Nowadays, many people think “taking to the woods” means to flee. But in 1905, the phrase “take to the woods” did not mean quite the same thing…

Taking to the woods… to find land

On one side there were the new colonists who, for a lack of land, had to settle in remote areas where they had to clear the land before they could farm it. Many of these new colonists could be found in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, in Gaspésie, in the Upper Laurentians and in Abitibi. But this was not an easy life, and many of them soon abandoned it.

In the lumber camps

Most loggers were men who came to work in the forest during the winter so that they could save up enough money to one day buy a piece of land. Established farmers also came in the hopes of earning extra money to support their families. Some summers, their crops just weren’t enough.

The loggers worked from dawn to dusk cutting, limbing and bringing the trees to the river. During the spring thaw, logs would be sent down the rivers, floating all the way to the factories that were located at the mouth of certain rivers, like the Saint-Maurice River.

A logger’s work began with the first snowfall. He would head up to the camps which lied in the woods far to the north. He would remain there until spring—not seeing his family even once. Men lived together in a large wooden building. Hygiene was poor and the camps were often infested with lice.

Tourist guide

Luckier men who knew the woods well could find work as a guide for wealthy American tourists, who would come from as far away as New York to create hunting and fishing clubs in Haute-Mauricie and elsewhere. These clubs provided jobs for many people.

Author: Service national du Récit de l’univers social

See also – Traces of the past:

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