Discovering Manitoba

Steam Hauler monument recalls

Just outside of Grandview, along highway 5, a scaled-down replica of an early 20th century Phoenix Steam Hauler recalls the influence of former Lieutenant Governor T.A. Burrows and the machinery of a community’s growth.

Theodore Arthur Burrows was a prominent Manitoban, provincial and federal politician, and lumber baron. Born in Ottawa, Burrows originally studied law, only to soon grow restless in his chosen profession. He joined a survey team and, in 1875, developed a friendship with John Wright Sifton, an established saw mill operator from Selkirk region. With Sifton’s advice and knowledge of the thick forests between Lakes Winnipeg, Manitoba and near Dauphin gained as a surveyor, Burrows began planning his own lumber mill. In 1900, Burrows began construction of the largest sawmill in the province on the outskirts of what was then the settlement of Grandview. Beginning operation in 1902, the sawmill mainly processed logs cut from the Duck Mountain, just north of the settlement. Originally, these logs were floated down the Valley River each spring to Grandview. Burrows also operated smaller mills in the Duck Mountain timber berth area at Fish Creek and at the Mountain Mill.

As many as a 1000 men sustained the enterprise, with most residing in large log camps along the Valley River that housed numerous horses and blacksmiths. A total of 12 bush camps with an associated road system were built to allow the cutting of the logs and their movement from the cutting area to the decking grounds adjacent to the headwaters of the Valley River. Many of the men were employed on a year-round basis, with others employed during the winter months to cut and stack the logs, and to haul them via horse and sleigh to the river.

It was a boon for the region and a sign of things to come. Commercial building and infrastructure development in Grandview was spurred, and by 1904, a domestic water and sewer system was put in place to support the burgeoning populace. At its peak, Grandview boasted of two hotels, three boarding houses, numerous livery stables and weekly newspaper. The influx of workers for the logging operation in conjunction with the increase in settlers created a significant housing shortage in the town.

The original mill burned in 1910 only to be immediately rebuilt to a higher standard and greater capacity. Around this same time, Burrows modernized his logging operations with the purchase of four steam driven machines manufactured by the Phoenix Company of the USA. Mounted on tracks and sleigh runners, these tractors could pull eighteen or more sleigh carrying logs twelve feet wide by eight or nine feet high by sixteen feet long. Over level terrain, these “steam haulers” provided a vastly more economical means of moving cut logs from the camps to the mill.

Three of these machines still exist – two are on display in the Saskatchewan Western Development Museum – one in operating condition and the other a static exhibit , with one on display at the Museum in Grandview. The whereabouts of the fourth machine is not known.

Explore More