This Week in History
Death of a Salesman – But Not A Forest
For the week of Monday December 5, 2005
December 8, 1925, marked the passing of one of Ontario’s finest sales and lumbermen – John Rudolphus “J.R.” Booth.
Having supplied the timber for the construction of the Parliament Buildings and considered by many to be “the biggest lumberman ever known,” his family inherited the $23 million estate, his mansion on Metcalfe St. in Ottawa, as well as numerous logging, pulp and paper and commercial ventures.
In the early 1800s, as a result of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, the Ottawa Valley supplied pine and oak to the British navy for shipbuilding. The trend of exporting lumber continued after the war. Although Philemon Wright first started logging the Ottawa Valley by establishing a mill at Chaudière Falls in 1806, it was J.R. Booth who dominated the logging industry in the valley from the mid-1800s onward.
Having obtained the logging rights to 250 square miles of virgin pine in the Madawaska River/Algonquin Park region, Booth’s mills produced 140 million board feet of lumber by 1892. He further expanded his industry by setting up the largest personally owned railway in the world to transport lumber from the camps to his empire at Chaudière. At 600 km in length, the Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway was completed in 1896. In 1904 it was sold to the Grand Trunk Railway.
Although only a few stands of virgin trees - such as Gillies Grove and House National Historic Site - still exist, the lumber industry remains the primary industry for most in the Ottawa Valley. Large businesses such as Murray Brothers Lumber Company Ltd. – which was formed in the era of Booth - continue the long-standing tradition of harvesting timber. . A National Historic Persons plaque honouring Philemon Wright was unveiled in Gatineau, Quebec in 2000 and the Forest Industry in the Ottawa Valley was designated as a National Historic Event in 1943. The Queen Anne Style John R. Booth Residence was also designated in 1990.
For more information on Philemon Wright, please see the story about the founding of Hull.
- Date Modified: