William Cuthbert, one of the most influential of the early settlers in New Richmond, was well established in New Richmond by 1820 and beginning to expand his business interests into the timber trade.By 1830, he had one sawmill in operation on the Little Cascapedia River and another one on the banks of the Bonaventure River.In 1833, construction began on a second sawmill in New Richmond and, in 1834, he signed a contract with George Stewart Harris, a “sawmill builder” of New Richmond, to construct a sawmill at Ile Ste. Hélène, on Ruisseau McCormick.It is not known if this mill was ever built and, if so, whether Cuthbert operated it himself or sold it.
The mill built by William Cuthbert in 1833 was located on his property in New Richmond, at the mouth of the brook by Dr. Gagnon’s present home.This was a large mill which produced squared timber which was exported to Great Britain for use by the British Navy for building vessels as well as lumber for construction. Cuthbert’s Shipyard, located at the site of the present Stanley House, was also said to have built vessels which were loaded with naval lumber, shipped to Great Britain,where the cargo as well as the ships wouldthen sold to the British Navy. Two of the largest sailing vessels built on the Gaspé Coast were produced by Cuthbert’s Shipyard.
The picture at the top of this page, taken in 1956, shows the one remaining building in New Richmond that was built by William Cuthbert prior to his death.It was on the road close to the Cuthbert Store and was used to store lumber.After the sale of the mill, it was moved close to the beach and converted into a summer home by Dr. Lorne Montgomery, a great grandson of Robert Hudson. It is now a private residence.
After his death in 1854, Cuthbert’s varied business interests were taken over by his brother-in-law, Robert Hudson Montgomery, of Dalhousie, a member of the firm Hugh & John Montgomery & Co., who were also active in the export of naval timber and other woods.
Under the ownership of the Montgomery family, business continued to prosper and exports increased with the diversification of their products.In 1860, they sentfive vessels of squared timber and planks to Great Britain but, by 1890, they were filling dozens of vessels each year with planks, boards, timber and cedar shingles for sale in Newfoundland, Great Britain, the U.S. and the Antilles.
In 1895, the Montgomery Company hadthree lumber camps in the forests around the Grand Cascapedia River, at a great distance from the sawmill.The most distant was at Loon Lake (now Lac Huard) and travelling to and from this camp was difficult and long.The men rarely came home until the log drive was completed, except on rare occasions, such as illness.
During the years that the mill was run by the Montgomery family, the operation was large, with buildings on the property.A cookhouse and bunkhouse for the workers were located in the field between Dr. Gagnon’s home and the present day Rue de la Plage (formerly May’s Beach).Lumber to be shipped by boat was loaded on scows and pulled, by tug, to the ships waiting in the harbour.These ships were equipped with slings with which to load the lumber.After the arrival of the railroad, a spur line was installed running directly to the mill so that the lumber could be more easily loaded onto the freight cars.
By 1920, the forestry industry had begunto decline in this area. The virgin forests were becoming more difficult to reach, competition for lumber products was stronger from other countries, mainly the United States, and there was no longer any great demand for naval timber because of the proliferation of steel-hulled ships.By 1925, the Montgomery Companyclosed their sawmill in New Richmond and, in 1928, their holdings were acquired by New Brunswick InternationalPaper.