Source: Private collection of Dominique Beauregard
Around 1800, England began exploiting the timber resources of its British North America colonies. Companies obtained logging rights in Crown Reserves (land owned by the Crown), and would hire men to fell trees during the winter. These seasonal labourers were fed as the site manager saw fit. Hardworking and resourceful, they tended to be farmers who were skilled at swinging an axe, and willing to take on these jobs to make extra money and improve the quality of their lives. In the fall, after the harvest was done, thousands of men headed for the logging sites. There they lived for several months, far from their families, often earning a mere pittance. Conditions in the camps were difficult; hygiene was poor and the food barely adequate. Mired in this backwoods drudgery, they had no clergyman to whom they could turn for support. Under such harsh conditions, a visit from Father Labelle was a true blessing for the poor men.