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The Forest Industry

For more than a century, lumbering has played a major role in the economic development of the Madawaska region. The concentrated cutting of our forests and the number of jobs it has generated bear witness to that fact. During the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th, temporary employment in lumber camps during the winter months often allowed farmers to balance their budget1. Gradually, with the establishment of sawmills and a pulp mill in Edmundston, lumbering became more important. Many farmers preferred to abandon their land to get work at the mill.

According to some authors2, the opening of the James Murchie & Sons company sawmill in 1888 marked the beginning of the industrialization of the town of Edmundston. Located near the Madawaska River, the sawmill provided employment for nearly seventy-five men3 at the beginning of the 20th century. Lumber was brought to the mill by river-drives4 or by railway. The local woodlot owners benefitted from this small business where they could sell their lumber or have it sawed5.

In 1911, Fraser Company Limited bought the Murchie sawmill. At that time The Company operated lumber camps and sawmills in eastern Quebec and elsewhere in New Brunswick6. Fraser kept the Murchie sawmill in operation until 19177. The following year, the Company began the production of chemical pulp. A new bisulfate pulp mill was built in Edmundston. About 500 employees many from Madawaska County were hired8.

Subsequently, Fraser kept expanding. In addition to acquiring new woodlots it invested substantially in the construction of chemical pulp mills in Newcastle and Atholville, in a mechanical pulp mill and a cardboard plant in Edmundston and in a paper mill in Madawaska, in the state of Maine9. All those new developments created jobs.

In the 20th century Fraser Companies Limited would become one of the economic pillars of the region, its history closely linked to that of the city of Edmundston. Even today, Fraser’s marked influence and its strategic location in the very center of the city, reminds people that it is part of their life experience.

Nicole Lang


  1. People engaged mainly in agriculture for survival. Edmundston Region Chamber of Commerce, Edmundston, N.-B., chef-lieu de la “République du Madawaska”, 1948, p. 5. Nicole Lang, L'Impact d'une industrie: les effets sociaux de l'arrivée de la compagnie Fraser Limited à Edmundston, N.-B., 1900-1950, Revue de la Société historique du Madawaska, vol. XV, nos 1-2, January-June 1987, p. 12.
  2. Edmundston Region Chamber of Commerce, op.cit., P. 5. Alexander J - Savoie, Un demi-siècle d'histoire acadienne, Les Presses de l'imprimerie Gagné Ltée, Montréal. 1976. p. 50.
  3. Guy R. Michaud, La paroisse de l'Immaculée-Conception, Edmundston, N.-B. 1880-1980, , Ateliers Marquis Ltée, Montmagny, March 1980, p. 216. Nicole Lang, op.cit., p. 12.
  4. River-Drive (or Log River-Driving, Floating): In the language of the forest workers, "river-drive" (la drave) was the timber going down a stream or river during the spring floods. The wood was transported to sawmills downriver in this way. Sylva Clapin, Dictionnaire canadien-français, Presses de l'Université Laval, Québec, 1974 (édition originale 1894).
  5. Guy R. Michaud, op.cit., p. 203. Nicole Lang, op.cit., p. 12.
  6. Established since 1877, this company was known before 1917, by the following names: “Donald Fraser & Sons Limited”, “F & M Lumber Limited”, “Fraser Lumber Company Limited” and “Fra¬ser Limited”. It would assume its legal name of “Fraser Companies Limited”, on June 27, 1917. For more details about the history of this company, refer to: Nicole Lang, op.cit., chapter 2, pp. 17-31.
  7. Nicole Lang, op.cit., p. 18.
  8. Ibid., p. 32.
  9. Ibid., chapter 2, pp.17-31
Université de Moncton campus d'Edmundston Société Historique du Madawaska Ville d'Edmundston Patrimoine Canadien