Audrey Saunders, "The Gilmour Co.", Algonquin Story, 1963

[ The Gilmour Company depot at Tea Lake ]

The Gilmour Company depot at Tea Lake, Unknown, Algonquin Park Archives, APMA 1093, This depot was the last point in the supply route for Gilmour Company logging camps in Algonquin Park

[…] In 1892, according to records of the Timber Division of the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests, one of the largest sales in the history of the province was held in Toronto. It was October the thirteenth, an unlucky day for the Gilmour Company that made the purchase. On that date, this Company won the bid for timber rights in what amounted to two-thirds of the Township of Peck, extending form Tea Lake, northward to include both Canoe and Joe Lakes. It was a rich property. To quote one of the old-time timber cruisers who traveled through the whole section: “the country was blue with pine.”

Today, it is difficult to convince the visitor to Canoe Lake, that the flourishing village of Mowat, named after the Ontario Premier of those days, once stood on the west side of the lake; that there were thirty miles of siding by the station at the north end; most of all, that logs were floated from the lake before his eyes, 200 miles to the mouth of the Trent River, on the shore of Lake Ontario. True, the ruins of the old mill foundation are still visible down by the shore; and the springy ground tells of mill refuse rotting into the soil under the grass. The ruins of the old landing dock where the boarding houses used to be, can still be found. But a group of fine birch trees has grown up around the wreck of the old mill hospital; and of the stables, once large enough to house fifty teams of horses a night, there is little to be seen.

The vanished village contained a large warehouse, and a cookhouse, and any number of shacks to accommodate the wives and families of the Gilmour employees. The shacks are gone; the two large buildings were preserved and repaired, to become the famous Mowat Lodge [...]

The story of the Gilmour operations has yet to be told. The skeptical visitor may accept the evidence of the village’s existence in the old days, and still balk at the incredible story of the Gilmour logs. For experienced lumbermen to entertain the idea of transporting logs two hundred miles was improbable enough. That they should plan to float millions of cubic feet of timber up over the height of land between Lake of Bays and the headwaters of the Trent, was fantastic.

As a matter of fact, “float” is not quite the right word. Although this historic development took place outside the Park boundaries, it is worth describing here because the whole system was evolved as a means of getting logs out of the Park. The Superintendent, in his report for the year 1895, mentions the fact that the Gilmour Company had already been cutting on their limits for the past three seasons, but he went on to say that they had decided to postpone operations until the railway through the Park should be completed.

And no wonder!

From Archie McEachern, of Dorset, whose father was employed by the company during construction of their improvements in that district, has come the most vivid account of how the feat was performed. The Gilmour Company planned to float their logs down the Oxtongue River from Canoe Lake to the Lake of Bays. There they would be made into booms, and dragged by means of the steam alligator, still to be seen at Baysville, marks the spot where an endless chain, designed to do the job, was to start.

Other companies had built costly dams and slides, but this Gilmour scheme was the most complicated, and costly, of anything yet devised. The pump down by the shore pumped water into the wooden trough, up which the logs slid. It also provided motive power for the chain, to which were attached a series of spikes, to stick into the logs and keep them in place. The first pump was supplemented by boosters along the trough, which were in some places as much as thirty feet above the ground. At the top of this first grade the logs were floated downhill for about a mile, where they arrived at the bottom of a second chain system. There, a second series of pumps brought them up in the final rise to Raven Lake. This lake, which normally drains into the Muskoka system, had been backed up by dams, so that it flowed instead through the swampy district into St. Nora’s Lake, at the headwaters of the Trent. The logs had to be driven along the highway in the winter, when the leaves are off the trees, some of the old capstans that were used to secure the ropes for these booms.

Source: Audrey Saunders, Gilmour Co. in Algonquin Story, (: Ontario Department of Lands and Forests, 1963), 71-75. Notes: The Queen's Printer for Ontario owns copyright in the English version of 'Algonquin Story' and permits the translation of excerpts from 'Algonquin Story' into the French language under a license. The Government of Ontario assumes no responsibility for the accuracy, completeness or currency of the French version of 'Algonquin Story' and makes no representations or warranties of any kind whatsoever for the contents of the French version of 'Algonquin Story'. / Imprimeur de la Reine pour l'Ontario, 1963. Reproduit avec le permission de l'imprimeur

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