Headquarters was a small community located on the banks of the Tsolum River near Courtenay, BC . Earlier known as Fraserville, the townsite of Headquarters started being built in 1911. The town had a post office, bunkhouse’s, blacksmith shops, a hotel, and restaurants could be found in the community along with the worker’s homes. There was also a roundhouse for the locomotives that would work the logging rail line.
The Headquarters sawmill was built between 1912-1913 by General Alexander Duncan McRae, one of the principles of the Canadian Western Logging Company. Besides owning a timber tract of 80,000 acres of Hemlock, the company also owned 4 tugboats and a river steamer, and the Comox Logging and Railway Company, which had had 44 miles of track, 5 locomotives, and 150 train cars. Logs cut down were originally shipped to Royston on railcars, and then towed in log booms to mills in Vancouver. A large portion of the Hemlock logs quickly became waterlogged and were lost, leading to the decision to build a sawmill at Headquarters and ship lumber, rather than logs.
As with many logging operations, work at Headquarters was shut down with the outbreak of war, and the mill never cut a board of wood. The Headquarters mill was later abandoned, perhaps due to the 1913 recession, or because the mill was only built so that the company could gain certain concessions from the provincial government. Parts of the mill were removed and later used to build a mill in Courtenay.
The mill powerhouse was home to five diesel engines that were used to generate electricity for Headquarters until a fire destroyed the plant in the 1920’s. Headquarters survived until the late 1950’s when the school and houses were sold for $1 each – with the proviso that they had to be moved off of company property. The remains of the mill can be seen at Headquarters Townsite Park, just off Farnham Road in Merville.
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