Text Size

Sawmill Operations

Most of the pine had been stripped away by 1923 and the last remaining corporations closed their doors. Old timers claimed that at camp break-up as many as 1,000 men were out of work and it was weeks before many moved on to new jobs. The hotels, boarding houses and jails must have been full to overflowing!


Ben Merwin formed the Pineland Timber Company Limited in 1923 and according to Lawrence San Cartier, the land was purchased from his uncle, Peter San Cartier.


Early in 1948, Ben Merwin approached the K.V.P. Company because a site had to be selected for log sorting. Around this time the International Nickel Company of Canada bought a share in the mill as well. By this arrangement the company was given all the mine timber for several mines and K.V.P. was given the smaller logs for conversion into pulp and paper. Pineland manufactured the large logs into , wedges, mine props, smaller timbers and railroad ties.


Ben Merwin and Myron Austin arrived on the present site the first week of June, 1949. It was a forest of red and jack pine trees. Myron was to manage the operations of the sawmill. Sorting piers, bridges, platform rafts, walkways and holding booms were installed for transporting the raw trees from the Spanish River. Log sorting began in early summer.


By 1950 Ben had almost as much area under forestry government licence as the current E.B. Eddy holdings.


Until hydro was available, the mill was powered with a four-cylinder Wisconsin air- cooled engine.


In 1955, INCO put in a request to have mine timber framed at the sawmills. In response to this request Ben Merwin had a double-end tenor or framer designed and built for this purpose. The machine was installed in the existing framer building in 1956 and operated until 1992.


More expansions were made to the mill in 1956. Ben Merwin appointed his son, Bud, to the position of superintendent for the Nairn operations. This allowed Myron to spend all of his time doing what he does best, the mechanical construction aspect of the plant.


The mill was the first to operate a debarker and chipper in Eastern Canada. Hydro lines and a transformer station were installed to give electric power to the mill and framer.


Since it was planned that the mill be under operation twelve months a year rather than summer only, some additions were made. In 1962, Ben Merwin sold Pineland Timber Company to K.V.P. and INCO. Getting rid of waste products was a major concern. In the early sixties the mill waste was transported to the dump site, set on fire and left to smolder all winter. (You can imagine what the housewives would have to say when they saw their laundry covered in soot from the smoldering dump.)


In the fall of 1962 a Tepee Burner was erected on the north side of the sawmill to alleviate the problem of smoke surrounding the town. This burner operated for ten years, until 1972.


The most notable change made in the sixties was the certification of the Lumber and Sawmill Worker's Union, Local 2537. Certification was made in September 1962 and the first collective agreement began June 1, 1963. Danny LaBelle was the union president. The base labour rate was $1.45 per hour and the highest rate was for a millwright at $2.13 per hour. Overtime had a 50 cent premium.


The workers at Pineland must have felt some misgivings about their future when they learned that K.V.P. had been purchased by Brown Forest Industry and that on February 14th, 1969, E.B. Eddy purchased the Espanola operations from Brown Forest.


The large log mill was built in the late summer of 1971. The machinery was installed the next spring followed by a debarker and sorter the summer of 1972. Finally, in September, the new mill start-up took place. Many expansions were made to the new mill.


On May 1st, 1973, E.B. Eddy took control of the Nairn sawmill. Many additions and more advanced equipment were installed in the mill from 1980 to 1983. The facilities were modernized in that decade. The mill production went from 90,000,000 f.b.m. (foot board measure) in 1980 to 135,000,000 in 1984.


In 1995 Nairn Centre Sawmill produced 190 million f.b.m. with a labour force of 317.