Home |  Archives  |  Write On! |  Dossiers |  Search |  Boutique | Donate

A brief history of the Dalhousie mill

Closure will leave 550 unemployed in the small town of just over 3,600

DALHOUSIE, New Brunswick, is situated in the Restigouche River valley at the mouth of the river where it discharges into Chaleur Bay. The valley lies in a hilly region, part of the Appalachian mountain range, although the Dalhousie town site is situated on a flat plateau several metres above sea level with some development to its south on a low ridge of approximately 60 metres elevation. The town is surrounded by salt and fresh water bodies, which are home to many species of wildlife, unique birds, and fish. The area is rich in natural resources.

Dalhousie faces Miguasha, Quebec on the Gaspé Peninsula to the north. The city of Campbellton lies 20 km upriver to the west and the city of Bathurst is approximately 80 km southeast along the shore of Chaleur Bay. There are no major centres south of Dalhousie, as this is the undeveloped and heavily forested geographic centre of the province.

It was named after the ninth Earl of Dalhousie, who was then British colonial governor of both Upper Canada and Lower Canada.

Citing the euphemism of "rising costs", AbitibiBowater pronounced the closure of the Dalhousie pulp and paper mill on 29 November 2007 as part of its anti-labour "restructuring" that also included the shut down of mills and paper machines in Quebec, British Columbia, Ontario and in the southern United States.

The closure, which took effect 31 January 2008, leaves over 550 people unemployed in the small town of just over 3,600. The Dalhousie mill is a valuable asset to Canadian society, built up by the sweat, toil and skill of generations of working people. It is an asset that Bowater Maritime' should not be permitted to wreck. The workers were producing approximately 640 tonnes per day of various basis weight newsprint with finished product shipped by rail, truck and ship primarily to international markets in Japan, the Pacific Rim, the Caribbean, Europe, and the Mediterranean as well as to some North American customers. Their surpus value has financed an operation that includes a chip handling system, a TMP pulpmill, two newsprint machines, a steam and power plant, and an effluent treatment system. As recently as 1980, on the 50th anniversary of the Dalhousie mill, the workers were producing about four per cent of Canada's newsprint.

While the production facilities have changed hands more than a few times over the years, paper has been produced at this facility since 19 February 1930. Before that, from the same site, lumber was produced here for export to US paper mills. That mill dates back to the Ritchie's mill, in 1856 the first steam-operated sawmill in Dalhousie.

Shunpiking vigorously supports the struggle of the pulp and paper workers against its closure. We are posting for the information of our readers below a capitalcentric chronology of the Dalhousie mill by Tim Jaques, editor of The Tribune, a weekly Irving-owed paper in Restigouche County in northern New Brunswick. We hope to publish a more extensive timeline of the pulp and paper and forest products industry covering the Maritimes in the near future.

* * *

A brief history of the Dalhousie mill

1891: St. Maurice Lumber Company is founded as a subsidiary of International Paper and Power Company.

1909: St. Maurice Lumber Company obtains a partial interest in the Dalhousie Lumber Company, formerly Moffat's mill, on the west side of Renfrew St. below William St. Moffat's mill arose from Ritchie's mill, in 1856 the first steam-operated sawmill in Dalhousie.

1925: St. Maurice Lumber Company is renamed Canadian International Paper Company.

1925: The last major shipment of sawmill lumber is made from Dalhousie, as its sawmill industry dies along with most remaining in eastern Canada.

1926: Dalhousie's deep port and incentives from its town council beat Campbellton for the site of a massive new Canadian International Paper Company pulp and paper mill, one of three planned for Canada.

1927: Property assembly begins. CIP buys several properties, including the P.Q. Lumber Company and the remaining shares in the Dalhousie Lumber Company.

1928: CIP closes the P.Q. Lumber Company, after failing to make a profit from it. The Dalhousie Lumber Company is also closed, the site being needed for mill construction. E. A. Rockett, its last manager, becomes Woodlands Manager for NBIP.

1928: New Brunswick International Paper Company is incorporated. Work is underway to convert a large cove on Dalhousie's waterfront into a site for the mill. A seawall is built, the water pumped out, the cove excavated to bedrock, foundations poured using 33,000 cubic yards of cement, the area levelled using 850,000 cubic yards of fill sucked up from the bed of the river, and the mill buildings constructed using 5,300,000 bricks. The mill has two 226 foot wide Dominion Engineering paper machines. Construction of the Grand Falls power development and a large dam on the Charlo River, with a pipeline to the mill, were made at the same time. The influx of men first to build and then work at the mill, along with their families, causes a tremendous housing shortage. Over the next few years, a hotel (The Chaleur Inn) and worker housing are constructed. A large mill manager's house is built, in which lives the first manager, George D. Bearce, an American. Seventy-five houses are privately built just to house construction workers, many of whom are living barrack-style in the town's old hotels and in the Chaleur Inn. A new rink and curling club are built. New merchants come to town and build stores.

1930: On Feb. 19, the first sheet of paper passes over No. 1 paper machine at NBIP, at the time the only newsprint mill in New Brunswick. It costs $23 million to build, or about $279 million in 2007 dollars. It employs 1,200 men - and a few women. Dalhousie's population jumps from 1,800 to over 3,000 and is expected to reach 5,000.

1930: On March 6, the mill suffers its first (and not its last) operational fatality when Arthur Jardine, 19, of Corner Brook, Nfld., is killed instantly on No. 1 paper machine at 2:30 a.m. His arm is caught in the back reel, dragging him in and crushing his head. His body is returned to Newfoundland in the company of his friend, Edward J. Tricco. (The night before, Alexander Anderson, 22, broke his leg in an elevator shaft, but lived.)

Archibald R. Graustein, left, president of International Paper and Power company, and New Brunswick premier J. B. M. Baxter (con.) attended the Dalhousie mill's opening on March 1, 1930. Baxter threw the switch to officially open the mill, although it had been in operation for a month.

1930: On March 14, the mill is officially opened by Premier J. B. M. Baxter (Con.), Lt. Gov. Hugh H. McLean, and A. R. Graustein, president of International Paper and Power Company. One train from the south brings numerous New Brunswick dignitaries, and another from Quebec, Montreal and Ottawa brings Graustein, corporate officials and city newspapermen. With a choir of schoolchildren singing O Canada, all gather in the paper shed for Baxter to throw the switch to officially open the mill. A tour is given, and luncheon served in the administration building while the Canadian National Radio Orchestra plays. It is broadcast over the radio throughout eastern Canada. An airplane later lands on the ice of the Restigouche to deliver copies of that day's Fredericton Daily Gleaner, with news of the opening. A newsreel film of the day's proceedings is made for Associated Screen News. The visitors' special trains leave that night.

1930: A large fire destroys many of the stores at the east end of William Street, but the mill is spared. It does suffer many fires over the years, some potentially serious.

1931: By January, two additional paper machines are installed.

1939-1945: The NBIP mill contributes to the war effort. Workers who do not actually enlist volunteer to work extra time to help the war effort, for which the mill and individual workers receive awards of recognition. The mill even has an air raid siren for the town's protection. Ships, particularly corvettes, are repaired and refitted by the mill's tradesmen. One, the HMCS Raccoon, a refitted armed yachts for submarine patrol, is sunk by a Nazi U-Boat in the St. Lawrence River with the loss of all hands. The MV Huff, a merchant ship carrying paper from Dalhousie, is also sunk by a U-Boat, and its crew spends most of the war as prisoners.

These workers were leaving what was then the NBIP mill in Dalhousie in 1955, when it had been in operation for 25 years

1955: Post-war prosperity brings expansion and renovation to both the mill and the town. Mill production rises from 550 to 880 tons of newsprint daily by the time of the mill's 25th anniversary.

1965: Thirty-five years after it opened, the basic wage rate for workers at the mill is $2.08 per hour ($13.74 in 2007 dollars) with the average $2.50 per hour ($16.51 in 2007 dollars). About 1,400 people are employed full-time producing 328,510 tons of newsprint each year, plus 100 year-round employees in the Woodlands Division, which rises to 1,500 during peak seasons. Dalhousie is probably at the height of its prosperity.

1974: After Douglas Island is levelled, the East Bay Marine Terminal, a wharf having a berthing length of 192 meters, is completed and a steel storage shed constructed to facilitate the shipment of newsprint. Much larger paper ships can now be accommodated at the Port of Dalhousie.

1980: Canadian International Paper, sole owner of New Brunswick International Paper, transfers one-third of the shares in NBIP to two Japanese firms, Oji Paper Co. Ltd. and Mitsui & Co. Ltd. On the 50th anniversary of the mill, it is noted that it produces about four per cent of Canada's newsprint.

1981: International Paper sells its Canadian subsidiary to Canadian Pacific Enterprises. Two new corporations are created, CIP Inc. and NBIP Inc.

1984: The comedy show Maritime Mixed Grill first puts on a public stage Lucien, a philosophical Dalhousie paper mill worker played by town native Marshall Button, who had worked at the mill as a student. Lucien is developed in several plays widely performed by Button over the years, including to troops in Afghanistan, bringing a quintessentially Dalhousie character to the world.

1989: CP Enterprises merges its two pulp and paper assets, CIP Inc. and Great Lakes Forest Products, into Canadian Pacific Forest Products Inc.. The new corporation is one of the largest newsprint companies in the world. The mill is called NBIP Forest Products Inc.

1992: At 2 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 9, 1992, NBIP Forest Products Inc. announces that as of March 28 it will slashp to 450 jobs out of about 900 at the mill, andp to 100 in the woodlands division , when it will close two of the four paper machines. Mill manager Patrice Cayouette, a Dalhousie native, says that the two machines are obsolete, the company is losing money and the entire paper industry is facing difficulty. While some workers are offered retirement packages, many of those who lose their jobs are those with low seniority. These young people leave town for jobs elsewhere.

1992: On Feb. 19, a build-up of snow causes the roof to collapse onto two of the mill's paper machines, injuring four men. These are the two machines scheduled to be shut down. The other two are shut down as a precaution but are soon brought back into operation.

1993: CP Enterprises sells its shares in CPFP and a new corporation named Avenor is created.

1994: In March, the company becomes Avenor Inc. In December, the Dalhousie mill is renamed Avenor Maritimes Inc.

1995-1996: In March, Avenor Maritimes embarks on an ambitious $200 million modernization program. This essentially demolishes and rebuilds almost the entire mill and converts it to a system based on wood chips instead of logs. Pollution control is also completely updated and revamped, and the Charlo dam is modernized.

1999: On July 26, Avenor Maritimes Inc. officially becomes Bowater Maritimes Inc.

2005: On Sept. 10 - 11, Bowater Maritimes Inc. celebrates the 75th anniversary of the mill with tours and a party under a tent.

2007: In June, Bowater confirms to The Tribune (which is printed on newsprint from the mill) that will further reduce jobs at the Dalhousie mill in order to reduce costs. A document indicates that this will be about 50 jobs, out of a total of about 330.

2007: On Oct. 29, Abitibi-Consolidated Inc. and Bowater Inc. legally finalize their formal merger, which has been in the making for months. Both companies had been facing financial difficulties for years. The consolidated company, called AbitibiBowater Canada Inc., states it will seek "efficiencies" and says it is reviewing all aspects of its combined operations.

2007: At 5 p.m. on Nov. 29, blaming low demand, competition from countries with lower production costs, and a high Canadian dollar, AbitibiBowater announces that will permanently close the Dalhousie mill and related woodlands operation as of Jan. 31, 2008. It is part of closures and workforce reductions across Canada by the company.

2007: On Nov. 30, investors show their strong approval of AbitibiBowater's cuts and closures. Shares of AbitibiBowater Inc. surge on stock markets. On the New York Stock Exchange, the stock isp $3.69 US, or more than 19 per cent, at $22.46 US. On the TSX, it rises $3.30 to $22.05.

2008: The Dalhousie mill is scheduled to close permanently on Jan. 31.

[Sources: booklet, Dalhousie 1905-1955; booklet, Dalhousie Diamond Jubilee 1905-1965; book, New Brunswick International Paper Company And Its People: Fifty Years of Progress 1930-1980; flyer, Avenor Maritimes Inc., not dated; Bowater Maritimes Inc. 1930-2005 Special Supplement to The Tribune; The Tribune (issues from 1930, 1992, and 1994) and The Campbellton Graphic (issues from 1930); Internet sources.]


      Home |  Archives  |  Write On! |  Dossiers |  Search |  Boutique | Donate

Comments to : shunpike@shunpiking.org Copyright New Media Services Inc. © 2007. The views expressed herein are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of shunpiking magazine or New Media Publications. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. Copyright of written and photographic and art work remains with the creators.