The smell of sawdust will soon drift out of Hammond for good.
The closure of the Hammond Cedar Mill is the end of an era, and of an enterprise that has stretched for over a century, according to the local historians of Maple Ridge.
There has been mill in Port Hammond since 1908, but it was really in 1914, when Richard Hartnell and his son Doan took over, that the Hammond Cedar Mill became a successful enterprise.
Fred Braches, a Whonnock historian and author, explained the two lumbermen from Michigan took over the bankrupt and abandoned mill. Under their management it provided employment and prosperity in the community until 1946.
Eventually, it would become the world’s largest manufacturer of western red cedar, accounting for 15 per cent of cedar in the world.
The Hartnell family had provided slab wood for the kilns at the Clayburn brick plant near Abbotsford, but when the plant switched to coal, they turned their attention to Port Hammond.
There are records of different owners – J.A. Bailey in 1908, and then George Boulton in 1911 – who both closed their lumber mills at the Hammond site buried in debt.
The Hartnells took over, and added a shingle mill to provide product to the U.S. They also had the sawmill running, sending spruce to Washington state, where it was used to build airplanes.
“In that way, the mill managed to survive the lean war years. There was even enough work to hire ‘strong husky girls’ to work in the plant when able workmen were scarce because of the war – a first in Canada,” wrote Braches in a history of the mill.
The mill saw a huge expansion after the war, going from 100 workers in 1922 to 250 by 1924. The manufacturing facility soon covered 10 acres.
Richard moved back to the U.S. in 1918, but the younger Doan stayed with the business, and it remained a success, and the centre of the area.
Maple Ridge Museum curator Val Patenaude said Doan Hartnell was a character. A baseball fan, he indulged his love of the sport by touring the U.S. watching ball games, and “picking out ringers” to work in the mill and play for his Hammond hardball team. Hammond won the B.C. baseball championship in 1924.
“Hammond was the mill,” said Braches. “I wish they would name a stadium Hartnell Stadium, to commemorate them,” said Braches.
The mill has had six owners, and has been owned by International Forest Products since 1992. It grew to 450 employees in 1967, but by its 100th anniversary in 2010 that number had dropped to 150, due to a downturn in the lumber industry.