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The 1861 Census and the Lutterworth Lumber Camps

July 18, 2023

Lutterworth Township Census and Assessment, 1861

By Guy Scott

In Canada, a nation wide census is held every five years—in years ending in 6 and 1. Historically, the Canadian census was held every 10 years beginning in 1861, but in the 1990s, the thirst for information led to the 5-year cycle being adopted.

The idea of a census or counting of people is an ancient concept. The bible records many examples of censuses. The Roman Empire conducted periodic censuses. The most famous ancient census was the Doomsday Book commissioned by William the Conqueror to record the state of his recently-conquered Kingdom of England. The Doomsday Book is a historian’s dream and contains hugely valuable information: literally a snapshot of time. The point of this census was the help the tax-collectors with their jobs. The Doomsday Book inspired the English to use a periodic census as an instrument of government.

This concept was passed on to the British colonies in Canada. In the early 1800s, it was hard to take regular censuses due to the unsettled state of the country. The first truly useful census was held in Ontario in 1861. Since this corresponds to the first settlement of the Kinmount area, it is a useful tool for studying the state of pioneer Kinmount.

The 1861 census contains a lot of useful information, but for the purposes of this article, we will examine the listing of the lumber shanties in Lutterworth Township. The anonymous census taker found 9 lumber shanties in the winter of 1861 and did his best to record the information of these transient crews. In this era, the lumber industry was in full swing all over the area. Most major lumbermen in the Kawartha Watershed operated at least one shanty in Haliburton.

Shanty #1: R.H. Scott of Peterborough, proprietor. The camp was cutting squared white pine timbers and held 48 men. Twenty-six of the men gave Couteau Landing in Quebec as their home. The rest came from Ontario. Ages recorded <20 years: 8 men.  20-30: 8 men. Over 30: 32 men. It was recorded 15 Quebecers couldn’t read or write. The comment “I was in the shanty in the evening, the men being all in, each man answered for himself,” finished the entry.

Shanty #2 was located on Lot 27 in the 6th concession at Moore’s Lake. The Dickson Lumber Company of Peterborough employed 38 men (32 from Quebec), to cut squared timber. “I went to this shanty in the evening when the men were in the shanty. The most of them was Lower Canada Frenchmen and they refused to give their names; but on reading notice to the foreman, he ordered the clerk to give their names. They answered all the other questions with considerable grumbling.”

Shanty #3: McCamilly Shanty. “I was at this shanty at noon. There was 14-18 men in. After getting 15 names, a Lower Canadian Frenchman refused to have his name put down. After the foreman talked some time to him in French, the foreman refused to give me any more names. I think there was about 12 names I did not get: all Lower Canada Frenchmen.”

Shanty #4: Peter McLaren. They were cutting square timber and the expected haul for the season was 2,000 pieces. The site held 5 buildings and employed 50 men: 29 from Ontario and 21 from Quebec. The Ontario contingent included Kinmount residents John Molyneaux (my great-great grandfather!) and James Lyle.

Shanty #5: Curry Lumber Company of Peterborough. Thirty-two men expected to cut 1,000 pieces of squared white pine timbers.

Shanty #6: Curry Lumber Company of Peterborough. This second shanty held 30 men and gave 1,400 sticks of squared timber as their goal.

Shanty #7. William Snider Company of Peterborough. Twenty-one lumberjacks from Quebec were engaged in sawlog cutting.

Shanty #8: William Snider’s second shanty was also cutting sawlogs. Most of the 29 lumberjacks were from Ontario, including several Kinmount residents.

Shanty #9 was operated by David Hunter from Bobcaygeon and employed 50 men, mostly from the local area.

The census of the lumber shanties revealed that the squared timber (white pine) business was in full swing. The squared timbers were mostly sold in the European market. No locations were given for these shanties, but, safe to say, most of the timber was floated down the Gull River since most of Lutterworth drains into the Gull River system. You have to admire the professionalism of the census taker who ventured far into the bush to do his job among the isolated shantymen.

Many of the shantymen came from Quebec, which reveals a shortage of labour in the area. Pioneer settlers had the opportunity to find winter employment in the shanties, but there were still not enough workers to satisfy the local lumber industry, so lumbermen from Quebec were brought in to fill the void. Since the squared timbers were floated to Quebec to be sent to Europe, they simply ‘sailed’ the square timber cribs home down the St. Lawrence.

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