Pigeon River Lumber

The Pigeon River Lumber Company (PRLC) was the most important industry and employer at the Canadian Lakehead at the turn of the century. Until the creation of the Port Arthur Shipbuilding Company in 1911, it was the biggest employer in the city (now Thunder Bay).

Pigeon River Lumber Company Logo

The PRLC was organized in July 1900 in Grand Rapids, Wisconsin (now Wisconsin Rapids) by Daniel J. Arpin, William Scott Jr. and Herman Finger. Shortly thereafter, the trio convinced Frank P. Hixon to join the venture. In Arpin and Hixon, the PRLC had two of the most influential lumbermen in the state of Wisconsin at the time. Their interest in the pine lands in the Thunder Bay District dated back to 1897, but it was not until 1898 that their resolve to set up an operation in the area began to materialize as Arpin and Scott made a series of visits to examine the timber and potential sawmills. This culminated with the incorporation of the company two years later.

In October 1900, the PRLC was granted permission to do business in Ontario by an Order-in-Council from the Lieutenant-Governor of the province. Several months later, in January 1901, the company purchased the Graham and Horne sawmill in Fort William as a stop-gap until a new mill could be constructed. In the meantime, operations began along the Pigeon River. Supplies were transported by boat from Lake Superior, as well as on the PAD&W via Silver Mountain. It was the beginning of a long interaction between the PRLC and the railway.

In the summer of 1901, construction commenced on a new sawmill in Port Arthur, which would become one of the largest in western Canada. At the same time, the company began to investigate the viability of logging pine tracts along and south of Gunflint Lake. This location was a considerable distance from their Pigeon River camps and would force them to work closely with the Canadian Northern Railway to transport the cut back to Port Arthur. The purchase of these timber rights was finalized in the summer of 1902 and led to the construction of a logging line known as the Gunflint and Lake Superior.

Logging at Gunflint continued until 1909 and along the Pigeon River until 1920. With all the profitable white and red pine gone, the sawmill likely last ran in the fall of 1920 and the planning mill shortly thereafter. After the closure of its production facilities, the company continued to operate in Port Arthur until 1929.


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