It’s Wayback Wednesday, sponsored by Jamie Lockwood, broker/owner of Sutton Group Muskoka Realty!
This is a horse-drawn “high car” at Muskoka Wood Manufacturing ca. 1952.
Muskoka Wood Manufacturing also used horses to haul logs in its lumber camps until the1930s, when they were replaced by Lynn tractors.
The railway was hugely important to the lumber industry, particularly in its early years. Lumbering blossomed wherever the railway met the water, making Huntsville, with its stands of virgin forest and many waterways, ideal for the industry. By the 1890s, one in five men were employed in lumbering, not including the farmers who moved to the lumber camps in the winter for extra cash.
The Muskoka Wood Manufacturing Company was established in 1902, when R.J. Hutcheson acquired the old Whaley Lumber site at the eastern end of Hunters Bay at the mouth of the Muskoka River.
Hutcheson saw the value in hardwoods long before his competitors did. Others focused on pine for its buoyancy—because the logs floated they could be driven to the mills on Muskoka’s waterways. As stands of pine disappeared, Hutcheson bought up hardwood stands of maple and yellow birch. He discovered that by peeling the bark from the hardwood logs and leaving them to dry, they became buoyant. Hutcheson became one of the first men in Canada to drive hardwood on lakes and rivers.
Muskoka Wood experienced a catastrophic fire on May 29, 1922. At the time, the flooring plant was the largest of its kind in Ontario; its Red Deer brand of birch flooring had made the company famous across Canada. A new plant opened in February 1923.
Muskoka Wood was the sole survivor of Huntsville’s heady lumber days.
In May 1939, the company was running 24 hours a day, having taken out six million feet of logs. At that time, the company employed 100 men and operated a fleet of 20 trucks. Its largest competitor, Huntsville Lumber Company, ceased production in 1929. The sawmill at the locks closed in 1954.
In 1955, Muskoka Wood Manufacturing was sold to Hay and Company. It remained the only large-scale sawmill in Muskoka for decades.
Photo: CN Images of Canada Collection; details courtesy of Huntsville: With Spirit and Resolve
See more Wayback Wednesday photos here.
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