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- Canadian Western Lumber Company, Limited
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In 1889, the Ross, McLaren Mill was opened at Millside, an area near New
Westminster, British Columbia. The mill had cost $350,000 to build, and was headed by President James McLaren, a Quebec timber investor and President of the Bank of Ottawa, and Vice-President Frank Ross. Production at the mill began in 1890. In addition to new facilities and a large amount of capital to support it, the mill also possessed the transportation benefits of frontage on the Fraser River and a spur line to the Canadian Pacific Railway system. However, despite these advantages, the mill soon faced several
events that affected its production in a negative way. In addition to the death of McLaren, the mill also experienced a decreased demand for timber due to a general economic depression in 1892. Even when other mills began to recover in 1895, Ross, McLaren’s productivity was curtailed by the silting of the Fraser River, which made it impossible for large vessels to reach the mill.
All of these factors contributed to the company’s decision in 1899 to place the mill and its timber rights up for sale. An American investment syndicate, headed by Lester David of Seattle and Mr. Jenkins of Minneapolis eventually purchased the mill in 1903. The new owners sought to resolve the mill’s difficulties by dyking the area, and holding the federal government accountable for dredging the Fraser River channel and ensuring its accessibility to ships. Now called Fraser River Saw Mills, the mill was
finally re-opened in 1905, as the largest mill in the Pacific Northwest. By 1906, the mill was already setting records for production levels and over 250 labourers were employed. As a result of the increased production levels and staff, both the mill and Millside were expanded; this included the construction of the Fraser Mills Sash, Door & Shingle Company Limited.
Production at the mill was so high by 1907, in fact, that the mill was nearly shut down due to a lack of available labour. The mill was taken over by an investment syndicate headed by A.D. McRae of Winnipeg and Senator Peter Jansen of Nebraska. The new owners instituted a major re-organization of the business. A half million dollar renovation and expansion of the original mill buildings was implemented and improvements made to increase transportation access to the mill via the Fraser River. The name of the town was changed from Millside to Fraser Mills.
The re-organization of the business culminated in 1910, with the purchase of
enough timber rights in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island for the company, now called the Canadian Western Lumber Company Limited, to be considered to have the largest private holdings in the world. Through direct or indirect purchase, the Canadian Western Lumber Company Limited acquired full or partial ownership of the following companies by 1916: Canadian Tugboat Company Limited; Coast Lumber & Fuel Company Limited; Coast Lumber Yards Limited; The Columbia River Company Limited; Columbia Western Lumber Yards Ltd.; Comox Logging and Railway Company; Crown Lumber Company, Limited; Fraser Mills Sash, Door, and Shingle Company Limited; Lumber Manufacturers’ Yard Limited; Security Lumber Company Limited.; and Western Canada Sawmill Yards Limited. Later acquisitions include The Golden Light, Power and Water Company Limited. In 1954, the Canadian Western Lumber Company, Limited was acquired by Crown
Zellerbach Canada Limited. The immediate successor company to Crown Zellerbach Canada Limited was Fletcher Challenge Limited of New Zealand, which purchased the company in 1983 and, with further acquisitions, became Fletcher Challenge Canada Limited in 1987. In 2000, Norske Skog, a Norwegian paper company, acquired all of Fletcher Challenge's pulp and paper assets, and a majority interest in Fletcher Challenge Canada Limited. This resulted in the formation of Norske Skog Canada Limited.
Scope and content
Fonds consists of records of the Canadian Western Lumber Company, Limited, including agreements and other documents pertaining to the organization and development of the company, financial records, insurance records, stocks and shares records, personnel records, photographs, and timber records. The fonds also includes records of its predecessor companies, Fraser River Lumber Company and Fraser River Saw Mills, and
its allied and subsidiary companies, including the Columbia River Company, Limited; Fraser Mills Sash, Door & Shingle Company; Columbia Western Lumber Yards, Limited, Canadian Tugboat Company Limited, Western Canada Lumber & Fuel Company/Coast Lumber & Fuel Company Limited; Coast Lumber Yards Limited; Comox Logging & Railway Company; Crown Lumber Company, Limited, The Golden Light, Power and Water Company, Limited, and Security Lumber Company Limited. Also included in the fonds are records of its successor company Crown Zellerbach Canada Limited, and records of and pertaining to another CZ Canada Ltd. company, Pacific Mills, Limited at Ocean Falls, B.C. and its predecessor companies. The fonds also
includes some records of British Columbia Forest Products, Limited, which, like CZ Canada Ltd, was acquired by Fletcher Challenge, New Zealand. The fonds includes slides and photographs of several of Fletcher Challenge Canada Limited’s operations and products. Records of the North Coast Lumber Company, Limited and the Vernon Box Company Limited may also be found in the fonds; the relationship of these companies to the Canadian Western Lumber Company, Limited is unknown.
The fonds has been arranged into the following series: Agreements and other documents pertaining to the organization and development of the company (1914-1954); Financial records (1910-1955); Insurance records (1910-1954); Photographs (-1956); Stocks and shares records (1910-1955); Personnel records (1941-1972); Timber records (1913-
1940); Fraser River Saw Mills, Limited and Fraser River Lumber Company, Limited records (1905-1912); Fraser Mills Sash, Door & Shingle Company records (1914-1919, 1944-1948); Columbia River Company, Limited records (1899-1951); Columbia Western Lumber Yards, Limited records (1913-1929); Anacortes Lumber and Box Company records ([ca. 1906]-1934); Canadian Tugboat Company Limited records (1912-1978),
Western Canada Lumber & Fuel Company (Coast Lumber & Fuel Company Limited) records (1911-1942); Coast Lumber Yards Limited records (1911-1962); Comox Logging & Railway Company records (1906-1954); Crown Lumber Company, Limited records (1909-1965); The Golden Light, Power and Water Company, Limited records (1908-1923); North Coast Lumber Company Limited records (1908); Security Lumber Company Limited records (1915-1954); Vernon Box Company Limited records (1926-
1930); Pacific Mills, Limited (Ocean Falls) records (1906-1954); Crown Zellerbach Canada Limited records (1926-1974); British Columbia Forest Products Limited records ([ca. 1937]-1964); and Fletcher Challenge Canada Limited slides and photographs ([198-]-1992].