||August 3, 2001
Fire causes chaos at
Kiosk in 1973
|The Staniforth Lumber Company mill at Kiosk, from across Lake Kioshkoqui.
At Kiosk in Algonquin Park on Friday the 13th, in July 1973, Amedee
Laferriere, the Staniforth Lumber and Veneer Company saw filer and town
barber, retired after 47 years at Fossmill and Kiosk. While celebrating
with friends and neighbours, the fire whistle at the mill began to blast,
and everyone ran to see what was happening. Ninety minutes later, the ten-acre
Staniforth complex had burned to the ground. A row of metal boxcars that
happened to be between the mill and the town, glowed red hot and saved
some homes. It took a few months to sink in, but the fire was the beginning
of the end for the 600 residents of the largest community and industrial
complex in Algonquin Park history.
There was the usual shock, disbelief, anger, and finally-in most cases-acceptance
of the circumstances. Most loved their community and wanted to retire and
spend the rest of their lives there. The dozens of men and women from Kiosk
and the surrounding area, who worked in the mill and bush, were the main
economic base for a huge area.
The fire at Kiosk on Friday the 13th, July 1973.
There was considerable anxiety in Kiosk in the years before the fire.
The Master Plan for Algonquin Park (1974) was in its final stages of development,
and there were indications that logging would continue in the park, but
that mills would not be allowed. The Kiosk Union put up a good fight to
be heard and tried to save the community. There were suggestions that Kiosk,
just 3 km inside the park, might be exchanged for other land for the park,
so the community could continue. At one point there was talk of a survey
of the town site so the leased land could be purchased by the homeowners:
but this did not materialize. The biggest thing in the town's favour was
the size of the town. About the only thing that could move it was a fire,
and it happened. Some people still believe that there was a conspiracy
to burn the mill.
There were other changes at Kiosk prior to the fire. The three Staniforth
brothers sold the mill to Universal Oil Products, and the mill became the
Goodman-Staniforth Company. The Staniforths had taken over the management
of the J.R. Booth operation in Tee Lake, Quebec in 1963 and later the Booth
operation at Lachute, Quebec. They remained as advisors at Kiosk. There
were also rumours that, in spite of a conscientious program of "sustainable
cutting," the lease on the Staniforth limits might not be renewed by the
government; financial viability became a question for the Staniforths.
After the fire there was a brief hope that the mill would be rebuilt,
but this soon faded. The union fought for severance and retraining. Some
work was found cleaning up the site and removing the remaining logs and
lumber. Trees levelled in a tornado near Lake Manitou provided some work.
Like Fossmill, some families left right away and others hung in, trying
to get some compensation for their homes. The government finally came through
with a reasonable offer, and gave a 1996 deadline for all to leave. There
was nothing left at Kiosk well before that date.
The town of Kiosk from the air, showing the mill and town
site on both sides of the Amable du Fond River.
Kiosk was unincorporated but had a municipal association that played
a significant role in acquiring the compensation for the homes that the
workers had built or purchased. The school soon did not have enough students
to maintain itself, and the children began to be bussed to Mattawa, adding
to the frustration of the parents.
Universal Oil Products built a veneer mill at Rutherglen after the fire,
and some Kiosk workers got work there. It was sold to G.W. Marten, and
after his death in a plane crash in 1984, it was bought by Columbia Forest
Products. Some Kiosk men went with the Staniforths to Tee Lake, where some
It is interesting to note that Amedee Laferriere, mentioned above, married
Rachel Denis, whose father came from Fassett Quebec to Fossmill and later
to Kiosk. Amedee and Rachel's son Gilles and his son Guy, continue to work
at Columbia Forest Products today, providing almost 100 years of continuous
service in the lumber industry.
At the management level, Sydney Staniforth's father was a lumberman
in Quebec before the turn of the century, where a lake is named after him.
Sydney's son Donald has a son Robert, who works out of Vermont for Columbia
Forest Products, and like the Laferrrieres, continues four generations
of the family in the business.
The Kiosk story would not be complete without mentioning that many former
residents still remain good friends and meet annually for a Kiosk reunion,
where they play golf, enjoy a good meal and a dance, and reminisce. I have
attended several of these events and will again on August 18th in Mattawa,
where I will be showing slides and talking about an upcoming book my son
and I are preparing on Kiosk.
The recent revision of the Algonquin Park Master Plan (1998) proposes
improved and expanded camping sites and some educational programming at
Kiosk. A 43-hectare developmental zone has been established for future
use. There have been rumours about the development of a small interpretation
centre there to preserve some of the long history of Kiosk. The old CNR
rail bed has potential as a walking trail for future visitors to the park.
It will be interesting to see what happens.
Next week I will proceed further down the old CNR line to Brent, and
will provide details on Heritage Days there, August 15th and 16th at the
old ranger's cabin.
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