Surrey History

Logging in Northern Surrey

Putting in the undercut

Hand loggers selected the best and most easily accessible timber along the flanks of the uplands along the river valleys. Logs could be easily moved to tide water and exported via the rivers and bays.

Before the turn of the century logging in the northern portions of Surrey was restricted to the flanks of the uplands along the river valleys. Here timber was easily accessible and could be exported readily by water. Along the Fraser timber had been logged by hand along the northern slopes as they could be moved easily to tidewater and the mills in the New Westminster area. Loggers such as T. Hadden operated crews near Bon Accord and Crandel near Liverpool in South Westminster, and Gilles in Tynehead. Logging was also extensive in the upper headwaters of the Serpentine River, and along Bear Creek. Logs were boomed in the lower Serpentine and towed to the established mills along Burrard Inlet or the Fraser River.

Teamsters and teams

Donkey engines were vital in the heavy timber Surrey produced. The engines pulled the massive logs out of the cut and to the loading platform. Horses assisted with the removal.

The hey day of logging in the Surrey area began in the late 1890's and ran until the early 1920's. The settlement of the Canadian Prairies which began as a trickle after the completion of the C.P.R. in 1885, became a torrent after 1897 and continued into the first two decades of the 20th Century. The demand for lumber for homes, barns, fence posts by Prairie settlers was readily supplied by Surrey lumbermen. In addition, the expiration of the 20 year monopoly clause held by the C.P.R, caused a flurry of railway construction in the West. Before 1910, two new transcontinental railways had been chartered. Also inroads from the south by the Great Northern Railway system also simulated construction. The demand for ties and timbers escalated logging and milling in Surrey.

Loading large log

Donkey engines provided some lift to the large logs while the team of horses moved them into position over the trucks. In restricted areas the team also moved the logs out onto the main line.

Before 1897 the holding of forest tracts in Surrey for logging was not extensive. However, within five years most of the undeeded lands were take up by logging firms. Some of the timber lands were held in freehold. T.J. Sullivan held lands from Sullivan Station east along Panorama Ridge and in Fleetwood. Others such as W.J. Walker held lands in South Fleetwood. A common practice was to purchase the timber rights from existing settlers. Companies would purchase the timber rights for 160 acres for $500 and the payments would be spread over a number of years as the trees were harvested. However most of the forested uplands were held under Timber License from the Provincial Government. These licenses were held by established mills on Burrard Inlet or along the Fraser River. Royal City Planing Mills, Burnette Saw Mill Co., Vancouver Tie and Timber Co., Fraser River Mills, Hastings Mill(Vancouver), Ross McLaren Mill(on Fraser Mills site), and Western Canada Lumber Co.(on Lulu Island).

New Westminster Mill

Timber harvested from the uplands of Surrey provided the supply for the established mills on the Fraser River and Burrard Inlet. Fraser Mills, Canadian Western Lumber Co. Ltd., was one of many mills that relied on Surrey logging operations.

The railway era stimulated and allowed easy access to the forest lands. The establishment of the New Westminster Southern Railway in 1891 permitted the easy harvest of the timber tracts in east and west Cloverdale, the Clayton Heights, and along the south shore of the Fraser. The completion of the B.C. Electric Railway in 1910, opened up the northwest uplands of Surrey. Most of the best timber had been removed by the early 1920s. But the harvesting of shingle bolts went on well into the early 1930s.

Fraser Mills Train

Railway construction in Western Canada stimulated logging of the Surrey Uplands, and they also provided the means of moving the logs to the mill sites. Logging trains such as this one was a common site.

Next Page: Milling in North Surrey

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