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The Kinmount Stave Factory

September 11, 2022

By Guy Scott

Anybody travelling north of Kinmount on the Bobcaygeon Road (aka Highway #121) will have noticed the concrete structures standing forlornly in the field beside the River. These are the last remnants of the Stave Factory. At one time, a large mill complex graced the site, dedicated to the production of wooden barrels. In the age before steel drums or fibreglass tanks, wooden barrels were the primary means for the storage and transportation of many products: both liquid & solid.

The barrels were semi-rounded and comprised of a series of small boards or staves. These staves were carefully fitted together and held together by a metal band or hoop. Each end was sealed by a head or round wooden platform. Barrels varied dramatically in size, but many weighed over 100lbs when empty! They were made slightly round so they could be rolled.

Since the main part of the barrel, the staves, were rounded, it was necessary to bend them from their original flat shape. At the local mill, this was done by steaming the staves and bending them into shape. And that’s where the concrete—steam houses or kilns come in. They were far more durable (and safe!) than wooden structures for the steam process. Concrete was uncommon in local mills, but the specializing of the Stave Factory made this structure necessary. Of course, the wooden structures are all gone, and all that is left are the concrete kilns.

A special railway siding was built to the back-door of the Stave Factory, and during peak production, a railway car was filed every week! The staves and barrel heads were loaded unassembled to save shipping space. The Burnt River brought the raw logs to the east side of the mill, they were sawn right on the site and shipped to markets down south. Steam powered the mill and at its peak it employed 50 men.

For whatever reasons, the Stave Factory seemed to be continually plagued by financial difficulties. It underwent many changes of ownership, usually related to bankruptcy. Its many owners and managers included Alex McIntosh, R.J. Mills, George Rowlinson, International Cooperage Co., Kinmount Cooperage Co., O’Hara & Donnelly and finally Noel Rivers. By the 1930s, the Stave Factory ceased operation. James Graham, manager for many years acquired the site & the wooden structures soon disappeared, leaving only the cement kilns: a sort of Stonehenge to the lumber industry.

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