Noé Fontaine and his, wife Phébée at the Fontaine's Landing mill
(Town of Hearst collection; picture donated by Mrs.  Jeanine Fontaine-Guérin)
Before moving to Ontario, Noé Fontaine owned and operated three sawmills in Sully, Québec, which were all destroyed by fire. In the early 20s, Noé and his family moved to Kapuskasing. Noé then built a small sawmill north of Kapuskasing that functioned for about four years. In 1926, the Fontaines moved to Harty where they operated a new sawmill until 1934.

That year, Noé Fontaine, his son Zacharie and their respective families moved from Harty to Mattice where they built a sawmill and a planer. 

Lacking logging rights on public land, they obtained timber from settlers. Finished lumber was then sold in Timmins.

After many lobbying efforts, Noé and Zacharie Fontaine obtained logging rights in Hanlan Township in 1936. René Fontaine, Zacharie's son, explains:
 

Zacharie Fontaine
(picture donated by
the Société historique)
"The Liberal Party ascended to power in '34 with (Mitchell) Hepburn. In the following years, Mr. Habel (Joseph), who was then a young MPP, originally from Fauquier, convinced the Premier and the Minister of Lands and Forests to grant small licences to small companies, not only bigger ones like Spruce Falls and Abitibi (Paper)."
Tug boat used by Fontaine Lumber to transport wood
(picture donated by Mrs. Jeanne Forcier)
After obtaining the aforementioned licence the Fontaines moved their mill from Mattice to the location that is known today as Fontaine's Landing ("Passe-à-Fontaine" in French; the location was also known as camp 1 in Ryland). They built camps, a store, a kitchen ("cookery") and a stable for horses. Workers and their families spent all winter in the bush. René Fontaine explains: 
Fontaine Lumber sawmill at Lac Sainte.Thérèse, 1941
(picture from the Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Parish souvenir album, 1969)

"There were no roads. We went up there in the fall through the lakes before they froze and we got out of there in the spring."

1938 marked the founding of Fontaine Lumber and Timber, which included 5 owners: Noé and his wife Phébée, Zacharie and his wife Laura, and Roméo Fontaine, Noé's brother.

Until 1941, lumber from the Fontaine's Landing mill was transported by truck or by train to the planer in Mattice. In 1942, the planer was moved to Hearst, more precisely to a location that is presently occupied by Villeneuve Construction's cement plant.

Loading logs onto a truck
Left: Ronaldo Fournier; right: René Fontaine
(Écomusée de Hearst et de la région collection;
picture donated by Mr. René Fontaine)
In 1941, Fontaine Lumber and Timber built a new sawmill in Lac Sainte.Thérèse, which operated until 1955. The offices, a store, the kitchen and two dormitories were located in front of the church. The company also built the Kabina River mill, which was later sold to Willie Létourneau (and subsequently to J. D. Levesque). For a few years, the Fontaines also owned a portable mill on the west side of Nagagami River and a mill south of Val Côté during World War II, where aspen was sawed for export to England. 
Fontaine's Landing mill, 1954
(Écomusée de Hearst et de la région collection;
picture donated by Mr. René Fontaine)

For several years, the Fontaine's Landing (Ryland) mill was operational during the winter while the Lac Sainte.Thérèse mill worked in the summer. Later, the Fontaine's Landing mill functioned year round.

Lumber camps were installed along Lakes Pivabiska and Wolverine. Logging operations took place mainly in the winter. Timber was transported in winter by small tractors to the Ryland mill. During the summer, logs were loaded on to barges and pulled by boat to the sawmill. Wood from Pivabiska Lake was transported to the Lac Sainte.Thérèse mill and wood from Wolverine Lake to the Fontaine's Landing mill.

After Noé Fontaine's death in 1946, Zacharie Fontaine took possession of Fontaine Lumber and Timber. Starting in the 1950s he received the help of his son René. In 1954, they closed the Lac Sainte.Thérèse mill and increased production at the Fontaine's Landing mill. They built the Fontaine's Landing road in 1957. 

René Fontaine bought his father's mill the following year and, after 20 years of operation at Fontaine's Landing, moved the machinery north of Calstock on Roger's access road, after having obtained logging rights in that area. He operated the sawmill under the name Polar Lumber. Zacharie remained responsible for the Hearst planer.

René Fontaine
(Town of Hearst collection)
Fontaine Lumber's Hearst sawmill, built in the mid-60s
(Écomusée de Hearst et de la région collection;
picture donated by Mr. René Fontaine)
In 1964, René Fontaine undertook the construction of a new sawmill in Hearst. The mill was operational the following year, coinciding with Zacharie's death. René Fontaine then partnered up with Émile Joanis, his brother-in-law, who had previously purchased logging rights owned by Arrow Timber, an American company. They formed the F. & J. Lumber (Fontaine and Joanis) company. Following Émile Joanis' accidental death in 1968, his widow, Lauryanne, took charge of the company. 
Lauryanne Joanis, co-owner of Arrow Timber from 1968 to 1990
A rare feminine presence in the history of the region's sawmills
(picture donated by Mrs. Lauryanne Joanis)

In 1969, Roland Cloutier left Levesque Lumber to become partner and manager of Arrow Timber. The same year, Réal Levesque, owner of Hearst Transport & Lumber, joined René Fontaine, Lauryanne Joanis and Roland Cloutier to form the United Sawmill company. However, the following year, Réal Levesque left United Sawmill to take over Levesque Lumber from his father, J. D., who was retiring. Charles Lecours, owner of Deep Forest Products, bought out Réal's shares in United Sawmill.
 
 
Mr. Charles Lecours
(picture donated by Mr. Charles Lecours)
Mr. Roland Cloutier
(picture donated by Mr. Roland Cloutier)
Two of the partners in United Sawmill Ltd.

In 1982, the companies, which up to this point had operated separately, united to operate under the sole name of United Sawmill Co. Ltd. In 1990 the company was sold to Malette Inc. of Timmins. Malette was subsequently bought by Tembec Inc. of Abitibi in 1994.
 


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