Fraser Mills

The evolution of the Western Canada Lumber Company alongside with the people who worked there all played a large role in the early settlement of Coquitlam. This page explores the history of Fraser Mills together with the labour, trade, and politics that occupied the lumber industry in BC at the time.

Lesson 1 – Fraser Mills Lumber Company

Project Research Resources

Fraser Mills Project Example


Veneer Maker Sculpture

Wood veneer is made by slicing a thin layer of wood from a log in a uniform thickness. Veneer can then be used for decorative purposes and/or to place overtop of a material that is not wood to make it look wooden. The same technique applies to making plywood. The earliest examples of veneer dates back nearly 4000 years in Ancient Egypt. Veneer was cut by hand with a saw or knives. In the 1820s a special lathe was invented to cut veneer that was more uniform and precise, but the practice of cutting veneer by hand continued in many places. John Fenton, the father of the donor, worked at Fraser Mills from the 1950s to the 1980s. He worked with plywood and veneer, which is depicted in the sculpture. The sculpture was presented by the Canadian Wood Council in 1990 to Fenton for “distinguished service to the Canadian forest industry.” Wood veneer is the grain patterns visible on a thin slice of wood. In the object, the man is using hand tools to make the veneer.

Caulk Logging

“We would break up the logs with a pike pole and axe, and sometimes crosscut saw, and supply them to the mill. We would walk out on the logs wearing cork boots and, hopefully, not fall in.” – Alirele Boileau from Coquitlam 100 years.

These hobnail, cork, or caulk boots have a notable safety feature: hobnails combined with iron toes. Men working for the Canadian Western Lumber Company would have worn boots like these during their long shifts at Fraser Mills. Hobnailed boots are inexpensive footwears that are often used by workmen and the military. The hobnails provide traction on soft/rocky ground and snow, but are not as useful on smooth hard surfaces.



Caulk Logging

Navigating slippery, sawdust covered floors, and slick moisture covered logs required extra grip from the metal studs seen on these boots. As logs were dragged up from the Fraser River and onto the conveyor belt, conditions underfoot were quite precarious. Hobnailed boots like these kept many a worker safe and able to work effectively.

Fraser Mills Cap

This hat was given to Fraser Mills employees on the 100 year anniversary of the mill in 1989. Fraser Mills was founded in 1889, and originally called the Ross McLaren Mill. The mill was in operation until 2001.

Safety Glasses

Pair of safety glasses used at Fraser Mills in the 1940s.

Time Clock

According to the donor, this clock was used by Fraser Mills’ watchmen in order to record their patrol times, and possibly their wages. A paper disc called a “dial” was placed inside the clock, and then a key is inserted on top to start the mechanism. The clock would automatically stamp numerical information on the disc indicating the guard’s start and stop times.

F Branding Iron

Before the logs were to be sent downstream, each had to be indentified by the owner. To do this, log marks, each one different for each different logging company, were affixed to the ends of the logs (similar to the cattle brands used in the West.) The design of a log mark might include the initials of the lumber company’s owner or symbols from the logging industry or from nature. The designs were cast into the metal end of a marking hammer by a blacksmith. The symbols needed to be simple, clean designs so the person who struck the log with the marking hammer could cut the design easily into each log.

Adjustable Wrench

Quick adjustable wrench. The artifact was owned by John Ostenstad’s father Louie. The wrench was designed by Louie, a millwright at Fraser Mills. It is heavy, and made entirely of metal. The head is roughly 3cmX13cm, the full length being 91cm.

Research Links

Video Research

Lesson 3 – The Fraser Mills Strike

Primary Sources

(click to open transcribed version)

Lesson 4 – Perspectives