Memories of a Miramichi Lumberman
by Arnold J. Somers
was the day to head to the woods to start the winter lumbering.
Dad rummaged through the shelves in the back pantry for a large jam can
that could be used to boil water for the making of tea over an open
Mum cut thick slices of bread to make roast beef sandwiches, wrapped
them in wax paper and placed them in the metal lunch boxes. In the
morning they would be put in an orange crate that held hot bricks
covered with an old woolen blanket in the hopes of keeping the bread
from freezing before lunch time.
Heated bricks would also be used to put under the jute bags which had
been stuffed with hay to serve as a cushion on the seat of the bobsleds.
Gram had a big darn needle and was mending a hole in one of the horse
nose canvas feed bag that would be filled with oats and slipped over
the horse’s head so they too could have a noontime lunch.
As Gram worked, she started to talk of the days when Gramp had lumber
camps and she accompanied him to do the cooking for twenty or thirty
The 1994 publication, “Memories of a
Miramichi Lumberman” by the late Arnold J. Somers, one of the
last of the old time lumber contractors on the Miramichi River, shares
many stories, including the four cent winter when in 1919 men were paid
four cents for each railway tie or “sleeper” they made by hewing it
from a log eight feet long and at least nine inches in diameter to the
use of the portable sawmill that was able to cut huge numbers of
hemlock trees into railway ties.
Mr. Somers was born in 1916 at his grandfather’s Taylor’s home at
Halcomb, South Esk Parish in Northumberland County and spent his first
birthday in a camp near the mouth of Parks Brook on the north side of
the Little South West Miramichi, where his mother had moved to be with
his father, who was working in the woods there.
It is of interest to note the important role played by the cook in the
life of the lumber camp not only in preparing food for the stomach but
in controlling the behaviour and manners of the men at the table.
The personal chronology of Mr. Somers gives one a look at not only the
yearly events in his life, but of his relatives and his business
The Short and Tall Tales chapter is a small collection of
quintessential New Brunswick anecdotes such as are found in every rural
community in the province. Here mention is made of Ed Tozer hauling the
mail by horse to and from the Little South West and the involvement
with the post offices at Halcomb, Lyttleton, Sillikers and Sullivan’s
at Red Bank. He was paid $24.00 a month.
Jim Hamilton owned and operated a woodcutter and a threshing machine
powered by a huge gasoline engine that had two monstrous fly wheels on
Lumberman Jack Hamilton often made wise decisions. Fellow contractor
Wilbur Somers said: "Jack, how do you keep your men from cutting logs
under 5"? I can't seem to keep my men above the limit."
"Well," says Jack, "I tell my men to cut the logs to 6" but not to
throw a 5" away."
One of my favourites concerned Willie Payne, who according to the
author, had the quickest wit of anyone ever to live in Sillikers. He
was asked one day if he had ever been caught in a lie. “No”, said
Willie, “but I was often chased out of one lie into another.”
“Memories of a Miramichi Lumberman”
by Arnold J. Somers is available at several research institutions.
- MacNaughton - Jack: I am continuously on the hunt for
the origins of John Edge, "farmer" born circa 1815 in England and
entered New Brunswick in September 1832 and settled in Upper Black
River, Glenelg Parish, Northumberland County, New Brunswick. About 1838
he married Catherine MacNaughton in St. Mary's Anglican Church in
Chatham. He died 21 May 1896 and is buried in Black River. A
possibly apocryphal family story says that four Edge brothers were
shipwrecked in the Bay of Fundy, and that three went west and John went
north to Black River. I also seek information on Janet Jack, born in
England circa1791, entered New Brunswick in 1817, and about 1819
married Alexander MacNaughton (1789 Scotland - 1849 NB). They too
lived in Upper Black River, Glenelg Parish, Northumberland
1110 Coopers Kill Road
Cherry Hill, NJ
I am seeking origins of William Burnett 1766-1850 who resided in
Norton, Kings County, New Brunswick and of his wife Mary Catherine
Rupert. He was believed to be Loyalist.
2229 Emerald Circle, Morro Bay
CA, 93442, USA
- Matthews: I am a descendant of Samuel Dugan, who died
circa 1856 in County Down, Ireland. He married Mary Matthews 29 Mar
1835 in Ballyroney, County Down, Ireland. Several of their
children died in Davenport and Kortright, New York, USA. Is there a New
Brunswick connection to this family?
LINDA M. PICKERING
- ElSlager: Joseph Ireland and Virginia ElSlager were
married either in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. Their daughter Mary Ann
Ireland was born in 1842 in Nova Scotia. She married William W. Clark
in November of 1858.
118 Browns Pt. Rd.
- Bertrand - Lee - Brady - Hughes: Looking for the birth
of Ephraim Lezotte circa 8 Aug 1841, supposedly born in Saint John, New
Brunswick. Parents are Antoine and Angelique (Bertrand) Lezotte. He had
at least three wives, Nancy Lee, Bridget Brady and Ann Hughes.
LINDA LEZOTTE BERRES
513 N. Cherry Ave.