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A Century of Paper Making

The 1904 restructuring of Clergue’s companies, accompanied by the Ontario government bailout, saved the Sault’s fledgling steel and paper industries.  Over the course of the next century, the paper mill operations changed hands on several occasions.  Technological advances were important factors as the mill operations continually evolved to suit commercial demand.

Superior Paper Company
In 1910 the newly formed Superior Paper Company made improvements to newsprint production at the mill.  The ambitious new owners began operating four paper machines.

Spanish River Pulp and Paper Company
In 1915 the Spanish River Pulp and Paper Company acquired the mill.  Under new ownership, the Sulphite Mill was doubled in capacity between 1915-17.  New wood digesters were installed and major improvements made to the groundwood Pulp Mill.

Abitibi Power and Paper Company Takes Over
In 1928 new owners again acquired the mill.  The Abitibi Power and Paper Company would improve the existing paper machines which operated until the end of the War.

Ann Zeppa is a lifelong Sault Ste. Marie resident. Her father, husband, and children were all employed at the paper mill in different capacities.

Ann Zeppa shares a memory of her husband’s career at the paper mill.

Audio clip with transcript: Ann Zeppa – Husband’s Career 

In this audio recording Ann Zeppa shares a memory of two of her children who had summer jobs at the mill.

Audio clip with transcript: Ann Zeppa – Summer Jobs

Ann Zeppa gives an oral account of a silver cup she was given by the Spanish River Pulp and Paper Company.

Two elderly hands holding a small silver mug with an engraving to Annie Pohrybunk, April 4, 1925 from the Spanish River Company.

Audio Clip with transcript: Ann Zeppa – Silver Cup

After 1946 the mill went through a phase of major modernisation and all aspects of the works were upgraded.  Production capacity rose to 400 tons per day.  A Central Research Division was established to encourage further improvement and development.

Ann Zeppa shares a story about her father, who died shortly after an accident at the mill.

An ice scraper from St. Mary's Paper that reads, Safe Today: Here Tomorrow

Audio clip with transcript: Ann Zeppa – Father’s Accident

Old black notebook sitting on a wooden table. Tan coloured sticker on the side of the book reads, Accidents - 1922-1948

Blue handwritten text on white ruled paper. The text is a numbered list of names, dates and accidents that took place at the paper mill.

The mill had social as well as economic impact. Workers fondly remember the curling and golf leagues organized by employees.

White t-shirt of a man curling. Text on the t-shirt reads, Abitibi-Price Provincial Papers, Lakehead Bonspiel, 40th Annual, 1957-1997

Audio clip with transcript: Ann Zeppa – Company Picnic

Photo of a framed photograph. Bird's eye view of the paper mill site with buildings, log piles and railway cars

St. Mary’s
In 1987 the company changed hands and became St. Mary’s Paper.  Major investment in the mill was made with the conversion of two paper machines to produce supercalendered paper – a smooth and glossy product.  A fifth paper machine was added during this period, further boosting production.

Bob Biagini, a retired St. Mary’s Paper Mill employee, gives an account of the different machinery he worked with at the paper mill over the years.

Retired paper mill worker wearing a Canadian Paper Workers Union ball cap. He has a toothless grin and is standing in the kitchen

Audio clip with transcript: Bob Biagini

Despite the investment, this would prove a very difficult period for St Mary’s Paper, which was restructured on three separate occasions between 1993 and 2011.  The mill produced its last paper in 2011, and then sat idle until 2013 when Riversedge Developments purchased the site and began its salvage and redevelopment operation.

Cement in foreground, Clergue's block house is in the back right corner of the photo. Two excavators digging up ground in preparation for construction.

Construction of Paper Machine 5 (Image 1)

Construction site, Machine Shop to the left, gravel, and wood beams ready for construction in the foreground.

Construction of Paper Machine 5 (Image 2)

Blue steel beams erected on one side of the new building, the other side to the left is being covered with siding. Trucks are present, a sign leaning against the machine shop reads construction area.

Construction of Paper Machine 5 (Image 2)

Although the factory is closed, generations of past employees still live in the city.  One group of former workers began meeting to share memories and preserve the history of their factory.  A multi-generational group, their stories span decades.  They hope the industrial heritage of the city can be preserved long after their numbers have dwindled.

Former employees, predominately seniors, stand together holding paper mill artifacts they collected over the years. Nine people, men and women photographed.