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Leamy & Kyle – Sawmill on False Creek

February 12, 2014

Their work on the CPR concluded, James Leamy, Contractor, and George Kyle, General Superintendent, entered into a business partnership at Vancouver, establishing a sawmill on False Creek in the summer of 1886.

Leamy & Kyle - False Creek -  Vancouver

The new city was growing fast and by November 1886, the Leamy & Kyle sawmill was turning out 45,000 feet of lumber each day.

Leamy & Kyle’s Commercial Mills were located on the south shore of False Creek.  With a water frontage of 1200 feet, the mill occupied 6 acres.

Towards the end of the first year of operations, the mill owners decided to construct their own tugboat to tow log booms.  George Kyle travelled to Seattle in December to make arrangements for a steamer of about 80 feet in length, ” a little larger and of about the same style as the Queen City.”

He engaged Captain JFT Mitchell of Seattle to come to Vancouver to superintend the work. Mitchell had been on this coast since 1862 and constructed more than 60 vessels during his career, including the Kamloops Lake steamer Skuzzy.

In July 1887 the new tug Mamie slipped into the waters of False Creek.

“At Leamy & Kyle’s mill was launched the first steamer built in Vancouver. The Mamie will be put into use next week for general towing purposes, and will be a great convenience to the mill-owners on False Creek, as she is able to pass under the bridge, her mast and funnel being hinged specially for that purpose.”

The Mamie was staunchly built, of 61 tons register and 96 tons gross.  She was 80 feet in length and of 20 feet beam with a hold 8 feet deep.

Master of the Mamie for some years was Captain EC Bridgeman, who began steamboating on Puget Sound in 1882 and whose career in Howe Sound is memorialized with a local placename.

Leamy & Kyle also built a floating dock with a lifting capacity of 600 tons which was towed around to the harbour on Burrard Inlet.

schooner Venture at Victoria 1888An imaginative project was a floating steam-powered rolling feed mill.  Equipped with dual paddle-wheels which would be disengaged while the engines powered the grist machinery, the mill would be a boon to farmers located on the Delta and Fraser Valley reaches.

Valley farmers built landing places along the Fraser and up smaller rivers such as the Nicomekl from Mud Bay, which was rendered navigable for up to 10 miles to Hall’s Prairie road.  The freight steamer Staffa was also built at Leamy & Kyle.

Among the schooners built at the False Creek shipyard was the Venture, launched into the sealing trade in 1888.

In 1892 a pile driver was commissioned to be built to the order of JB Pike of the BC Draining & Dyking Co.

The mill experienced many years of success in the traditional lumber trade,  including operating its own coast logging camps, with the tug Mamie bringing logs to the mills on False Creek.

Leamy & Kyle - Commercial MillsBesides cutting spars and dimension lumber, the mill branched out into finished work with a sash and door factory.

In June of 1887 Leamy & Kyle and other mills at Vancouver were served notice by the Knights of Labour who were demanding a reduction in the hours of work, to a 10-hour shift.  While other mills suffered a one-day shut-down, the Commercial Mills were kept running under an arrangement with management while a deal was worked out.

In 1889 Commercial Mills ran into financial trouble but reorganized and kept up operations.

When Leamy & Kyle entered the business in 1886 they were just the second mill on False Creek. By 1889 there were four sawmills. The others  were located on the north side, with access to the CPR English Bay extension.  Leamy & Kyle located a lumber yard on that side, hard by Cassady’s at the foot of Cambie.

The map below, dated 1889 (Vancouver Public Library), shows the mill locations on False Creek – (names typed over for clarity.)   Leamy and Kyle were situated on Front Street (1st Avenue), west of Main,  at Crowe Street  on present-day maps. The shoreline of False Creek has altered since that time.

False Creek sawmills - 1889s

False Creek GoogleMap linkThe places can be viewed on a GoogleMap of False Creek, 1889.

Above link to Classic Google Maps no longer valid.  Updated Google Map here. 2015-05-28

In 1890, on the east side of Cambie Street, below Smithe and near the water, was  located the Leamy & Kyle lumber yard. –n the other side of False Creek were the Commercial Saw Mills, Leamy & Kyle, proprietors.

A  city directory for the same year indicates the firm’s marketing offices were located downtown.  The entry for Leamy & Kyle, Lumber Merchants, of 230 West Hastings Street,  lists James Leamy, George F Kyle, John George Woods (manager), Alexander McDougall (book keeper), and Charles Henry Carter (culler).

George Cassady mill ownerLeamy & Kyle yard on CPRThe mill was put up for auction in 1894 and before the year was out it was reported  Leamy & Kyle had “merged” with George Cassady & Company.

George Cassady operated a planing mill, sash and door factory nearby Leamy & Kyle’s yard on the north side of the Creek at the foot of Cambie street, established 1889.



In 1904 the former Leamy & Kyle mill was purchased by Tucker & Clark who changed the name to the Vancouver Lumber Company.

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