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July 20, 2001

Story of J.R. Booth's Kiosk logging operation

J.R. Booth’s Camp Two in Boulter Township in the 1921-22 logging season.

When Canada’s greatest lumberman J.R. Booth bought William Mackey’s properties and limits at auction in 1902, he closed the Mackey Mill at Eau Claire and took his logs directly to is huge mills in Hull, Quebec for sawing.  I have not been able to establish a date Booth left the area, but much of his business tapered off after his death in 1925 in his 99th year, when his children took over.

At first, Booth worked the north end of the Amable du Fond out of Eau Claire, where he had a boarding house, office, post office, store and other buildings carried over from the Mackey era.  By the early 1920s he was firmly established in Algonquin Park at Kiosk on Lake Kioshkoqui and had a major rail siding at Fossmill in Chisholm Township.  Kiosk had an office, cookhouse, bunkhouse and warehouses.

As noted previously, Booth ran his own business and left few company archives.  Very little is known of his activity locally, even though he ran logging operations for at least two decades in the area, out of Eau Claire and Kiosk.  Fortunately the University of Toronto Forestry Department had their students visit various logging operations and had them complete extensive reports on their visits.

Two of these students, F.T. Jenkins and J.A Brodie, went to Kiosk for ten intensive days prior to Christmas in 1921 and produced a remarkably detailed 100 page report with photos on Booth’s two camps there in the 1921-22 season.  They reported that Booth had his provincial operation divided into districts.  The district they reported on "was controlled by the Kiosk Depot and was bounded by an irregular line passing through Lauder, Boulter, Wilkes and Pentland townships."  Camp One was established south of Kiosk, 1.5 km south of Lake Kioshkoqui on Maple Creek.  A Camp One satellite, Improvement Camp, was established on the creek where men prepared the creek for the spring river run from the camp further south.

Camp Two was located in the southwest corner of Boulter Township, about 1.5 km from Chisholm Township, .5 km from Wilkes Township and 4.5 km from Fossmill.  The two camps were similar in their cutting operations, and since they were only 24 km apart, the students spent time at both. They reported that the forest had never been logged, except for squared timber by William Mackey years before.  Booth was primarily interested in the remaining pine.

The students reported that Booth made a deal when he sold his railway through the south side of the park, that he could ship his logs on the CNR at a special rate when the CNR went through the north side of the park in 1915.  He apparently did not use the CPR but ran his Maple Creek logs on the Amable du Fond to the Mattawa-Ottawa River route to Hull. There is no explanation as to why he did not take the logs out at Kiosk and put them on the CNR.  Perhaps he just continued to use the river because all of the dams and slides were in place and he had men trained to do the work.

The workers were primarily Polish and French, with the French used almost exclusively on the river drives.  The bush wage for 1921-22 was $22 to $30 per month for six-day a week work.  The camps were apparently much improved relative to past eras because the Ontario Board of Health maintained "rigid supervision" of sanitation and conditions.  There were about 100 men at each camp.

Fire continued to be a threat to the forest.  A fire attributed to a CNR engine started in the summer of 1921 east of Kiosk, and burned 30 square miles of Booth’s limit.  The pine had been cut from half the land, but Booth sued the CNR for his loss.  The students reported that Booth’s superintendent at Kiosk "referred to the engine in anything but complimentary language, and when warmed to the subject displayed a wealth of epithets, most amazing and colourful."

The logging operations involved full logging camps with tote roads and later logging roads to haul the logs to the railway or Maple Creek.  The Fossmill siding held as many as 100 logging cars.  The logs were loaded with a steam jammer.  An Alligator hauled the logs from Camp One across Kioshkoqui to the Amable du Fond route.
J.R. Booth Depot buildings at kiosk in 1921.

When Booth left, the Kiosk Depot was left under a caretaker until 1936 when Sydney Staniforth made a deal with the Booth family to set up a sawmill and cut hardwood.  Staniforth was the managing director of the Fassett Lumber Corporation at Fossmill until it burned in 1934.  He brought many Fossmill men, most of whom had been on relief, to Kiosk to help him start a remarkable 37 year stay that made Kiosk the largest community in Algonquin Park history, until it burned in 1973.  More about Kiosk in future articles.

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