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Manitoba History: Grandview and Theodore A. Burrows

by Donald F. Parrot
Thunder Bay, Ontario

Number 21, Spring 1991

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

Please direct all inquiries to webmaster@mhs.mb.ca.

Grandview, where I grew up and received my education, was a prosperous town in the Dauphin district of Manitoba. The town is situated on the Valley River which rises in the Duck Mountain and flows into Lake Dauphin. In 1903, only three years after the founding of the town, Theodore A. Burrows built the largest saw mill in the province. The enterprise, saw mill, planing mill and logging operation, employed up to 1,000 men and continued until 1918, when a larger mill was opened by Burrows’ Company at Bowsman, Manitoba.

T. A. Burrows, 1892.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

The rapid development of the town in its early years came as a result of this extensive lumbering operation. In those years three hotels operated besides various boarding houses and other houses for the staff. Business expanded and the residents of the area found employment. Grandview became the fourth town in the province to have water works installed in 1904. In 1906 Burrows negotiated with the town to supply electricity.

Mr. Burrows, his wife and children lived in Grandview from 1902 to 1904, then they moved to Dauphin where he built the Burrows Block and opened his law office. Burrows had been elected to the Manitoba Legislature as a Liberal in 1892. He served until 1903 and then was elected by acclamation to the Federal Parliament in Ottawa from 1904 to 1908. By 1904 Burrows owned 15 saw mills and had opened 50 lumber yards in Western Canada reaching as far as Edson, Alberta. He also had control of 18 large timber limits, mostly in the Porcupine and Duck Mountains of Manitoba.

Theodore Burrows was born in Ottawa on the 15th of April, 1857, the son of Henry J. Burrows and Sarah Sparks, and the grandson of Captain John Burrows, Chief Engineer of the Rideau Canal under Colonel John By, Royal Engineers, whose camp at Bytown later became the City of Ottawa. Theodore’s father was killed in a railroad mishap when the boy was four years old. The youngster completed his public school education in Ottawa, then moved to Manitoba in 1875 when he was 18 to work for one year on a survey party laying out a road from Neepawa to Dauphin. The next year he attended Manitoba College and joined a law firm to become the first articled law student in the province. In 1877 he joined his uncle, A. W. Burrows, in a real estate firm. They were very successful and the City of Winnipeg named a street, Burrows Avenue, after them.

In 1878, young Theodore Burrows and a partner, Arthur Walkley, purchased a saw mill at Fort Alexander at the mouth of the Winnipeg River. The mill’s new owners next obtained new timber limits, one of 20 square miles at Head Point near the narrows in Lake Winnipeg. Logs were barged down the lake to the mill at Fort Alexander. In 1882, Burrows obtained another 20 square mile limit on the west shore of Lake Winnipeg at Fisher Bay, and a year later, in 1883, they sold the mill at Fort Alexander and formed the Selkirk Lumber Company. The mill which they opened in Selkirk became the largest lumber mill in Manitoba in 1886 when they cut four million board feet. In 1889, Mr. Burrows married Georgina Creaser and the next year he was appointed by the Manitoba Government to supervise the building of a road to Dauphin. He obtained this appointment from his new brother-in-law, Clifford Sifton, at that time a member of the Manitoba Legislature. Burrows founded the Dauphin Lumber Company and opened a mill on Timber Limit #575 at Riding Mountain. As a result, four years later, in 1899, he opened a lumber yard in Dauphin. His next mill was at Garland, which was supplied from a timber limit acquired on the east slope of Duck Mountain.

The mill in Grandview followed, sup-plied by limits on the south slope of the Duck Mountain. Logs were driven down the Valley River. The Grandview mill was powered by a single cylinder steam engine of 250 horse power and capable of sawing 80,000 board feet of lumber in a ten hour day. Seven million board feet were cut in Grandview in 1904, while three other mills at Pine River, Fish Creek and Garland cut a total of 12 million board feet of lumber.

In 1905, Burrows built a second mill near Grandview called the Mountain Mill, 14 miles north of the town. Logs were hauled there in the winter by horses, cut into rough lumber, and then hauled to the planing mill in town. The Mountain Mill closed in 1914 and was destroyed by a forest fire which swept through the area in 1915. The Grandview saw mill burned down in the spring of 1910, but was rebuilt and expanded, with a capacity of 120,000 board feet per day. Power was supplied by a 500 H.P. Watrous Steam Engine fed by six 100 H.P. horizontal tube boilers carrying 125 pounds of steam pressure and fuelled by sawdust. The mill’s two double-cutting band saws had a gun shot fed steam log carriage, gang re-saws, trimmer and edger saws. The band saws were changed and sharpened twice a day. The planer mill, 400 yards west of the saw mill, was powered by a 300 H.P. engine fed by two 150 H.P. horizontal return tube boilers fired with wood shavings. When in operation this function required some 60 men. A rail spur took the dressed lumber to the Canadian Northern Railway main line and on to Winnipeg.

In the later years of the operation river driving was discontinued and the logs were brought from the hills by steam haulers on iced roads and even brought to Grandview by railroad from the Porcupine Mountains.

The mill, engine and boilers were shut down in Grandview in 1918, and the equipment was sent to Bowsman, Manitoba. The end came in 1932 when the saw mill machinery, engine and boilers were cut up for scrap iron and shipped to the Selkirk Steel Mill. Presently the only remaining evidence of this extensive operation is the concrete on the lower land where the engine house once stood.

The area originally occupied by the mill, some 15 or 20 acres in extent, now comprises the sports complex owned by the Town of Grandview. Upon this site is located the skating rink, curling rink, sports grounds, tourist accommodation and the Watson Crossley Museum. At one time there was a small golf course, and after the Second World War, a block of houses were built for the farmers who were retiring and moving into town.

Mr. Burrows died in Winnipeg on the 18th of January 1929 while he was still in office as Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba. His lumber yards, over 40 in number, were taken over by the Monarch Lumber Company. His saw mills were consolidated by his business associate, Theodore Sparks, into the National Mills which operated a mill at Strevel Siding from 1938 to 1958, 14 miles west of Grandview on the Valley River.

Thanks to Gerald Morran of the Watson Crossley Museum for assistance in the preparation of this article. Those interested in a detailed summary of Burrows’ career may wish to consult Deborah Ann Welch, “The Business and Political Career of T. A. Burrows,” (M.A. thesis, University of Manitoba, 1983).

Page revised: 11 April 2010

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