A book that focuses on the history of logging camps is getting plenty of buzz in the Espanola area.
Eighty-four-year-old John Haegeman was a fur trapper back in the 1980s when he met up with Damien Lunning who introduced him to log hammers.
Haegeman says the law to mark logs for transport came into being in 1870 but was discontinued in the 1940s with rivers no longer being used for transportation.
He had collected hundreds of the hammer stamps used by the companies that had logs transported down the Spanish River and the stories that go along with them.
Filled with photos and historical anecdotes, The History and Location of North Shore Logging Camps will be available shortly.
Haegeman admits he has always been a collector.
“I didn’t even know what a hammer stamp was, but quickly did some information gathering and found it fascinating. I started to explore some of the old logging camps, many of them now abandoned, of course, looking for the stamps.
His book features 275 old logging camps, which Haegeman admits, Google Earth helped him locate when he went exploring, sometimes days at a time.
He also got a hold of another book, Registered Timber Marks of Eastern Canada, which featured all the registered hammers, what they looked like, where they were used and who used them, including the companies that logged the North over the decades. It was completed in 1985.
He says his collection is wide and varied.
“One hammer took me 21 years to find, another 30. Physically, I found it sometimes demanding, but I loved going out and exploring the camps. Sometimes I would go back three, four, five times before finding a hammer.
The logs were brought down the Spanish River in huge booms. They were deliberately cut to 16 feet, six inches.
“The extra six inches were to allow for any damage to the end of the logs when they went over rough water or through rapids. The Town of Spanish was the hub of activity during those ‘boom’ times.
“The loggers would sort up to 32,000 logs a day, they literally would eat while walking and working the logs, amazing balance,” he explains.
“Twenty-five companies used the river and each one of them had their own stamps applied to the wood. In Spanish, they would be sorted into separate booms lined up along the edge of the harbour. The booms were huge, 20,000 logs in one boom going to the Blind River mill, up to 50,000 for booms transported to Bay City, Michigan.
Haegeman described one stamp, which he considers a favourite; the EDDY Brothers stamp.
“There were four brothers from Bay City, Michigan who were all involved in logging. Their stamp was made up of four E’s etched into the metal. It was called the Box E Hammer.”
He admits his health is not as good as it was, so his exploring days are over. The book is a culmination of his life’s work. He credits many people with helping bring it together, with a special thank you to his wife, Claudette, who “always had supper waiting.”
Anyone interested in knowing more can contact Haegeman on Facebook, via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 705-869-2394.
Photo: A local area historian, John Haegeman, has compiled a book, The History and Location of North Shore Logging Camps, which is filled with photos and historical anecdotes. The book will be available shortly. Photo by Rosalind Russell – myespanolanow.com/myalgomamanitoulinnow.com staff