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Edmund McSheffrey: The last logger
By Tyler Dawson
Near the end of World War II, a bunch of men went out into the bush to chop down lumber on land purchased by Fred McLaughlin.
One of them was Edmund McSheffrey, then 18, who joined between 20 and 25 other men to cut down trees on the four or five lots on the east side of the Gatineau River in the winter of 1944-45.
"I was only a teenager," Mc- Sheffrey told the Low Down with a laugh.
He now says he's the only one left of that crew - the others have passed away.
In his farmhouse, with a fire roaring in the wood stove in a corner, McSheffrey, now in his late eighties, told the Low Down the men used axes and cross-cut saws to cut down and chop up the trees.
The saws, around six feet in length, were sharpened with files twice per day to make sure they could withstand constant use.
"They were just like a razor, then," McSheffrey said.
He was a logger for most of his life, having left school after Grade 7 and then heading into the bush to cut wood to sell.
The group of men, most of them from Low and Venosta, stayed in a log cabin, with nothing but a small stove in the corner to keep them warm when the temperature plunged to -40 C.
The men would go out and cut down trees in around three feet of snow. In the days before snowplows, horses pulled rollers to flatten down the snow. The cook back at the cabin made the men food, McSheffrey said, which was then taken to the workers.
"By the time they got out in the bush, the food was pretty well frozen," he said.
Once summer had arrived, a steam-powered saw was pulled in on skids by two teams of horses. It would be staked down and full logs would be fed through the saw.
"Once they got it going, it really could saw," McSheffrey recalled.
The cut lumber was then loaded up onto trucks and taken in to Hull or Ottawa.
For all this, McSheffrey said he made around $1 to $2 per day for his work.
While the men were too tired after work to really do anything, McSheffrey remembers them heading down to a small house by the river in Rockhurst Hill, where they were able to purchase booze.
McSheffrey couldn't remember much about the place, only that the owners had managed to get their hands on alcohol and bring it up into the Hills, where the men could then buy it.