Castlegar Community Album: Waldie's Sawmill
The Yale-Columbia sawmill at Westley burned in 1909, creating an opportunity for another large mill in the Castlegar area. William Waldie had bought into the Edgewood Lumber Company at Edgewood, B.C. in 1908. He became manager and due to inefficiencies in shipping he decided to build a new mill closer to direct rail shipping, and chose the old site of Sproat's Landing opposite Castlegar, at the same time capitalizing on the opening created by the Yale-Columbia fire. In fact, the mill immediately purchased all the logs remaining at the Yale-Columbia site.
By may of 1910 there were already 20 men employed at the new mill and things were moving forward. The Edgewood Lumber Company went into operation on September 9, 1910. The mill was advertised as having a capacity of 60,000 board feet a day and was projected to employ from 30 to 40 men when running at full capacity. There was little to be offered in Castlegar in the way of accommodation so Waldie built quarters for both single and married employees. There was also a fairly large contingent of East Indian workers who maintained their own living arrangements.
By 1911 the mill had installed an electric light plant and was employing almost 100 men. Another group under Marvin McDaniels was logging the bench behind Robson and the company had the SS Yale towing logs between Deer Park and the mill. The company was also looking at spending $18,000 to construct a new tug, the SS Elco, to further increase their supply of logs from forestry limits up the Arrow Lakes. The Edgewood Lumber Company continued as one of the main economic drivers of the Castlegar area for many years.
In 1913 the company installed new machinery, further increasing the output. They averaged shipments of two CPR railway cars per day throughout this period, mainly to prairie markets. By 1914 the company was meeting a payroll of $8-10,000 monthly. Demand increased until the summer of 1916 when the Edgewood Lumber Company was forced to close on June 24th due to the flooding beginning to happen on the Columbia River banks. The high water kept the mill closed for some time.
In 1922 the Edgewood Lumber Company closed again as a result of heavy ice on the river during the winter of 1921-22. The winter logging operation were very satisfactory but the cold weather made the booming of logs impossible and, eventually, the mill ran out of wood. It was not able to commence operations again until April 11, 1922.
In 1923 William Waldie contracted with Coleman, Beaton and Hermiston to cut flume material at Needles. This material was used to construct a log flume that ran approximately 5 miles from Whatshan Lake to the Arrow Lakes.
The Edgewood Lumber Company beginnings of the William Waldie and Sons sawmill is evident in many things, such as the name of the steam tug SS Elco II which was built for William Waldie in 1925 by E.S. Blondin of Halcyon. Using the boiler and engine from the Elco I (1911) the Elco II was a wood burner, requiring that a barge be towed alongside with wood supplies. Operating between Castlegar and Needles she would tow approximately a million board feet on each tow. This reflected the way the Edgewood Lumber Company preferred to do business, purchasing logs from a number of sources on the Arrow Lakes rather than running large logging crews on their own limits.
In 1928 the Edgewood Lumber Company name was officially changed to William Waldie and Sons Limited, with three of William Waldie's sons working at the mill. Celgar bought out the Waldie interests in 1952, and retired the Elco II in 1954. Waldie's Sawmill closed for good in 1961 and the mill structure was consumed by fore in 1963. For approximately 50 years this sawmill played a vital role in providing a continuous economic stimulus to the small, and then growing, community of Castlegar just across the Columbia River from it.