VMC LogoFrom Camp to Community: Cowichan Forest Life

Walk Through a Logging Camp!

There are five buildings for you to explore: the cookhouse, the mess, the post office, the filing shop and the bunkhouse. Imagine you are back in time 100 years and a newcomer to the camp. Look at the tools that the loggers used in the forests, where they ate hearty logger meals and where they relaxed after an exhausting day in the woods.

The Bunkhouse

The bunkhouse is where the loggers slept. After a hard day in the forest, the loggers would return here to relax and play cards, write letters home or wash their long wooly underwear and socks.

Caulk boots
The soles of these boots are tanned leather into which are set the caulks, short spikes of hard steel. These give the loggers a foothold when working on logs or other slippery surfaces. They were often made to order and hand crafted with soles made from specially selected oak or hemlock. The leather uppers would often be dressed with a brew of fat and pine resin to keep the water out.

Spurs were the tools of the high riggers, the men who climbed the giant trees. The spurs, specially made in the smithy, were strapped onto the high riggers legs. The large steel spike on the spurs allowed the loggers to gain traction while climbing the tree.

Long Wooly Underwear and Socks
The forests of the Cowichan were often wet and rainy. Loggers might do wash on Sunday, their one day off, but they often had to air out their underwear and socks daily. The better bunkhouses had a pot bellied stove to help dry the wet clothes. A bunkhouse could be a smelly place after a long days work.

The loggers were often away from family and friends for weeks, possibly months at a time. Pin-ups, photos and other mementos reminded the loggers of home and a world outside of the forest.

The Cookhouse

The busy cookhouse fed the loggers. Food preparation in the steamy, noisy building began at 3 in the morning and could continue until well into the evening.

Rolling Pin
Loggers ate a lot of food each week, about 9000 calories a day, and they loved pies and baked goods. The camp that served the best food often attracted the best workers.

Coffee Pot
Loggers drank gallons of strong black coffee, or mud, for breakfast to give them energy while working in the woods. An average man would drink 500 grams or a pound of coffee each week.

The camp cook, known as the Mulligan Mixer if they were good and the Can-Open Artist if they were bad, was one of the most important employees in the camp. Good food attracted the best workers and the camps were known by the quality of food they served.

The Post Office

The camp post office was the lifeline for many loggers. Letters to and from family and friends came through this building.

Combination Locks
Loggers could pick up their mail at the post office from the window or, if they paid a little extra, from combination lock boxes such as these. Mail would sometimes follow a logger for months as he moved from camp to camp.

Today's keyboards have five rows for keys, but older typewriters such as this one, have eight rows of keys. There are four sets for capital letters and four sets for lower case letters.

The chair used in the post office has shortened legs. This was so mail could be easily sorted on the ground. Initially, mail was sorted on the table but as the volume of mail grew it became too difficult. The chair was also a good place for the post office dog to sleep.

The Filing Shop

The filing shop was where the loggers would bring their saws, axes or chainsaws to have them sharpened. The shelves in the filing shop would be full of files and tools to keep the equipment razor-sharp.

Cross Cut Saw
The cross cut saw was one of the main tools of logging for many years. This saw is a two-man saw, used by fallers. In between the four cutting teeth in the saw is a raker tooth. This tooth would bring out the sawdust on each stroke so the saw doesnít get gummed up

Fallers used an oilcan or sometimes a whiskey bottle or sake bottle filled with kerosene when they were in the woods. They used the kerosene to lubricate the saw when falling fir or spruce because of the sticky pitch in these trees. They often had a hook attached to the bottle or can to hang it near the tree they were falling so it was within easy reach.

Stamp Hammer
After the logs were felled, the ends would be stamped with a mark that identified the company the logs belonged to. This was mainly so the government could collect stumpage fees and royalty, but sometimes, while in the water, the logs would escape and get mixed with other companiesí logs.

The chainsaw began to appear in the camps in the 1930ís, freeing fallers from the exhausting labour of the cross cut saw. The first chainsaws were heavy, noisy, smelly machines that required two men to use.

Double-bitted Axe
This two-sided axe was developed specifically for West Coast logging to cut down the very large Douglas fir and Cedar Trees. It replaced the single-bitten axe in the 1870ís, which had only one blade and was popular in the forests of Eastern Canada.

The Dining Hall

The hungry loggers would eat breakfast and dinner in the mess. A day in the woods could fuel a mighty appetite and loggers ate a lot of food!

Table Ware
This dining hall would serve twenty-four hungry men at a sitting and sometimes things got broken. To reduce this risk many of the containers in the mess were made of metal and in some of the camps, the mugs were handle-less.

Place Settings
Loggers had rules that they followed when eating: the mess was off limits until the gut hammer was rung, seating was assigned according to seniority and there was no talking at the tables.