Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Gilmour Industries, Trenton, Ontario

Thomas Jarrett.  The Evolution of Trenton Ontario.  1813-1913.  Reprinted 1986, Kiwanis Club of Trenton, Inc.

Gilmour Industries was the largest of the voracious saw mills that chewed their way through the old-growth pine forests of eastern Ontario, ultimately depleting that once vast resource.  A lesson in the pitfalls of gung-ho resource extraction if ever there was one.

According to the publisher's book summary for When Giants Fall: The Gilmour Quest for Algonquin Pine (Gary Long and Randy Whiteman):

"The Gilmour company was one of the lumber giants of eastern Canada. Beginning as a square timber dealer in the early 1800s, it expanded into sawmilling to supply the American market, relentlessly chopping through the pine forests of the Ottawa Valley and central Ontario to feed the voracious saws in its mills.  
By the 1880s the company’s sawmill at Trenton on Lake Ontario was one of the world’s largest. Unfortunately, the supply of pine that fed it was running out. With the family’s wealth and reputation on the line, David Gilmour embarked on an incredible scheme to tap a new source of pine in Algonquin Park, and float the logs 445 kilometres to the mill along three different river systems — and over the hills between them."
David Gilmour, then head of the company, had to find a way to move his logs from the Oxtongue-Muskoka river system to Trenton, when there was no interconnecting waterway.  Near the town of Dorset, he constructed the Gilmour Tramway to lift millions of logs over a range of hills from the Lake of Bays to Raven Lake which drained into the Black River.  That river then had to be diverted to flow to St. Nora Lake which connected to the Trent River.  The tramway construction began in 1883, and for the next two years Gilmour was able to move around 400,000 pine logs.  The project was undone by technical problems and water shortages and was abandoned in 1886 in favour of a new saw mill built in Algonquin Park.

Gary Long has written another book specifically about this:  Gilmour Tramway.  A Lumber Baron's Desperate Scheme.

You can see pictures of this historic boondoggle at The Gilmour Tranway.

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