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December 10, 2010

Old Growth Trees in Perspective

Huge long standing trees were a big draw to lumbermen in Ontario’s early days. Square timber for Britain started the lucrative trade. I have a 30” stump on my property that goes back to those early days and  has a touch of nostalgia about it. Lumbering has been a big component in the Ontario economy & many battles have been fought over old growth forests most of which are now gone. A new book Ontario’s Old Growth Forests tells about those struggles and profiles where enclaves still exist for visitation and appreciation. It is a “Guide Complete with History, Ecology & Maps.”

Cover of new Old Growth Forests Book

The book is by Michael Henry and Dr. Peter Quinby. Quinby has a  property in Chisholm Township and I visited him as a part of a project to develop a piece of donated property in the Township years ago. He used his property as a base for his old growth research with students in Temagami. He continues to do research and environmental assessments full time with a North Bay Company and now makes Chisholm his home . The Temagami section of the book is worth the price.

The chapter on White and Red Pine also looks at Algonquin Park. The Temagami section provides maps and details on 10 old growth forests  there. The photographs are remarkable. There is a section  on conserving old growth and Temagami’s Brian Back has a profile of the Red Squirrel Road Blockades in 1989 when 344 people including Bob Rae were arrested in an 84 day blockade to prevent cutting of old growth trees. The book is available at bookstores. I wanted a copy quickly and got one in 48 hours online from Chapters Indigo.

The J.R. Booth – John Leach Tree

I mentioned J. R. Booth’s arrival in Chisholm Township and later on Lake Nipissing last week and my visit to Booth’s Chisholm site with landowner John Leach. When I saw the Old Growth book I dug into my files for a photo of John & I hugging a tree on the Booth site in 2002. The site and the tree was visited at his recent Memorial. I have included the photo in Memory of John & J.R. Booth. The tree belongs in the book mentioned above but is the only one left on the site. The site by the way is coincidentally within walking distance of Dr. Quinby’s home.

Doug Mackey and John Leach hugging an old growth tree on John’s property D Mackey photo

The Age of Trees

Much has written about the age of these old growth trees. The age count is based on the fact that every year of growth is shown in a cross section of the tree.  An outstanding example of this is available just inside the back entrance to the North Bay public library by the children's section A beautifully preserved cross-section over 4 feet wide shows the annual rings and the age has been calculated at 345 years going back to 1619 when first contact was made with non natives. The tree was cut by the John B. Smith Lumber Company in 1964. There is a series of notes indicating key dates in Ontario History. The tree on the Leach property is bigger than the one in the library. Its survival depended on the fact that the tree was damaged further up and did not grow to the usual great height of the other pines and was ignored in the cut leaving a remarkable artefact.

Another Historical Chisholm Footnote

One of the progressive things Chisholm Township does is to provide a monthly Newsletter with all kinds of information to taxpayers. I was involved in its initiation while a Councillor in the mid 90s. It is about to celebrate its 200th edition. History was made recently when a  councillor suggested that the Township appoint a township Poet to write on occasion for the Newsletter. Peggy Smith was chosen and her remarkable poem with a distinctly historical focus appeared recently and I share it here. The beautifully structured poem provides a neat profile of Chisholm history in 10 stanzas. Note verse six where she mentions the arrival of J.R. Booth which was a key event. Peggy and husband Gilbert are well known Maple Syrup producers and I did a profile on them on April 19, 2002. Google Heritage Perspectives Maple Syrup and read the article and see Peggy, Gilbert, and their dog Duke and 2 of my grandchildren. I visited the grans in Uruguay for 6 weeks recently but more about that later.

Our Chisholm Story
Here I stand, upon this land
It’s sixteen-ten
What I see is forest and trees
But no white men

The Algonquin roam, they call this home
Abundance is all around
Then Champlain came and Jesuits the same
And France has claimed this ground 

Here I stand, upon this land
It’s seventeen-ten
What I see is forest and trees
And curious white men 

The fur trade is started, natives have departed
Living north at Nipissing
Now Englishmen roam and they call this their own
And paddle Wisitwasing 

Here I stand, upon this land
It’s eighteen-ten
What I see is forest and trees
And more white men 

Booth comes for lumber, cutting virgin timber
He’s a logger of great fame
Surveying is done, land free to anyone
And Chisholm gets a name 

Here I stand, upon this land
It’s nineteen-ten
What I see is less forest and trees
And pioneering men 

The rail line goes through, roads get built too
And Chisholm becomes organized
There are churches and stores, cottages on Wasi shores
As Chisholm becomes modernized 

Here I stand, upon this land
It’s twenty-ten
What I see is more fields than trees
And modern men 

The rail line is gone, farmers have moved on
It’s a world of computer and car
Everything has changed as life has rearranged
And Chisholm has come far 

By Poet Laureate Peggy Smith 


I wrote about the remarkable artist Doris McCarthy recently on her 100th birthday in July. She passed away on November 25 in her 101st year. Her art, her books, & her home provide a lasting memorial for her. 

Dr. James Angus who wrote one of my favourite books on lumbering – A Deo Victoria – the history of the Georgian Bay Lumber Company has died  His chapter on the struggle by lumbermen to get access to the Dokis reserve is a painful piece of history. The book should be available in libraries. 

Book Launch 

Murray Leatherdale’s reprint of his book Nipissing from Brule to Booth and my new book of 40 of my favourite Heritage Perspective columns will be launched at the North Bay Museum tonight at 7:30.Copies are available in bookstores and other locations. Call 7246882 for details. 

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