A brief history of the lumberjack, a Canadian icon

Lumberjacks hold a permanent place in Canadian history. The practice of felling trees began thousands of years ago with Indigenous Peoples who used stone axes and fire and girdled the trees, and continued with the arrival of the first Europeans.

At the start of the 18th century and continuing for more than a hundred years, the timber trade grew and flourished. It developed into the backbone of the country’s industrial economy, and focused on harvesting white pine. It was estimated that during the 19th century, which was the height of the white pine era, half the males in Canada were employed as lumberjacks.

Burning wood was the only source of heat in the winter, so men and boys were accustomed to chopping down trees and cutting them into manageable pieces. It was also the main material used in building homes, and trees needed to be cut down to clear space for agriculture.

In the 19th century, the timber trade had become more popular than the fur trade in the Ottawa-Gatineau region as the area was a prime location for white pine trees. The Ottawa River was lined with logging camps and home to many lumberjacks.

Lumberjacks were also called woodcutters or shanty boys in English, and bûcherons or bûcheux in French. They used saws, axes and other tools to cut down trees. Afterwards, the logs would then be transported and turned into wood products. Lumber was a staple of Canadian trade and was a key factor in the development of this Country.

Lumberjacks often lived a nomadic life, following timber harvesting jobs as they opened. They would travel for kilometres before reaching a logging camp and many made the long arduous treks by foot. They worked from sunrise to sunset, six days a week at one of the most deadly occupations, frequently getting killed from Falling trees and rolling logs. Would you be able to survive the life of a Lumberjack in the harsh Canadian wilderness?

It’s interesting to note: during the Second World War, thousands of women took up jobs in traditionally male sectors, including the forestry industry. Nicknamed “lumberjills,” they became part of the propaganda effort to promote women’s participation in the wartime economy.

The participants of the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend Lumberjack Challenge are tasked with running four events during the 2022 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend: the Ottawa 2K and the Ottawa 5K, both presented by Asics Runkeeper, the Ottawa 10K presented by Otto’s Ottawa and the Tartan Ottawa International Marathon. Four events. For a whopping 59.2 KM in total distance!