Davison Lumber Company

Also called the Davison Lumber & Manufacturing Company, Limited after a Jan 1918 restructuring.

With mills at: Mill Village - Bridgewater - Springfield - Hastings - Crossburn - Alpena - Greenfield (Queens County)

Timber land holdings in Annapolis, Kings, Lunenburg, Queens Counties and the Municipality of Chester

Range of operation- early beginnings 1760's until the late 1920's

The story of the Davison Lumber Company -by Philip Spencer

On-Line since 2001

(March 2022)
Presentations are a possibility again due to the relaxation of COVID restrictions.
Contact me to make arrangements.

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First entry March 2001
Last update: February 23, 2022 - Story below expanded and clarified. Mistakes corrected (there's always a mistake)

The following is a very brief history of the Davison Lumber Company , or more correctly, the Davison lumbering legacy in Nova Scotia. This is a story close to my heart since my grandfather , Wilbur B. Sherrard* , worked there as a crane engineer (1905), logging camp foreman (1908), machinist (1910) locomotive engineer (1912) and was the last Master Mechanic (Chief Engineer) from 1915 until 1921 when the mill closed. In addition, my aunt was born in Crossburn and my uncle and mother were born in Hastings.

Information continues to surface almost daily . The following text will require correction. I am actively (nay, obsessively) researching this considerable piece of Nova Scotia history, the legacy of the Davison name in lumbering. If you have a family connection, photos, documents or artifacts of the Davison Mill and any of it's affiliated operations, please contact me --> oldiron@antique-engine.ns.ca

The Davison Lumber Company Sawmill, Hastings

(From a painting by Nola Mailman)

The red outlined area represents the Lahave Watershed. This is the area logged
post - 1865

I am trying to fill in the gaps in the history, and claify the facts. There is SO MUCH MORE to tell. See my Web Log below.

In the beginning....

This story of lumbering starts with Samuel Mack who came from Connecticut in the 1760's and landed in the new settlement of Liverpool. His family was having hard times when Sam was born (~1737) but fortunes changed for him when he married Lydia Brainerd from a prosperous farming family. The Mack family was notable for their ability in milling and dam building, having built a substantial dam across the Connecticut River. Samuel's brother Solomon had a life filled with misfortune yet Solomon's daughter, Lucy, had a son, Joseph Smith (Jr) who became the "prophet" and founder of the Mormon church.
Samuel's father-in-law may have funded an earlier trip to Nova Scotia to assess the timberlands here. Samuel had 2 daughters by Lydia who died soon after in 1760. He moved to Nova Scotia about 2 years later, and purchased a share in a lumber mill that had been recently built by Stephen Smith and William Cohoon, and funded by 6 other Liverpool proprietors. The location of that mill was first called Port Medway Mills, (or Port Mills) then Mills Village and now Mill Village, Queens County, Nova Scotia. Mack bought this mill from the other owners and built another mill nearby (both mills perhaps on a small island in the Medway River), and had a good business from this location and a regular association with Simeon Perkins, another notable Nova Scotian.

Samuel was married in 1766 to Desire Cohoon (alt Cahoon), the daughter of one of the original founders and proprietors of Liverpool. Samuel and Desire had several children, the male children also continuing in the lumber business well into the 1800's. By all accounts, Samuel and his progeny became respectable mill owners and businessmen.

Several years later, Patrick Doran arrived in 1777 (although one document indicates an earlier date) from Ireland and he worked for Simeon Perkins (made a Captain of the militia) and then worked for Samuel Mack. . Samuel Mack died at 46 (1783), possibly from pneumonia and Desire inherited or purchased some of the most useful aspects of Samuels estate, the mills , saws, harnesses etc.. Patrick Doran married the widow Desire (Cohoon) Mack not long after. Patrick kept up the lumber business (which apparently included fishing rights) on the Medway River. They had 3 children, one of whom was Eleanor Doran. Eleanor Doran married Samuel Davison from Horton, Nova Scotia (a descendant of New England planters) in 1818 and they had 3 children. Both Samuel and Eleanor Davison died within 7 years and of their 3 children, only one child lived past 1828... Edward Doran (E.D.) Davison. He was mostly raised by his Aunt Catherine Doran who managed the lumber business very effectively until Edward became old enough to take on the business, she apparently was a very capable business woman.

E.D. Davison came of age and inherited the lumbering operation and it became his focus for the most part of the next 50 years. Davison married Desiah Mack, great grand-daughter of Samuel Mack and his half-first-cousin, once removed. Edward and Desiah had several children, 3 sons were among those; Charles, Edward (jr.) and Francis. Davison ran the lumber business for several years as the Davison Lumber Co, then a few years after forest fires destroyed much of his timberland in 1849, he sold the business to Benjamin Johnson from Maine who ran the lumber mills throughout the 1850's. Davison was elected as a Liberal member for Queens Co. into the NS Provincial Legislature in 1854, having been politically motivated for some time. He possibly was influenced by the troubles experienced by his mother's half-brother (his half-uncle?) Samuel Mack Jr who in 1827 was unfairly fined for repairing a dam on the Medway. Sam Mack Jr was fined by Magistrates in Liverpool that Mack referred to as "partial, piratical beasts" and his fight lasted for over 8 years.
While in the Nova Scotia Legislature, Davison had been given the portfolio of "Penitentiaries", an incongruous position for a man with expertice in forestry and lumbering. It is also likely he felt a bit out of place in the legislature. Many members at that time were lawyers, doctors and accountants with high levels of education and an ability for debate. Davison had a rural education and regardless of whatever intelligence he possessed, he would not have had the experience to debate with his learned peers. Davison did not run for office again in 1859, and his interests returned to lumbering although he may have remained involved in mill operations during his time in the legislature. He remained a strong supporter of the Liberal party for the rest of his life.

Davison's sons were now old enough to be part of this and they moved to Bridgewater by about 1865 and started the enterprise, E.D Davison & Sons Lumber Company. They first bought the existing saw mill at the base of Silver's Hill called the Glenwood or Lower mill. In 1868, the Davisons built a new mill about 3/4 miles further up the LaHave , known as the Lahave or Upper mill. They also bought up mills made available when the owners went out of business but mostly this was to access the mill equipment for their own use. In the 1870's, they bought a sawmill in Alpena on the Nictaux River which had been operating for many years and know for a time as Patterson's Gang Mill and also owned by the Pope and Vose company. Davison bought property for it's gold deposits in Molega Lake area in the 1880's and in about 1889, purchased a pulp and paper mill in Charleston (on the Medway , north of Mill Village) and called it the Nova Scotia Wood Pulp and Paper Co. All of these holdings operated successfully for many years as the Davison empire slowly grew. The village of Bridgewater prospered as a result of the Davison family. They were involved in many aspects of daily life, Charles was a founding member of the Bridgewater Music Hall Co, Francis (Frank) was involved in real estate and started the Coastal Steam Packet Co which owned the steamer SS Bridgewater, a ferry to convey people along the South Shore before the railway was complete. Archibald (son of Charles) started the LaHave Steamship Company (1899) which operated the venerable passenger ferry/tugboats, the Trusty and the Tussel and a small freighter for local service, the Samson. Meanwhile, all the Davison men played an active role in the lumbering business, they were hands-on and engaged managers. Through it all, E.D.Davison Sr was a generous supporter of the area and his home village of Mill Village.

E.D. Davison Sr. died in 1894, eldest son Charles died 1896, yet the lumber and other businesses continued. A great fire in Bridgewater (January, 1899)that raged for 12 hours wiped out the business district on the west side of the LaHave. The prominent businessmen of Bridgewater immediately discussed the incorporation of Bridgewater as a town. The "town" status, with it's elected municipal council would allow the property taxes collected to be allocated to local affairs, opposed to the province taking the taxes which required a village to beg for every penny they needed. A mere 3 weeks later, Frank Davison (well recognized as one of the wealthiest and most influential men of Western Nova Scotia) became the first mayor of Bridgewater in it's new status as a town. E.D Davison Jr become the second mayor of Bridgewater but died in office in July of 1902 and with that, Frank Davison and nephew Archibald F. felt they could not maintain the lumber business along with the other operations they were involved in; shipping, real estate, gold mines and the pulp business. At that point, the Davison family influence had turned Bridgewater from a small village to a very busy commercial centre. Photos of the era show merchant sailing vessels lining wharves on both sides of the LaHave, mostly loading lumber. Bridgewater was at the centre of a complete railway system , a fine railway station, locomotive repair shop and roundhouse as well as modern, well-appointed hotels. The area had rightfully been named, "The Hub of the South Shore".

Part 2..... The American Touch

Following the deaths of Davison Sr and his 2 sons, Frank Davison and other family members decided to sell the firm of E.D. Davison & Sons lumbering operation along with the associated woodlands and mills in 1902. TheThe availability of this substantial operation came to the attention of John McMillan Hastings of Pittsburg, and other investors who were also affiliated with the United States Steel Corporation (which in 1901 was arguably the largest company in the world). John Hastings was a well-known and influential lumber merchant and had already been running the J.M. Hastings Lumber Co. for several years in West Virginia. He was shrewd and experienced and by no means a pushover. When Pittsburgh lumberman B. F. Rynds was found to have forged the name of a former business partner of Hastings on several bonds, Hastings marched into his office, barricaded the door and told the fellow to make good on the bonds immediately or he wouldn't leave the room alive.
After a careful review of the mills and property, Hastings and his associates paid about $1.25 million for the Davison firm, took possession in May 1903 and incorporated in July of that year with a capital of $3.5 million. Hastings had purchased a well-known, financially-stable and very successful lumbering business. It was a wise business move. The new company was named the Davison Lumber Company and later (January 1918), the Davison Lumber and Manufacturing Co.. The head office in Bridgewater was complimeted with a distribution office in New York , opened in 1906 to reach the world market. Its location at 1 Madison Ave was a strategic place to be for lumber and pulp dealers

The Davison Lumber Company continued to operate the existing water powered mill operations in Bridgewater as well as Mill Village, Alpena and Greenfield. Meanwhile a huge new mill was being built on the north-east shore of Springfield Lake (at the time also known as Mill Lake) at Springfield, Nova Scotia and within a short time it had become the largest lumber mill operation east of Montreal until recent times. To move the wood to feed the mill as well as take the dressed lumber to a hungry market, several miles of new track were laid from the mill in Hastings to Springfield, N.S. , then connected to Halifax and South Western Railway (H&SW bought the Nova Scotia Central Railway in 1902) which ran to Bridgewater and joined with the H&SW main line running from Halifax to Yarmouth. Eventually, the company obtained running rights on the entire Halifax and SouthWestern line.

The railway was run under the name Springfield Railway (briefly known as the Davison Tramway), owned and operated by the Davison Lumber Co. The initial track of 10 miles was towards the first lumber camp north-east of Springfield, Camp #1 which later was named Crossburn and became the location of the head office for the duration of the company's operation. Over the next 18 years, the company laid more than 65 miles of track which wormed it's way through 325,000 acres of company-owned woodland. Had all the temporary logging spurs been left in place, the total track in place would likley be closer to 100 miles.

The company owned 3 conventional rod-type steam locomotives but also had 2 Shay locomotives with their unique gear-driven side shaft and vertical mounted steam pistons. These were more capable at pulling heavy loads up steep grades. A 3rd Shay (#6) was purchased in December 1915, picked up by Wilbur Sherrard in Lima ,Ohio and driven back to Nova Scotia, a trip which took almost 2 weeks since the Shay could only go about 15 MPH.

The presence of this large company caused the small community of Springfield to grow and 2 new communities were created. Hastings was the location of the big mill and named after the company president , J.M . Hastings and Crossburn named after J.W. Cross who was logging superintendent at the time.

By 1913, there were 45 houses built in Hastings which then had a warehouse, store, doctor's office with 2 hospital rooms, a 2 room schoolhouse handling 72 students by 2 teachers, a large 3-story cookhouse and a large clubhouse. The clubhouse had a bowling alley, 2 pool tables and a large dance hall which hosted weekly dances. In the winter of 1909, it was estimated that the company cookhouse served over 18,500 meals to the almost 500 men working out of several camps. All families had been moved from Crossburn to Hastings by 1914 (likely as a cost-saving measure) yet Crossburn remained as head office and post office.

At certain times, there were over 1000 men (and a few women) working for the company. (So far, over 1,500 individuals have been identified.)
Maintaining an able workforce was difficult. Initially, the big mill in Hastings was built by local men, primarily farmers and fishers who were also hired as lumbermen. The wages were at or above industry standards and the food was plentiful and very good. Even the bunkhouses for lumbermen were well-built and warm. The company had adopted the 10-hour work day. However, when spring came and the log drive finished, the farmers went back to their fields. Fishers returned to their boats. This left the company with a lack of labourers. They were willing to take on anyone who could swing an axe which led to the immigration of many Italians, Swedes and later, Eastern Europeans who were escaping the horrors of the Great War. Many of those immigrants stayed in Nova Scotia, married into local families, bought land, gained respect and became productive members of the community. The Davison Lumber Co provided good pay and opportunities, in contrast with the attitudes towards immigrants that prevailed at the time.

The immigration of Swedish men by request of Davison Lumber, resulted in a political disaster for bureaucrats on both sides of the Atlantic. The laws of Sweden restricted the emigration of men, especially to North America. This was done to stem the flow of primarily young, able men which had begun in the 1890s and was leaving the country with a labour shortage.

A company large enough to spawn 2 new communities and cause an existing one to grow, understandably did things in a big way. The sawmill was designed to saw 250,000 board-feet of lumber in a 10-hour shift. During WW1, the mill produced tongue and groove lumber at 300 feet per minute and surface planed lumber at 15,000 board-feet an hour. The 2 machines used in this work averaged 170,000 board-feet per 10 hour shift. The lath mill produced 50,000 laths per day.

The machines needed to run this mill were huge and numerous. The main boiler room had six Jenckes 150 horsepower boilers . The 2 main saw engines were 600 and 300 horsepower, Filer & Stowell Corliss Valve. The largest of these had a flywheel 20 FEET in diameter with a 46 inch face running at 84 RPM. The largest engine ran the single and double band saws, the 300 HP engine ran the gang saws (a reciprocating vertical blade frame saw) and edgers.

Other steam engines used were 60HP (more likely 90HP to run a 65Kw DC generator), 45 HP (furnace blower), 84 HP(planer-matcher), 30 HP(filing room) and 30 HP (machine shop). A large pump engine (direct-action steam pump) could pump 1000 gallons per minute from a 12 inch intake pipe to the extensive sprinkler system.

The mill's smokestack was 140 feet tall and 8 feet in diameter. The water tank was 110 feet high and the waste wood burner was 120 feet high and 24 feet across with a water jacket around it to heat the water for the boilers and for the hot-pond in the winter. The hot pond was also heated by waste steam from engines and steam cylinders.

One of the largest non-rail machines at the company was a Jenckes Steam Log Hauler which was used briefly to take lumber to a water-powered mill at Alpena. This machine was identical to a Lombard Log Hauler built under license by Jenckes Machine Co of Sherbrook, Quebec. It had a locomotive style engine with caterpillar treads under the cab. In the winter of 1916-17, this single engine pulled more than 4 million board-feet of lumber on six sleds coupled in tandem 4 miles through the woods. Other logging machines in use were 3 Clyde-McGiffert and 1 Barnhart log loaders.

The company hit many financial peaks and troughs in it's 18 year run. In the early years, prosperity reigned while the mills ran at full production. The company sponsored several elaborate company picnics and used the company railway to transport thousands of employees and local people from surrounding counties to remote places in the woods to enjoy food, music, sporting events and even a merry-go-round. These picnics alone became the stuff of legends.
However, the Bank Panic of 1907 halted operations for almost a year, the loss of Reciprocity in the 1911 Canadian election slowed production considerably for months and the first world war had a mixed effect. While there was demand for lumber for the war effort, many men followed the call to arms and the workforce was considerably diminished. In addition, a $200,000 cost overrun for an 11 mile spur in 1914 was a difficult blow to recover from. In general, the Financial Times of Canada reported that it didn't seem like this behemoth of a lumber company ever turned a profit, citing that the American owners did not fully understand how to best log this area and they never came close to matching the entrepreneurial spirit and resulting prosperity that the Davison Family had enjoyed. By August 1917, the company was at the point of foreclosure when a restructuring and change of management briefly gave new life to the troubled organization. The company was renamed the Davison Lumber and Manufacturing Company having been purchased by George Brinton Motheral of Pittsburgh in January 1918. John Hastings was no longer part of it yet his American Company, JM Hastings Lumber Co was still in operation into the 1920's. The new president in 1918 was Robert James Dodds, a rising star as a corporate lawyer at the Reed, Smith, Shaw and Beal law firm of Pittsburgh and an associate of Motheral's.

The company tried several things to revitalize the business, by maintaining the rossing plant and chipping mill (creating pulp chips for pulp mills), a kiln to dry the wood to reduce cost in shipping, a pulp mill creating sulphite chips, a box shook factory, a hardwood mill producing tongue-and-groove hardwood flooring, as well as producing planed lumber from the Bridgewater and Hastings mills instead of just rough stock. Frank K Brown was local vice-president at the time and although he made claims that the lumber business was his focus, he had his hands in other places with a White Truck dealership as well as running the Nova Scotia Wood Pulp and Paper company independently of Davison Lumber interests.

Beyond the control of management, the end of WW1 brought a depression and wood sales slowed down. Steel hulled vessels were reducing the demand for ship lumber. Yet, sixteen lumber camps were still harvesting logs for the mills at Hastings and Bridgewater.

The mill had reduced production or was shut down at times over the next 3 years. Towards the end of 1920, paychecks were late coming and local managers were summoned to Pittsburgh for urgent meetings. Voluntary liquidation was reported in January of 1921 and shortly after announced to the public in Bridgewater. It was a devastaing blow to a town whose growth and prosperity was largely due to the influence of this lumbering empire. The mills were mostly shut down but were run occasionally to cut the timber still left in the hot pond. Finally, on July 12, 1921, and with 34 million feet of wood still stacked in 24 foot by 20 foot rows, Master Mechanic Wilbur Sherrard blew the last whistle, ending the operation of Nova Scotia's largest wood mill.

The Royal Trust held the loans and sent trustee Charles McClay to monitor the liquidation.
Upon reviewing the operation he was heard to say, ..."It's no damn wonder this place couldn't keep it's head above water. Look at that big mill down there, the fancy recreation centre with a bowling alley and pool hall. And with the wages they were payin'. .... the place was looking to fail"

Wilbur Sherrard was kept on by the liquidators to oversee the dismantling of the mills and railway and when no longer needed, easily found work in October 1921 with the DAR in Kentville..

The engines were sold or scrapped, the tracks torn up and the usable mill machinery shipped away. Even several of the Hastings homes were taken away and set up elsewhere. Crossburn office remained open until the last scrap was shipped away. The office and post office closed in May 1922.
Almost exactly 7 years after the last whistle was heard, on a very hot and dry July day in 1928, the mill buildings and any remaining Hastings homes caught fire and burned to ash.
The fire was thought suspicious because 3 men had been by earlier asking where the old mill was. They were thinking of restarting it. A few hours later it was ablaze. There would not have any insurance on it, and it is more likely the strangers carelessly dropped a match from lighting a cigar or perhaps poked at a sawdust pile in the area and the sawdust burst into flame from the residual heat deep within. Whatever the cause, the local fire department could not contain it, and locals ran to their homes to save them from catching fire from all the flying ash and hot debris coming from the mill.

Much of the timber land was purchased by Hollingsworth and Whitney as a source for pulp wood and that company continued to run under the name of Davison Lumber Co until at least 1925. They had little luck replanting the lands harvested by the Americans, since it had been largely stripped bare leaving little to stop erosion from washing away the topsoil. The local population were hopeful that Hollingsworth would reopen a mill that would provide employment again but the lands were purchased for the pulpwood, much of which was shipped to the US for processing. In 1924, Hollingsworth claimed that there was insufficent electric power supply available to build a suitable pulp mill.

One of the Bridgewater mills may have been purchased and run throughout the 1920's/early 1930's by Robert M McDormand until the Great Depression wiped him out. McDormand had been a Davison Lumber bookkeeper and mayor of Bridgewater 1921-1923. After that, both mills likely collapsed and washed away by a freshet that had caused damage to the mills many times over the years. The Alpena mill, quite vintage by 1921, may have been abandoned. Less is known of the mills at Greenfield, Cooks Mill, and Mill Village and it was never clear if a mill of any kind was run by Davison in the Municipality of Chester.

Having started out as brave initiative by early pioneers, the Davison Lumber Company grew to become an enterprise of legendary proportions which finally collapsed under it's own immense weight, bankrupt and forgotten. The Davison name in lumbering fell into near obscurity.

Now , many years later, only a careful inspection will find any trace of what was once a spectacular sight. Hiking through the dense growth in the area of Hastings and Crossburn will reveal concrete footings, rail spikes, barrel hoops, buckets, stoves, coal and countless pieces of unidentifiable steel and glass. All of this is found in and around dense woods, pits, hollows, earthen mounds and wells. Even the most substantial remnant of all, the concrete base for the largest steam engine, a full 12 feet square and 12 feet off the ground, is well hidden from view even from 10 feet away. Still obvious in places is the path once used by the Springfield Railway.

With no previous knowledge of the history of this area, anyone wandering these woods could easily be excused for asking, "What on earth went on here?" It is my hope and intention to thoroughly answer that question.

(* Wilbur Burton Sherrard (Aug 1879 - Nov 1970) age 91. Read more about him and how he came to work for the Davison Lumber Co.
Also a few lines about why I'm doing this.

Web Log - What I've been up to...... some highlights

February, 2022 - COVID halted most travel and in-person research. The plan to drop COVID restrictions in March 2022 opens up the possibility of presentations again. Staff list now at 1,771

January, 2021 - All plans for presentations and research trips were halted due to COVID. Internet research continues and the book is being written.
A review of the Middleton Outlook has revealed more than 100 more Davison workers. List now at 1,736

May, 2019 - A presentation was given at the Rod & Gun Club in New Germany on March 26. As there was only room for 50, I could not advertize this. It was a full house.

November, 2018 - By request, the Davison story, in 2 parts, has been published in the Atlantic Forestry Review. Part 1 is in the September 2018 issue, and part 2 has just been released for December.

April, 2018 - A small but enthusiastic group attended the Acadia lecture series. Just prior to that, I gave a science lecture at BIO which highlighted the seismic and sidescan survey conducted in 2015.
Just met a descendant of a Polish immigrant who had worked for Davison Lumber. This gives me 3 distinctly different immigrants to highlight, all had opportunities with Davison Lumber they may not have seen elsewhere in North America at that time.
Staff list now at 1,551

February, 2018 - Actively preparing for my 3 session lecture series at Acadia University, March 14, 21, 28. Acadia sets a fee (not my idea!) of $65, or $45 for ALL members. I have yet to be informed if there are enough attendees signed up for the course to go through.
- Staff list has reached
1,513, surpassing the arbitrary goal I set for myself. Many thanks to Rosemary Rafuse for her active support in finding many of these names.

November, 2017 - The September presentation at East Dalhousie was attended by about 110. The room could not accomodate more. While there, I discovered 23 vintage Davison photos I had never seen before.
- On October 12, I presented at Acadia University, a 1 hour "lunch and learn" event given on behalf of Acadia Lifelong Learning (ALL). This event proved beyond doubt that I can't tell this story in less than one hour without greatly diminishing the effective transfer of information.
- November 17 presentation in Kentville was attended by about 100, a minimum attendance these days. My brother and cousin came, both surprised at the amount of information I have collected so far.

May, 2017 - The Forties presentation was very well attended, about 170 people came. One attendee, as a repreentative of Acadia U. , asked me to consider a one hour lunch time talk there which could be turned into a 4 week seminar series (1.5 hours per week). We are working out the details.
- Tentative talk planned for Sunday, Sept
ember 17, 2017 at the East Dalhousie community hall in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the areas founding.

February, 2017 - See flyer above. By request, another presentation to be held this time in The Forties. In addition, a talk in Kentville is planned

November, 2016- Made contact with a person who had numerous photos of Davison Lumber I had never seen, which she gave to me. It leads me to believe there must have been thousands of photos taken.

October 1 , 2016 -piers that supported the Historically low water levels have now made visible, some anthropogenic artifacts of the Hastings mill. The crib work railway and made up the wall of the hot pond are clear above water and other footings have been seen in the water.
Also the LaHave river at Bridgewater was so dry you could walk across it. I found evidence of the location of the upper dam because of this.

April 19 , 2016 - Davison Lumber lecture in April attracted 65. Would have been more except for a sudden wet snow storm.

March 9, 2016 - Davison Lumber lecture to be given on April 4 2016, 7:30. Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax.Staff list, now 1,475.

June 15, 2015 - Added more people to the staff list, now at 1,462.

May 28, 2015 - Gave my Davison Lumber presentation at the Desbrisay Museum in Bridgewater. It was very well attended. Exact count isn't know but the estimate is over 70 people. The room was full. Program coordinator, Kendra Power, said it was the largest attendance they ever had for a presentation at the museum. I was given a gift of the book by Catharine Pross who wrote a history on E. D. Davison based on his diaries.

May 23 & 24, 2015 - Went to Springfield Lake and conducted a sidescan sonar and a sub-bottom profile (low-intensity seismic) surveys. The results have both scientific and historic significance. The seismic profile of the lake shows the bottom is deeply scoured (grooves up to 5 metres deep below lake bed) and these grooves contain mostly mud but the deepest spots long-ago filled with organic material mixed in mud which today is releasing methane gas. The sidescan survey shows the rocky piers that were once the wall of the "Hot Pond". Also the sidescan revealed additional rocky piers just south of the mill location that were part of the railway which ran past the front of the mill and at the edge of the lake where the logs were dumped from the railcars. The lake bed is strewn with sunken logs and numerous man-made artefacts which wil require further investigation. But in general, the Davison Mill of Hastings had little effect on Springfield Lake. The muds and organic material are naturally occuring and rock piles found all over the lake are glacial till leftover from glaciation. All of this predates Davison Lumber by several thousand years. The fabled "locomotive in the lake" story seems to have been disproved since we did not find anything like that. However there is an indication of a water craft which sunk south of the mill. It appears to be about 10 metres long.

February, 2015 - An eBay win provided yet another photo I had never seen. I have shared this one on the Petite Riviere Facebook site along with a history.

January, 2015 - Making plans to more closely examine Springfield Lake to try to prove/disprove some of the fokelore that surrounds the place.

December, 2014 - Made another trip through Springfield and East Dalhousie. Came home with a few new stories and saw blades from the Hastings gang mill.

September, 2014 - I try to stay in touch with the many people I have contacted (or vice-versa) over the past 10 years. We visited one of my elderly contacts, not because she had new information but she enjoys a visit and likes to hear about what I have discovered. Many have passed away since I started this.

August, 2014 - Have been contacted by descendants of Davison workers to confirm details, or add people to the staff list, now at 1,438. One person was in the USA and previously had no idea their ancestor worked at Davison Lumber.

July, 2014 - I continue to find or be sent news clips and entries in journals and old books. Sadly the Google News archive search mecahnism no longer works and Google is not scanning any more papers. It was very useful and I am now glad that I copied the material and links when I had the chance. The Google scanned paapers still exost but to find info, you must read each paper page by page. A most tedious task compared to what they once had.

July 22, 2013 - In late June I found a reference to Davison Lumber in a Swedish newspaper of 1906 regarding the hiring of Swedish men for lumber work in Nova Scotia.. Quite a scandal ensued over what the Swedish goverment considered an illegal hiring. The issue also made it to the Canadian goverment privy council and involved the Agent General of Nova Scotia who was actively soliciting immigration to Nova Scotia. I contacted a fellow in Norway to translate the Swedish news clip and he has very kindly done so.
Found some material of Hugh Fisher re: Davison Lumber at Yale U that otherwise is only available at Cambridge U in England. Hope to get there to review the note books and photos. Staff list at 1,357.

June 3, 2013 - I was contacted by the grandson of a Davison worker who left Crossburn in about 1916 for work at lumber companies in Oregon. Some new info and photos came out of this. Staff list at 1,353.

April 20, 2013 - I was contacted by a local antique bookseller who has often found vintage photos of the Davison Lumber Co. He calls me first and I obtained several, very nice original prints. At least 3 of them were images I had never seen before.

January 15, 2013- Sadly I hear of the passing of Nola Mailman, Lake Pleasant, whose painting of the Davison mill appears at the top of this page. She was very pleasant and we visted her and had lunch at times. She was happy to share the Davison material she had and was always keen to hear of my research discoveries.

November 7, 2012- Re-visited an elderly contact who's grandfather was once a woods boss at Davison Lumber. She had many original company documents and some photographs, all of which I digitized over 2 years ago. She decided to give me all the documents to keep which included a large 1911 map of the properties owned by Davison Lumber at that time. It is waxed silk, roughly 1 m by 1.3 m. I have now about 300 original company docs. Staff list at 1,349.

October 3, 2012- My travels have not taken me to sources of Davison info, but I have located 4 more real photo postcards of Bridgewater that I had not seen before. I have spent considerable time reading vintage newspapers looking for anything related to Edward D Davison (mid-1800s) and that has been fruitful. That period in Davison's life is lighly documented. On a sad note, one of my elderly contacts is quite ill and I hope to see her one last time. Staff list now at 1,335.

Aug 13, 2012- Returned from a week in Ottawa. HOT, HOT, HOT. Got to view the photos at Archive Canada. The "Hastings" photos were of a steamship Hastings and of no interest. There were a few others though that were familiar and I made a copy of them. The results of using a 12 megapixel camera to photograph a negative on a lighted table were quite amazing. Suitable for publication. One in particular was a surpise. A photo of #2 Loco derailed at a switch which was different from one I have, only because there are different people standing around. Clearly, this derailed loco was an event that people wanted to be photographed beside. Staff list now at 1,320.
A surprise contact while in Ottawa is a descendant of Charles Henry Davison. We will stay in touch to share info.
I have spoken with a scientist at work to remind him of a discussion of 2 years ago when he showed an interest in surveying Springfield Lake where the mill was. His interest is in the glacial record, mine is the human record left behind on the lake bottom from the mill's activity. The technology may be backscatter although sidescan sonar and multibeam bathymetry would be superior for this purpose.

July 6, 2012- Have made arrangements to make copies of Davison-related photos at Archives Canada. I may have them but can't be sure since the on-line description only says "Hastings".
AND the staff list is now at 1,315.

July 4, 2012- A day trip with my wife had us pass through Bridgewater and I made the effort to go down the bank at the location of the Lahave (Upper) Mill to look for remains while the water was quite low. The concrete and rock base (likely for the water turbine mount) is still prominent but there is little else to indicate that a mill was there.

June 12, 2012- After a few failed attempts to get a New Brunswick university to scan a couple of pages for me (terrible quality, unusable for research or publication), I found 2 universities in the USA that scanned the same material at very high resolution, free. Many institutions want to charge huge fees to copy or publish 100 year old material and this includes the Nova Scotia Museum system and now even the Public Archives of NS, a practice I vehemently disagree with. This parallels with my annoyance with those who try to claim copyright on vintage photos, a claim that would interesting to challenge.

April 20, 2012- The Bent family contacted me again about a great vintage photo they found of the inside of the Crossburn office. I returned the items previously borrowed and now have the latest one. Very rare, never seen before.

Dec. 15, 2011- Winter is no time to travel but the research continues with regularity. Finding more books and info on GoogleBooks and the Hathi Trust Digital Library. To my utter amazement, many old books are not viewable in Canada, even Canadian publications over 100 years old! For example, the 1891 Canadian Parliament Debates, always in the public domain, could not be seen in Canada yet Americans can view the entire text. I complained to Google and they released it. Just one of thousands that should be freely available. However, I now use Proxify, a site that allows me to spoof an American IP address. I can see a lot more books now than ever before, books that I thought I would have to borrow somehow from a distant library just to read a mere sentence or paragraph.

Oct. 19, 2011- I have been contacted by a fellow who has been following the old Springfield Railway as best as he can on an ATV. Along the way he has captured the coordinates with a GPS and is compiling it into a Google Earth project.

Oct. 11, 2011-Spent the day travelling though Springfield and East Dalhousie to return photos and re-visit the people I have met in my travels. While at Nola's (painter of the mill image above) , I was shown a 30 foot section of rail used by the Davison Lumber Co in it's Lake Pleasant spur which is now a clothesline pole. Had our picnic lunch with Nola then off to show my wife the remnants of the Hastings mill. Travelled to East Dalhousie to meet someone new, a 93 year old man and his wife, both life residents of the area. They had no new info but we were treated to a warm reception (and even warmer wood-fired kitched stove) and stories of days gone by.

Sept 22, 2011-Have been contacted by descendants of Lillie and Sadie Bent, who worked as teacher and office worker at DLC. I was given a photo of Lille and Sadie in around 1910 and mostly a photo of JW Cross (rare) and his wife Amanda (never seen before).

An individual from East Dalhousie is compiling a list of people who lived there and she found many worked at DLC. Her work has provided several more names for the staff list, now at 1252.

Aug , 2011-Travelled to Mill Village and Port Medway. Met a few new people and took a long walk through the property which was once the Nova Scotia Wood Pulp and Paper Co owned by the Davison's. Considerable ruins to look through

July 28, 2011-Even though I am on vacation and travelling, the Davison story is close on my mind. I seem to find info anywhere I go. A Mormon publication of years ago "The Improvement Era", has stories of Solomon Mack (brother of Samuel) and I found the issues in a Utah bookstore. Regular contact from relatives of Davison workers helps to fill in some gaps in the story. I take my Google Earth presentation on the Davison Lumber Co when I travel and everyone enjoys the story.

June 22, 2011-Finally I have the opportunity to see a retired history professor who has photos/post cards of Davison Lumber operations and Port Medway. His grandfather was once a manager at the saw and pulp mills.

June 6, 2011- Warmer weather inspires travel. Staff list, gleaned from newspapers, books and interviews is now at 1236 individuals who worked for DLC. In most cases I know what they did and in what year.
Some interesting detail showed up over the winter, now reflected in the story above.

February/March 2011.- The horrid cold weather and rain prevents any travel. Research continues in home. Staff list has hit 1200!!

January 9, 2011- A co-worker who does research of waterways and lakes using sidescan sonar and multibeam bathymetry is interested in surveying Springfield Lake, at least the area closest to the Hastings Mill, where we might see the remains of railway piers, the hotpond radiators and probably lots of sunken timber. Some time in the next year.

January 5, 2011 - Sadly, I hear of the passing of Carrol Gaul in Bridgewater at age 100. He was the son of Thadius Gaul, a Springfield Railroad fireman and the family lived in Crossburn for several years after most had moved to Hastings. I had the opportunity to interview (and record) him several times. He was blind by the time I met him but he had good memories and enjoyed talking to me about his life in Crossburn. He seemed pleased that someone was trying to continue this story.

December 2010 - Found an 1884 Report on the Fisheries of Nova Scotia that mentions Davison dams in Bridgewater. Also mentions the gang mill on the Nictaux River which I believe to be at Alpena.

November 2010 - Contacted by an antique dealer in Virginia who had vintage photos of the Davison mills and ships on the LaHave at Bridgewater. These were original 1880's prints by Wellington A Chase of Halifax. I had to have them.

October 2010 - Now in regular contact with descendants of the Mack family. This may help sort out the early years of Samuel Mack about whom little is written.
Discovered that the Davison Lumber Co had been in foreclosure in 1917. This was never reported before and clearly dates when the company was renamed the Davison Lumber and Manufacturing Co Ltd.
Went with a fellow from Albany down a long rough dirt road to the site of the Alpena Mill. Found numerous remnants of the mill and a gang saw blade.

September 2010 - A regular associate has provided countless newspaper clips from across Nova Scotia that mention Davison Lumber. The transcribed ones so far span 40 pages.
The Staff List has been expanded to include 1190 names. I have many pictures of these people and some complete biographies.

August 2010 - Have made several visits to New Germany, Springfield, East Dalhousie and area visiting old friends, making new ones. Several new contacts. Have a good background on the Yankee Farm(Davison Farm) now.
Mike Parker's book, Lost in the Woods was released and has a section on Hastings/Crossburn . He delivered one to me (I have known of Mikes' work on this for 5 years).

July 2010 - Actively scanning books and news clips using books.google.com and news.google.com. It has been a great resource to find original source material.

June 2010 - Finally took my mother to visit my aunt (and returned family photos I've had for years). She knew of a relative of Louis Lanigan, last manager of Davison Lumber. I have made contact and we will meet soon.




Last modified February, 2021