The Georgian Bay Explorer -
A Sawmill for Sarawak
The next time you pay a visit to the Rotary summer camp at Presqu'lle on Owen Sound Bay, look for the
small pond that lies just south of where the lighthouse used to stand. lnsignificant today, this small body of water was once an important place, supplying thousands of cords of wood to fuel the day's steamers and cutting lumber that was loaded upon vessels for a construction hungry market. Believe it or not, the summer place that is Presqu'lle was once a busy port with a population of 100. Here, a dock extended out into the water for 400 feet, serving as a protective breakwater for ships coming and going from Owen Sound. And when Owen Sound's docks were filled with vessels, four or five would anchor at Presqu'lle, protected by the dock from northeast gales. It was the perfect place for a sawmill, an industry that was put in place by Thomas Smith. Smith and his family who had moved north from Durham County built a steam powered sawmill on the pond that had a wide mouth, making it useful for rafting logs. Farmers from Sarawak Township were kept busy drawing logs to the village where they were turned into lumber or firewood. Steamers such as the City of Owen Sound required 125 full cords of wood to make the run from Owen Sound to the Lakehead and back. And Smith's wood piles were always filled to the top. Eventually, the wood trade died away when the pond levels dropped.
The Smith family went to Durham where they started a new mill. A chain of events finally led them to South America where Thomas Smith cut great tracts of timber in Chile, building his own railway to haul logs fifteen miles to his mill. The Smith family of Presqu'lle lived out their lives in Tumuco, many thousands of miles from home.