Out of the Woods: The Story of Cornwall's Forests
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Colliers



Collier families, Cornwall, late 19th century
Collection of Cornwall Historical Society

Many colliers were immigrants, primarily from France. The work was seasonal, and required living in the woods for months at a time in order to watch over the charcoal mounds as they burned. They were highly skilled, able to gauge the stages of the charcoal making by the color and smell of the smoke coming from the mound. The fire was regulated by controlling the amount of air entering through the top.

 

 

 

 





Portable sawmill with steam engine,
Cornwall, late 19th century

Collection of Cornwall Historical Society


 

The collier trade was at its height in Cornwall during the 1870s and 1880s. The 1870 census lists 20 colliers living in Cornwall, seven of whom were from France, one from Canada and one from Germany. A decade later, there were 31 colliers, twelve of whom were from France.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Pelletier portable sawmill, late 19th century
Collection of Cornwall Historical Society

 

 

 

"My father, John A. Palmer, and his brothers Henry, Nathaniel, and Milo were for years colliers [around 1880]. This occupation was considered rather a lowly one by the boiled shirt citizens, but as years have gone by I have realized what a wonderful one it was. Only a skilled workman could properly erect a coal pit. During the burning season, they erected cabins on the coal “bush” and watched the pits constantly for they were apt to blow and burn up."

~ Emma Palmer Adams

 

 

 


Portable sawmill, with cleared hillside
in distance, Cream Hill, late 19th century

Collection of Cornwall Historical Society

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Collier with lunchpail, late 19th century
Collection of Cornwall Historical Society

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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