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The Phillips Lumber Company

January 2, 2023

The Phillips Lumber Company's mill at Coboconk, where many butter chip containers were manufactured

By Guy Scott

Not all sawmills in the Kinmount area were concentrated in the village of Kinmount. With the advent of the steam engine, sawmills were no longer totally dependent on water power and could actually move closer to the timber. These mills had the advantage of moving locations when the timber ran out and cutting more than just softwood logs floated down the river. Such a roving company was the Phillips Lumber Company.

The Phillips Lumber Company began in the 1880s with a small sawmill in Coboconk. The mill’s speciality was wooden veneer ‘butter chips.’ In the 1880s, butter was shipped in large tubs called ‘rolls.’ The merchant resold it in 1 or 2 pound sizes by filling up a tray or chip with butter. The Phillips Lumber Company was famous for producing these butter chip containers. Sometime around 1900, Joseph Henry Phillips sold the old mill in Coboconk and built a mill on the 3rd Concession of Somerville at Stoney Lonesome (south of Burnt River). The site contained a shanty, stables and cookhouse: a complete operation plus the mill.

By 1913, all the local timber was exhausted and the Phillips Mill moved to Waston’s Siding, at the 9th Line and Cavanaugh’s Bridge. In 1921, the mill went on to the next stop: the Dutch Line in Galway Township. Again a complete shanty operation was constructed, with stables, cookhouse, dormitory, blacksmith shop, etc. Water for the steam engine was drawn from the Union Creek near the Kennettle Farm.

By 1932, a further move was made to the Bobcaygeon Road and the Somerville 11th line. Here an even larger mill was constructed. This operation continued for many years. The Phillips Lumber Company used ‘modern’ machinery such as a crawler tractor and large trucks. They would buy timber from farmers all over the country, who would draw the logs by horse out to the roads in the winter for summer pickup. A lot of hardwood was sawn by the portable mills as it was impossible to float to other mills along the rivers. Hardwood unsuitable for lumber was sold as firewood all over the area.

Eventually the Phillips Lumber company acquired the old mills site on the Main Street of Kinmount where they ran a planing mill for lumber shipped from the sawmill down the road. This site eventually morphed into a lumber yard and retail outlet.

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