Looking Back: B.C.’s largest shingle mill was in Ruskin

Stoltze Manufacturing Co. is mostly forgotten today, but at one time its mill at the Stave River was the largest shingle mill in B.C.

Stoltze Manufacturing Co. is mostly forgotten today, but at one time its mill at the Stave River – where the trailer park is today – was the largest shingle mill in British Columbia.

Although the company carried the Stoltze name, the president of the company was a James Sobey, born in England and raised in Nova Scotia.

In the late 1890s, Sobey and some partners started a shingle mill with the name Sobey Manufacturing Co. at Ballard, now part of Seattle, and another one at Granite Falls, Washington.

Two Stoltze brothers worked at Sobey’s Granite Falls plant. Henry Stoltze was foreman of the mill and Arthur Stoltze was “knot sawyer.”

Around 1910, Sobey sold his share in the Granite Falls enterprise and planned the opening of a mill at Ruskin in partnership with Henry Stoltze. The new company was called Stoltze Manufacturing Co.

James Flaherty, Henry’s brother-in-law, who had also been working for Sobey at Granite Falls, went to Ruskin in the summer of 1912 to build the shingle mill.

The beginning of production in 1913 happened to coincide with a slump in the building industry in Vancouver, but access to the American market assured that the Ruskin mill worked to its full capacity. A new dry kiln was even added to the Ruskin mill “to meet the increase in demand.”

James Sobey, president of Stoltze Manufacturing Co., was a silent partner, while Henry A. Stoltze, as managing director, took care of the company’s business from an office in Vancouver. Arthur H. Stoltze, his brother, managed bolt cutting on a big scale at Stave Falls, and James Flaherty was in charge of the entire operation in Ruskin.

To secure an ample supply of cedar, Stoltze first acquired 1,000 acres of standing timber at an unknown location in the Stave area and, in addition, bought “large quantities” of cedar from Abernethy-Lougheed when A&L won the contract for 8,000 acres of timber at Stave Lake in 1914.

The Pacific Coast Lumberman of July 1919 reports: “About 250 men are employed in  [Stoltze’s] limits and the average daily input in bolts is 135 cords.”

Stoltze had mile-long flumes to take the shingle bolts down to Stave Lake. A spillway at the dam took the bolts down to the river below to float to the mill.

In 1923, only Stoltze (400,000) and Fraser Mills (350,000) produced more shingles per day than the next best mill (200,000).

Stoltze was then a very successful company.

The Stoltzes and the Flahertys were close-knit families as is evident from entries in the “Ruskin Notes,” the social column of the Weekly Gazette, telling about their frequently visiting each other in Vancouver or Ruskin. Their “motoring” included trips to the United States, calling on  family and friends.

The most spectacular trip recalled was one undertaken in 1923 by Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Stoltze, who “motored” to California and Mexico and back, mostly camping on the way.

In 1926, with access to cedar reduced in the Stave Lake area, Stoltze purchased extensive timber berths on Blue Mountain along Dewdney Trunk Road. As the operation at Stave Lake diminished, Arthur Stoltze’s position became redundant. He moved away from Ruskin and later joined his son Virgil in logging operations at Harrison Lake, Squamish, and on Vancouver Island.

The following year, 1927, James Flaherty retired, and a son of managing director Henry Stoltze took over the supervision of a now very reduced operation at Ruskin.

Not much later, the two original partners died: first James Sobey at Ballard in 1930, and a year later Henry Stoltze in Vancouver.

By then, Stoltze Manufacturing Co. was only a minor shingle producer, struggling for survival.

Henry’s son remained in charge of the mill at Ruskin until 1936, when it changed its name and management.

Stoltze’s production depended on a Japanese workforce both in the woods and in the mill, and it stopped operating in the early 1940s after the internment of the Japanese and the departure of many of their white substitutes to the war.

In the following years, the mill and the achievements of the Stoltzes started slipping away from memory.

– By Fred Braches, a local historian who lives in Whonnock.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Have an opinion you’d like to share? Submit letters to the editor through our website, via email or the postal service. (Heather Colpitts/Black Press Media)
LETTER: Maple Ridge resident impressed with frontline workers when husband hurt

From police to health professionals, everyone who cared for injured senior deserves praise

Residents of Golf Lane say they are tired of their houses and vehicles being hit by golf balls from the nearby Maple Ridge Golf Course, and worry someone is going to get killed by a wayward drive. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Maple Ridge Golf Course neighbours say they need protection

City willing to explore solutions says director of parks

Former Pitt Meadows city councillor David Murray was convicted of sex assault, and is now being sued by the victim. (files)
Former Pitt Meadows city councillor sued for sex assault

David Murray was convicted in 2017 of sexually assaulting a teen 25 years earlier

Ineke Boekhorst with the Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association says Sparkle has been a huge hit with downtown businesses. (The News files)
Maple Ridge business to get free Earth Day window cleaning

Event put on by the Downtown Maple Ridge BIA and Christian Life Assembly

Allen, Mel, and Trevor Leung pose on the Whitecaps field in Vancouver. (Special to The News)
Community rallies to support Maple Ridge man suffering from paralysis, kidney issues

GoFundMe set up to help Allen Leung and his family during difficult times

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Nick Warmerdam and his dog Diesel are inviting locals to check out the Lakeland Farm U-pick Flower Farm this spring. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
VIDEO & SLIDESHOW: Abbotsford’s Lakeland Flowers opens for spring

Tulip farm attraction opened on April 14, open to the public daily seven days a week

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

The female driver of this Jeep Grand Cherokee (right) was driving erratically with a young child inside on Highway 1 eastbound. After hitting a barrier and a parked car, she finally exited the highway at Yale Road West and came to a stop. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Video captures woman driving erratically with child after hitting barrier, car on Hwy 1 in Chilliwack

Smoke seen coming from SUV as it continues to travel eastbound of shoulder of highway

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Most Read