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Timberland Lumber Company Sawmill on Fraser River, 1918

May 12, 2012

By 1917, after seven years at Craig Station, the Timberland Lumber Company was running out of forest to cut in the Bear Creek watershed.  JG Robson acquired a 65-acre site opposite New Westminster with about 2000 feet of frontage on the Fraser River and announced plans to build a new mill.  Logs for the mill would be brought in by booms on the river, from timber limits up the coast.

The site, it was reported,

“lies just below the tannery on the south side of the river, and the mill will be at the lower end. The mill will have a capacity of 100,000 feet a day, and will represent an investment, including the site, of about $200,000. It will employ a hundred or more men to start with. The intention is to specialize in large timbers, and the mill will have the latest equipment for that work, being arranged to handle sticks up to 120 feet long. It is intended to build cottages for the workmen, and a small settlement complete in itself. Later, other units will be added, such as a shingle mill, box factory, sash and door factory, etc.”

Robson received approval from the Department of Marine and Fisheries for a lease of the waterfront along Lot 9, Lot 10, and Lot 11, Group 2, for the purpose of log booming grounds. The initial leases, would run for 21 years. Amounting to about 32 acres of log storage space, the grounds would ensure a ready stock of timber at hand to fill any order.

Robson also needed rail access to the new facility, and a bylaw was passed by the municipality of Surrey granting a right-of-way to the mill for a railway spur from the BCER tracks and a parallel roadway. Costs of constructing the two miles of track and roadway were borne by the mill.

Timberland Lumber Company mill on Fraser River

Annotated map showing layout of Timberland Lumber Co sawmill, facilities and access roads

In May of 1917 the Fraser River Pile Driving Company commenced driving the foundations for the new mill on the south bank of the river. Building of the new Timberland mill was contracted to Louis Livingstone of Winlock, Washington, who had constructed a number of mills in the northwest, including Chehalis and Everett. Construction of the mill buildings began in June.

A seasonal distraction, the burning of slash at logging operations at Craig’s, intrigued New Westminster residents with notions of a bush fires raging in the Surrey hills.

Volumes of smoke rolling up from behind the Surrey hills yesterday looked like a big bush fire. Enquiry at the Crown Timber Office elicits the information that it came from the burning of slash on about a hundred acres logged by the Timberland Lumber Company in the vicinity of Craig Station. This slash was burned as a precautionary measure, and was at all times under control.”

Started in June 1918, the new mill was built and completed with machinery installed by December the same year, ready to run just two days before Christmas.

The sturdy main building was two storeys tall, 52 feet wide and 280 feet long. The saws were installed on the second floor and could handle logs up to 100 feet long.  Mill capacity was 100,000 feet per 10-hour shift, making it a second class mill, but its forte was being able to handle and cut timbers of a large dimension. The engines and equipment were powered by steam.

Timberland Mill - Fraser River

Timberland Lumber Company sawmill on Fraser River –Canada Lumberman photo

Timberland mill interior

Interior of Timberland Lumber Company sawmill  –Canada Lumberman photo

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