The first sawmill that opened in Port Hammond on the site on Maple Crescent in 1910 was the Bailey Lumber Company, and in 1912, it was renamed the Port Hammond Lumber Co. In 1916, local businessmen Doan Hartnell and Carl Cutter, working with partners in Michigan, reorganized the company yet again as the Hammond Cedar Company.
A lengthy article in the “Pacific Coast Lumberman” magazine in June, 1918, describes how Hammond Cedar, under the direction of Doan Hartnell, was the first mill in Canada to employ ‘girls.’ They were primarily employed in grading lumber though also put in their time loading lumber on trucks for the dry kilns. For more of this story see “Hammond Mill Hires Girls”.
During the early 1920’s, Hammond Cedar became the largest producer of cedar lumber and shakes in the British empire. Drawing on timber supply as close as Pitt Lake or as distant as Knight Inlet, the mill continued to grow and update as the years went by.
Hammond cedar was known for more than its cedar in those days. It was also known for its baseball team as owner Doan Hartnell was a big baseball fan and frequently travelled to the U.S. scouting for his company team. This caused some grumbling among the regular staff as these ‘ringers’ were not always seen to be pulling their weight in the jobs they were being paid for, as they were there just to play ball.
Hammond Cedar continued to operate during the ‘dirty 30’s’ when so many operations closed. The men sometimes went without wages for a time to get the orders filled, knowing that they would be paid when the company was paid. The company appreciated this sacrifice and back wages were always paid in full.
After WWII, a group of eastern industrialists bought four west coast sawmills, including Hammond Cedar, which then became a BC Forest Products mill (BCFP). BCFP continued the role of primary employer in Hammond with some families into their third generation of service. This remained true despite the change of ownership to Fletcher Challenge in 1988 and then to Interfor in 1992.
Very little remains of the original mill buildings after major upgrading with modern technology that replaced muscle power with efficient laser guided machines that reduce waste of the precious red cedar logs and cut down the pollution that used to be a problem with the mill’s operation.
In the fall of 2019, Interfor announced the closure Hammond Mill citing steep tariffs under the Canada-US softwood lumber agreement and a shortage of logs. More than 140 people will lose their jobs as one of the last of the multi-generation employers in the region vanishes.
For a selection of images of the mill see our Hammond Cedar Mill album on Flickr.