The Camps : THE SMITHY
Ox being shoed
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The smithy played an important role in the early years of the logging camps. In the late 1800s, the blacksmith's job would be to shod the oxen or horses used in camp, the only means of transportation then. The blacksmith would also make and repair machinery including the harnesses for the animals and the axes used by the loggers. As communities grew in the Cowichan and rail replaced animals, the village blacksmith replaced the camp smithy and the camp filing shop took over maintenance of logging tools.
For the first quarter century of logging in BC, an oxen or horse team, sometimes up to 16 powerful beasts harnessed together would drag the cut timber out from the forest along wood skidroads. The animals needed iron shoes to protect against wear on the wood planks, and the smithy had a full time job keeping the animals shod and the harnesses and tools maintained.
The oxen were strong, but were apt to plod along at their own pace, ignoring the excited bullpuncher trying to prod them on. The oxen would stop and eat berries along the way and all the cursing and hollering wouldn't get them going until they were ready. Horses were more reliable and quicker doing two days work for every day the oxen did. The horses used in camp were often large workhorses like the Clydesdales that could weigh up to 1800 pounds, or nearly a ton!