The Centre of a District Rich in Natural Assets

The three great basic assets of any country are in it’s timber, minerals and agriculture. Associated with these and by no means unimportant are are it’s fishing and scenic attractions. Fort Frances enjoys a most enviable advantage in being in the centre of all of these assets.

The most important one, not by reason of its latent possibilities, but rather from the greater development is our timber. Compromising an area of approximately six millions of acres, this District of Rainy River for a very considerable of this area is still covered with virgin forests. Most important among these timbered areas is the Quetico Forest Reserve. This is the vast tract of timbered land lying east of Fort Frances some one hundred miles, and contiguous to the international boundary. Within this area are vast stretches of pine, both white and Norway, spruce and other varieties that have never yet known the woodsman’s axe. The Province of Ontario by an extensive fire patrol has kept this area free from serious fire destruction.

These vast forests contain a sufficient supply of merchantable timber to last our sawmills and pulp mills for fifty years. At the present time seventy-five percent of the saw timber and about 95 percent of the pulp wood is in possession of the Crown. This great natural resource of the District ensures for many years an constant source of revenue and a steady labour market in its manufacture.

Situated at Fort Frances are two of the largest mills manufacturing pine lumber in the Province of Ontario. These mills have a daily capacity of 500,000 feet per day. On another page is a photo of this plant of the Shevlin Clarke Co., giving a birds eyes view of the sawmills, planning mills and lumber yard. The logs for this large industry are brought in from distances of 100 to 150 miles by water. They are floated down the various rivers, towed across small lakes by gasoline of steam alligators, into booms of 4, 5, or 6 million feet each. Large towing boats bring them to the river and they are confined to the booms adjoining the mills. About three miles above town, on Rainy Lake is situated the J. A. Mathieu Lumber Company which is an important adjunct to the Town’s industries.
Located in the heart of the town is the Fort Frances Pulp and Paper Co. Mills. This mill which is now being increased in capacity one and a half times it’s present output, is one of the most important of the Town’s industries. These and other important plants will be treated separately.


In 1912 work was commenced on the Fort Frances Pulp and Paper Mills. This mill was equipped with two large paper machines, each of a 50 ton per day rating. The two machines however are turning out about 130 tons of newsprint paper every twenty four hours. Spruce is the class of timber that is mostly used although limited quantities of jackpine, balsam and tamarac can also be utilized. A very large proportion of the wood required for this mill is purchased from the farmers in the Rainy River Disctrict. Almost 75 percent of the output of the mills however is exported to the United States, the Western Canadian market not being sufficient to absorb the output. All the paper from this mill is in the form of rolls, and some of the leading newspapers of Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon and other large centres of the West obtain their paper from Fort Frances.

Early in 1925 an agreement was made whereby an additional mill will be established here. This new expansion calls for an additional one hundred and fifty tons per day output. This will be completed and in operation by December 1926. This combined output will exceed 250 tons per day, and in the operations of about 400 to 500 men will be employed. Work is already well underway, and over 200 men will be engaged all winter in getting in the foundations and steel work for the mill, train shed, finishing room, etc., completed.

Concurrent with the building of the mill is the development of the Seine River waterpower, situated on the Seine River east of Fort Frances. Approximately 25,000 H. P. is available in three units on this waterway. The paper mill interest have been negotiating for the development of this power and it’s transmission to Fort Frances. Work on the initial development have been carried on for some time. The transmission line has been surveyed, and the right of way will be cut this fall and winter, so that with the completion of the mill here, the additional power necessary will be also available.

The transmission of this power will be carried by steel towers, and will cross Rainy Lake utilizing some of the islands for tower sites. In several places foundations will have to be built on the lake bottom. Mr. McLelland who installed the Kenora mills is the man in charge of the construction work here and he is assisted by Mr. Horton, resident superintendent.

The transmission of this power to Fort Frances means the building up of many industries, and thereby ensures rapid and permanent growth to the town. On the completion of this development of power, we understand that the Company have under construction the building of additional industries, and an extension of the railway line to connect this town with Kenora.


Over eighteen years ago, two young men came to Fort Frances and opened up a machine shop for the repair of engines, boats and machine shop work generally. These young men were Colin and Jardin Russel, of Ottawa. They rented a shed on the river bank owned by the late L. Christie, and there they installed their machinery. In 1909 they secured a site further up the river on the corner of Armit and Front and built the present machine shop. About 1912 the conceived the idea of making gasoline warping tugs, constructed on the same lines of steam ‘gators that have for many years been used by the lumbering companies. Their Warping Tugs as this style of towing boat was termed, having being readily accepted and approved by the lumbermen. In fact the demand for them necessitated branching out for more capital. In 1924 the firm of Russel Bros. became incorporated as a joint stock company under the name of Russel Bros. Limited with a capital stock of $100,000. Local business men purchased of the stock offered and the company began manufacturing not only the power boats, but also the engines that generated the power.

They secured the patent rights and the plant of the Campbell Motor Co., and have been manufacturing commercially this engine. Very radical though important changes were made, whereby the engine was much improved. The worth of the old Campbell has been recognized and the firm find it difficult to keep up with the demand for this reliable and serviceable engine. Mr. Colin Russel is manager of the Company, and Mr. Jardine Russel is in charge of the mechanical department. They are finding a market for their product from the Atlantic to British Columbia. Orders are also coming in ever increasing numbers from the United States, where the Campbell enjoyed an enviable reputation for years.

A complete stock of parts and accessories for the engine and boat fittings is also carried in stock. The business for 1925 shows an increase of over 25 percent above that of 1924, Eighteen complete power boats were built, sold and delivered this year.


For the past fifteen years the largest mill cutting pine and spruce in Ontario has been located at Fort Frances. These comprise the twin mills of the Shevlin Clark Co. whose annual season’s cut runs yearly about 100,000,000 feet of lumber. To turn that amount of logs from the lumber woods probably over 100 miles away into the finished product requires not only an army of men, but a very large amount of supplies. A perusal of some of the statistics contained in the page advertisement of this Company will be of interest.

The men employed in and around the mills and yards during the summer average about 750. But during the winter season as many as 3,000 men find employment in the woods adjacent to this town. The average payroll of the Company for the whole year is approximately $110,000 per month. A very large majority of the men employed in these mills are men with families residing in Fort Frances. It has been the custom of this large industry to purchase all the supplies such as hay, oats, beef, pork, butter, etc., locally. This has very materially assisted the farmers of Rainy River in finding a profitable market for their produce.

Mr. M. A. Malone is general manager of the Fort Frances plant. He has as his assistant Mr. R. Munroe, and as office manager Mr. O. Viger. The mills are under the care of Mr. Henry Nelson, while Mr. D. Price has charge of the logging operations. Messrs. John Peterson and C. M. Carlson have charge of green and dry lumber. Mr. Geo. Anderson is in charge of the planning mill.


This firm of lumber manufacturing commenced operations in 1921. The mills are located on Rainy Lake within a few miles of Fort Frances. The mill is powered by a steam plant developing 600 H.P. A battery of five boilers of 150 H.P. each supply the engine, and the equipment compromises band saw, head resaw, double edger, twin slab saw trimmers, bolters, lath machines, etc. A planning mill converts the lumber into finished product, and included flooring, siding, mouldings, etc.

The company generates its own electricity from a fully modern generating plant. This is used for general lighting for the mills and also for the dwellings occupied by officials and men of the mills. A general store, boarding houses are operated by the Company, and they also maintain a fully equipped public school for the children of employees. The Company carry on extensive logging operations on timber berths tributary to the waters of Rainy Lake. The logs are mostly conveyed to the mills by water, although some rail hauling is done.

Mr. J. A. Mathieu is President of the Company, and Mr. A. Mathieu is Vice President.


This is one of the recent additions to the industry of Fort Frances. The industry is backed by local men, and is financed largely by the financial men of Fort Frances. The plant was completed this year and has a seventy-five barrel per day capacity. It is located just outside the town limits on the shore of Rainy Lake. The brewery is modern in its equipment, and manufactures a very excellent quality of beer. One of the main reasons for the high class product manufactured is the splendid water, that is used in the brewing process.

Mr. Prentiss, the manager in charges, is possessed of a wide experience in this business. He has assisting him Mr. Eugene Shaer who ranks as one of the best of America’s brew masters. The excellent quality of their product is becoming widely known, and more widely sold. Their slogan “The beer without a peer” sets a high standard, and they are sparing no effort to live up to it.


This organization formerly the Northern Grocery Co., has the distinction of being the first wholesale grocery house in this district. In 1915 Mr. William Lyon of Kenora organized the Company which was largely composed of local business men. Mr. Lyon was appointed manager and continued to direct the affairs of the Company until his death in June of this year.

In 1920 the Company erected a fine substantial building on Front Street, or Central Avenue, as this portion of the street is called, and moved their stock from the old building on First Street to the new quarters. In 1922 this building was destroyed by by fire, with a very heavy loss. In fact this was the heaviest single loss that any business in Fort Frances had suffered. The premises were rebuilt and following the death of Mr. Lyon the company sold out to the Western Grocers, a western organization. Mr. W. A. Sturdy who was connected with the firm in Winnipeg is in charge, Mr. J. Dalzeil is his assistant.

They carry a very large stock of staple and fancy groceries, and cater to the rapidly growing town and district.


In 1920 Mr. E. J. Callaghan, who at that time was connected with the Northern Grocery Co., organized a company and established a second wholesale grocery in Fort Frances. The business is located on First Street, formerly occupied by their competitor, and Mr. Callaghan is the active head of the Company.

Mr . Callaghan is well known throughout the District not only as a salesman, but also for many years being active in politics. He has several times been the nominee of the Liberal party in this riding. During the five years since the Company was organized he has built up a strong wholesale business. Not only in his own business, but also in the affairs of the town and community, Mr. Callaghan takes a keen interest.