Vancouver Island’s Hand Logging History

March 23rd, 2017

Aside from an abundance of coal deposits, Vancouver Island was also well-known for another natural resource: lumber. With no shortage of enormous trees like the Douglas Fir found in the dense coastal forests in the surrounding region, it’s clear to see why Nanaimo’s logging history helped BC cement itself as the largest producer of cut timber in the country.

However, it wasn’t just the supply of trees that led to the success of the area’s logging industry, but also its geography. The vast coastlines of sheltered bays and long inlets provided the perfect place to collect and water fallen logs, and also provided an easy way to transport the timber to local mills. Also, the steep slopes rising from the beach were an ideal location to fall logs as gravity would do most of the work. And in the early 1900s when all logging was done by hand, any way to make the process easier was certainly welcomed. While hand logging licenses forbade the use of any power machinery, loggers also relied on good old fashioned horsepower to help move the logs (as shown above in the image of a logger and his horse from 1910).

It was these favourable conditions unique to Vancouver Island that led to a boom in its logging industry. As M.E. Grainger chronicled in an article in the Times of London in 1908, “hand loggers we strung out along every fjord, along every inland shore, putting in logs against time, they could make six to seven dollars a day per man even on slopes that had been hand logged and re-hand logged in days before the boom.” (From the collection of the Nanaimo Archives)

Sign-up for Our Exclusive Newsletter