Harper, William (Bill)

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                                         WILLIAM HARPER
                               Cutting, Splitting Own Fire-wood at age 96
                                          by John McGuire


Once a woodsman, always a woodsman. William (Bill) Harper of Chelmsford seems to be living proof, he'll be 96 on Saturday, that the work routine of years in the woods doesn't leave quickly.

Mr. Harper cuts and splits his own firewood for the wood furnace in the home he shares with son & daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

His son cuts the wood off the rear of the Harper property, but Bill cuts the wood into two foot lengths with his venerable bucksaw, one he obtained while working for Fraser Companies in Atholville in the 1930's. Last fall he cut between 12 and 17 cords of wood for the winter, working two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon.

"People are going to have to go back to wood," he remarks, "unless we can start to get out oil somewhere else. Here, I have wood furnace and an oil furnace, but usually we just use the oil to heat water. If it gets real cold I might use the furnace for heating."

At 96, Bill Harper says he feels well, "but sometimes you work one day, then you don't feel good the next. I work most days, you have to keep active. There's not too much to do in the winter and you lose your ambition.” According to his daughter-in-law and grand-daughter, this elderly gentleman keeps on the move; last Sunday he helped serve communion at St. Andrew's United Church in Chelmsford, while he hires a ride to town once a week to do some shopping.

Every year he puts in his own garden, once his son plows the land. "He plants it and then he weeds it and takes care of it himself," says his granddaughter, "and he won't let me help."

                                       Dropped Store at 90

People in the South Nelson, Chelmsford and McKinleyville areas would undoubtedly remember Mr. Harper, as he used to run a general store near his home. The store is now a cottage. But Bill didn't give up the store easily - he was 90 when he got out of that business.

Mr. Harper keeps up with the news, and is full of opinions about the current state of politics in the world. "There's a pretty rough time ahead," he says, "another hungry '30s. They're not trying to do anything about it, just freezing the wages again."

Mr. Harper has 15 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Aside from his son, two of Bill's other children will also be home for his big day.

                                Retired After 40 Years Working in the Woods

Bill Harper stayed in the lumber industry many years longer than one might expect. He was 72 the final year he worked the Restigouche River boom in 1956. He worked as a scaler there for many years and rode the log booms down the river as they proceeded toward the Atholville Fraser mill and the New Brunswick International Paper mill at Dalhousie. In his later years he supervised operations and gave instructions to the other men, while in his first years he helped keep the Frasers' and NBIP logs separate within the booms.

He used to work in the Campbellton area during the summers, and travelled there annually for 28 years. Most years he came home in the winter to work in the woods near his home and stay with his wife, the former Lillian May McInnis, and six children. A couple of times, however, he stayed over the winter in the north scaling logs in the Kedgwick area. .

Bill's working career started early, when he and two other younger men worked as a boom scaling crew for a man named Morrison. "I quit that, though," he says. "It wasn't worth it for the money, since we'd only get $1.50 a day." This, he recalls, was just before the start of World War One.

He then went to work for the Miramichi Lumber Company, scaling logs in the woods which would be floated downriver to mills such as the one the company operated at Morrison's Cove.

He had married in 1915 and stayed working in this area for the next 18 years. He would work in the woods, he recalls, and do enough farming "to keep me out of mischief; we grew enough for ourselves." After a few years, however, wages picked up in the woods industry, and he went north to Campbellton to start working for Fraser's in 1928.


Source: Miramichi Weekend – April 11, 1980

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