Submitted by Llyod Jeck
The broad-axe was a valuable tool used by settlers in Canada, and especially so in the Robson Valley. Pictured with this article is one of my father’s broad-axes without a handle. The wooden handle was very much like an ordinary axe handle, but a bit heavier. The axe, as seen here, weighs seven pounds, about twice the weight of a regular axe.
The man I will write about, Rudolph Carlson, was a highly skilled person in the use of the broad-axe. This type of axe is expressly used to hew, or shape, round logs into squared timbers, either on two sides or on four sides, as required. A very common product 100 and more years ago were railway ties. Oftentimes timbers were fashioned for the construction of homes and other structures. Rudolph was known
by some as “Whitey” Carlson and was a long-time resident in the
Rudolph Karlsson was born in Arjepiog, Norrbotten, Sweden, 25 March, 1906. It is not known how or when Rudolph began using the name spelling “Carlson,” but this change came soon after arriving in Canada and is what is used in his obituary. Rudolph, with cousins Hugo and Sten Lestander, were passengers on the Bergensfjord which landed them in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in April 1927. They travelled via CNR train to Prince George, where Sten’s brother Knut was staying at the Royal Hotel. The Lestanders soon settled in the Kamloops area, and extended family members still reside in the North Thompson valley, Clearwater and Barriere locations.
It is not known exactly when Rudolph Carlson arrived in McBride, but it is possible that he drifted to that area soon after arriving in Prince George. He was on the federal voters list in McBride from 1953 to early 1960s (it is possible that he was not a Canadian citizen in the early years). He acquired a piece of farm property south of
McBride on which he built a small home.
During Rudolph’s time in the Robson Valley, he was involved in forestry, agriculture and carpentry activities. He was a tireless worker for Pearl Woods in the development of her farm property a couple of miles south of his place.
One of his tasks on the Woods property was to build a new home. For this structure he used a broad-axe to hew round logs into timbers for the walls and other framing parts. Rudolph had finished the home, and it was in use, prior to the sale of the property in the mid-1940s, to the Mitterndorfer’s, a family from Switzerland.
Shown in the photo above right is the home on the former Pearl Woods property. It is believed to have been built by Rudolph Carlson prior to 1945, using log timbers
he had shaped with the broad-axe.
My father employed Rudolph in his small winter bush-camp, which he operated from 1926-1952. My dad produced railway ties, mining (pit) props, telegraph
poles and, in his later operating years, lumber. During the winter of 1942-43 dad operated a little mill that cut railway ties and he had four men, plus one of my sisters as cook, working for him. Before he laid off his crew at the end of March, he had two of the men lay about 36 pine trees to the ground. The trees were just left, with limbs and tops intact, for the next crew to process. That next crew was my brother and I, who were 13 and 11, respectively. During spring break, in early April, dad got us lined up with a team of horses hooked to a wagon loaded with horse and boy feed, and sent us off to the logging camp, 10-plus miles away on the other side of the Fraser River. We were given a penciled list of required log lengths and instructed to process those pre-felled trees into shorter logs, and then move the logs the mile-and-a-quarter down to the railway siding.
It was spring weather at the farm, but still wintery at the camp. We spent one week by ourselves completing the assigned task.
Dad had arranged for Rudolph Carlson, who lived about three miles from the siding, to come each day with his broad-axe, and turn those round logs into railway ties. If
the boys did not get at least one load of logs to the siding each day, Rudolph was instructed to head up to the camp to see what was, or wasn’t, going on. He did not have to take that walk.
I had my 12th birthday that week and my brother was a couple of weeks short of turning 14.