied by Mr. I.J. Behie when he was in the lumber business. Previous to this being used by the company it had been the home of Mr. Neil Farnell. Miss Laura Faulkner was the secretary for the tug boat company.
The problem of winter ice was discussed by the tug boat company and the pulp company. The winter of 1933 was a very hard one. There were 30 inches of ice in Sheet Harbour. The government had to bring an ice breaker, the M.B. McCula, from Quebec. ON her arrival there were two pulp boats caught in the ice in the harbour - the Belray and the E.M. Dalgas. The rudder of the Belray was broken off by ice pressure as the ice breaker strove to make a channel from the harbour to the sea. Belray was towed to Halifax for repairs.
During the winters 1934 to 1936 the ice problem was tackled by Kennedy and MacKenzie's tug boat Wasson. She was fitted with a reinforced steel bow in order to break ice. Not only was she able to break ice, but her wake going up and down the harbour kept the channel disturbed, consequently ice formation was hampered. For the average winter this method was quite successful. The government ice breakers which came to Sheet Harbour from Halifax were the S.S. Brant and the S.S. Arlo. If necessary the S.S. Stanley was sent from the St. Lawrence River to assist.
Henry and his brother William A. Barkhouse, Harry Kennedy, Byron Dauphinee, a gentleman from Quebec, Mr. Burpee, William A. Lowe, Clyde Lowe, Henry Rhyno, Alex
The Belray, a
pulp boat, frozen in the ice at West River, February, 1933. The men are standing
around a portable ice saw made by Calvin Moser, garage owner, and towed by his
service truck. Even with this equipment and men using ice saws, they were not
successful in freeing the boat.
Cameron, Bay Rutledge, Carl Anderssen, Roy Hutchinson, Gordon Farnell, Behie and Westhaver, Fred and Douglas Chittick, James (Doe) Rutledge, David Logan, Welsley Boutilier, John Wm. Dean, John Kenney and Elbridge Lowe, were among the first contractors for the company.
Mark Murphy was one of the company scalers. He worked in the Killeg Mines area. He apparently worked longer than planned on a certain day and his trip home on snowshoes took him to Sam's Lake, Hardwood Hill where darkness overtook him.
He mad a long tack with his snow shoes as he had no choice but to stay there for the night. With snowshoes removed he walked back and forth on that track until daylight. Since he did not smoke he had no matches, consequently he could not light a fire to keep warm. In the morning he completed his journey home on his snowshoes. His remark to me was: "Howard, it was a long night!"
Other scalers for the company were Patrick Coady Jr., John Coady, Harry Hussey, Michael MacInnis, and for a short time, Carl Anderssen. These men would walk 12 to 14 miles to and from their work unless they could arrange a ride on the mail coach.
Mr. Elbridge Lowe yarded pulp for the company in long lengths, with horses. He took the pulpwood to the East River where it was boomed, taken to his barn on the east side of the river where he had a circular saw and haul-up chain, powered by a gasoline engine. He cut this wood into 4-foot lengths, which then dropped into the river in another boom which was eventually towed to West River Mill. The process of taking the short logs from the boom and transferring them to the company boom was always interesting to behold.
In 1946 when J.S. Donaldson came as Woods Manager with the company, the inventory of pulpwood was low since manpower was scarce during the war. He was advised to try to buy some of his pulpwood and he established contact with Carl Turner of Moser River, Arthur Marks of Ship Harbour, Harold Decker of Upper Musquodoboit, and Clyde Reynolds of Upper Stewiacke. The shortage of wood was overcome. Truck unloading ramps were built at the head and the foot of Big Lake. A scaler was also located at these ramps. When a load of wood arrived it was scaled and dumped into the lake. Winter storage wood was always piled in the mill yard.
The American Pulp and Wrapping Paper Company was interested in building a paper mill on the back of the existing pulp mill, if they could buy stumpage on Crown lands in Halifax and Guysborough Counties. There should be sufficient pulpwood to warrant the paper mill from these lands. In 1927 two logging contractors were hired, Mr. Bob Lockhart of Truro, and Mr. MacPhee of Nine Mile River. The area from which these men were to cut the sawlogs was the Sam's Lake and Rocky Brook Lake area, east of the Big Lake. During the construction of the two camps, the workmen stayed at night at Hawthorne Cleveland's Boarding House. I can remember he men saying that Mr. Cleveland did the best he could, but still some men had to sleep on the floor on mattresses. After the camps were completed and the contract about half filled, the Woods Manager for the pulp company came n January and informed the contractors that they could fulfill their contracts, but that all future sawlogs were to be cut in 12, 16 and 20-foot lengths, as they were going to be cut into pulpwood lengths above the pulp mill. The government of the day gave the Mersey Paper Company of Liverpool the exclusive right to cut on Crown lands in Guysborough County. This action did not sit well with the Sheet Harbour Pulp Company. Consequently the paper mill for Sheet Harbour was no longer considered.
A junking mill was built by Joseph Mallet on the west branch of the West River above the mill. When the river drive came in, these 12, 16, and 20-foot logs were junked in 4-foot lengths.
On the East Branch at the foot of Big Lake, John Coady set up a portable mill to saw a portion of the logs which could not be cut into 4-foot lengths, but could be sawed into lumber. This was my first experience in scaling logs in the year 1928.
Everett Walsh was the tallyman at the portable mill.
The managers of Sheet Harbour Pulp Company were: Fenwick A. Jones, for one year; F.A. Gaylord from 1924 to 1932; D. Francis Daughtery from 1933 to 1943. In addition Doug Hyndman , John Donaldson and Bernard McKinnon were managers during the period 1943 to 1971. Mr. McKinnon was the manager at the time the mill was closed. John Donaldson became manager by reason of the death of Doug Hyndman in 1955. He later became manager of the Acadia Sugar Pulpmill at South Melson, New Brunswick.
The woods operation managers of the Sheet Harbour Pulp Company were: Jim Connors, from 1924 to 1932; Ed. W. Connors during 1932 and 1933; Daniel Daugherty from 1933 to 1943; Wm. A. Lowe from 1943 to 1946; John S. Donaldson from 1946 to 1955; Harry Hussey from 1955 to 1968; and Arnold Crosby from 1968 to 1971.
During the early 1920s when the business of building the Sheet Harbour Groundwood Mill and the Eat River Hydro Plant was being arranged, it was specifically understood that the East River plant was to supply the hydro power to the Sheet Harbour Pulp Mill. Judge Peter O'Hearn of Halifax was the negotiator between the Nova Scotia Power Commission and the American Pulp and Wrapping Paper Company. The specific agreement was reached that if the power bill payments became in arrears, a lien would be taken
Ground Wood Pulp Mill
at West River. Production from October 5, 1925 to August 1971.
out on the Sheet Harbour Pulp Mill and the company's mill at Albany, N.Y.
The depression years saw a decline in the demand for groundwood pulp. When Mr. Daugherty was leaving Sheet Harbour in 1943, I asked him why the pulp company did not construct a building over their pulp wharf to prevent the pulp from freezing in a block which had to be chopped apart. His reply was that the company did not own the dock and also he felt that it would not stand the construction of a building.
The third reason given by Mr. Daugherty was that when he took over the management of the company it was $350,000 in debt. As he was leaving it, it was to quote him: "a long way from being in debt." He was not specific.
During the depression years the company name was changed to The Halifax Power and Pulp Company. There was a rumor that the pulp company was trying to sell hydro power to the city of Halifax and the company was prepared to build a line from Sheet Harbour to Halifax. Mr. J. Fred Fraser was chairman of the Power Commission at the time. A meeting between company officials, Power Commission, also provincial and municipal government members, was held in St. Peter's Hall on a Sunday afternoon. No written proof of such a plan was ever revealed.
During the Second World War the market for groundwood was good. In dry weather periods the amount of power generated was insufficient to supply the mill. The pulp company was very disturbed about having to pay for power which they did not receive. It is my belief that a new contract was negotiated by the two parties to overcome this difficulty. In later years when there was a water shortage, power was supplemented from the steam plant at Stellarton.
During this period, Mr. Lindsay Verge operated the company cookhouse. He was paid 30 cents for each meal he served to men working at loading the pulp boats. In the depression years people were often in need of food and in some instances men would come to the cookhouse even days prior to the arrival of the pulp boats. Mr. Berge was still paid for the extra meals at 30 cents a meal by the government of the day. In addition Mr. Berge had regular boarders who were employees of the company.
R.O. Sternberger had control of the company for a short period in the late 1950s. His son, R.H. Sternberger, designed and built a dryer for pulp. This machine could remove up to 95% of the moisture in the pulp. Bunker sea oil was used as the fuel for this dryer. When the pulp had been dried it was baled in in a "cotton baler" in 800-pounds bales. As can be imagined this remarkably reduced the cost of transporting the pulp. In comparison the old bales coming from the mill contained 45% moisture. The difference was indeed economically profitable since the majority of the moisture had been removed, thus drastically reducing the cost of freight rates.
In the Otter Lake area, the Halifax Power and Pulp Company owned considerable acreage of timber land, Otter Lake being the headwater of the Tangier River. In order to stream drive pulp into the West River, Sheet Harbour waters, a dam was built on the Tangier River near the Kidney Lakes, which were only 100 feet from the Tangier River. Mr. Havelock McC Hart had many years previously dug a canal connecting the Kidney Lakes to the Tangier River. By closing the dam on the Tangier River sufficient water was released into the canal to allow the sawlogs or pulpwood to be stream driven to West River, Sheet Harbour.
In 1937, Mr. D. Francis Daugherty was manager of the Halifax Power and Pulp Company. It was part of the company management plan to cut pulp wood from the Otter Lake timber stands. This plan could use the already-built canal which would have to be refurbished for use.
Mr. Ernest Myers transported materials to the south end of Lake Alma, which is on the West River, Sheet Harbour. A large scow was built from these materials to transport the earth plow, the earth scoop and two horses. This scow was towed by an outboard motorboat. These horses were owned by George Coady and Carl Rhino. This method was used until a part of the wood was delivered by truck.
The slab and sawdust burner used at the saw mill at West River, Sheet Harbour, which was mentioned previously, is shown in a picture of the Rhodes and Currie Mill on another page.
The pulp company A.P.W. tried to use the burner to dispose of the bark removed from the pulpwood at the debarker. This was not successful due to the water content in the debarking process.
Mr. F.A. Gaylord, manager of the pulp mill at the time, felt the burner needed to be painted. There was a permanent steel ladder on the side of the burner, from where the sawdust and slab chain entered, to the top which would be about fifty feet from ground level. There was a steer hoop or ring around the top to support the spark screen. The manager offered any man $150.00 to climb the burner and install block and tackle to the ring so a boatswain's chair cold be arranged for painting.
Mr. George McLeod, an Indian in the village, heard about the offer which was very tempting at that time. He made a bow and suitable arrow to which he fastened a carpenter's chalk line. His second attempt was successful in putting the line through the hoop. He then kept installing heavier ropes by hauling them up through the hoop until he had the block and tackle installed. Mr. McLeod collected his money and the burner was painted. The height of the burner from the ground to the screen was 90 feet.
During the fall of 1937 Mike McInnis and Daniel Daugherty, woods manager for the pulp company at the time, were going from Big Como to the Little Como Lake area. They planned to spend the night at Fred Chittick's logging camp at Little Como. There were no roads or trails in that area so the men had little choice but to follow the Seven Mile River. This is very crooked for about a mile before it enters Big Como Lake. So crooked and winding it is referred to as the Ox Bow.
After travelling for some time and deciding they were on the east side of the river, and knowing the camp was on the west side, there was nothing for them to do but get into that cold water and wade to the other ide. The two hadn't gone too far when they realized they were still on the opposite side from their destination. So it was back into the river again. It was dark when the weary travellers, cold and wet, got to the logging camp.
Mike laughed as he was telling the story years later. He wondered if Mr. Daugherty thought he did it as a joke.The Helicopter Trip
During the fall and winter of 1970 two sanctuary wardens, Merle Jewers and Angus McInnis, with myself, were renewing and painting the crown land boundary lines before the Scott Paper Company started their management plan for cutting pulp wood for their new mill at Abercrombie.
The Department of Lands and Forests had made arrangements with the Nova Scotia Power Commission to use their helicopter, flown by Edge Dauphinee, to take us to the more remote areas.
On February 23, a fine cold morning, Edge flew Merle Jewers and myself to West Lake, north of Beaver Dam Mines to work in that area. The weather continued sunny and fine until about 4 p.m., then it quickly clouded over and in a very short time snow was falling and the wind came up and there was practically no visibility. Under these conditions we were unable to get airborne, hence our only alternative was to spend the night near the lake. Darkness was fast approaching so there wasn't much time to make preparations for the night. We were able to make a wind break and cut some dry wood. Soon we had a fire going and by first warming one side and then the other, we were able to stay somewhat warm. Fortunately I had some extra tea bags in my knapsack, so with hot black tea, the camp fire and short walks back and forth, the night finally ended. It was a 12 degrees below zero night!!!!!!!
At daybreak the weather had cleared but the chopper wouldn't start - it was just too cold.
Again our only alternative was to walk out to civilization. Needless to say with a foot of snow on the ground, walking was anything but easy! The nearest road was south of Beaver Dam Mines, so we started off in that direction.
In the meantime, our families in Sheet Harbour had reported our failure to return home to the Nova Scotia Power Commission, who in turn contacted Search and rescue in Prince Edward Island. Shortly after we left the lake a Hercules aircraft came roaring over our heads and kept us in sight until we reached the road where the R.C.M.P. met us.
Edge Dauphine is an excellent pilot. He has flown both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. This was the first time in his experience that Search and Rescue had been sent to his aid.
Later, Edge and I went to Waverley to pick up a heater to be used to warm the motor of the chopper. Through old logging roads and fir thickets in the Power Commission's large Bombardier snow machine, capably driven by Aldon Zinck, we finally reached West Lake and the chopper. Edge wasn't long getting it started, and with Arnold Crosby, he flew out to Sheet Harbour.
I have spent many nights in the bush, but this night was indeed the longest and coldest.
Jack Fancy's story took place about 1929.
During Prohibition in Nova Scotia, bootleg rum was sold in bottles and kegs in many places around the province. Sheet Harbour was no exception.
A number of the boys working at the ground wood pulp mill in Sheet Harbour had pooled their resources and had bought a five gallon keg of rum. The rum having been bottled, the keg was filled with water and was hidden under a small bridge near the mill.
Jack Fancy, one of the switchboard operators at the mill, was part owner of the bootleg rum and this is his story.
It seems that Jack had got to Maurice Bing, an employee at the mill and had asked him to do him a favour. He told Bing he would get him the wheelbarrow from the mill if he would take a five gallon keg of rum up to his house, storing it in the woodshed until a later date when the rum would be bottled. Bing agreed. Jack told him where to find the keg. Later that night Bing carefully loaded the keg and wheeled it up the hill to his house, a distance of about a half a mile. The house is now occupied by Donald Sharpe.
A few days later Jack realized that Bing hadn't returned the wheelbarrow to the mill. Mr. Slim Peterson, superintendent of the mill at that time, was also part owner of the keg of rum. Jack told him the story and asked him to accuse Maurice of stealing the wheelbarrow. He apparently did, and Maurice, not wanting to give the real reason, said he had only borrowed it and would bright it back the next day.
A week later Jack asked Maurice to get the bottles ready and he would go up that night to help bottle the rum. Needless to say when the keg was taped, Maurice knew that he had been fooled, but he didn't know it was Jack who had played the trick on him.
I can still hear Jack laughing as he told the story. One can imagine the look of disappointment of Maurice's face when he realized he had worked so hard for only a drink of water!!!
[Index] [Chapter 5] [Chapter 7]