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Ottawa Valley Log Salvage


This Month's Lumber King


As the founder of the city of Hull (originally, Wrightstown) in the early 1800s, Philemon Wright was an integral player to Canada’s early history. To finance his building operations, he turned to the one resource that European markets could not get enough of—massive, old-growth white pines. In 1806 he beat all odds and floated his first 600 logs down the Ottawa River and on to Quebec City, where they were sent to British markets.


From that point until his death in 1839, Wright continued to achieve the impossible. He devised chutes to pass his logs safely over the deadly rapids of the Ottawa, and in 1819 he harnessed a steamship to tow his log rafts. 


Wright, and later his sons, were integral components in the advancement of the Ottawa Valley logging boom. If it wasn’t for his vision, maybe the J. R. Booths and John Egans of Canada’s history would never have cut the 13.5 billion logs that floated down the Ottawa River from the time of Wright’s death until the 1950s—and maybe the 5 percent of those logs that sank beneath the surface would not still be there, lying in wait to be raised again.

Logging History

Hundreds of years ago, our Canadian forests grew slowly, each tree maturing with unhurried precision under the protective canopy of its ancestors until it emerged as a giant of the forest.


These “old growth” trees — known to be stronger, less blemished, and of much higher quality than trees growing today — bewitched the maverick lumbermen who took to the Ottawa River Valley in the pioneer logging era of the 1800s and early 1900s.


Thousands of lumberjacks left their families each winter to take up camp at points deep in the wilderness and work for logger barons like J. R. Booth and Philemon Wright. They painstakingly cut millions of trees by hand in the Ottawa Valley every year, while quick and able teamsters drew the logs out of the dense forest with their teams of horses and oxen. The logs were then measured by log scalers and stamped with the company’s ownership mark.


As the winter’s ice broke up, most loggers headed home to their families and subsistence farms for the growing season. A smaller number of brave and nimble rivermen took up the perilous work of accompanying the floating logs down the mighty Ottawa River to sawmills in Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, and points eastward.


Along the way, hundreds of thousands of these logs succumbed to their immense waterlogged weight, drifting to the depths of the Ottawa River where they have rested undisturbed for decades, even centuries, still as pristine as the day they were cut.


Celebrating History


Today, we are bringing the story of these logs full circle, erecting them gently from their resting places to fulfill the dangerous and backbreaking work begun by the lumberjacks and rivermen over a century ago.

Logging Lore


A Paul Bunyan-sized tale of logging along the shores of the Ottawa River: early 1800s [ PDF ]


A short account of the loggers' lives from the perspective of the most well-loved worker at any logging camp—the cook: early 1900s [ PDF ]


Real excerpts from The Eganville Leader, the newspaper from the heart of Canada's logging region: WWI era [ PDF ]